Alive or dead? It’s not as black and white as you might think

Published July 30, 2015
In fact, Omar died three times before. Bin Laden himself died at least twice before the Americans assassinated him.—Reuters/File
In fact, Omar died three times before. Bin Laden himself died at least twice before the Americans assassinated him.—Reuters/File

HOW many times do you have to kill a man before he dies? Not for the first time Mullah Mohammad Omar, Emir of the Faithful, friend and protector of Osama bin Laden, creator of the Taliban, destroyer of graven images, has died.

In fact, he has died three times before, most spectacularly at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) in 2011. Untrue on that occasion, of course. Bin Laden himself died at least twice before the Americans assassinated him in 2011.

Even George W wrote him off in 2002. Then he was dying of cancer. Then he was dying of kidney failure. The Top People’s Paper even killed off Ayatollah Khomeini – of cancer – long before the old boy expired.

Know more: Mullah Omar: The reclusive face of Afghan insurgency

If all the stories were true, these folk would have outdone the most important Resurrection of all, several times over. It is an intelligence officer’s dream and a journalist’s nightmare.

Long ago, when the first stories were going the rounds that Bin Laden had died in Afghanistan, a Pakistani rogue who knew him rather too well told me he thought he knew why these chaps kept dying.

The CIA and MI6 and the Russian FSB and the Pakistani ISI, he said, declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location.

“Then, ‘Zap’, it’s all for real,” he said.

Searching around for “sources”, the poor journos have to write cruelly obfuscatory obituaries just in case the old panjandrum has actually kicked the bucket.

So in this familiar and rather gruesome tradition, here goes: Mullah Omar, possibly the son-in-law of Bin Laden but very definitely one-eyed, declared himself the Emir of the Faithful in 1996 and led his Taliban purists to victory against the mujahedin fighters who had driven the Russians out of what quickly became the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

He was head of state for five years until he gave political asylum to Bin Laden after 9/11 and ended up on the run with a $10m bounty on his head.

He approved of the elimination of murderers, adulterers and statues of Buddha, and was held in awe by young men who thought nothing of hanging television sets from trees to show their contempt for graven images – and, quite possibly, journalists.

His latest death, according to the usual sources, could have occurred two or three years ago – before Isis began making inroads into his turf – so if he turns out to be still alive, he must surely be Emir of the Undead. Maybe the Americans should amend their $10m reward to the slightly more inspiring “Dead AND Alive”.

By arrangement with The Independent

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2015

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