It has recently been revealed that before living in Abbottabad, Osama first moved to Peshawar in 2002 and then shifted to Swat and Haripur. This information comes from Osama’s widow Amal al Sadeh, who along with his other two widows and two daughters have been handed down 45-day imprisonment along with a fine of Rs10,000 each. The court ordered their detention for illegal residency and ordered their deportation as soon as possible.
Now that more information is available, the first question that needs to be answered is: how did bin Laden manage to spend nearly a decade in the country without being detected? The US still maintains that it has not found any smoking gun which would prove that Pakistani authorities knew of Osama’s presence in the country, but an absence of proof is not enough to let them off the hook. Even if the authorities, who in this case mean the military, were not complicit in hiding Osama, they were certainly negligent in their duties.
Investigating the intelligence failure posed by Osama’s presence in the country needs to be a top priority of the commission tasked with looking into the May 2 raid that killed the al Qaeda leader. So far, the commission has shown more interest in looking into American violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty and making scapegoats of officials like former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, who had nothing to do with Osama’s presence in the country. The commission needs to recognise that Osama’s relatively comfortable sojourn in Pakistan represents a far greater violation of our own sovereignty than the Navy SEALS raid that killed him. Addressing this issue will also set the much-needed precedent (as well as show the rest of the world) that Pakistan’s civil and military establishment is serious about investigating just how the world’s most-wanted man lived undetected in Pakistan for so long.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2012.