Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was on Thursday lambasted by the country’s Opposition parties for referring to al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a drone strike by the United States in 2011, as a “martyr”, Dawn reported. Khan’s remark came just a day after the United States, in its Congressional-mandated 2019 Country Reports on Terrorism, accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists.
Khan, delivering a speech in the Pakistan Parliament, said: “The Americans came to Abbottabad [in Pakistan] and killed Osama bin Laden, shaheed kar diya [martyred him]. When happened after that? The entire world cursed at us and spoke ill of us.”
Khan, who was talking about Pakistan’s relations with the United States, also said that his country faced a lot of humiliation despite supporting Washington’s “War on Terror”, launched in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center that killed nearly 3,000 people. Laden had masterminded the attacks.
The Pakistan prime minister said that following this humiliation, Pakistan was also blamed for the US failures in Afghanistan.
But Khan’s portrayal of Laden as a martyr did not go down well with Opposition parties. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Khawaja Asif said Laden was a “terrorist through and through”. “Imran Khan called Osama bin Laden ‘shaheed’,” he said during the National Assembly session. “Bin Laden brought terrorism to our lands, he was a terrorist through and through and he [Khan] calls him shaheed?”
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesperson for Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto, claimed that Khan was now a “national security threat”. “If he [Laden] is a martyr, then what is the status of those civilians and members of our armed forces who embraced martyrdom in the attacks by Al Qaeda?” Khokhar asked.
Khokhar also alleged that Khan had now proven himself to be “Taliban Khan”. Khan, who has defended Laden in the past, has long been criticised by opponents for his sympathy for militants, which earned him the moniker “Taliban Khan”. “The Imran Khan-Taliban nexus was evident from the meetings between the two,” Khokhar alleged on Thursday.
Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman said that Pakistan was still facing terrorist attacks due to Laden’s actions. “Because of him the country is in such a state and you are presenting him as a hero on the Assembly floor?” she tweeted. “Remember that Osama Bin Laden can be the PM’s hero but not the nation’s. He was and will remain a criminal of the state and the people.”