In what seems, to many, to be a rather suspicious operation, Osama Bin Laden was shot in the head by US Navy Seals in the early hours of May 2nd 2011 (Pakistan standard time) in Pakistan’s city of Abbotabad. Bin Laden has been reported as having been in hiding in the house for a number of months if not years. (The exact duration has yet to be released or perhaps even determined.) To set some facts straight before we proceed, the house was neither a “mansion” nor was it built like a fortress as the world media has been portraying.
The alleged death of America’s enemy number one[ii] almost in the backyard of the Pakistan Military academy[iii] and an hour and a half away from Islamabad[iv], has resulted in not only raising a lot of questions, but also in reviving the mistrust between (former?) allies Pakistan and USA. In the midst of all the tumult, the questions, the doubts and implications have added to the rocky relationship between these two countries over the years. Whether it was rumors of Osama hiding in Pakistan or the Raymond Davis case, the US and Pakistan have always been necessary evils for each other. While the US has always needed Pakistan as an ally in its War Against Terrorism, Pakistan has, consequently, had its share of terrorist attacks. Ever since the War Against Terrorism began, Pakistan has been the target of not only numerous terrorist attacks but also of its public’s disdain and disgust.
To state an obvious fact, the people of Pakistan have always been divided; over choice of government, over foreign policy, over religious sects, over US-Pakistan relations, over drone attacks, over opinions, over the role of the army, over reactions to Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden; the list can go on indefinitely. That Bin Laden had been hiding in Pakistan for all these years has led to the creation of a new fissure between different parts of the Pakistani society. While many are visibly relieved, a large majority sees all of this as yet another “drama” enacted by the Americans to create another excuse to invade Pakistan as it did with Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Waziristan region is already plagued by American drone attacks on Taliban hiding in these mountainous areas. Although hundreds of innocent civilians are killed in these attacks – a matter that weighs heavily on the public conscience in general – it cannot be denied that these attacks have also resulted in the end of many terrorists. However, this is something that a large number of Pakistanis choose to deny and, instead, argue the need to maintain the “sovereignty” of Pakistan by disallowing foreign elements to operate within its borders. The Pakistani government, which ostentatiously protests against these drone attacks, has actually sanctioned these attacks as part of its alliance with the US.
The recent detection and killing of Bin Laden has raised many new issues and the Pakistani public is dumbfounded to say the least. Did Pakistan know that Osama was hiding in Abbotabad? Were the Pakistani officials working in cooperation with the American CIA as they have claimed? If so, why were they kept in the dark about this operation? These questions not only cast doubts on the ability of the Pakistan defense system, but also highlight the mistrust that the US has for Pakistan, its government and its ISI[v]. With the world’s distrust and doubt in Pakistan revived once again, Pakistanis themselves need a lot of introspection and self-accountability. It has been noted, repeatedly, by various US officials and more recently by David Cameron, that Pakistan (government, army and ISI) have been two-timing the US in its War Against Terrorism. In spite of the American’s suspicions that Pakistan was, allegedly, dealing with the Al Qaeda behind their backs, the US had no choice but to keep up the pretentious agreement between the two countries. Strategically, Pakistan is placed in an important location, allowing US forces to operate through Pakistan into Afghanistan and even within the country itself. America’s policy in this regard was, presumably, to use Pakistan for as long as required to achieve its targets. They chose to tolerate, if not ignore, Pakistan’s seeming involvement with the Al Qaeda and their various indiscretions for reasons only the US government can provide.
On the other hand, there are also statements by a number of media personalities and governments of other countries alleging that Bin Laden has been dead for several years. This would intimate that the 1st May SEAL operation and killing of Osama was faked. Could that be possible or is it just another conspiracy theory? If so, it could mean the US has plans well beyond anyone’s imagination. According to Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, US officials resort to such PR campaigns to divert attention from their domestic problems as well as their “fragile” economic situation. Assuredly, the recent event has only escalated matters between the two countries and provided further ground for a complete breaking off of relations between them.’
A lot has been written and said about the above matters, yet more is being published every moment, however, we shall have to wait to see how events unfold before a final verdict may be given. All speculations about how the relations between Pakistan and the US will progress (or deteriorate) after this development have an equal chance of being proven true. Keeping in mind the long and highly unreliable road travelled by both countries in their complicated relationship, the future holds a number of possibilities. For instance, it is a well known, but seldom acknowledged fact, that most of the US aid that is provided to Pakistan is used to pay the American personnel working within Pakistan. The US provides $2 billion in military aid and $1.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan. Approximately 70-80% of this aid is spent on various US projects in Pakistan like those initiated by the USAID[vi] and on paying the various Americans working in the Pakistan military and its related projects. The remaining 20-30 % is absorbed (read embezzled) by the various hands this aid changes before a tiny portion tickles down to the parched throats of the people giving no relief and thus receiving no thanks.
Now that Bin Laden is dead, it can only be expected that the $2 billion military aid that the US was providing to Pakistan (to pay for US personnel engaged in the War Against Terrorism) will, if not completely stopped, be at least curtailed. Moreover, the US may plan to wean itself from the Pakistani dependence that it has tolerated for so long. What will this mean for Pakistan and its people? Or, perhaps, the world will find a new bogeyman to chase; one that will provide trails into many more countries in the world to pave the way for a global democracy (or capitalist state?).
Reports continue to pour in as this post is typed and we may choose to believe any of the hundreds of versions being floated by the US officials, or choose to make up one of our own; the fact remains: we shall never know what really happened until President Obama decides to write his memoirs.
A lot more can be written to trace the beginnings of the issues discussed in the preceding paragraphs, but time and space are limited. What both Pakistan and America need to realize is the need for accountability and introspection. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the education and welfare of its people has never been a priority giving birth to a majority of its myriad problems – the most pressing being terrorism. Additionally, the doubtful activities of the intelligence agencies coupled with the increasing number of Pakistani suicide bombers are matters that need to be addressed. On the other hand, the US does not exactly sport a halo on its head. The people of both countries need to look beyond the smokescreens created by their respective governments and endeavor to make sense of facts as they are. Although we do not have enough facts to put forward any reliable theories, yet this much can be said with assurance: It is high time that the governments of Pakistan and America answer some tough questions.
As posted on Future Challenges
[ii] Osama Bin Laden : The mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the leader of the Al Qaeda. Bin Laden was referred to as America’s enemy number one and is at the top of America’s Most Wanted people’s list.
[iv] Islamabad: Capital of Pakistan and home to the country’s parliament, national assembly and residence of the Prime Minister and President.
[v] ISI: Inter Services Intelligence is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency.
[vi] USAID: The United States Agency for International Development