Ab­bot­tabad And Aer

Im­tiaz Gul’s book con­nects the dots be­tween Osama bin Laden’s death and the ris­ing ter­ror at­tacks on Pak­istani cities, says

Tehelka - - GODMAN’S LEGACY - KU­NAL MA­JUMDER

THE STORY of al Qaeda in Pak­istan doesn’t end with the killing of Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011. While a lot has been writ­ten about the role of Pak­ista­nis — of course, with Amer­i­can help — in cre­at­ing the Tal­iban and the al Qaeda, few have tried to con­nect the dots be­tween bin Laden’s death and the in­creased ter­ror at­tacks in Pak­istani cities after­wards. Im­tiaz Gul’s Pak­istan: Be­fore and Af­ter Osama, as the ti­tle sug­gests, tries to chron­i­cle some key developments be­fore and af­ter the killing of world’s most wanted ter­ror­ist in Ab­bot­tabad. How­ever, what stands out in the book is Gul’s ac­count of what hap­pened that fate­ful night — his de­scrip­tion of “the Tal­iban­i­sa­tion of Pak­istan and Pak­istani­sa­tion of al Qaeda”.

The death of bin Laden in­cited re­ac­tions in Pak­istan that baf­fled out­siders. It was dif­fi­cult to fathom whether Pak­ista­nis were ashamed of the fact that bin Laden was found hid­ing inside their coun­try, or if they were in­fu­ri­ated that the US vi­o­lated their sovereignty by con­duct­ing an op­er­a­tion on Pak­istani soil with­out prior ap­proval. Did the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment and, more im­por­tantly, the mil­i­tary and the ISI know that bin Laden was liv­ing in their coun­try? Did the Amer­i­cans kill the dreaded ter­ror­ist with the co­op­er­a­tion of the Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment?

Op­er­a­tion Nep­tune Spear, which led to Osama’s death, ranks sec­ond on the na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion scale, next only to the fall of Dhaka in 1971. It is also be­ing seen as an op­por­tu­nity by many to ad­vo­cate for a re­vised role of the Pak­istan mil­i­tary.

Gul points out how Pak­istan pre­ferred to plead in­com­pe­tence rather than ac­cept that the ISI had been har­bour­ing bin Laden un­til his death in the US Navy SEALS op­er­a­tion. The pop­u­lar ques­tion then as re­it­er­ated by the au­thor is: why is $5 bil­lion of the Pak­istan tax­pay­ers’ money spent each year on their mil­i­tary when it can nei­ther stop a ter­ror­ist nor for­eign sol­diers from en­ter­ing the coun­try?

The killing of bin Laden also raises the is­sue of the frag­ile US-Pak­istan re­la­tion­ship. The in­ci­dent and the sub­se­quent quib­ble by Amer­i­cans fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rated the sit­u­a­tion. Gul is quite frank in says, the fo­cus was on qaumi ghairat (na­tional hon­our) and the way Amer­ica vi­o­lated Pak­istan’s sovereignty like an im­pe­ri­al­ist power. For or­di­nary Pak­ista­nis, it was a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle with the US and its al­lies on one hand, and the al Qaeda on the other. How­ever, Gul also makes a com­pelling counter ar­gu­ment — wasn’t Pak­istan’s sovereignty vi­o­lated by bin Laden’s pres­ence in Pak­istan? “How could he, along with a dozen chil­dren and two wives, (be) given en­try to Pak­istan?” he asks. IN­CI­DENTS OF such mag­ni­tude al­ways call for a strong in­ter­ven­tion by the lead­er­ship. For Gul, that lead­er­ship is quite clearly not from the civil­ian side. He quotes Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari, who chose to stay quiet throughout, fear­ing a death threat from al Qaeda. For­mer prime min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani was caught in a turf war with the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. In such a sit­u­a­tion, it was left to Army Chief Ash­faq Kayani to show the way. And he did. Gul re­veals how the gen­eral strug­gled to keep the mil­i­tary fo­cussed on its fight against ter­ror­ism both at the Afghan bor­der as well as in places like Waziris­tan and re­peat­edly re­fused to in­ter­vene in civil­ian mat­ters.

But Gul’s book goes be­yond pol­i­tics. It talks of how al Qaeda, af­ter bin Laden, shifted base to Karachi, which per­haps ex­plains the sharp rise in vi­o­lence there. Track­ing bin Laden’s life from Riyadh to Afghanistan and post 9/11, from Tora Bora to Ab­bot­tabad, Gul writes about the rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion within Pak­istan and how ji­had turned into ter­ror.

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