Pakistani Imran Khan suggests Osama bin Laden was a martyr

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been criticized by opposition MPs after delivering a speech to Parliament in which he said Osama bin Laden was “martyred” by the United States when they killed the brains of the September 11, 2011 attacks.

Mr. Khan was reprimanded for his remarks, which included mockery against the United States, and for the respect he showed Bin Laden by suggesting he was a martyr, a term of worship in Islam used to describe those killed while defending the faith.

“We sided with the United States in the war on terror, but they came here and killed him, martyred him,” Khan said in Thursday’s speech.

The Prime Minister initially said that Bin Laden was simply “killed” by the Americans, but quickly corrected himself by saying that the leader of Al Qaeda was “martyred”.

The Americans, he added, “used offensive language against us” and further insulted Pakistan by failing to inform the country that they intended to enter the country to kill Bin Laden.

Pakistan, an unfriendly but important US ally, insisted it did not know bin Laden was in hiding in the northern city of Abbottabad, but US officials have long blamed the the country’s powerful army to provide refuge for militants.

Critics of Mr. Khan in the National Assembly were quick to condemn the Prime Minister, already under fire from criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a plunging economy.

“Bin Laden brought terrorism to our lands, he was a terrorist through and through,” said Khawaja Muhammad Asif, an opposition leader.

On Twitter, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, said Khan had a “history of appeasing violent extremism.”

Mr Khan, a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, reinvented himself as a religious conservative when he entered politics.

Many Pakistanis remain sympathetic to Bin Laden, and some religious leaders speak of the leader of Qaida in glorifying terms. Mr. Khan capitalized on the anti-American sentiments of his base and his sympathy for activists, including the Taliban.

The 2011 raid that killed Bin Laden was very embarrassing for the Pakistani military and the spy agency, and brought relations between Pakistan and the United States to an all-time low.

Khan said on Thursday his government had improved relations with the United States and the countries now had greater trust in each other.

There was no official reaction or clarification to the PM’s remarks from his office on Friday, and senior officials appeared keen to overcome the controversy quickly.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tried to dismiss the Prime Minister’s comments when local media asked for his reaction.

“It was such a global speech. It is not a matter of debate, ”said Mr. Qureshi. “Let’s leave that.”


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