In their effort to ‘wipe out’ Osama bin Laden, the Americans buried him at sea and Pakistani authorities razed his compound – but neither succeeded in erasing him from popular imagination.
The slain al Qaeda chief, on the contrary, is evolving from fact to myth in Pakistani narrative and his compound in Abbottabad’s Bilal Town, known locally as the Waziristan Haveli, appears to have gained spiritual ascendance.
Gushing water, visitors
“There is some spirituality about this place since water keeps gushing forth without the use of an electric motor,” said Omar Khan, a resident of Abbottabad.
While the source may be a water line fractured during the razing of the compound, it hasn’t stopped some from according it the status of a ‘miracle.’
It’s a miracle that water gushes forth like a spring because those killed at this place were innocent people, Khan says.
While he does not necessarily believe that those killed in the raid were bin Laden, his couriers and son, he says those killed were “some innocent Muslims” nonetheless.
And for all their efforts to prevent the site from becoming a shrine, people throng to the razed compound to offer fateha – prayers for the deceased.
“Why should I not offer fateha for the departed souls of those killed at this place,” said Shahbaz Khan, another resident of a neighboring village of Abbottabad.
He said he was religiously bound to offer prayers for eternal peace of all Muslims.
Young children are also seen fetching water for their homes from the site. The razing of the compound has also offered a breather to local authorities.
While the compound stood, local authorities were under stress because they were asked not to allow anybody even around the boundary wall, said a police inspector.
Now, it’s no longer a no-go area. Guesthouses and hotels in town are filled to the brim with Pakistani and foreign journalists on the eve of bin Laden’s anniversary.
“Yes, we have 100% occupancy today,” said the manager of a local guesthouse.
Haripur avoids limelight
Meanwhile, neighbouring Haripur is attempting to avoid being attached to the slain al Qaeda leader.
“Recent media reports that bin Laden lived in Naseem Town are devoid of truth,” said Qazi Aneesur Rehman, a lawyer and a relative of the owner of a house that some foreign media discovered as bin Laden’s hideout in Haripur.
The reports, based on leaked investigations, suggest that bin Laden’s youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, disclosed that before moving to Abbottabad in 2005, the family stayed at a house in Naseem Town, Haripur.
The house was taken on rent by bin Laden’s couriers, Abrar and Ibrahim, she had said.
Rehman denied that the bodies of the two couriers, killed with bin Laden on the May 2 raid, had any resemblance with those who occupied the house in Haripur for 11 months.
The house was rented out to a Pashto-speaking, well-built man in his fifties who introduced himself as Salim Khan, a resident of Charsadda, Rehman said.
The property dealer, who brought him the tenant, said it was a small family comprising two men – Salim and Javed – their wives and Javed’s five-month-old daughter.
The family hardly socialised with the neighbours and rarely stepped out to the markets, he added.
Rehman threatened to sue media organisations, saying the accusation has brought their property notoriety, a string of investigators, and stress.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2012.
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