Guardian says worse time for Pakistan coming
By Rizwan Khatik - Wed May 04, 11:20 am
LONDON: The London newspaper the Guardian said on Sunday that Osama bin Laden’s death was “nothing compared with what may now follow” against Pakistan.
In an article published after Osama’s death, the influential newspaper said: “The extraordinary discovery that Osama bin Laden had been living, possibly since 2005, in a luxury compound in a popular summer resort a short drive from the national capital, Islamabad, is an enormous and dangerous embarrassment for Pakistan’s government.
“Officials from President Asif Ali Zardari downwards have consistently maintained that the al-Qaeda chief was not sheltering on Pakistani soil, suggesting instead that the Americans look for him elsewhere, particularly in Afghanistan. The Pakistani stance was part of a wider policy of denial, dating back to the 9/11 attacks, premised on the argument that Pakistan was not the source and springboard for Islamist-inspired terrorism but rather its principal victim.
“Islamabad’s head-in-the-sand position, as it is seen by some analysts in the West, has led to intensifying friction with Washington in recent months as the Obama administration struggles to bring an ordered end to its 10-year involvement in Afghanistan. There have been furious rows about unmanned cross-border drone attacks, the arrest in Lahore of a CIA contractor, and Pakistani criticism of US failure to open peace talks with the Taliban.
“But all that is as nothing compared with what may now follow. Official denial-ism has also hampered Pakistan’s efforts to deal forcefully with its own violent Islamists, the so-called Pakistani Taliban, with which al-Qaeda is said to have links. Tens of thousands of people have died in Pakistan as a result of terrorist activity since 9/11, more than all the European and American victims combined.
“Given this context, and amid predictions by western commentators of possible terrorist retaliation against US and British targets, it is Pakistanis, along with Afghans, who are most likely to pay a blood price in terms of revenge attacks for the slaying of a man who is seen by some in the Muslim world as an iconic figure.
“Tellingly, the Pakistani government was not informed beforehand of the American special forces’ raid. The truth is, US officials would simply not have trusted their counterparts in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful security and spy agency, with such sensitive information.
“Extremely pointed questions are now certain to be asked about whether the ISI or its various branches and minions, knew of the existence of the highly unusual, heavily fortified, expensively built compound in Abbottabad, 35 miles north of Islamabad — and of its high-value, low-profile tenant. If they did, why did they not investigate? If they did not, was it because they didn’t want to know?
“The most damaging (and familiar) suspicion, which is certain to resurface in the coming days, is that elements within the ISI who have maintained links with terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani network, did indeed know Bin Laden and his retinue were in Abbottabad, and by keeping silent, were effectively providing him with protection.
“The Pakistani government will energetically deny any such suggestion. But given its tenuous control over the ISI, sometimes described as a state within a state and given its record for candour to date, it will have a hard time being believed.
“When we saw the compound, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior US administration official said. The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. The villa had comprehensive security measures in place, the official said, including 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls. Like some kind of medieval keep, two security gates restricted access. Only a few windows of the three-story building faced outwards, and its terrace had a seven-foot privacy wall, officials said.
“Pakistan will now face possibly strong reactions not only from the Americans, but also from home-grown militants — plus possible spillover from Afghanistan, where fighting is in any case expected to intensify as the weather warms.
“Renewed trouble could also extend to disputed Kashmir, where repression by Indian security forces of the Muslim population intensified last year and Pakistani Punjabi militant groups have a long history of involvement. Significantly, India was quick to point this out. The home ministry in New Delhi lost no time in saying the discovery of Bin Laden in Pakistan underscored its concern that “terrorists, belonging to different organizations, find sanctuary in Pakistan”.
“In Washington and New York as in London and Delhi, relief that the world’s most wanted man has been killed will be tempered, and may yet be overtaken by deep anger that he was apparently living not in some freezing mountain cave, as many assumed, but freely, undisturbed and untroubled by the authorities, in comfort in a desirable Pakistani neighbourhood.”