Washington: Former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf possibly knew about slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his place of hiding, an eminent British journalist who reported for years from Afghanistan and Pakistan for the New York Times has claimed.
In her latest book, "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004", journalist Carlotta Gall has sourced her startling revelation to a retired Pakistani general Talat Masood.
"If allowed to proceed, the court cases may unravel some of the remaining mysteries of the Musharraf era," Gall writes in her book.
Musharraf is currently facing treason charges in a Pakistani court, besides other cases. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the book is scheduled to go on sale in April 8.
"One day as he sat at home in Islamabad, the retired general Talat Masood was watching an interview with Musharraf on Television, Masood was struck by something the general said. Musharraf was talking about (Osama) bin Laden and as was often the case, he was talking too much," she writes.
"It dawned on Masood that the former army chief had known about bin Laden and where he was hiding. It was a statement he made in the interview," he told me. "I got a feeling that he knew," Gall said in her book that makes startling revelation and runs into over 300 pages.
Bin Laden was eventually killed in a US commando raid on his hideout in Pakistan's Abbottabad town in May, 2011. Masood is the same general who after 9/11 urged Musharraf, the then president of Pakistan, to abandon his policy of supporting terrorism.
But Musharraf, according to the book, argued that he would "compartmentalise" the support between al-Qaeda and Kashmiri terrorists. "Masood, the senior in age, says he warned Musharraf that, from experience, it would not be possible to close one operation down and not the other.
Still, Musharraf insisted he could do it," Gall writes. "Yes, I think we should stop supporting the Taliban but we will continue supporting the jihadis in Kashmir," Musharraf told him.
"That's very difficult for you to do that," Masood said. "Sir, you are becoming an apologist," the general retorted.
"I am telling you from my experience it is not possible to compartmentalise the way you are talking," Masood protested. Masood told this to Musharraf a few days after 9/11 when he invited him along with others for advice on what government should do.
According to Gall, after 9/11, when Musharraf assured the West, in particular the United States that he would cut off support for the Taliban, he in fact planned to keep the thousands of fighters who returned from Afghanistan in reserve, hidden somewhere.
As already reported in the New York Times, which has published excerpts of her book, Gall writes that the senior leadership of Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of bin Laden, which has been denied by both the White House and the Pakistani government.
Gall claims that former ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew of bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed was in regular contact with the al-Qaeda chief. Her book also says that the deadly 2008 terror attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people, was sanctioned and monitored by senior officials of the ISI. While Pakistan has repeatedly denied its involvement in the Indian Embassy attack, several mainstream US newspapers, including NYT, and the governments of India and Afghanistan have accused the ISI of being behind the attack.