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One year after his death, OBL lives on

Published May 03, 2012 06:19am


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When Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEAL team 6, on 2nd May, 2012, it was considered a “drama” by 66 per cent of Pakistanis.

Pakistanis in general are not willing to believe in facts and are more prone to trusting conspiracy theories because they provide a feasible explanation of events in a narrow frame of reference. It has been a whole year since the Abbottabad Operation that killed Osama bin Laden, and a majority of Pakistanis still do not believe it even happened, despite public announcements by al Qaeda themselves.

Nicholas Schmidle, winner of 2008 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, wrote a detailed article named “Getting bin Laden: What happened that night in Abbottabad” in the New Yorker Magazine on 8th August 2011. That article is one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Abbotabad operation till date. Regarding the planning of the operation, the article mentions,

“On March 14th, 2011, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an air strike. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.”

SEAL Team 6, has been mythologised in the American Media after the operation and several books have been written about them. Nicholas Schmidle’s article briefly mentions the experience of that very team.

“During the 90-minute helicopter flight, James and his teammates rehearsed the operation in their heads. Since the autumn of 2001, they had rotated through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa at a brutal pace.

The Abbottabad raid was not DEVGRU’s maiden venture into Pakistan either. The team had surreptitiously entered the country on 10 to 12 previous occasions. It represented the team’s first serious attempt since late 2001 at killing “Crankshaft”— the target name that the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC had given bin Laden.”

An American helicopter was lost while landing. The SEALS after taking care of two of Osama’s guards, found him in a third floor bed room.

“The Americans hurried toward the bedroom door. The first SEAL pushed it open. Two of bin Laden’s wives had placed themselves in front of him. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but they were not wearing any suicide jackets.

A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. Nine years, seven months, and 20 days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “enemy killed in action”.

Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”

This story by Nicholas Schmidle was criticised by columnists including Mallary Jean Tenore from Huffington Post, only because it did not provide enough references. Otherwise, the veracity of this account has not been challenged by anyone including the State Department.

About breaking the news of the operation to the Pakistanis, Rob Crilly wrote in The Telegraph,

“The American ambassador's phone rang shortly after 3am.

It was Salman Bashir, the civil servant who heads Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Mr Ambassador, we have reports of a helicopter crashing in Abbottabad. All our helicopters are accounted for.”

“Do you know anything about it?”

Cameron Munter, who had already got used to dealing with crises since being sent to Islamabad six months earlier, kept his reply diplomatically short: “We'll look into it.” A note of dawning realisation crept into Mr Bashir's voice. “Mr Ambassador, I didn't wake you, did I?”

The phone conversation – described by an official familiar with the exchange – reveals how Pakistan was kept in the dark even after the raid had ended, and the rapid sense of shock that gripped the country.”

The reaction of Pakistanis regarding the Abbotabad Operation surprised many people including Art Keller, a CIA officer. In a recent interview, he said,

“[The] reaction of Pakistan arresting people who helped take down terrorist Number One, somebody Pakistan had long promised it wanted as much or more as the US, is what is telling about the whole situation. Shouldn’t they be handing them medals for doing what Pakistan claimed it wanted? Another thing is that the anger both within the Pak Army, and within Pakistan against the Pak Army, is almost entirely about the fact that they didn’t stop the raid. The shame of bin Laden being found in an Army stronghold is a distant second, and demands for investigation as to how he could have been found in an Army town without some level of ISI or Army complicity appear to be fading, much to the relief of those institutions.”

Due to pressure from several stakeholders, the Government of Pakistan constituted a Judicial Commission to inquire what actually happened during the Abbotabad Operation. The commission questioned over a 100 witnesses, including military and security officials, former foreign secretaries and ministers, police and intelligence officials, former ambassador Husain Haqqani, bin Laden’s family, neighbours, and media personnel in Islamabad and from Abbottabad. The report of that commission has not been unveiled one year after the incident.

According to some leaked reports in Media,

“The Abbottabad Commission in its report is likely to hold Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, the Pakistan Army, the PAF, the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau responsible for the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden.”

Although, a local newspaper reported on 2nd May 2012 that “The Inquiry Commission on Abbottabad Operation has shown its serious concern over the baseless and concocted stories published in a section of the media regarding the report of the Commission.

The Commission has therefore, clarified that the report is at its final stage and will be finalised (Insha Allah) during this month.”

A year after that operation, there are no signs of decline in the theory that Osama bin Laden was not killed that day or that he was a “martyr”, not a terrorist.

The site of Osama’s compound in Abbotabad, which was razed by the Government last year (ironically, the contractor hired by the Government for the job is selling 180,000 bricks from slain al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s demolished three-story compound in Abbottabad), has become a shrine now. Another newspaper reported on 2nd May 2012 that,

“There is some spirituality about this place since water keeps gushing forth without the use of an electric motor,” said Omar Khan, a resident of Abbottabad.

