So the world’s most wanted terrorist is finally dead. Great news, isn’t it? But is it good news for Pakistan as well? Osama Bin Laden’s mysterious death in a Pakistani situated just north of the capital Islamabad – and that too a stone’s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy – will prove to be catastrophic for this country, as well as for its army and its intelligent agencies.
The West will cast doubts on the capability of Pakistani intelligent agencies which could not track down the world’s most-wanted terrorist who was living in a colossal 10-kanal mansion half-a-kilometre away from a military academy. The West can accuse Pakistan of “non-seriousness” despite that fact that this country has sacrificed thousands of lives in the “war on terror.”
The second impact of this episode would be that the US would be able to insist on the efficacy of the drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan. Most recently, after the Raymond Davis incident, the Pakistani government and army had, on a number of occasions, tried to bring home to the US functionaries that these drone attacks are counter-productive, and are stoking terrorism instead of curtailing it. However, now these voices of sanity in Pakistan will be silenced, notwithstanding the fact that this operation in Abbottabad was carried out in grave violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Where are the clamours regarding the sovereignty of Pakistan?
The episode could mean increased suicide attacks in the country. There is almost no actionable intelligence in place in Pakistan and the law enforcement agencies are incapable. If the intelligent agencies had been capable, they would not have provided an excuse for the “help” the Americans provided in Abbottabad. The people of Pakistan will therefore feel more vulnerable to terrorism after this episode.
The first response of the Foreign Office’s to the incident was shameful, to say the least. It declared this operation to be in accordance with “declared US policy.” The government is supposed to watch and protect Pakistan’s interests, not that of another country. But who has the audacity to confront the “big boss.”
This ground operation by the US Special Forces is open violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan – a far greater violation than even the ever-increasing drone attacks. Under international law, there can be no justification whatsoever for violation of a country’s territory, not even under the pretext of “hot pursuit.”
The Foreign Office should have either issued a strong statement of protest or said that it was a joint operation by the two countries. After the response by the Foreign Office, who would believe the muted statement of Prime Minister Gilani that this operation was undertaken after intelligence-sharing between the two countries. Everyone by now knows that we were caught napping, as always. The people of Pakistan should be prepared for more cover-ups from the Pakistan government and the Foreign Office.
President Obama’s statement that this operation was undertaken on his directions goes on to show that when it comes to US “national interests” no law, local or international, can stop America from their “protection.” One does not need to go into the history of grave violations of international law by the United States, which is the sole superpower of the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since World War II, examples abound of US violating international law to impose its own “law.” The most glaring example of this is the attack on Iraq, notwithstanding the failure of the United Nations Security Council to endorse it.
Why was Bin Laden’s body “buried at sea”? Was there anything to hide in this respect? If the US had nothing to hide it should have shown Bin Laden’s body to the media, firstly to prevent any conspiracy theories taking hold, and secondly to show to the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and other terrorist groups what lies ahead for them. Not long ago, Saddam Hussein was hanged publicly and his body was displayed afterwards, which made any conspiracy theories in this regard. Saddam Hussein could have been hanged privately and buried at sea. The same happens when any high-profile terrorist is caught alive or killed. Why is there a difference in the case of Bin Laden?
This has led many to believe that this whole operation may have been a farce, for Washington to achieve the United States’ ulterior motives and to further malign the Pakistani military and intelligent agencies. One should not be surprised if another video of Bin Laden surfaces after a couple of months in which he threatens the West with dire consequences. There are reports that Bin Laden may already have been killed earlier, but an appropriate moment was being awaited when his death could be disclosed in order for the US government to maximise the benefits for the US. Perhaps that is why the body was “buried at sea.”
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. Email: [email protected]