Washington: Pakistani military had harboured Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former president General Pervez Musharraf, ex-army chief General Ziauddin Butt has said.
An article on the Jamestown Foundation website, which cited Butt, said that despite denials, evidence is emerging that "elements within the Pakistani military harboured Osama with the knowledge of Musharraf and Kayani". Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is the current army chief.
Ziauddin Butt, a former chief of the Pakistan army, told a conference on Pakistani-US ties in October that according to his knowledge, then director general of Intelligence Bureau, Brigadier (retd.) Ijaz Shah, had "kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad".
Osama bin Laden was gunned down May 2 by US commandos who mounted a daring operation using stealth helicopters.
The retired general said in the same address that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had helped the CIA to track Osama down and kill him.
The report also said that stunning revelation was unreported for some time as some intelligence officers had asked journalists not to publish Butt's remarks.
The report said that Butt told the daily Dawn on December 11 that he fully believed that "(Brigadier) Ijaz Shah had kept this man (bin Laden in the Abbottabad compound) with the full knowledge of General Pervez Musharraf..." Butt added, "Ijaz Shah was an all-powerful official in the government of General Musharraf."
To a query on whether the present army chief knew about it, Butt said yes, but later added: "(General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani) may have known - I do not know - he might not have known."
The former Pakistan army chief has, however, not been able to explain as to how Osama was not found even after Brigadier Shah and Musharraf went out of power.
Butt had been the ISI chief under then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif had promoted him as the army chief after forcibly retiring General Pervez Musharraf Oct 12, 1999, but the army's top brass then revolted.
Musharraf, who toppled Sharif and became the new chief executive of the country, stepped down in 2008.
Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani top military officials had major differences, including on Pakistan's ties with Osama bin Laden.
According to Butt, Sharif had made up his mind to cooperate with the US and track down Osama in 1999.
Citing a senior advisor to the prime minister, the report said, "the general staff ousted Sharif to scuttle the 'get-Osama' plan".
Butt said that Nawaz Sharif had set up a special task force of 90 US-trained commandos to track down Osama in Afghanistan.
"If the Sharif government had continued on this course, this force would likely have caught bin Laden by December 2001, but the plan was aborted by Ziauddin Butt's successor as ISI general director, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed," the report added.