While the source may be a water line fractured during the razing of the compound, it hasn’t stopped some from according it the status of a ‘miracle.’ And for all their efforts to prevent the site from becoming a shrine, people throng to the razed compound to offer fateha – prayers for the deceased.”

Nicholas Schimdle, writing one year after the Abbotabad Operaton in The New Yorker, rasied several important questions, answers to whom remain shrouded in mystery. He wrote,

“Does the United States possess intelligence that exposes Pakistani officials hiding bin Laden? Why did it require nine months after locating bin Laden’s courier for the raid to commence? Before the SEALs began their training, what intelligence techniques were used to confirm bin Laden’s presence inside the compound? What else don’t we know yet about arguably the most classified mission in American history?”

In the aftermath of the Abbotabad Operation, the legacy of Osama bin Laden lives on. Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa on this topic, wrote,

“A year after bin Laden, Pakistan continues on its trajectory of being a hybrid theocracy – pockets of liberalism with small areas where sharia is formally implemented and larger areas where the religious law is informally applied. A year later, there is no alternative discourse that can challenge extremism from amongst us. Bin Laden still lives amongst us and will become ingrained as a myth that will then form part of this society’s history.”

The writer is a medical student with an interest in History, Political Economy and Literature and blogs here. You can follow him at @abdulmajeedabid

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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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (24) Closed

