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Analysis: Bin Laden Hideout Shifts Spotlight to Pakistan

America can't do without Pakistan but the Bin Laden compound highlights the problematic nature of the relationship.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 5/3/2011, 8:21 PM / Last Update: 5/3/2011, 9:05 PM

The successful operation that rid the world of Osama bin Laden left behind a major headache – Pakistan. As details emerge, it appears that the arch terrorist had been living an hour's drive away from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in an area chock-full of Pakistani military bases and retired military personnel.

The Pakistani leadership made a brave face and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari claimed that Pakistan had not harbored bin Laden but provided intelligence assistance that played a major role in the successful operation. Pakistani premier Yousuf Raz Gilani said bin Laden's elimination showed the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

But the questions will not go away. In classic British understatement, Prime Minister David Cameron said "there are a lot of questions that need to be answered." Whatever the questions, Britain expected to continue to work closely with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Senior American politicians claim that the burden of proof is now on Pakistan.

Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said "Pakistan must prove to the US that they didn't know that bin Laden was in the compounds". Senate Armed services Chairman Carl Levin claimed that the Pakistanis have "got a lot of explaining to do." Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, accused Pakistan of playing a double game and declared herself troubled. Senator Frank Latin America of New Jersey threatened to withhold aid from Pakistan till "Congress and the American public are assured that the Pakistani government is not shielding terrorists"

Another party that was predictably suspicious of Pakistan was its neighbor India. India was claiming "I told you so" to anybody willing to listen. India had warned about Pakistan's nuclear assistance to North Korea and then to Libya but no one responded.

India had ample provocation from Pakistan, but had exercised restraint in order not to interfere with the search for Osama bin Laden. India has unfinished business with Pakistan over 19 most wanted terrorists who are probably sheltering, as bin Laden did,  in Pakistan..

India's BJP opposition used the bin Laden elimination to criticize the government for its futile policy of trying to reach an accommodation with Pakistan. The party spokesman said "cricket balls and terrorist bombs cannot co-exist together"

The United States, however, still needs Pakistan.

Pakistan is a nuclear power and the United States wants to make sure that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal does not fall into the wrong hands.  Although there is now a route via Russia, Pakistan is still an important military supply route to Afghanistan. If America can reach an arrangement to withdraw from Afghanistan, it will need Pakistani assistance.

Finally, if America were to cut off assistance, China, who casts a wary eye on India, would be only too happy to step in and provide assistance to a traditional enemy of India. The Chinese are building nuclear reactors in Pakistan. Guo Xian'gang, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, a government think tank, predicted that a rift between the United States and Pakistan would not affect Sino -Pakistani relations because the two countries were "allweather friends". China has deeper pockets than the US and could replace American assistance.