Osama bin Laden has put Haripur in the spotlight again after one of his wives said the family was hiding in Haripur district before moving to Abbottabad.
However, the lawyer, Qazi Aneesur Rehman, whose brother-in-law had built the two-storey house, said the new disclosure seems to be a ploy by certain “hidden hands” to keep the former al Qaeda chief’s memory alive after his last hideout was demolished in Abbottabad.
According to media reports, Osama’s youngest wife Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, told her interrogators that before moving to Abbottabad the family stayed in a house in Haripur. The house was taken on rent by her husband’s Pakhtun courier and his brother in 2004.
After Bin Laden was killed by US forces on May 2 last year, the same widow was reported to have said that the family had hidden in a cave-like house in Chak Shah Muhammad some two kilometres on the outskirts of the city
Rehman said Awan had stayed at his house with his children until February 2003 when he died of cardiac arrest and his family had to move. “About two months later, a local property dealer named Pir Muhammad brought two Pakhtun buyers who claimed to be Osama’s real brothers and their names were Salim Khan and Javed Khan. They claimed to be furniture dealers in Abbottabad.”
The men were given the house for Rs12,000 a month, he said, adding that the two brothers were reportedly reclusive and hardly mingled with other people. They stayed at the house for about 11 months.
“We never visited their house nor saw anybody from the family. We just requested them to give us potable water daily,” said Guljan Khan, an Afghan refugee living in a camp near the house. He confirmed that the men spoke Pashto, but avoided interacting with other people.
Khan had visited them once, but found nothing peculiar. “I never saw Bin Laden or anyone from Arab descent,” he said, claiming that the third person he saw there was a six-month-old girl in one of the brother’s arms.
According to Rehman, the property dealer who brought them said the two brothers have two wives and a minor daughter.
After Rehman asked the men to increase the rent from Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 they declined and left the house for an undisclosed place around April 2004.
Haripur’s District Police Officer Muhammad Ali Khan has rejected reports of Bin Laden’s family hiding in the area and said neither Osama’s family nor his couriers ever lived in the district.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2012.