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Bin Laden's been dead a year, but questions alive

Published May 1st, 2012 - 02:27 GMT
Osama Bin Laden has been dead for a year and the US couldn't be happier
Osama Bin Laden has been dead for a year and the US couldn't be happier

A year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, some Pakistanis say they are as confused about the circumstances of his death as they were then.

The world's most wanted man was killed in a dramatic night-time raid by US Navy Seals on May 2 last year in his hideout in the town of Abbottabad, home to Pakistan's main military academy.

The killing raised questions at home and abroad about whether Pakistani military and intelligence service were too incompetent to catch the Al Qaeda leader or knew all along where was hiding.

Pakistani authorities set up a commission to look into how bin Laden could have lived for several years undetected at a house a few kilometres from its military academy and how the United States was able to conduct the raid without the military's knowledge.

But Pakistanis are still waiting for the commission's findings.

"It was a shame that Osama was living among us. But the American attack was a bigger shame because our army did not know when foreigners intruded into our country," Nighat Anees, a retired college professor said yesterday.

"But so far we don't know who was responsible for this. No one has been punished so far. I doubt that anyone will be ever punished for this shame."

Analysts say the mystery surrounding the bin Laden saga is unlikely to be resolved given the country's turbulent history in which investigations into national security issues have never yielded results mainly because of army interference.

"Pakistani security establishment would like to forget this event because an investigation would expose either failure or some sort of connivance and it would like to avoid it," Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent security and political analyst based in Lahore said.

"The military holds sway in these matters … and from the military point of view, Osama bin Laden's killing is a closed chapter and they won't like to reopen it," he said.

The military has directly ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 65 years of independence.

In what is seen by many as ignominious end to one of the embarrassing events in the country's history, Pakistani security forces in February demolished the fortresslike house in Abbottabad. This month they deported to Saudi Arabia bin Laden's three wives and 11 children who had been living with him.

That bin Laden was living in Abbottabad as well as the US military's disposal of his body at sea and its decision not to release photographs of it gave rise to conspiracy theories in Pakistan.

"It was all drama staged by America. There was no Osama in Abbottabad. It is a conspiracy against Islam," said Ahmed Jan, an Islamabad fruit-seller in his 30s.

Bin Laden's killing also sparked mistrust between the military and the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and led to speculation that the army might try to topple the civilian leadership. The controversy eased after the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, said he had no plans to stage a coup.

The killing of bin Laden dealt a major blow to Al Qaeda, but the threat of Islamic militancy inspired by him is far from over.

Hundreds of militants loyal to Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been killed in a series of military offensives in their strongholds along the Afghan border in recent years but they still manage to stage major attacks across Pakistan.

This month, scores of militants stormed a high-security prison in the town of Bannu and freed more than 350 prisoners, including many dangerous militants, in the largest jailbreak in country's history.

Yesterday, the Islamabad edition of The News said Al Qaeda had appointed a tribal militant, Farman Shinwari, as the new chief of the terror group's operations in Pakistan.


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