Is Musharraf under US pressure?

That US has not closed Khan's case and Laden was sighted in NWFP is seen as indicator for renewed pressure on Pak.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 15:37 IST

Reports that US has not closed Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan's case and that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has been sighted in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are seen as indicators that President Pervez Musharraf is coming under renewed American pressure.

The twin reports come at a time when Pakistan is having a regular spat with Afghanistan, with the latter alleging that Taliban fugitives are operating with impunity from Pakistani territory.

US lawmakers have been told that the Bush administration is still pursuing the AQ Khan case.

The testimony has come amid an ABC News report, contradicted by Islamabad, that Osama bin Laden had been sighted in Pakistan. These can only harm the Musharraf government, according to an analysis.

In testimony before Congress Thursday, a leading nuclear expert insisted that contrary to what a Pakistan foreign office spokesperson had said, the case against AQ Khan was "far from closed".

The hearing, held by the subcommittee on international terrorism and non-proliferation, received testimony from David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

The hearing, which mainly featured the AQ Khan network, was hurriedly arranged, not having been on the concerned congressional subcommittee's announced schedule, and should be seen as the beginning of a pressure-building process vis-à-vis Pakistan, the Daily Times reported.

Quoting unnamed Pakistani government sources, ABC News spoke of "credible reports" that the Al-Qaeda chief and his aides had moved into the Kumrat Valley in Kohistan in NWFP. Officials contacted by the Pakistani channel Geo denied the report.

According to Stratfor, the Texas-based online news and analysis service: "For one thing, if Pakistani officials did have credible intelligence about Osama bin Laden's location, the last place that information would surface would be in the American news media.

"The possibility of carrying out an operation based on such tactical information would be blown the second there was a leak to a reporter based in Washington," the online service said.

Stratfor further said: "But beyond that, Osama bin Laden would not hide out in the Kohistan district - a sparsely populated, non-Pushtun region in far eastern NWFP. There, in close proximity to Shia and Ismaili Muslims, he and his associates would be bereft of a viable support network.

"Osama bin Laden more likely would be found in an area with a sizeable Pushtun population where residents continue to show sympathy for Al-Qaeda's cause. We continue to believe that the Dir, Swat and Malakand districts in NWFP are his most probable hideouts," Stratfor added.

First Published: May 28, 2006 15:37 IST