What did Musharraf know?

His memoirs, written while he was still military president of Pakistan, are a fascinating source of

How much did Pervez Musharraf and his then head of intelligence (from 2004-2007), Ashfaq Kayani, now head of the army, really know? Musharraf's 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, suggests they may have had more than an inkling that Abbottabad was something of an al-Qaeda hotbed.

As president of Pakistan, Musharraf describes how the army was pursuing Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the alias of Mustafa Muhammad, who, after the death of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had stepped into his role as number three in al-Qaeda. Musharraf held Libbi responsible for attempts on his life while he was president of Pakistan.

He writes that they narrowly missed Libbi in April 2004.

The second miss was again in Abbotabad [sic]. We were tipped off that someone important in al-Qaeda was living in a house there, and that someone else, also very important, someone we were looking for, was supposed to come and meet him. We did not know that the second someone was Abu Faraj al-Libbi, but we had enough information to attempt an interception. Our team members stationed themselves around the house in Abbotabad. When the expected visitor turned up, the person in the house came out to meet him. But as he approached, the visitor acted suspicious and tried to run away. There was an exchange of fire, and he was killed. The visitor was not Libbi. Later, when we arrested Libbi and interrogated him, we discovered his pattern: he would always send someone ahead as a decoy while he imself stayed behind to observe. He was undoubtedly watching his decoy perform the fatal pantomime of the day. (pg 258)

Musharraf narrates how they finally got Libbi in Mardan in May 2005, at a shrine.

Christina Lamb, writing in the Sunday Times on 8 May (yesterday), has more details. "Bin Laden is supposed to have been living in the house in Abbottabad since 2005-2006 when General Nadeen Taj was commandant of the military academcy. Taj (who went on to succeed Ashfaq Kayani as head of the ISI in 2007) was a close confidant of Musharraf. He was on the plane with him that was refused entry into Pakistan airspace in 1999, provoking the military coup in which Musharraf seized power."

She continues that Taj allowed a number of radical ideologues associated with jihadist groups to use Abbottabad as a transit hub, including Hafiz Saeed, head of Lashkar-e-Toiba, the organisation behind the bombings of Mumbai in 2008.

Christina Lamb's 1991 portrait of political Pakistan (Waiting for Allah) traces an ISI history that stretches back to 1972 in Afghanistan, as the organisation backed Daoud in a coup against the king Zahir Shah to begin the formation of a fundamentalist client state. After the Soviet invasion in 1979, Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, tried in the 1980s to get the fundamentalist (Engineer) Hekmatyar to dominate the Alliance and drive out the moderates.

There are still internet rumours that the then US ambassador, Arnie Raphael, who went down in Zia's plane when it crashed in August 1988, apparently favoured the hardline Gul to take over from Zia. In fact, it was General Beg who survived the wipe-out of military top brass and brought on elections.

Old military habits perhaps die hard. In his 2006 memoir, Musharraf refers disdainfully to "the dreadful decade of democracy" that began in 1988.

And on page page 221 the former president remarks, perhaps referring to the fact that elements in the national army were genuinely and in all innocence looking for Bin Laden: "I have said, half-jokingly, that I hope he is not caught in Pakistan, by Pakistan's troops."

Catriona Luke is a freelance writer and editor.

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Theresa May could live to regret not putting Article 50 to a vote sooner

Today's Morning Call.

Theresa May will reveal her plan to Parliament, Downing Street has confirmed. They will seek to amend Labour's motion on Article 50 adding a note of support for the principle of triggering Article 50 by March 2017, in a bid to flush out the diehard Remainers.

Has the PM retreated under heavy fire or pulled off a clever gambit to take the wind out of Labour's sails while keeping her Brexit deal close to her chest? 

Well, as ever, you pays your money and you makes your choice. "May forced to reveal Brexit plan to head off Tory revolt" is the Guardian's splash. "PM caves in on plans for Brexit" is the i's take. "May goes into battle for Brexit" is the Telegraph's, while Ukip's Pravda aka the Express goes for "MPs to vote on EU exit today".

Who's right? Well, it's a bit of both. That the government has only conceded to reveal "a plan" might mean further banalities on a par with the PM's one-liner yesterday that she was seeking a "red white and blue Brexit" ie a special British deal. And they've been aided by a rare error by Labour's new star signing Keir Starmer. Hindsight is 20:20, but if he'd demanded a full-blown white paper the government would be in a trickier spot now. 

But make no mistake: the PM didn't want to be here. It's worth noting that if she had submitted Article 50 to a parliamentary vote at the start of the parliamentary year, when Labour's frontbench was still cobbled together from scotch-tape and Paul Flynn and the only opposition MP seemed to be Nicky Morgan, she'd have passed it by now - or, better still for the Tory party, she'd be in possession of a perfect excuse to reestablish the Conservative majority in the House of Lords. May's caution made her PM while her more reckless colleagues detonated - but she may have cause to regret her caution over the coming months and years.

PANNICK! AT THE SUPREME COURT

David Pannick, Gina Miller's barrister, has told the Supreme Court that it would be "quite extraordinary" if the government's case were upheld, as it would mean ministers could use prerogative powers to reduce a swathe of rights without parliamentary appeal. The case hinges on the question of whether or not triggering Article 50 represents a loss of rights, something only the legislature can do.  Jane Croft has the details in the FT 

SOMETHING OF A GAMBLE

Ministers are contemplating doing a deal with Nicola Sturgeon that would allow her to hold a second independence referendum, but only after Brexit is completed, Lindsay McIntosh reports in the Times. The right to hold a referendum is a reserved power. 

A BURKISH MOVE

Angela Merkel told a cheering crowd at the CDU conference that, where possible, the full-face veil should be banned in Germany. Although the remarks are being widely reported in the British press as a "U-Turn", Merkel has previously said the face veil is incompatible with integration and has called from them to be banned "where possible". In a boost for the Chancellor, Merkel was re-elected as party chairman with 89.5 per cent of the vote. Stefan Wagstyl has the story in the FT.

SOMEWHERE A CLOCK IS TICKING

Michael Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has reminded the United Kingdom that they will have just 15 to 18 months to negotiate the terms of exit when Article 50 is triggered, as the remaining time will be needed for the deal to secure legislative appeal.

LEN'S LAST STAND?

Len McCluskey has quit as general secretary of Unite in order to run for a third term, triggering a power struggle with big consequences for the Labour party. Though he starts as the frontrunner, he is more vulnerable now than he was in 2013. I write on his chances and possible opposition here.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Emad asks if One Night Stand provides the most compelling account of sex and relationships in video games yet.

MUST READS

Theresa May is becoming adept at avoiding defeats says George

Liv Constable-Maxwell on what the Supreme Court protesters want

Theresa May risks becoming an accidental Europe wrecker, says Rafael Behr

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Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.