The people of Pakistan woke up yesterday morning to be told the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. But this news did not come from any of their leaders – not the Pakistani President, not the Pakistani Prime Minister, nor the Pakistani Army chief. Instead this news came from US President Obama, when he appeared on television and informed the world how the US had been gathering intelligence about a town two hours north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Pakistanis were dumbfounded especially when no statement was forthcoming from their government in the wake of the Obama speech. The big questions that everyone began asking, and for which no answers have been forthcoming, were: who allowed the Americans to come to Pakistan and carry out this attack? And whatever happened to the Pakistani Army and its intelligence?
We were all still wondering when we heard, much later, contradictory information being disseminated from the Government of Pakistan and the Western media (with the Indian media outrightly accusing ISI of supporting terrorists). Many hours later the Pakistani Prime Minister claimed that all the intelligence had come from Pakistan, but the US administration and the Western media said Pakistan was totally out of the loop with no information sharing on this action.
All this has led to other serious questions being raised in Pakistan. For instance, if the Pakistan government or the army had this intelligence, why did we not take out Bin Laden ourselves? Why did we have to rely on the Americans coming over from their airbases in Afghanistan? Equally disturbing is the tremendous level of distrust the US has for the Pakistanis, which led it to jam the radars during the duration of the operation.
There is not just confusion that prevails in Pakistan, but also a national depression at the loss of national dignity and self-esteem as well as sovereignty. There is no answer to these questions and this simply allows allegations from the West and from India to go unchallenged that Pakistan has been protecting Bin Laden and other terrorists; that Pakistan knew he was here and kept him safe.
The president, the prime minister and the army need to address this immediately and if, as they claim, they had the intelligence that led to the killing of Bin Laden, why it was not done by Pakistani forces? Until this happens, Pakistan will suffer a great loss of credibility – and this from a country that has the fifth biggest army in the world and a hefty defence budget.
The reason we will not get these answers, of course, is that we have the most corrupt and incompetent government in our history.
And just how did it come to this? On 11 September 2001, Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan and there were no suicide attacks in Pakistan. Fast forward 10 years and there are 34,000 Pakistani dead, the economy has lost $68bn according to President Zardari himself, a massive figure if you consider that the country has received a total of only $28bn in aid from the US.
In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and we have created insurgent groups like the Pakistani Taliban. Meanwhile, in 2010 across Pakistan there were 500 bomb blasts and today the major financial hub Karachi is aflame with people dying on a daily basis as a result of terrorism. The largest province in area, Balochistan, is prey to a violent insurgency.
Back in 2001 and 2002, the US attacks in the Tora Bora region forced some of the al-Qa'ida leadership across the porous 2,500km border with Pakistan; a border which the local tribes always traversed at will. This was not a situation of war. What Pakistan should have done at this time was to use the tribal people to capture the fleeing members of al-Qa'ida.
Instead, we got ourselves into a situation where the Army, under pressure from the US, commenced military operations against its own tribal people, which is what led to the revolt of the tribals and by 2004 Pakistan was dragged into the conflict with huge levels of collateral damage, and ultimately leading to the creation of the Pakistani Taliban.
After yesterday's attack Pakistan is in great danger. There will be a backlash and there will be added pressure for the Army and the ISI to do more. Will we now be going into North Waziristan in pursuit of other insurgents?
The truth, of course, is that Pakistan cannot afford any of this. It cannot afford the inevitable extremist backlash; it cannot afford the targeting of its troops; and it certainly cannot afford the economic consequences.
We, the people of Pakistan, no longer have a government that represents us. It is time for Pakistan to get out of this war – and to recognise that if we continue along this path we are doomed.
Pakistan can no longer afford the human and financial costs and must, along with the rest of the world, realise that ultimately the solutions to these problems are political – and the weaker the state becomes, the less likely it will be to tackle the menace of extremism.
The US has won its battle against Bin Laden, but the war remains open ended.
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