NEW DELHI: Former Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Chief, Lt.General Asad Durrani (retd), told Al Jazeera’s Head to Head that Pakistan most likely sheltered Osama Bin Laden in the years leading up to the US raid in Abbottabad in May 2011.

“I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did. And the idea was that at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been, when you can get the necessary quid pro quo - if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States,” General Durrani said.

He asserted that Bin Laden was, in his opinion, handed over in exchange for an agreement on “how to bring the Afghan problem to an end” Al Jazeera reported, quoting the General saying that “If ISI was doing that, than I would say they were doing a good job. And if they revealed his location, they again probably did what was required to be done.”

The statements are controversial because officially ISI maintains that it did not harbour Bin Laden and played no part in the raid in 2011. In fact, a New York Times report published in March 2014 that alleged that then-ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew of Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad created a huge stir and was denounced by Pakistan’s military as “rubbish” and “all speculation.”

At the time, Pakistan military spokesperson Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa posted on twitter that the allegations are “baseless, ridiculous. Nothing new/credible, all speculations already proven false.” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam also denied the report, saying, “There are many inconsistencies in the article… The author [Carlotta Gall] herself talks about suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. So it is not something serious."Aslam attributed responsibility to the New York Times, stating that publications can lose their credibility by carrying stories with allegations based on factual inaccuracies.

Pakistan’s dismissal of the report was corroborated by Washington’s assertion that it had no reason to believe that senior Pakistani officials had any knowledge or information pertaining to Osama Bin Laden’s location. “As US officials have said, we have no reason to believe that anyone in the highest levels of the government knew about the location of Osama bin Laden. That continues to be true,” Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said.

A spokesperson of the Pakistan embassy in Washington added that senior US officials “have on a number of occasions stated on record that they had seen no intelligence linking Government of Pakistan and any of its agencies to OBL’s presence in Abbottabad.” “To still believe, otherwise, and to resurrect the issue through unnamed sources and unconfirmed reports does not deserve attention,” the spokesperson added.

The article in question, an adaptation of author and journalist and journalist Carlotta Gall’s book, “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” which examines Pakistan’s role in financing, training and providing recruits for the Taliban, alleged, much like General Durrani, that Pakistan knew of Bin Laden’s location.

Gall wrote the following in reference to Lt. Gen. Pasha’s knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad in the New York Times.

“Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. “He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,” the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so. Pasha had been an energetic opponent of the Taliban and an open and cooperative counterpart for the Americans at the ISI. “Pasha was always their blue-eyed boy,” the official said. But in the weeks and months after the raid, Pasha and the ISI press office strenuously denied that they had any knowledge of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.

Colleagues at The Times began questioning officials in Washington about which high-ranking officials in Pakistan might also have been aware of Bin Laden’s whereabouts, but everyone suddenly clammed up. It was as if a decision had been made to contain the damage to the relationship between the two governments. “There’s no smoking gun,” officials in the Obama administration began to say.

The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from Bin Laden’s house during the raid suggested otherwise, however. It revealed regular correspondence between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban.”

At the time of writing, there has been no official response to General Durrani’s statements.