LONDON: Half-jesting, half-serious, Benazir Bhutto has told shocked Western capitals that the world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, may be securely hidden in the “basement of the presidency of Pakistan”, three years after George W Bush set out to hunt him down, The Times of India’s online edition reported on Friday
“But you’ll have to ask General Musharraf if it is true”, she finished mockingly in what many believe to be the swiftest, single-shot, character assassination in Pakistani politics.
Benazir’s mock maliciousness towards Musharraf comes barely 48 hours after she made a humiliating appearance in a Geneva courtroom to deny she siphoned off millions of dollars of Pakistan’s money during her two terms as prime minister.
On Friday, back in London, Bhutto recounted – for the benefit of wondering British television viewers – what she cannily described as “the joke”. But Musharraf’s men may not be laughing, five months before Bush’s attempt to get re-elected on the strength of his worldwide ‘war on terror’ and promise to bring Bin Laden to justice.
The seriousness of the link Benazir made between the Pakistani president and the man being hunted down by 10,000 US troops was not entirely lost on Western politicians, pundits and press.
Despite Benazir’s disclaimer about the “joke’s veracity”, terrorism experts returned to scanning the significance of Bin Laden’s last known, hand-written communication.
Earlier this year, the Saudi militant had told his mother he was “in good health and in a very, very safe place. They will not get me unless Allah wills it”. Bin Laden’s cheeriness, despite his debilitating need for regular kidney dialysis, has long been considered odd because he is reliably thought to be within the 150-mile border badlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan.