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Zardari defends Pakistan's stance toward terror

By the CNN Wire Staff
Writing in a Washington Post op-ed column, Asif Ali Zardari defended Pakistan's anti-terror activities.
Writing in a Washington Post op-ed column, Asif Ali Zardari defended Pakistan's anti-terror activities.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Zardari defends Pakistan in a Washington Post op-ed
  • He claims "early assistance" helped lead to bin Laden's courier
  • Zardari says there have been years of cooperation

(CNN) -- The Pakistani president Tuesday said his country provided initial help that ultimately led to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but he said it had no clue about the terror mastermind's whereabouts and didn't participate in the U.S. raid to kill the top militant.

Asif Ali Zardari, writing in a Washington Post op-ed column, said that the raid was not a "joint operation" and bin Laden "was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be."

"And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day," Zardari said, referring to the trusted bin Laden aide whose movements helped the United States find the al Qaeda leader.

U.S. politicians and military officials have roundly criticized Pakistan for not being more robust in the fight against al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militants who have a strong presence along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

But Zardari defended Pakistan's anti-terror activities, saying there has been "a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States" and his country that ultimately led to bin Laden's death.

Zardari said he "endorses the words" of and "appreciates the credit" from U.S. President Barack Obama about Pakistan's role.

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In his announcement of bin Laden's death, Obama said it's "important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding."

Zardari said that "some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet, that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact.

"Pakistan had as much reason to despise al Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan's war as it is America's. And though it may have started with bin Laden, the forces of modernity and moderation remain under serious threat," Zardari said.

He emphasized that Pakistan "paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism," noting that the country lost thousands of soldiers, police, and civilians in the battle. He also mentioned his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani politician who was assassinated in 2007.

"Justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden's worst nightmare -- a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life," he said.

He said the Taliban reacted to bin Laden's death "by blaming the government of Pakistan and calling for retribution against its leaders, and specifically against me as the nation's president."

But Zardari said Pakistanis won't be "intimidated."

"Pakistan has never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media," he said.

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