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Tuesday October 15, 2019

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Editor-in-Chief View on Osama Special Issue

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In India it was an I told you so moment. For the US and the rest of the world it was I thought so and for the Pakistani people it was, alas, I couldn’t say so. As for the Pakistan Army it was simply, I never knew so. All of these responses were united by the announcement by President Barack Obama that US special forces had finally found Osama bin Laden, alive and he was now dead.

It was cathartic for the US, struggling since 11 September 2001 to put an end to the nihilism that Al-Qaeda represented. That the US penetrated Pakistani airspace and found bin Laden ensconced in the cooler climes of Abbottabad makes the tale all that more murky. For it is the location of the hunted that provokes the aforementioned reactions. It wasn’t a cave in a tribal badland as many would have liked the world to believe. Neither was it some state-has-ceased-to-exist Somalia kind of country. It was in the British colonial dreamscape location of Abbottabad that his nemesis finally caught up with Osama bin Laden.

The vast majority of the people of Pakistan couldn’t quite believe their ears and their eyes, as they watched the post-action drama unfold. It was a wretched way to begin a week. Everything that they had feared was now confirmed to them, albeit in a manner that made the shame so much more miserable. The US was informing their country that the most wanted man in the world was caught living in luxury in a town that houses the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy Kakul, as well as three regimental centres. And that the town is salubrious in climate, if not in nature. It was a body blow for the Pakistani people that the hated Americans had snuffed out Osama bin Laden from under the nose of the Pakistan Army and all the radars of the Pakistan Air Force could do nothing about it. There was no question of jamming any radars on the way simply because many international flights have to use the Abbottabad-Peshawar over fly route. Jamming would have placed more lives at risk, while alerting Pakistani authorities should the Air Traffic Controllers have panicked. Pakistan was not informed simply because it was not trusted by the US. And after this raid, it is highly unlikely that trust would suddenly mushroom.

Trust comes from being able to tango together. Which is not the case between Pakistan and the US, Afghanistan or India. And this lack of trust keeps the people of Pakistan hostage to the vivid imagination, off the wall conspiracies and the skullduggery long practiced by their Army and its intelligence agencies. The institutional development of Pakistan has been held hostage by the machinations of the military. The US has participated in this decline for the longest time and continues to do so.

Post-Osama the first Pak-US meeting involves Sen. John Kerry and the Army Chief. Rubbing the point to the people that foreigners respect the Army more than they do the civilian authorities. Government of India, unfortunately, has deemed this policy makes eminent sense and has encouraged its High Commission to open talks with the military leadership in Pakistan. Civilians have to be strengthened in Pakistan, not a military that has brought much misery and shame to the country. If that were the policy from the beginning there would never have been a home for Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

 


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