Prime Minister Imran Khan had a "slip of tongue" when he called slain al-Qaeda chief and 9/11 terror attacks mastermind Osama bin Laden a "martyr", Pakistan's federal minister for information and broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has said. Speaking to Geo News, Chaudhry stressed that Pakistan considers Osama bin Laden a terrorist and al-Qaeda as a terrorist outfit.
Addressing Pakistan's national assembly in June last year, Imran Khan had termed bin Laden, who was killed in 2011 by US special forces in Abbottabad, a "martyr."
"I will never forget how we Pakistanis were embarrassed when the Americans came into Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, martyred him," Khan had said.
Pakistan was not informed in advance when the US Navy Seals carried out Operation Neptune Spear to eliminate Osama bin Laden under cover of darkness in Abbottabad. Bin Laden was accused of engineering a number of terror attacks worldwide, particularly targeting the American installations including the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Imran Khan had come under fire from opposition leaders for portraying bin Laden as a "martyr." "He destroyed my nation, and [Khan] is calling him a martyr," former foreign minister Khawaja Asif had then blasted Khan in the parliament. Imran Khan's remark on the slain al-Qaeda terrorist resurfaced after a year following Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's recent interview with TOLO News.
"He [Imran Khan] was quoted out of context. And, uh, you know, a particular section of the media played it up," Qureshi said.
When the foreign minister was pressed by the interviewer whether he disagreed that bin Laden was a martyr, he took a brief pause and said, "I will let that pass."
Qureshi also deflected blame from the Taliban for the surge in violence in neighbouring Afghanistan. "You try and create this impression that the violence is high because of Taliban, again, that would be an exaggeration. Aren't there other elements over there who are playing the role of a spoiler?" said Qureshi, suggesting that Islamic State and the Afghan government were responsible.