By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

The US media is on record having killed Osama bin Laden (OBL) so many times since 1990 onwards. His death was first announced in 1996; an abortive attempt was made on him in Khost in August 1998 using cruise missiles and it was believed that he was hit. He was reported killed in 2000; again after Tora Bora bombings, it was declared that he and other al-Qaeda leaders had perished in the caves owing to daisy cutters. In 2002, the world was informed that Osama was suffering from kidney problems and was on dialysis. His death was triumphantly announced in 2003. By 2005, the manhunt went cold since he could not be found anywhere and it was opined that in all probability he was not alive because of his kidneys failure. He has once again been surreptitiously killed on 02 May 2011 in Abbottabad about which no independent source has confirmed it. His body was not shown to the world.

After slaughtering millions of Muslims and dishonoring them, Obama suddenly became mindful of sanctity of Muslim rites and buried the most wanted man at the sea. The way he was killed and the way he was buried have given rise to suspicions. Although the American public celebrated the killing of OBL, the religious elements in USA objected that Christianity forbade making celebrations over a dead man. OBL’s children have described it as an assassination and against international law to kill an unarmed man.       

American euphoria is fast evaporating because of fast spreading doubts about the authenticity of OBL’s death. It is being speculated that on carrying out DNA test at Baghram Airbase, to their horror they discovered that a wrong person had been killed. To hide their crime and embarrassment, they considered it feasible to end the story of OBL as per the original script by quickly burying his body at sea. Hoax of his death has now been played up at the highest level since the US doesn’t need OBL, al-Qaeda’s bogeyman to justify attacking Muslim nations. OBL had become a spent cartridge for the US since he had been overplayed and had lost his utility value. The story had to be winded up and it awaited its logical end entirely advantageous to US interests.

In case of Libya, the US is backing rebellious Libyans and is also using al-Qaeda against forces loyal to Qaddafi on the plea that Qaddafi is killing his people. The fresh theme coined for Libya by US think tanks and media meant to justify US-NATO intervention will from now on be used against future targeted Muslim countries as well. The US and western armies would again wear the masks of saviors of Muslims and continue playing havoc. Their goals of stealing Muslims resources and subjugating them remain unchanged.

After the most costly, unrestrained and vexing hunt of OBL came to an end on 02 May and the most wanted man buried at sea, never to be seen, heard or feared again, there is a need to introspect and see what will be its positive and negative implications on the outcome of terrorism and on Pakistan and USA and about the future role of USA in this region. As is seen, it has brought measure of redemption for USA after its successive failures on military, political and intelligence fronts. It had a salutary impact on the American public which till this event was highly critical about war on terror and had low opinion about Obama as well as US military and intelligence agencies.

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It certainly was a morale booster for the US-NATO military stationed in Afghanistan which was feeling out of sorts and was in a defeatist frame of mind. It has renewed the waning confidence of ISAF, which is likely to perform slightly better. The Americans may now have second thoughts on ending the war speedily and may overlook the economic and human hazards of war.  

The big event has upshot the fortunes of Obama and his Democrat Party which was set to lose in next elections. It is a shot in the arm for Obama’s declining popularity and he would from now on handle the domestic and foreign policy issues with more confidence. It will for sure silence his critics; at least for some time and the heavy expenditure incurred on the defence will no more be lambasted since all agree that battle on terror has yet not finished. Having tasted the blood of Osama and relished it, the wolf has now started to look for Ayman el-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar. It suspects that the two are hiding inside Pakistan and has declared that it would again swipe at the preys without informing Pakistan.  

Ignoring Pakistan’s huge sacrifices in war on terror, the western print and electronic media with BBC in the lead set aside objectivity and ethics and ruthlessly demonized Pakistan. Right wing newspapers in Britain in particular spat venom and wanted Pakistan to be put on the chopping block. In USA, the Republicans, Congress, House of Representatives, Pentagon, CIA have all ganged up against Pakistan and calls for punitive actions are being made. The US knows that with its crippled economy Pakistan is in no position to cut off relations with USA.

