The news the world had been waiting for ever since the United States declared war against Al-Qaeda in 2001 has finally arrived: Al Qaeda’s numero uno, the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden has finally been killed.

According to reports coming in at the time of writing this piece, the wealthy Saudi turned Islamist terrorist died in an attack on his hideout just outside the quiet Pakistani city of Abbotabad.

The unprecedented operation was carried out by a team of US marines that had been monitoring Laden’s movements in the area for the last many weeks.

A lot more detail report is expected to come in, especially after US President, Barak Obama, went live on television to give the news to his people and the world at large.

As CNN and BBC were showing thousands of Americans gathering outside the White House, cheering the news, the sounds and sights coming from Pakistani channels are at best bizarre.

As news anchors shoot away reading the fast unfolding news, they seem unsure whether to describe Osama’s reported death as ‘wo marey ja chukey hein’ or ‘mara ja chukka hai’, - both mean ‘Osama has been killed’, but the first sentence uses words like ‘chukey hein’ that in Urdu and Hindi is used to give respect to someone older.

So, as Pakistani newscasters (especially on the ever-animated hyperbolic private channels), continue to zigzag between ‘chuka’ and ‘chukey,’ it was only a matter of time before we began seeing what is called the ghairat brigade, or the pride brigade take their seats in front of the camera.

Pakistan’s private TV channels are brimming with the most gung-ho characters of this brigade - talk show hosts with an addiction for anything conspiratorial and rhetorical, and never far from using sheer jingoism to give weight to the shenanigans of the Pakistani right-wing, especially regarding the rightists’ blinding hatred for the US, the West, India and Pakistani politicians.

So until the writing of this piece, and merely an hour after the news about Osama’s death poured in, the usual suspects in this respect are up and running questioning the validity of the report.

The two star anchors of big media houses started behaving as if their jobs are now on the line since Osama is dead and America seems to have won at least this aspect of its war against al Qaeda. Then one after the other they started breaking with a photo which was published on the internet sometime in 2009.

The cynical display is quite pathetic, almost akin to the shock the loud mouthpieces of the agitated right-wing exhibited when Raymond Davis made a smooth exit from Pakistan, on the behest of Pakistan’s security agencies that, ironically, were alleged to have been propping up a number of media men and politicians such as Imran Khan to pump up anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Respected journalists and analysts like Najam Sethi, Ayesha Siddiuqa, Hasan Askari and Farrukh Saleem are right to suggest that large sections of the country’s intelligence agencies are using certain media personnel and politicians to drown America’s concerns about Pakistan protecting certain al Qaeda members and those belonging to militant Islamist outfits that America says the Pakistani establishment considers to be ‘friendly.’

Nevertheless, whereas the largely knee-jerk and quasi-reactionary narrative peddled in the name of ghairat in the media and from the mouths of some politicians and TV anchors is now sounding as empty as empty can be, the government and the military-establishment will have to think on its feet.

With Osama’s dramatic demise, the Pakistani establishment cannot hide anymore behind the padding its clumsy doings in the war against terrorists was being provided to them by sympathetic media men.

They have to answer one very simple question: In spite of the Americans claiming that Osama was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, why did the Pakistani military, who too has lost numerous soldiers in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, continued to deny it?

What’s more, in a frenzy to impress their masters in certain sections of Pakistan’s security apparatus, these media men and politicians were not even immune to unleash rhetoric that can leave Pakistan and its people not only isolated, but suffering from collective bouts of paranoia, delusion and xenophobia.

Whereas now it is becoming more than clear that Pakistani security agencies and the Pakistani government did have an inkling at least as to what the Americans were planning to do, instead of asking the question ‘what Osama was doing hiding in a compound situated in an area where there is sufficient presence of the Pakistan army and ISI,’ these TV men were quick to suggest that the man killed may not be Osama.

In fact, one of them confidently announced that according his sources (that’s a nice way of putting it), the man killed was not Osama. But lo and behold! Only an hour after curious claim came the report that the Americans have released the pictures of the dead body and face of Osama.

As I go on monitoring the media, the atrocious narrative questioning the validity of the news championed by these talk show hosts-turned-anchors-turned-presenters had fallen on its face and gradually replaced by a line that suggests that the Pakistan military (not the government) should also be given credit for this prize catch. That is when the race to publish the image started.

Perhaps the Pakistani security forces and institutions did play a role, but, again, with the emergence of the corpse of Osama in Pakistan, we should be asking, does this episode not validate almost all the other allegations and concerns that the US has exhibited regarding Pakistan’s rather shadowy and topsy-turvy war against terrorists?

We have to prove to the world that Pakistan is not a country that accommodates and hides mass murderers. But then, what to expect from a country some of whose politicians and media raise more hue and cry about US drone attacks (that have killed around 2,000 people, most of them militants), rather than about suicide attacks by Taliban/al-Qaeda that, ever since 2004, have slaughtered over 34,000 civilians, policemen and army personnel.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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