A decade long manhunt for Osama finally came to a close on the night of May 2 when America’s toughest counter terrorism force Navy Seals nabbed and killed the chief of al-Qaida in a house located in Abbottabad, a scenic city barely 60 miles by road from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.
If ISI had been abetting Osama then they would not have kept him in a walled and open palatial mansion, but in a secret well-guarded dungeon where no one could have ever traced him. If any secret operative of ISI had knowledge of his presence in the suburbs of Abbottabad, he would have definitely informed some of his own kith to claim the fabulous reward. So to cast doubts on Pakistan’s intelligence agency that they knew about Osama’s presence in Abbottabad is a claim that does not hold water.
If ISI or the Pakistan’s military intelligence have failed due to what is being doled out as incompetence then such a stigma must also be shared by CIA and other premier intelligence agencies of the world which as well could not trace Osama. The Indian intelligence agency RAW would have definitely passed on that information to the United States to denigrate Pakistan.
One may imagine that a super power had remained obsessed with a terrorist who remained on the run and escaped for a decade from the most intensive manhunt recorded in history. That in these ten years the United States has killed an impressive number of Al-Qaida affiliates, speaks for the tenacity and frenzied propensity of that country to punish the perpetrators of 9/11 incident that shook the world, changed the profile of America as well as the mentality and psyche of the American people. One of the baleful repercussions of the 9/11 tragedy was the steep hype in racial, ethnic and communal profiling of the immigrants especially of the Muslims.
One can also infer that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that consumed millions of human beings, including tyrant Saddam Hussain was the consequence of the urge for routing the al-Qaida whose network previously had remained committed to the American cause of annihilating the Soviet Communist Empire. The al-Qaida under Osama’s leadership was in the vanguard of inflicting an historic defeat upon the Soviet Union, paving way for the rival United States to emerge as the sole super power.
The United States will not relent solely on killing Osama but would pursue with a new vigor to hunt down the remaining al-Qaida affiliates till this organization virtually become dysfunctional. So one can also perceive and speculate that United States would remain wedded to this course of chasing the living stalwarts of al-Qaida and kill them.
Pakistan, at present, looks like s subdued and shaking scapegoat. She is confronted with the much speculated charge of betraying or playing a double game in America’s war against the al-Qaida terrorists who have been attacking American embassies and ship prior to the earth shaking attack on the World Trade Center in New York on November 11, 2001.
For all these years of chasing Osama and after his retreat from Tore Bora hideout, there were conflicting projections about Osama’s whereabouts. No one could be prepared to believe for a moment that he was still alive because of the widely believed perception that he might have died due to his serious kidney problems and non availiblity of complicated dialysis procedures to keep him alive.
The world had become complacent and rather forgetful that he was still a living, vibrant figure planning and masterminding further attacks on the United States. But while America remained safe from his destructive operations, Pakistan had suffered myriad suicide bombing and terrorist attacks that have wrecked the country economically and socially. Some of the attacks mostly coming from the radical Islamists from various religious groups may have been remotely maneuvered and directed by al-Qaida.
As long as Osama fought against the Soviet Union, he earned the kudos, blessings and full-fledged support from his mentors notably Pakistan and the United States. But when he started harboring the notions that he could defeat the United States in the same fashion as he defeated Soviet Union, he turned a villain and his erstwhile friends became his worst enemies.
Osama was not only a later day turned enemy of the United States but also of many Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia that he thought was sold out to American interests in the Middle East. He wanted American forces to be out from the Saudi Arabia. For him this was not only sacrilegious but provided bases to America to operate against the Islamic states in the region. He also believed that the presence of the American forces in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, would be detrimental to the economy of that country.
In the hindsight of his military exploits in Afghanistan that were achieved with the massive support from the United States, Pakistan and the western countries, Osama miscalculated that he could establish Islamic emirate in the Islamic countries and at the same time carry out attacks on American facilities all over the world. That was the beginning of his isolation and the dismal failure due to his self delusional ambitions.
He miscalculated American military and economic might and overestimated the capabilities of his rag tag outfit of followers that could only operate in a given area beefed up by the logistic backup, financial and weaponry support and with the planning of the established armies as was done in Afghanistan.
