Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Think of Abbottabad as Ramgarh and Khadakvasla rolled into one, with a bit of old Dehra Dun thrown in. It is as complete a military town as you can find. With two Regimental Centers, Baluch and Frontier Force, an Officers’ Training Academy and a large number of retired military officers who have settled down there, it makes for an excellent place to hide someone like Osama bin Laden.

Given the the fact that Pakistan military has been radicalised and its officers, right up to the Army Chief, have helped create and sustain the Al Qaida ever since Laden made Afghanistan-Pakistan his home, the chances of a such a valuable asset being accidentally spotted in Abbottabad and the information being leaked out are minimal. In addition, very few will suspect that Pakistan will be so foolish as to do hide someone like him there, for it will implicate both the military and its rogue outfit, the ISI – many erroneously believe it is an autonomous monster – in the event of him being caught.

In the middle of such a town, for over five long years, Laden lived in a house unlike and much larger than any in the neighbourhood, fully fortified with up to 20 feet high perimeter and internal walls topped by barbed wire and watched by cameras 24/7, but with no telephone or internet that could be used to track him down through electronic surveillance. The three-storied mansion was constructed in 2005 and, as per numerous reports, was occupied since then by an ailing Laden till a US bullet sent him to the 72 virgins he had been promising to thousands who died fighting his hate-filled, religion-driven war.

And Laden was not there alone. He lived with two wives, seven children and many servants and bodyguards. According to some reports, there were as many as 22 people in the mansion when US Navy Seals slithered into it in the pitch of the night on May 1, 2011. So many Arabs, who looked and spoke different, could have neither slipped into Abbottabad quietly nor stayed there for so long unnoticed and unreported. Unless, of course, the top Pakistani military, and I dare say even the civilian leadership, not only knew about it but was completely committed to protecting the Islamic hero that they themselves had created and nurtured.

Many Indian analysts, including the usual suspects – pun intended – like Barkha Dutt who are hell-bent on making Pakistan emerge smelling good even when it stands completely exposed, have been desperately making out a case that the US could not have carried out this operation without the knowledge and assistance of Pakistan. The logic is that after 10 long years, Pakistan had decided that Laden has become lead around its legs and that sacrificing him would help it extract some strategic advantage from the Americans in so far as Afghanistan is concerned. If this indeed was the case, to an even uninformed observer it would have occurred that the safe house in Abbottabad cantonment, built when Kiyani was the ISI chief, was the last place where they would have wanted him found out. They would have first mover him out to a ‘neutral’ hideout which did not point to its top military leadership and then given him away to the Seals.

Only the naïve will believe and the not-so-naive will want to make others believe that Pakistan was in the know of the Laden operation but is not claiming credit for fear of backlash. The cold truth is that had it got even a whiff of what was under way, Laden would have whisked away within minutes from what undoubtedly was a safe house provide by the Pakistani state. Moreover, had there been any Pakistani boots in and around the mansion when the Seals were sealing Laden’s fate, and had Kiyani known what was happening, he would have not let the Americans take Laden's body out of Pakistan. His subsequent hasty burial at sea shows that the Americans did not want the body to be taken over by the Pakistanis who would have, without doubt, helped turn his burial spot into a shrine to motivate more brainwashed murderers.

The Americans have since confirmed that Pakistan was informed about the operation only after American troops had killed Osama and flown out of Pakistani airspace. Many will continue to doubt this version, but I have little doubt that the tracking down and killing of Laden was a solely American affair.

For Pakistan, Laden was a living symbol of victory, a very motivating slap on the face of the world’s only super power, a statement to faithful radicals that although Pakistan appeared to be fighting with the Americans, it was actually fighting to defeat it and achieve for radical Islam a spectacular victory without a parallel, a victory that would lead to The Flag of Islam being hoisted in Delhi and eventually the whole world. Few would have missed the victorious smirk on the faces of Pakistanis from Musharraf to Kiyani when they denied that he was in Pakistan. So confident they were of their ability to hide him from America might forever.

Laden’s killing has dealt more than just a symbolic blow to the Al Qaida. It has changed the very dynamics of the war on terror that America and the rest of the free world is fighting. With Pakistan having been exposed in the worst possible manner it could have been, Obama will now be able to justify to the American public the eventual pushing of the war into and against Pakistan.

Pakistan cannot be America’s ally. It has been forced to become one only because the US cannot prosecute a war in land-locked Afghanistan if Pakistan does not give access its sea ports and surface transport networks to provide logistic support to the troops operating there. Had there been a US-friendly regime in Iran, Pakistan’s bluff would have been called long back. It is primarily due to this crippling logistic constraint that after 9/11 the US had threatened to bombard Pakistan back into stone age if it did not join its war on terror.

In private, the Americans must know that though they have taken out Laden, his is not the head whose decapitation will suffice. The real terrorists who need to be eliminated are Kiyani, Pasha and the rest of the gang of generals and political leaders who have turned Pakistan into one big terror factory that is beginning to swallow itself, not to die but to morph into an even more radicalised and dangerous monster.

The US is most likely not going to simply walk off from Afghanistan and Pakistan like the Soviets did, leaving behind an even more radicalised Pakistan in the hands of Kiyani & Co., the very people who have betrayed the US while pretending to fight with it, so that they can start the game all over again after a respite. They too will have to be taken out along with the massive architecture that supports the beast they have unleashed. The marriage of compulsion has not and cannot produce sweet fruit. It has to and will be ended. To the advantage of the US and the rest of the world. The only question, to my mind, is when, not if.

On the other hand, the Indian foreign policy establishment, hijacked as it has been by time-pass talkers, woolly-headed romantics, Nehruvian apologists and those driven by petty politics will, as always, do nothing except talk about chemistry and 'history', enjoy great (mis)guided trips to Pakistan and elsewhere and parrot that it is in India's supreme national interest to have a strong Pakistan!
Related reading:
1. No answers to Pakistan's formidable force multipliers
2. Should Pakistan be saved?
3. Don't beggar my buggering neighbour, make him bigger