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Joint struggle needed

May 05, 2011

IT is difficult to accept Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's statement that the entire world and not just Pakistan should share the blame for the intelligence failure that allowed Osama bin Laden to elude capture by our own security personnel. Such a claim would have been easier to digest had Bin Laden been discovered hiding out in a remote sanctuary in the tribal belt which lives by its own rules. It was popularly believed, especially by the western media, that he was holed out in a 'cave' somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Instead, he was found living in a fortified compound in a residential area in Abbottabad, and at a stone's throw away from the country's top military academy. So was it a case of collusion or incompetence on the part of authorities here, as CIA director Leon Panetta has suggested? The complicity allegation is almost impossible to prove at this or possibly any other stage. As for the incompetence claim, yes, the intelligence failure on our part cannot be denied. It resulted in a national embarrassment of monumental proportions, and it is unfair to spread the blame around when we ourselves are primarily at fault.

Mixed signals from the US vis-à-vis Pakistan are nothing new. Washington pursues a carrot-and-stick policy, as exemplified by the CIA director's brutally frank remarks which were tempered by statements from the White House and the Pak-US defence group. The signals that Pakistan has so far got from Washington are that the latter would, in fact, want to continue counter-terrorism cooperation. But the question is: has the Bin Laden operation, carried out unilaterally by the US and thus exacerbating current tensions with Pakistan, damaged such prospects?

At this stage, the question is difficult to answer. However, there is no doubt that joint cooperation is in the interest of both countries that have, after all, a common enemy. Nothing else can eradicate the danger they face. As such it is encouraging that the two allies remain engaged at the highest levels. Osama bin Laden's killing “underscores the importance of cooperation”, according to the joint statement released by the Pak-US defence group. True, both sides will have to work hard to dispel their mutual mistrust. What is key though is to keep all possible channels of communication open and to share whatever intel either county has managed to unearth. Continued acrimony at this stage will hurt both Islamabad and Washington and benefit those who wish to destabilise our respective ways of life. We must keep talking.