| Pervez Musharraf in Putrajaya, Malaysia. (Reuters)
Putrajaya, Oct. 17 (Reuters): Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is still alive and probably holed up somewhere in the remote, mountainous, tribal areas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, President Pervez Musharraf said today.
The Pakistan leader, in Malaysia for an Islamic summit, said he didn’t know exactly where bin Laden was hiding but the army had for the first time ventured into treacherous border areas and started gathering intelligence from locals there.
“I’m sure he’s alive,” the Pakistan President said, citing technological intelligence. “I can’t say whether he’s on our side of the border or the Afghan side.”
In a wide ranging interview, the general who took power in a military coup five years ago said he believed Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “a man of peace”.
But Musharraf suspected a stronger more hawkish personality had kept South Asia’s two-nuclear armed arch foes from making peace, and said while Pakistan was ready for talks with New Delhi, it was not desperate.
“I know he’s a man of peace,” he said of Vajpayee, before dropping his voice to add, “But there’s somebody who’s maybe stronger who opposes peace, that’s what I think.”
Musharraf spoke of the close co-operation between the CIA and his own ISI in trying to track down bin Laden, who tops the US’ most-wanted list.
He dismissed criticism that Pakistan was not doing enough to catch militants from Afghanistan’s vanquished Taliban regime.
“If there is a failure of the ISI, there is a failure of the CIA,” he said, emphasising how closely the two agencies worked.