Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has come under fire from opposition MPs after telling parliament that the US “martyred” Osama Bin Laden.
“I will never forget how we Pakistanis were embarrassed when the Americans came into Abbottabad and killed Osama Bin Laden, martyred him,” Khan said in the National Assembly on June 25.
Soon after, PML-N senior leader Khawaja Asif lambasted Imran Khan over his speech in which he referred to slain Al Qaeda leader and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden as “martyred”.
“Imran Khan called Osama bin Laden shaheed (martyred). Bin Laden brought terrorism to our lands, he was a terrorist through and through and he [premier] calls him shaheed?” said Asif during the National Assembly session.
In a late-night tweet, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill defended Prime Minister Imran, saying he had twice used the word “killed” for bin Laden (in addition to martyred).
“An unwarranted attempt is being made at home/abroad with a clear intent to make his remarks controversial unnecessarily,” he wrote.
Earlier on the same day, Prime Minister Imran Khan delivered an all-encompassing speech in the parliament, speaking about the country’s relations with the United States.
He said Pakistan had to face a lot of “humiliation” despite supporting Washington in the ‘war on terror’ and was then blamed for the US’s failures in Afghanistan.
Recalling an incident that he said caused “embarrassment” to Pakistan, the premier said: “The Americans came to Abbottabad and killed, martyred Osama bin Laden. When happened after that? The entire world cursed at us and spoke ill of us.”
Reacting to the prime minister’s speech, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that Imran’s remarks were consistent with “his history of appeasement to violent extremism”.
“It is during his government that those involved in APS Army Public School] attack ‘escaped’ & those involved in Daniel Pearl’s murder get relief. Running with the hare & hunting with the hound,” he said in a tweet.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesperson for the PPP chairman, also released a statement in which he called Imran a “national security threat”.
“By labelling Osama bin Laden a martyr, Imran Khan has become a national security threat. If he 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? Thousands of civilians and youth were martyred in attacks by Al Qaeda,” he said.
Khokhar also questioned the lesson the prime minister was trying to teach the younger generation.
“Today Imran Khan has proven himself to be ‘Taliban Khan’ in parliament. The Imran Khan-Taliban nexus was evident from the meetings between the two.”
“This is the same person who had called for the Taliban to open their offices in Pakistan”, he said.
Separately, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that Pakistan was still a victim of terrorist attacks due to Osama Bin Laden.
“Because of him the country is in such a state and you are presenting him as a hero on the assembly floor? 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,” she said.
Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces who raided his compound in Pakistan in 2011.
Prime Minister Imran during his trip to the United States last year had said that Pakistan’s main spy agency provided the US with a lead that helped them find and take out Osama bin Laden.
The prime minister also said that he never felt more humiliated than he did on May 2, 2011 when American commandos took him out without informing Pakistan.