Human May 03, 2012 06:08pm
OBL talks will live for couple more years, and then will be forgotten after US Afghanistan withdrawl.
BIMAL CHANDRA JHA May 03, 2012 03:34pm
I agree with you that OBL was the creation of USA and the West to counter Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Whatever is happening in the world today in the word today in the name of terrorism the responsibility goes to sponsor countries. Yours faithfully; BIAMAL CHANDRA JHA PATNA, INDIA
Ali May 03, 2012 08:00am
I hope the commission also looks into how was Osama able to live there will all his wives and kids? Also were we complcit or just incompetent?
Agha Ata May 03, 2012 01:22pm
People are not interested in truth. They are more interested in interesting news, suspense, thrills, something unexpected, different. It includes all those things we find in movies. They feel so safe and happy in their fantasies. But life is not a movie; it would take decades to understand, maybe a century or even more.
Kuppuji May 04, 2012 12:36pm
When national pride is under question, any straw is enough to hold on to to deny the obvious. I suppose the same thing would have happened in many other countries in similar circumstances. There is no use blaming ordinary Pakistanis about this.
Sudhir May 04, 2012 12:00pm
Agreeing with your logic on who created the monster. It appears to be a happy story those who created the monster(s) are finally chasing them and Killing them. Pakistan has nothing to do with it so Pakistanis should be happy about it as People who created the mess are cleaning it up for them . But why arent Pakistanies happy about it?
Raj May 03, 2012 11:45pm
Really? He was the cause of so many Muslims dying for "his" cause. So many innocents dying for his cause. Was he a Muslim? Was he a true to fight for the suffering of the human kind like Mohammed (P.B.U.h)?
Nav May 04, 2012 02:28pm
See what Michael Moore had to say on this last year. Makes much more sense than this blogger.
lubna May 04, 2012 01:16am
USA wanted to exit Afghanistan since they are defeated there at the hands of taliban but to end it they have to show American public and the world that they are exiting because the main job of getting OBL is achieved.If they had got OBL they would have live coverage of that as they did with saddam but since all was a farce therefore they lied that they dump the corpse in the it is obvious to common people that americans are Hollywood directors like they showed WMD in UNO. Can't you wake up or still believe in American lies
Jatinder May 04, 2012 02:53am
Osama is and will be a brave man to challenge the injustice done by West ti billions of people living in third world. He will be a role mode for people who want to stand for truth even if it means giving the ultimate sacrifice of life. I salute that great man who challenged an empire. I am not a muslim but Osama has earned my utmost respect.
Shehabuddin May 04, 2012 07:41am
Whether or not Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad Operation is immaterial and of any significant consequence; the important question however is has the environment in which we are living in has changed and for that matter changed for better? if so, then have the Westerners any intention or plan to "grant" freedom and independence to the beleaguered Afghanis and Pakistanis? Evidently this is a very crucial phase in the history of mankind, the 'only super power in the world' has an ambition to bring about an absolutely "New World Order" [NWO], no one should sweep the notion under the carpet by saying " a figment of imagination or unfounded theory of conspiracies". Manifestedly every enlightened person can witness the realness of the perception.
pakistani May 03, 2012 10:53am
total lie of killing Osama bin laden in Abbottabad operation.
circut00 May 04, 2012 04:21am
@Guest I agree with what you are saying here that OBL was created by theUSA to fight against the USSR..but then again whose fault was it?? It was people like OBL who readily accepted the dollars and AK-47s.And now the monster is gone everybody should be happy.But im sad to see people of Pakistan calling OBL a 'martyr'.People are not ready to believe that he was really killed in yhat raid on May2.Well if he was not there then how come his wives and children were deported from Pakistan??How come Dr. Afridi was jailed? Its the time that Pakistani govt. accept its chain of follies from 1980s till May 2, 2012.But then again Pakistanis will have another conspiracy about the announcement too.
T.M. Reddy May 03, 2012 10:48am
All over the world OBL is dead and he is gone for ever - man behind the start of active terrorism from Afghanistan, but unfortunately caught and killed in Pakistan. Terrorism was there and always will be there. But, active terrorism on WTC started now hopefully ended. People who embark on terrorism should think how much injustice they are doing on the name of religion. There are many method to fight injustice but not terrorism and killing....
Zzzzman May 03, 2012 08:53pm
they should have turned the site into a museum...would have been good for tourism. What saddens me is when educated people in pakistan fall prey to conspiracy theories, let alone the illiterate lot. But such is what the society is becoming, paranoid and dillusional. Its all about putting the blame elsewhere...never to look at the faults within.
Munir May 04, 2012 03:36am
"When they fought the USSR they were Mujahideens and when they fought the US , they were Terrorists".......... The Hypocrisy of the US is already ingrained in History!!
Guest May 03, 2012 12:13pm
Mr t.M.Reddy , Right you are sir about warning you posted between the lines BUT SIR , could you enlighten us the less knowlegeable lots , How Was and WHO WAS behind creating the OBL and his Organization In the First Place . I was born and lived up to mid 1970s in the area roughly 90KM away from where OBL was killed . I NEVER EVER HEARD or knew of any such person called OBL or any such org called AlQaida NEVER EVER , so Please be just Right and factual too . What appears to be terrorists after 9/11 were Warmely Hugged and Kissed and boasted as friends of USA in the White House and White Halls soon after USSR came to afghanistan . These jehadi Lots were gathered from among the high security jails of Middleeast ( Aiman al Zawarhi the current Chief from Egyptian jail) and Armed , trained, retrained rearmed with Money and Guns and Stingers missiles to Fight for USA againt USSR in Afghanistan Am I right or factual or am i only day dreaming to say " the OBL/Alqaida Frenkinestien Monster which USA & UK now says are terrorits , Was Their own creation and once it got out of controls and started to hit its creators back with same vengence as it did to USSR , The same friends, bear huggers toasts of White hall and white house become enemy nbr1. That is the bankruptcy of Moral Values of UK & USA to the tilt .. Advise us sir , if you have better understandings of the post 1979 till now .....
M Ali Khan May 03, 2012 08:44am
Pakistanis are so simple-minded. They will believe anything and everything they hear as long as Pakistan and its establishment are NOT to be blamed for its own self-made disasters. Talk about the absurd denial of our awam.
Ashar May 03, 2012 08:57am
Just like the incident of twin towers, the story of Bin Laden will be narrated as a myth in the future with so many question lying unanswered.
dhiraj May 03, 2012 03:30pm
I could not understand why Pakistan always points finger at US for all its problems related to Afganistan, extremism and terrorism. Pakistan has never officially or unofficially declared that Soviet invasion of Afganistan was a security threat to Pakistan. Also, This was problematic to US rather than Pakistan. So why did Pakistan decided to move into somebody's else affair without having benefit for its own? Till time when you were reaping goodies, it was all fine, US was your friend, these Jihadists were your family and children. You created Taliban, you gave them recognition in the world out of PROUD!! but when these jihadist, taliban trained gun at you, you start blaming US!! I am not pro-US. US did and does what it suits best to their NATIONAL interest but you do what suits best to your PERSONAL interest. In the long run, you people actually have forgotten what is your national interest and start keeping your personal and religious interests over them. Don't blame others for your failures and mistakes.
Devendra May 03, 2012 03:22pm
You are too simple minded to understand.
Manzoor May 03, 2012 01:43pm
Commission should look in to the fact that who brought OBL in Pakistan and How he lived there for so long? and also recommends the responsible be punished in appropriate way.
Farhan May 08, 2012 01:40pm
Exactly. There are many methods of fighting injustice. You don't have to invade and bomb countries that seem like a threat to you.
Brian Kooley May 09, 2012 03:57pm
There is one and only one way to fix all problems in Pakistan. Educate at least 75% of the next generation. Current generation is a goner. It will take about 15-20 years to educate a new generation and the cycle will start and will never stop. In the meantime, we can only pray to our god to keep piece and give strength to all of us.