The late Al-Qaeda chief’s hideout was a $1-million mansion in Abbottabad in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, not a menial cave on the rugged terrains of the Afghanistan border. But tracking the recent brouhaha, what exactly was Pakistan’s involvement in operation Geronimo? Clearly the manoeuvre was no more than a US surgical raid with US Apache attack choppers, US Navy commandos and the CIA. Pakistan has acknowledged Osama bin Laden had a “support system” in the country, but asserted that the government was unaware of his presence on its soil. But then that is diplomatic doublespeak. Let’s dig further.
What did Pakistan do?
Osama bin Laden’s Bilal town residence is barely 2 hours from Islamabad by road, just 35 miles outside the capital, in a sprawling upscale neighbourhood in Abbottabad, home to retired army officials. Going by logistics and Pakistan’s vested interest in cropping its defence machinery in favour of extremist policies, it only makes sense that bin Laden would settle for something more sophisticated than a pothole amid arid mountains and acacias – in a secure, safe environment, the national military academy just down the road, neighbours who mind their own business, great person to person courier service. To quote the unfortunate architect who claims to have been hired to design the mansion, who identifies himself as Bill – “On paper it was beautiful; a large entry court around a two story water feature, Italianate with Etruscan entablatures and friezes from the 13th Century Portuguese renaissance. The client was apparently a local farmer who made a killing on defaulting on $500 Kiva loans. I worked through a 3rd party based in Geneva who called himself Seamus. I was paid for conceptual design up front, then Seamus and my plans ran off – never to be heard from again. Later, through the grapevine on Archinect I read that my design had been obtained by a local concrete contractor in Islamabad who was hired to complete the drawings and construct the project in 3 months time for someone else; apparently the farmer decided to use some of his fortune to open a liquor store in Rosemead, CA. Anyways, fearing the worst, and wanting to salvage something for my portfolio, I tried to contact the local contractor to have my name removed from the plans, but apparently they Value Engineered out the telephone/cable TV/internet option in my concept… That wonderful 12 seat theatre… all those plans shot to hell. Anyways, I can’t comment at all on the accommodations – I was never extended a courtesy night stay for the designer. I suppose it’s for the best.”
A house like that right under the nose of the military – so much for secrecy. And Pakistan fears retaliation from its in-house militant faction. Understandable, actually. It takes audacity to see its citizenry share intelligence with the US concerning the most wanted man on Earth, while guarding the country’s best kept secrets under the diplomatic seal. It takes even more spinal strength to strip away the fact that Pakistan nurtures militants and takes part in counter-terrorism initiatives at the same time.
All that Pakistan didn’t care for
The presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan, something Pakistani officials have long dismissed, goes to the heart of the lack of trust that Washington has felt over the last 10 years. For nearly a decade, the US has paid Pakistan $1 billion a year for counterterrorism operations. The chief aim was to kill or capture Bin Laden, going by the US interest. To fortify that objective Pakistan was supplied with the best possible perks tagged under the category of national security, humanitarian relief, etcetera. An outcome was expected after the overdose of strategic bias, extended commercialism and a suitable atmosphere for the existence of an imploding statehood like Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda operative UmarPatek, an Indonesian involved in the Bali bombings in 2002, was captured at a house in Abbottabad in February, where he was protected by an Al-Qaeda courier who worked as a clerk at the city’s post office. Almost a decade after, the death of Bin Laden in such a place led to fresh recriminations from the West and from its immediate neighbours,triggering the see through when it comes to choosing between Pakistan’s complicity and incompetency. In instance of the country’s media efforts to cover up for its damaging governance – prominent TV anchor with GEO TV went on air to rubbish the initial reports of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Following the confirmation of his death from the White House and western media outlets, the Pakistani media were unsure how to treat the story. Diving into the confusion all around, Javed Chaudhury, a journalist with Express News, called Osama a shaheed (martyr).
What’s the verdict?
Not denying the sensible response, thousands of Pakistanis did come out synchronously rejoicing the death of the ‘Villain’, but many more have maintained silence throughout, with intrusions from Islamist outfits like Hafiz Saeed’sJamaatudDawa and JamiatUlema-i-Islam-Nazaryati mourning for the ‘leader’ in Osama Bin Laden. Most political leaders termed it a victory for the country, stretching its inertness and bringing into spotlight the malpractice of props allotted significantly for defence practice. The manner in which the US planned and killed Osama tells an awful lot about US-Pak ties. The fact that the Pakistani government has remained silent for so long suggests that it is in shock, and trying to figure out what to do next. The challenge for Pakistan’s top crust now is to respond calculatedly to the West and not indulge in hasty reactions. But given the very peculiar situation in Pakistan – where a bulky section of the population considers the US a bigger evil than the Al Qaeda – it suits pro-American elements in the politico-military establishment to play down their role in the knowledge of Osama’s whereabouts.
Written for IBNLive