To mourn Osama bin Laden, as many in Pakistan are doing, is outrageous. He was a bloodthirsty terrorist with little regard for Muslim and non-Muslim life, alike. However, to mourn the circumstances of his killing, and the consequences it leaves behind for Pakistan is more appropriate.
The US stated that Pakistan was not told of the raid in advance because it could not be trusted. The decision to keep Pakistan out of the loop was, clearly, the correct one if the goal was to enhance the mission’s chances of success. Given that Bin Laden appears to have resided in Abbottabad for a number of years, either Pakistan has comically incompetent security forces or he was being harboured by elements within. However, the US raid into Pakistan was clearly illegal. Even the Americans would be hard-pressed to deny this. US forces entered Pakistani airspace without permission (and detection), conducted a raid on the compound and left. The opposite circumstances — Pakistani helicopters with commandos landing on US soil to deal with a terrorist without telling the US authorities — are laughably inconceivable.
After all, Pakistan is at best a junior partner, at worst a servant on wages who can be pushed around at the whim of the master without any regard for the rules. America is a wealthy, well-managed nation which looks after its citizens in a way which we simply cannot. Of course, what angers Pakistanis is the lack of concern for non-American lives. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Drone attacks have callous disregard for bystanders. On average there are 10 innocent deaths for every militant killed. So, the fallout of 3,000 tragic deaths on 9/11 has probably been at a cost in excess of a hundred times that number of Muslim lives, the large majority of which have been civilians. And there is barely an apology or a tear shed in America for these deaths.
Of course the major payoff to Pakistan has been aid; a total of over $18billion since 9/11 of which about $12billion has been in the form of military aid, the rest in economic aid. So this money flows to the armed forces, which have shown they are neither capable nor trustworthy. Congressmen in the US are asking why the US is providing funding to a nation that cannot be trusted.
America is a strong, well-organised country, hence, they flout international law and Pakistani sovereignty at their convenience, with Pakistani lives being collateral damage. As a consequence, Pakistan is left with the begging bowl and weakly managed institutions which deny us justice and sovereignty. It seems our government is in utter disarray and there is limited trust and communication between the government and armed forces. And even within the armed forces, it seems that there are splits. In other words, in contrast to the Americans, Pakistan is disunited and incompetent.
Pakistan should use this opportunity to learn lessons and take action that will put us on a better path. Firstly, there needs to be accountability for the fact that Bin Laden’s home was found on Pakistani soil in public view in a major city. We all know that running the army is a difficult job, particularly with much of it radicalised in the post 9/11 environment. But there is no excuse for incompetence of this magnitude, or indeed harbouring the world’s leading terrorist, whichever is the truth. So the right outcome would be for the army chief to resign for presiding over one of the worst national security lapses in our history. Secondly, Pakistan needs to re-evaluate its cooperation with America. As a principle, Pakistan needs to reassert sovereignty over its own soil. Thirdly, we should use Bin Laden’s death as a catalyst for a peace agreement. We need to bring elements of the Taliban to the negotiating table, however repugnant their ideology, and give them an opportunity to lay down their arms. Hilary Clinton is now hinting at this regularly. Pakistan should seize the opportunity to play a leadership role and help stop the ongoing carnage on our soil.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.
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