So how do you react to the news of the world’s most wanted man being caught in a compound less than two kilometres away from the country’s finest military academy? Shocked? Embarrassed? Baffled?  Difficult to say since most of us are still trying to make sense out of it all.

In the aftermath of one of the most dramatic manhunts in recent history, statements coming in from the Foreign Office left many questions unanswered.  Both the military and the government appeared to be struggling with possible ways to deal with the situation. The initial statements suggested an intelligence failure from Pakistan’s end while the US announced a successful operation carried out by the CIA along with the US Navy SEALs.

Unsurprisingly, not many fell for the explanation. The fact that the Pakistani military – who have been fighting the war on terror for the past decade – were unaware of the world’s most dangerous man living right under their nose could only suggest two things: incompetence or malice.  Neither of which are in anyway favorable to the country's image or future. Fortunately, it became increasingly evident that the military was probably trying to do some damage control in an attempt to neutralise possible backlash. Even if we were to go by the statement that the Pakistani military did not take part in the operation itself, the fact that the operation was a collective effort is undeniable.  There is no way a 40-minute gun battle went unnoticed just round the corner from the Kakul Military Academy.

The extent of the role played by the Pakistani military, whether limited to intelligence reporting only, might not be clear for now. But even that does not absolve us from the many questions that have been raised – how did Osama bin Laden get here?  How long has he been living in Abbottabad? When was his presence first reported or were the authorities aware of his presence all along? If so, why did it take so long to execute the operation, and the list is endless. There is in fact, a lot to explain about what happened between Tora Bora and Abbottabad.

Obama, in his address,while announcing the death of bin Laden said that the operation was being planned for many months. Some news sources claim that first intelligence reports date back to April 2010. Dawn reports that Osama might have been killed by own guard rather than the US Navy SEALs. Questions have also been raised about his burial in the sea. At this point in time, when the story is still developing and we are yet to see DNA reports and photographic evidence of Osama’s death, these questions shall have to wait.

(The Christian Science Monitor answers some questions regarding the operation.)

These incidents and statements do not exist in a vacuum; the implications and repercussions of bin Laden’s capture and killing, are a grave reality. The initial statements that the military had no information on the operation led to a frenzy of queries in mainstream media. Television channels, specifically Urdu news channels resorted to calling bin Ladin a ‘shaheed,’ while a leading investigative journalist declared that bin Laden was in fact, not a terrorist. The analysis on bin Laden’s killing became more of a debate on the country’s sovereignty and whether foreign troops should be allowed to enter our territory and conduct operations. Some went as far as suggesting that bin Laden’s death meant an end to al Qaeda and therefore an end to the war on terror – all the while naively forgetting that al Qaeda was never a one-man army to begin with and that killing bin Laden would be more of an incentive for terror than an end to the war.

But that’s just our side of the story; the bigger picture puts Pakistan in a rather compromising state. As the world celebrates Osama’s death as a victory there’s little to celebrate for us. While we cannot deny the fact that Osama’s death is a milestone for the war on terror it is also inevitably the beginning of a new era of violence, terror and destruction in Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has already announced its' retaliation.

Lest the world forgets: “As many as 12,580 people were killed across Pakistan in 2010 alone, as per (HRCP)  report. 1,159 people were killed in 67 suicide attacks whereas US drones strikes were responsible for 957 extra-legal killings."

As the facts about the operation that killed bin Laden unravel, we must brace ourselves to stand united against violence. No redemption here; not yet.


Sana Saleem is Co-founder, Director and blogs at Global Voices,  Asian Correspondent, The Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at

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





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