Life after Osama — will be tough

Pakistan's game of fighting terrorism one hand whilst wielding the begging bowl in the other, may well soon be over.

George Fulton May 03, 2011
Life after Osama — will be tough

The killing of Osama bin Laden has brought much jubilation in many parts of the world but not, probably, in Pakistan. In fact, if anything, the ‘Sheikh’s’ capture and death on Pakistani soil further reinforces the view that the country is a ‘hotbed’ of terrorism.

It is almost inconceivable that the Pakistani military/intelligence nexus was unaware of the large compound and its occupant in Abbottabad — a mere 100 kilometres away from Islamabad — where, only last week, General Kayani gave an address to cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy, itself less than a kilometre away from Osama bin Laden’s hideout. Recent leaked cables suggesting active collaboration between the ISI and al Qaeda means that it is even less likely that no one in the military establishment knew of the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man. In the forthcoming weeks, Pakistani officials will have some serious questions to answer.

Tellingly, the operation was conducted solely by US Navy SEALs. It appears that after the outing of the CIA bureau chief in Islamabad earlier this year and the Raymond Davis fiasco, trust between the CIA and the ISI was running very low. And after May 1’s stunning success, there will be questions in the Pentagon wondering whether the US should have acted unilaterally earlier.

This is dangerous for Pakistan on several fronts. Firstly, Pakistan could see more unilateral action by the US against Pakistani targets on its soil. Secondly, its biggest export has been its geographical strategic importance but that could change with growing signs of US unilateralism. For too long, Pakistan has been more than willing to proffer influence with one hand whilst wielding the begging bowl in the other. The end result is that Pakistan has become a client state to several nations (often with conflicting foreign policy objectives including the US, Saudi Arabia and China). Yet whilst courting these states, it has continued to forge its own, often contradictory, strategic policies. Pakistan demands military aid from the West in order to help fight militancy — a militancy that the establishment itself has often been accused of fuelling. But it seems the game may now well be over. Sooner, or later, this double-dealing was bound to be noticed by the Americans. Will other nations follow?

Caught by surprise, it was also telling how the hyper-nationalists and designer-patriots tried to spin the news of Osama bin Laden’s death on Pakistan television. News anchors and faux ‘analysts’ were wheeled out by their handlers to peddle a false narrative of Pakistan’s involvement in the operation — an involvement that was quickly discredited. The immediate coverage smacked of desperation, since if it was clear that the rest of the world thought that Pakistan had been exposed and the state and the powers behind it were unsure of how best to spin this so as to minimise damage. But the damage has been done; there is already growing clamour in the West for a reduction in military and civilian aid to Pakistan.

In Britain, there are grumblings that a country for which David Cameron pledged 650 million pounds only last month for education has been harbouring the mastermind of 9/11. This will continue in the weeks ahead. Pakistan has few friends left but, after this week, it will have even fewer. When Newsweek described Pakistan as the most dangerous nation in the world in the mid-nineties, many snorted with derision at the fraught hyperbole. Few would disagree with that assessment now.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.


Gharatmandi | 13 years ago | Reply US action has already put in motion a process which places America's most reliable ally in Pakistan "Army" in an adversary position - The trust deficit between People of Pakistan and the Army is now at the lowest since 1971. We can pray and hope for our Pakistani brothers and sisters. 
Hasan | 13 years ago | Reply bah assumptions assumptions assumptions.
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