By Dr Ghayur Ayub
The Abbotabad attack on May 2nd put many Pakistanis in shame. They felt like this back in 1971 when half of the country was lost and over 90 thousands Pak army surrendered. But there is a difference between the two feelings of shame. This time, without losing part of the country, the state sovereignty was blighted dropping the anvil on the government and army/ISI. In this article I will highlight on three points. First, was OBL a sectarian fanatic like his followers in the Taliban?; Second are there any discrepancies in the findings produced by the White House and our army team; Third what could be the possible fallout of this attack.
When Gen Kayani took over as Army Chief, the army image was at the lowest ebb because of Gen. Musharaf 's policies. Gen. Kayani cleansed this image in a short span of time. His success against the Taliban in the Swat operation, his role in helping the victims of the floods, and his stand on the Kerry Logar Bill or presentation on war on terror in Brussels proved that the Pak army can achieve its goals militarily, socially and politically. He also played the role of a wise man in the restoration of Ch Iftikhar as CJP. However, when the newly liberated judiciary started interfering in the malpractices of executive, some important political figures started feeling the pinch. According to news items Mr. Asif Ali Zardari had complained to the Americans about army interference in his work. The army which already had unhealthy relationship with a few opposition parties became soft target of the government.
The relationship between CIA and ISI was strained starting in December 2010 when a federal court in America made ISI a party in a case pertaining to the Bombay terrorist attack of November 2008. Obama's government did not help ISI in the case, infuriating the agency. A few weeks later, Karim Khan from North Waziristan filed a lawsuit in Peshawar High Court against the CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, on charges of providing operational guidance for the drone attacks which killed his son and brother. Americans saw ISI's hand in the case and hurriedly retreated Mr.Banks from Pakistan. As if that was not enough Raymond Davies arrest put Obama, his administration and CIA on the mat. The blame fell on ISI. The world saw ISI playing a superior spy game beating its American counterpart and for that matter the Obama administration. After a day long exclusive meeting between the army chiefs of the two countries in Oman, Raymond Davies was released. The army/ISI which always had cozy relationship with the Americans became the hard target and the Americans started waiting for an opportune time to hit back.
According to reports, the precursor to May 2nd episode started when ISI passed on information to CIA about infrequent suspicious messages on financial transactions through a SIM. One of the messages was sent from the house where OBL lived. It was then that CIA agents who were given visas by Hussain Haqqani without ISI clearance rented a nearby house and started collecting human intelligence about the occupants. Once they confirmed the high valued target could be OBL, they started waiting for the time to attack. May the 2nd turned out to be perfect for the following reasons;
- It was this very day eight years ago when George Bush announced 'mission accomplished';
- The deadline for the passage of American budget is on August the 2nd.. Because of strong Republican opposition its failing could adversely affect war on terror in Afghanistan.
- The Al-Qaeda attacks in Afghanistan increase from this month onwards;
- Obama's rating was falling rapidly;
- The planned American reduction of forces in July was coming closer;
- The performance record of ISI vis-a-vis CIA was spiralling up.
A well designed plan was executed excellently by Navy Seals achieving most of the targets throwing the image of Pak army and ISI in the gutter. The rest is history. According to news reports the CIA personnel who rented the nearby house have vacated the property leaving no evidence behind.
Irrespective of whether OBL was killed on May 2nd or died before, one thing is clear that he is officially dead confirmed by his own group, Al-Qaeda. After this background, let me take up the first point, whether OBL was a sectarian fanatic Muslim or not. A good number of Pakistanis believe he was not. According to those who met him say that he kept a delicate balance between his living in Afghanistan as guest of Taliban and their sectarian beliefs putting him in a precarious position. They say he tried to help Taliban government in business deals with foreign governments and large corporations. After interfering in a major oil deal between Taliban and a known US corporation his relation with the Americans deteriorated from bad to worse. He announced Jihad against America and promised to make Americans scared all over the world snatching away the feeling of freedom they like flaunting. In doing so he wanted to become a legend in Islamic history. Time will tell whether he succeeded in his aims.
On the second point; so far, we have seen many discrepancies in reports issued by the White House. Enough is written on that and the list keeps piling up everyday. As reported, the military investigative team is busy collecting its own findings. Let us wait for those findings and see if more discrepancies surface. Most probably the report will try to blacken the picture painted by the Americans. But one thing makes political sense that both CIA and ISI know that they need each other in the war on terror just like American political forces want Pakistan on their side in this war. At the same time the Americans would like to keep Pakistan and its army under pressure at a level that it does not go out of hand and erupt as street protests in the likes of the Middle East and North Africa. That would be a disaster for the American interests in the region.
The third point pertains to the possible fallout of May 2nd incident which could take the shape of;
- The army clearing its image through its own investigation and recover from its fallen grace;
- Resurfacing of workable relation between ISI and CIA.;
- Heating up political tension between politicians;
- The government nosediving in popularity especially after the budget;
- Increase in the drone attacks;
- Increase in the terrorist attacks;
- The fear of a technocrat government recently expressed by Asif Ali Zardari becoming a reality. In other words, the Abbotabad hammer might fall on the political government. After all, in past the Ojhri camp disaster fell on Juneju's government and the Kargil episode fell on Nawaz Sharif's government. The Americans usually prefer army over the political set-ups in Pakistan. But keeping the present global environment in mind, they do not want to see army taking over the driving seat. So they wouldn't mind seeing the May 2nd attack on Osama becoming a prelude to a much talked about technocrat government provided the process is carried out without violating the Constitution of Pakistan.