A U.S. official says Pakistan will soon allow American investigators to question the three wives of Osama bin Laden who were with the al-Qaida leader when he was killed in Pakistan last week.
The women have been in Pakistani custody since the May 2 raid by U.S. commandos. U.S. officials say the interviews, as well as evidence taken from bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, could provide important details about al-Qaida.
The White House and Pakistani officials have not publicly commented on any agreement.
U.S. officials also said Monday the Central Intelligence Agency does not intend to remove its undercover station chief in Islamabad, after Pakistani media reported last week what they said was the operative’s name.
Officials have said the name was inaccurate, but they believe it was intentionally leaked following questions about how bin Laden lived in Pakistan for years without the knowledge of the country’s military or intelligence service.
The officials say the chief played a key role in overseeing the efforts that led to the raid on bin Laden’s compound. The previous CIA chief left Pakistan in December after being identified by Pakistani media.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday said it was “disingenuous” for anyone to insinuate that Pakistani authorities, including the country’s spy agency, were aligned with al-Qaida. In a speech to parliament, Gilani voiced support for the spy agency and the country’s military, and said bin Laden’s death was proper justice.
The Pakistani leader ordered an investigation into how bin Laden was able to live in Pakistan undetected, and he named a top army general to lead the probe.
Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday criticized the government’s handling of the bin Laden case, saying “public dismay and despondency” has been aggravated by an “insufficient formal response.” He called on Prime Minister Gilani to convene a joint session of parliament on security issues, which was later announced for Friday.
U.S officials said the military was prepared for a confrontation with Pakistani troops, and brought two extra helicopters into the country during the raid last week. There was no confrontation, but one of the backup helicopters did fly to bin Laden’s compound after a helicopter initially involved in the raid was disabled following a hard landing.
U.S.-Pakistani relations were already strained following a series of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan’s northwest and the detention of a CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.