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The False Prophets

The False Prophets

History closes its doors on Osama bin Laden’s millenarian chapter, but pages full of question marks stare at Pakistan

The False Prophets AP

When bleary-eyed Pakistanis heard on television of the death of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a unilateral American operation in Abbottabad on the night of May 1, they began to reel under a terrible shock that has, over the days, acquired the sharp edge of anger and resentment. They aren’t all card-holding members of Al Qaeda. Nor are they depressed because someone who spoke and fought against American hegemony was killed. The depth of their depression stems from the belying of the faith they reposed in the Pakistani military establishment, its ability to protect the nation, its repeated voicing of the intention to combat terror. You can’t even say their distress is needless. Decidedly, these are early days and we haven’t heard the complete and truthful narrative of ‘Operation Geronimo’, but consider what we know so far—that Americans flew into Pakistani air space, conducted a 40-minute operation at a villa close to the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad, killed bin Laden, took away his body and, before flying out, detonated one of their choppers, which had developed a snag and could not take off. It’s the sound of the detonation that apparently prompted the Pakistani air force to scramble its jets. At the successful conclusion of the operation, US president Barack Obama rang up Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari to convey what happened on his territory. CIA director Leon Panetta rubbed more salt in Pakistan’s wounds: he said the US did not give notice to Islamabad about the operation because it feared it may be leaked to the Al Qaeda supremo.

And to think Pakistan had been feeding the Americans intelligence about a high-value target in the Abbottabad villa! Was this the way to treat a country that has lost hundreds of citizens in the war on terror? Was this the way to treat an ally which has witnessed countless suicide bombings over the last 10 years? What about the battle-preparedness of the Pakistan army, which allocates to itself lavish funds but was found sleeping when its air space was infringed? Such questions shamed the army into issuing a rather blank statement: “The government of Pakistan and its armed forces consider the support of the people of Pakistan to be its mainstay and actual strength and any action contrary to their aspirations, therefore, run against the very basis on which the edifice of national defence and security is based.”

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