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Musharraf unsure on Osama handover

Pakistan may not have handed over Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden immediately to the US if he was caught on Pakistani soil with former president Pervez Musharraf asserting that the "matter is sensitive" and Islamabad would have to "think about it when such a situation arises."

world Updated: Nov 20, 2010 17:20 IST

Pakistan may not have handed over Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden immediately to the US if he was caught on Pakistani soil with former president Pervez Musharraf asserting that the "matter is sensitive" and Islamabad would have to "think about it when such a situation arises."

Musharraf, here to attend a convention organized by his newly floated All-Pakistan Muslim League, was asked the question the question by the CBC network. In answer, he replied: "Well, that is a very, uh, difficult question to answer. It has great sensitivities."

"My policy on handing over people in the past was we will not hand over any Pakistani. We will ask, first of all, the country of origin of the person to take that person over. And if that does not happen - and invariably none of the countries accepted the Al Qaeda people that we apprehended - then we handed them over to anyone and the United States.

"Now in this case, since the matter is so sensitive, one will have to think about it when such a situation arises,'' he said.

Asked many times if he had information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the former military dictator said it was only once, in 2004, when the ISI and American intelligence forces encircled the Pakistani tribal area where the Al Qaeda chief was reported to be hiding.

But the 9/11 mastermind was not found there, said Musharraf.

"There was a time we were getting these photograph releases of Osama bin Laden walking in mountains (in 2004). Having some knowledge of the mountains and the landscape, I thought, maybe he's in Bajaur Agency,'' Musharraf told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Bajaur is one of the seven mountainous tribal units in the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan (FATA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan that has become the hotbed of Taliban insurgents.

Referring to recent statements against him by Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Musharraf told the All-Pakistan Muslim League gathering that this shows he never accepted any orders from the Americans.

"He (Musharraf) has about as much chance of coming back to power as (former Soviet) president (Mikhail) Gorbachev," Holbrooke told US diplomats and security experts in Washington this week.

Musharraf, who relinquished power in 2008 under threat of impeachment, set up the All-Pakistan Muslim League last month to try to stage a comeback.