The government of Pakistan today denied it would allow Osama bin Laden to avoid capture under terms of a peace agreement it signed with Taliban leaders in the country's North Waziristan area.
"If he is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice," the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in a statement.
The ambassador said a Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, had been "grossly misquoted" when he told ABC News Tuesday that bin Laden would not be taken into custody "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen." The comments were recorded in a telephone interview with ABC News.
Q. ABC News: If bin Laden or Zawahiri were there, they could stay?
A. Gen. Sultan: No one of that kind can stay. If someone is there he will have to surrender, he will have to live like a good citizen, his whereabouts, exit travel would be known to the authorities.
Q. ABC News: So, he wouldn't be taken into custody? He would stay there?
A. Gen. Sultan: No, as long as one is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody. One has to stay like a peaceful citizen and not allowed to participate in any kind of terrorist activity.
General Sultan said today it was "hair splitting" to speculate whether troops would be sent in if bin Laden was found in North Waziristan.
"If someone is found there, we will see what is to be done," General Sultan said today. "Pakistan is committed to the war on terror, and of course we will go after any terrorist found to be operating here," he said.
Under the terms of the peace agreement, the Pakistani Army promised to cease action in the area and to return captured Taliban weapons and soldiers.
Former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant, said "What this means is that the Taliban and al Queida leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan."
General Sultan said today he "rejected" the idea that Pakistan had created a safe haven for terrorists.