He chose the path of terrorizing and sabotage and clandestine suicide bombing through very motivated yet misguided members of Al-Qaida. The result is obvious as terrorism or violence is the least desired option for a genuine or even non-genuine cause to prevail or make any headway.
If he wanted to disseminate Islam, the best course for him was to mobilize his cohorts and followers to become the votaries of Islam and preach the its pristine virtues with hallmarks such as justice, peace, equality, accountability, human rights, piety, rectitude, morality and all the noble stuff that Islam offers.
Had he adopted this approach, he would have been still living and his mission and message going around the world without any antagonism, with great strides and glaring achievements He chose confrontation instead of pursuation and pleading.
The American media, taking undue advantage of the unbridled freedom of expression is relentlessly heaping scorn, dirt and innuendos on Pakistan that has been and is still an overly loyal and unwavering ally in American war on terrorism. The American press is trying to level unsubstantiated allegations against Pakistan for colluding with Osama and hiding him for presumably extracting monetary mileage out of Osama- fixated America.
While airing such uncharitable accusations against Pakistan, these commentators and analysts conveniently forget that Pakistani armed forces have been fighting in the most inhospitable terrain and against the most defiant fighters for the sake of America and NATO.
The unremitting military operation in the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, against the Taliban and al-Qaida warriors is not a child’s play. The battling against a tenacious and religiously brainwashed enemy as Taliban is, the collateral damage has been colossal. Pakistan army alone has lost its valiant soldiers in thousands, besides many more maimed and injured.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have captured and handed over to the United States the bulk of al-Qaida top notch leaders that frustrated this organization’s functional network and paralyzed it administratively. As a result of these efforts, Pakistan was almost cleared of the covert Qaida activists. That was one conspicuous achievement alone should have been reciprocated by America with abiding gratitude.
Yet history repeats itself. Now when America is planning to retreat from Afghanistan and draw down its forces, the onus of not doing enough has fallen on Pakistan. If compared whether Pakistan has done marvelously well in the war against terrorism or NATO, the scale would heavily tilt towards Pakistan.
The Unite States used Pakistan and Muslim fighters from across the globe against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the victory, Americans left Pakistan and Afghanistan high and dry. In the follow up periods, Pakistan was almost being declared as a state sponsoring terrorism. Yet this false and made up charge was overturned when Pakistan was against needed after the 9/11 cataclysm. Pakistan is doing a thankless job that at the end of the day turns into a curse for it.
in the wake of the Osama’ end game episode, If the American Congressmen, Senators and the press alike are pleading stoppage or curtailing Pakistan’s military aid punitively, then such a move would have corresponding adverse ramifications for the United States. Pakistan even without the American aid would survive. Nations do not prosper or die because of foreign alms or aid or its stoppage. Foreign aid with strings saps the independence of a country and Pakistan has experienced this anathema.
However, in that scenario, Pakistan would have no choice but to wind up its military operations in Waziristan and elsewhere. That would deal a fatal blow to the American and NATO ambitions and objectives in that dangerous terrain, with Taliban and even some left out al-Qaida fighters once again stalking the length and breadth of Afghanistan.
Let us not forget that Pakistan is paid because it allows its land for overland transport of all kind of merchandise for NATO forces. Moreover, Pakistan has to procure military hardware and pay to the soldiers fighting a terrible war. Wars are not gratis: these cause financial burdens.
The aid that is being given to Pakistan is a pittance of what Pakistan is doing in her northern regions. Pakistan has almost cleared these safe sanctuaries of the anti American militants. If Pakistan withdraws, these rugged valleys and inaccessible mountains would again become launching pads of forays for Taliban and other dreaded militants. How many drones American would send? It is the army that carries out straight combats and exterminates a much larger number of miscreants that what a thousand drones may not do if sent every day.
Finally let us not forget that Pakistan is a sovereign and independent state. It is not a protectorate, a hirling or vassal of the west or America. Its war efforts against the radical militants must be respected, acknowledged and highly applauded. If this blame game and diatribe against Pakistan does not stop, Pakistan should say adieu to the American aid and let the United States and NATO fight their own war. The candid corollary and the stark truth is that United States still needs Pakistan and needs indispensably.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.