Musharraf Rival Linked to Bin Laden

The former prime minister of Pakistan, now one of President Pervez Musharraf's chief political rivals, once received a million-dollar payoff from Osama Bin Laden as a thanks for not cracking down on the militant tribal areas in Pakistan's northwest border province, according to a former member of bin Laden's inner circle.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 coup, returned to Pakistan earlier this week after spending seven years in exile living in Saudi Arabia.

When in power, Sharif aggravated the United States by detonating Pakistan's first nuclear weapon and turning a blind eye to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now a former member of bin Laden's inner circle is saying that Sharif was handsomely rewarded by bin Laden for his policies.


Ali Mohamed served as a special projects coordinator for bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri in the mid-1990s. Mohamed, who is now in a U.S. prison for his role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, has been cooperating with the FBI and providing them with a wealth of information on the inner workings of al Qaeda.

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Jack Cloonan has questioned Mohamed over a period of years and believes the information he has provided to U.S. authorities is accurate.

Cloonan says that back in 1999 Mohamed told the FBI he arranged for a meeting between bin Laden and Sharif's representatives. Following that meeting, Mohamed told Cloonan he delivered $1 million to Sharif's representatives. Mohamed said the payoff was a tribute to Sharif for not cracking down on the Taliban as it flourished in Afghanistan and influenced the Northwest Frontier Province in Pakistan, according to Cloonan.

This is not the first time that allegations of a connection between Sharif and bin Laden have surfaced. Khalid Khawaja, a former official of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency and now a prominent human rights activist there, told the Blotter on that the connection goes all the way back to the late 1980s when, he says, Sharif and bin Laden met face-to-face. Khawaja, who describes himself as a very close friend of bin Laden's, says that political candidates in Pakistan cannot talk openly if they support bin Laden because of American pressure on them.

The information secretary for Pakistan Muslim League -- Nawaz Sharif's political party -- Siddiqul Farooq has previously denied that Sharif and bin Laden had ever met. Calls and an e-mail sent to the league's headquarters regarding the latest allegations were not immediately returned.

Aside from the allegations about Sharif, Mohamed has provided the FBI with details on many other plots and tactics used by al Qaeda, said Cloonan. Mohamed was given numerous surveillance assignments over the years, including targets such as the U.S. embassies in Africa, U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, a vacation home in Marbella, Spain owned by the Saudi royal family and a TV tower in Cyprus, Cloonan said. Mohamed was also in charge of selecting bin Laden's personal security team.

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