Taken in isolation, there is nothing particularly objectionable about the decision to bulldoze Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Whatever intelligence was to be found there would have been extracted months ago and there was always the danger that supporters of Bin Laden would begin to treat the compound as hallowed ground. Even though the government would likely have had to raze the compound anyway, the move is disappointing because it shows the skewed priorities of the government and the military. At a time when we still don’t know how he was hiding in a city with significant military presence for so long, the decision to destroy his house is fraught with symbolic significance. The house may well have been given to Bin Laden for strategic reasons, but that is a suspicion that may never be proven because of the distinct lack of curiosity everyone displays whenever the question comes up.
Coincidentally, the Abbottabad compound was destroyed around the same time WikiLeaks released the hacked internal emails of private intelligence firm Stratfor. One of the emails showed that Stratfor believed that Bin Laden was being sheltered by the Pakistani military, which the latter, however, has always vehemently denied. This on its own doesn’t come anywhere near being a smoking gun but there are enough unanswered questions about the military’s role to warrant serious investigation. The ideal venue for that would have been the commission set up to investigate the May 3 raid. Unfortunately, the commission ignored the central question of Osama’s comfortable presence in the country, proving its existence as a colossal waste of time and resources.
The fact is that the military has time and again proved to exist outside the ambit of accountability. The commission that was supposed to find the killer of journalist Saleem Shahzad was unable to come up with a name, which was no surprise since the intelligence agencies were the prime suspects. Now, the military has struck another blow in favour of its invincibility, by ensuring that any investigation of its possible role in either actively helping Osama or turning a blind eye to his presence here has gone up in smoke.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.
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