Who will own the responsibility?
Osama Bin Laden is dead – finally. For many of us, he was dead already; at least this is how we conceive known people when they are not in the public eye anymore. Yet, whenever the allegation and the counter allegation of his presence in Pakistan surfaced, I always imagined him dwelling somewhere in the distant mountainous terrain that is unreachable for the majority of Pakistanis.
On May 2nd, when the initial one-line news of his death appeared on twitter, I silently wished that he wasn’t killed in Pakistan for I feared the implications it may have for our country in future. The prayer was as hopeless and futile as wishing a victory for a weaker cricket team against the top one. Bin Laden got killed – good riddance, but what followed afterwards was unimaginably painful.
I am indeed referring to the apathetic attitude exhibited by our government, military and intelligence officials after the Bin Laden killing. I can’t recall a single moment in my living memory, when Pakistani officials would have behaved in such an indifferent manner following a major event as they did after the May 2nd incident. It felt as if none of them had a wee bit of idea as to what was going on in the country. Each one of them seemed to be evading media and the nation. President Zardari’s could write an op-ed for Washington Post, expressing lack of knowledge about Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad and reiterated cooperation with America but perhaps felt inconsequential to spare half an hour to address the nation and take them into confidence.
After three or so days of the incident, General Kayani sheepishly admitted the intelligence failure and sought cut in the US military personnel. He was left with no other choice after audacious statement by the US expressing distrust in Pakistani authorities and military officials regarding such a sensitive piece of intelligence. This statement may have been triggered from the complaint made by the US time and again about certain elements in the Pakistani military having sympathies for the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The US President, however, thanked Pakistan’s efforts and cooperation in vague terms in his speech; rightly so, as Pakistan has been playing a commendable role in nabbing senior Al-Qaeda leaders post 9/11. After Pakistan’s admission of intelligence failure and statements by America, two scenarios emerge. First, the ISI and military had idea about the whereabouts of Bin Laden all long, the reason behind denial is just that our military and politicians didn’t want to risk domestic backlash from the militants. Second, ISI was in fact clueless about the Bin Laden hideout in Abbottabad; close to Pakistan Military Academy, all those years and they were equally unaware of the US intrusion into Pakistani air space and the subsequent secret operation carried out by the US Navy SEALs.
Whereas, the first scenario sounds plausible, the second one, on the other hand, is quite hard to digest especially the claim that ISI wasn’t aware of the presence of Bin Laden amidst them. It is distressing for a Pakistani nation that the military, which receives a huge chunk in annual budget, is so worthless to even detect an intrusion into its airspace. It is understandable that not many countries in the world can match up to the US military technology yet how can our agencies missed having intelligence about Bin Laden’s hideout. After this incident, the fear of India’s “surgical strike” surfaced in people’s minds. Indian warplanes had violated Pakistan’s airspace in December 2008 by drifting almost four kilometers inside Kashmir and Lahore sectors. The Pakistan Air Force intercepted them and the Indian fighters flee back into their airspace. After Mumbai attack in 2008, India threatened on various occasions of having a “surgical strike” in Pakistan on the militant hideouts in case of Pakistan’s reluctance to brought the perpetrators to justice.
Analysts believe that our equation with India is totally different than what we have with America. Due to existing strategic relationship between the United States and Pakistan, there is acquiesce on Pakistan’s part in terms of several US actions such as on the policy of drone strikes in the tribal region. Quite honestly, it is hard to decipher the true role of ISI in this entire saga and the indirect allegation made against ISI by the western media for harboring Bin Laden is disturbing of all. If true, it will be an answer in itself as to why we are in a deep mess of militancy today and why our policies are not working to curb the terrorism.
The Pakistani nation is if not more at least equally intelligible as the US authorities and people. If our President can send his opinion to the US newspaper, we too deserve to be spoken to. The unconvincing press release by the ministry of foreign affairs, the brief statement of intelligent failure by the military and the fallacious statement made by our information minister regarding the UNSC resolution mandating the US operation in Pakistan are certainly insufficient. Oddly, majority of political parties are not questioning the matter either. It is time for someone from the government or military to stand up, clear the ambiguities regarding the May 2nd incident and own the responsibility of letting down the nation.