Anger and disbelief as Pakistan struggles to reassert sovereignty

 

In the cool interior of the 190-year-old St Luke's church, a small congregation had gathered to reflect and pray.

"Lord, we ask you to heal the wounds between East and West... we ask you to protect Bin Laden's supporters so they can see what he did," said one worshipper stated, when called upon by the priest to offer a prayer. "We also ask you to protect those here doing their work."

In Pakistan, there is a pressing need for reflection. It is a week since four American helicopters flew low under cover of darkness across the pines and mulberry trees of Abbottabad's Cantonment area, as they and their cargo of Navy Seals made their way to the compound of Osama bin Laden, where the al-Qa'ida leader was unceremoniously shot dead. In the tense days that have followed, Pakistanis have felt shock, surprise, disbelief, indignation and, increasingly, anger.

The anger has shown itself in different ways, much of it directed at the military and civilian authorities as people ask, echoing the words of an American official, whether they are guilty of incompetence or complicity.

Up the hill from St Luke's, in a 120-year-old house located alongside the headquarters of the Baloch Regiment, retired Brigadier Mehmood Jan had already made up his mind.

As a raw recruit to the British 8th Army, the now 87-year-old had fought in North Africa, serving at Tobruk, Benghazi and El Alamein, "going up and down with Rommel". After Partition he had served in Pakistan's wild tribal areas, under General Ayub Khan.

"The Americans are saying we knew he was in Pakistan, we are saying he is not in Pakistan. [Former president] Musharraf even said he was dead," said the old soldier, as his daughter served plum cake and tea in fine china cups.

"Of course they knew. He was there for five years. They had to have servants, buy food, they had a gas connection."

Ordinary people have also been caught up in the aftermath of the killing of Bin Laden. In recent days, dozens have reportedly been arrested or detained by the authorities, accused either of being connected to the al-Qa'ida leader or the US spooks who had him under surveillance.

Among those believed to have been detained is Noor Mohammad, the contractor who built the three-storey house in which the al-Qa'ida leader lived.

For the authorities there is now a struggle to assert Pakistan's sovereignty. So far, they have flailed ineffectively, changing their official line several times.

Today, Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani will go before parliament and repeat the comments of senior military commanders that the authorities will do whatever it takes to protect the nation.

There are reports that the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, could be the man whose head will roll.

The reality is General Pasha will only stand down if the highest levels of the military, headed by General Ashfaq Kayani, decide there is no alternative.

Undoubtedly, it is something he will be keen to reflect upon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor