US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s charge that Osama bin Laden’s successor as al-Qaeda chief, Dr Ayman Zawahiri, is in Pakistan, was made during a visit to India, thus virtually ensuring that the charge would not be taken seriously. It would be ascribed to a desire to keep the hosts happy, by raising the prospect of another raid, such as the one on Abbottabad a year ago, by US Navy SEALs, which killed bin Laden. However, Pakistan’s response, expressed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar while briefing the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, was appropriate. The charge is probably based on the fact that bin Laden was found near the Pakistan Military Academy, and on the frequent American media charge that Pakistani agencies are involved in protecting militants, but Pakistani authorities must tell the USA to put up or shut up. Either they should provide their Pakistani counterparts the information on which these claims are based, or they should hold their peace, leaving India, and pro-Indian elements within the Obama Administration, to find solace elsewhere. This should not merely be a pro forma demand, to be made once, and then conveniently forgotten, but used as a weapon to badger and bully with when suitable.

There are many reasons why the USA has chosen to make this accusation, not least to counter the wave of demands for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan after President Barack Obama’s triumphalist crowings about having finished off al-Qaeda. It was meant also to enthuse India, to whom anything portraying Pakistan in a bad light is music to the ears. Secretary Clinton did say that it was also in Pakistan’s interest to pursue terrorists, but she did not explain how it serves Pakistan’s interests to have its citizens killed in drone attacks. However, she did say that the USA would continue to work for the arrest of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, who is wanted over the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and the American reward for whom was announced only last month, in India. Though the only permanent solution lies in Pakistan abandoning the US alliance, and making sure that Pakistani citizens are not killed indiscriminately and anonymously from the sky by drone attacks, this particular accusation must not be lost sight of, and Secretary Clinton be held to it, and forced either to provide evidence, or admit that there is none. There has already been too much supine acceptance of US accusations against Pakistan. Pakistan should realize that this accusation is of a piece with those which have gone before, and reflects the American desire to keep India happy, which would explain both why the charge was made and where.