Islamabad: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's new leader, is not in Pakistan and the US has failed to provide any actionable information to suggest otherwise.
In an interview with UK daily The Telegraph, the premier denied presence of top Al-Qaeda leader Aiman Al-Zwahiri in Pakistan. “There is no evidence that Zwahiri is residing in any party of the country,” he added to his opinion. Yousuf Gillani is on an 8-day visit to United Kingdom with members of his cabinet and senior Pakistani journalists.
“Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence and US Central Intelligence Agency have close ties on the issue,” he noted in the interview.
To query about Jamat ud Dawa head Hafiz Mohammad Said, he says that there are no proofs that he is involved in any type of terrorism plot. “If we try to nab Hafiz, Pakistan courts would bail him out due to non-presence of evidences.”
Asked for his own view on whether Zawahiri was in Pakistan, the prime minister replied: "We don't think so."
His words followed a familiar pattern whereby Pakistan routinely denies the presence of al-Qaeda figures inside its territory, describing any reports to the contrary as mere allegations unsupported by evidence.
America has offered a reward of $10 million (Ł6.2 million) for the capture of Hafiz Saeed, the leader of an extremist group accused of executing the gun attacks in Mumbai that claimed at least 164 lives in 2008. Saeed indisputably lives in Pakistan: he moves freely from a home in Lahore.
But Gilani said there was insufficient evidence to warrant his arrest. "If you arrest him, that means he will be released by the courts. For the courts you need more evidence," he said. "You know the judiciary is completely independent in Pakistan."
Gilani's four years in office have been enough to make him the longest serving prime minister in Pakistani history. His elected civilian government has a good chance of being the first ever to complete a full term, which ends next year.
Gilani will then fight an election against Imran Khan, the former cricket captain turned opposition politician. The prime minister proclaimed himself unworried by Khan's challenge.
"In each and every election, there's always a perception from the media that he'll do better than before, but each time he doesn't do better than before," said Gilani. "We'll beat them hands down."