ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has sparked outrage after telling his country’s parliament that former Al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been “martyred” by US forces.
“I will never forget how we Pakistanis were ashamed when the Americans came to Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, they martyred him,” Khan told lawmakers Thursday, recounting the lows of the Islamabad-Washington relationship.
His comments were immediately criticized by rival politicians.
Opposition leader Khawaja Asif, the foreign minister in the last government, was one of those who opposed the observation and described Bin Laden as the “supreme terrorist” in his response to Khan’s comment.
“He destroyed my nation, and he (Khan) calls him a martyr,” Asif said.
Bin Laden, who planned the September 11 attacks in the United States, was killed in a raid on his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011 after eluding detection for nearly 10 years.
Pakistan was unaware of the operation, which involved US helicopters flying deep into the country from Afghanistan.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose Pakistan People’s Party was in power when Bin Laden was assassinated, accused the prime minister of appeasing violent extremism.
A Pakistani government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Khan’s comments and criticism from opposition leaders.
Khan’s speech came as the country’s foreign affairs office criticized a report by the US State Department that accused Pakistan of continuing to be a safe haven for “terrorist groups focused on the region.”
“While the report acknowledges that al-Qaeda has seriously degraded itself in the region, it does not mention Pakistan’s crucial role in decimating al-Qaeda, thus lessening the threat that the terrorist group once posed to the world,” said on Thursday. statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. .