War on terror has brought Pakistan immense suffering and ignominy. Not a single positive has come out of it since the war is fought against own people. Pakistan is in bad books of militants as well as USA and is hit by both. Never before, even during the two wars with India was the country bled so profusely. Pakistan has incurred a loss of $60 billion in fighting this futile war. With such colossal all round losses, it seems that our sacrifices have gone down the drain.

It is paradoxical to blame biggest victims of terrorism for culpability with terrorism. Ironically, there was no mention of the US unilateral act of aggression against a sovereign state, killing, wounding and kidnapping people and letting down an ally. Has the US been treating Pakistan fairly and playing straight? Is it Pakistan or America that has created the trust deficit? Biased and noxious attitude of the US and the west against Pakistan is nothing new and gives an insight to their inbred hatred for the Muslims.       

Death of Osama has given heart to Karzai who till this happening was slipping out of the hands of US and seeking regional solution to Afghan tangle with the help of Pakistan. He was quick to recall his earlier apprehensions about terrorism flowing out of Pakistan and cautioned the Taliban to learn a lesson from the horrible ending of Osama and to come to terms with him. He may give up the option of negotiations with Taliban and renew the older option of force as espoused by USA. Friction between the two neighbors may reappear particularly after some reports that the Afghans were part of the sordid raid. Some had either accompanied the US assault group, or had been mustered by CIA base in Abbottabad from within the Afghan refugees residing in Hashmi town, adjacent to Bilal town to provide security cordon to the raiders.

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It has also been gathered that from among the 7000 undesirables from USA cleared by our Ambassador Haqqani, Blackhawk helicopter pilots who had taken part in Operation Geronimo were also included. They had visited Abbottabad, reconnoitered Osama’s house and surroundings and also made an exit plan by road in case helicopters were hit. Latest news is that the two backup Blackhawk helicopters had landed in Kala Dhaka village in Haripur at about 2330 hours on the night of 01 May 2011, which is five minutes fly-time away from Abbottabad. After staying there for about 30-40 minutes the helicopters flew away. These helicopters loaded with forty US Special Forces soldiers were meant to cater for unforeseen. In addition to backup helicopters, a large armada of jet fighters and AWACs had been positioned close to Pakistan’s western border. These included EC 130E/H MC 130, E-3 AWACs to jam our radars and twenty F-15 jets and F-18E with BVR to intercept our F-16s. It implied the US had taken all precautions and was prepared for an air clash.                                                                                                               

India was in ecstasy after hearing the news and took no time to come out in its true colors. It is presumed that India being a strategic ally was taken on board so as to benefit from its counsels. Indian media came into motion and started a vicious propaganda campaign to rub salt in the injured feelings of Pakistan and to degrade it. Its leaders once again started chasing rainbows and contemplated similar action inside Pakistan to get their wanted men like Dawood Ibrahim. A six-day military exercise involving over 20,000 troops took place in Rajasthan sector to remind Pakistan that it should remain perpetually fearful of India’s military might.

In order to offset the damage done on account of startling revelations that Hindu extremists and Indian military officers were involved in all the terrorist attacks in India between 2005 and 2008 which were lumped on Pakistan, its spin doctors have come out with a bizarre story that Pakistani Army officers are involved in terrorist activities in India. To make their story authentic, names of fifty persons have been made public. Three cheers to preachers of Aman ki Asha.

Judging that Afghan Taliban may part ways with Al-Qaeda after the death of Osama who was close to Mullah Omar, and may agree to negotiate a political settlement, India has hastened to offer its services for parleys with them. Idea is to eliminate role of Pakistan in Afghanistan. In order to further oblige Afghanistan and also to further accentuate Pak-Afghan friction, India has offered its services to Kabul to build 12 hydropower dams on Kabul River and thus add to water woes of Pakistan. India is already constructing dozens of dams over the three rivers flowing into Pakistan from occupied Kashmir in violation of Indus Basin Treaty to choke Pakistan.      

The cornered remnants of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who otherwise had received sufficient mauling in both the countries, must have got further disheartened after the loss of chief source of inspiration. His death may trigger flight of the remaining operatives hiding in this region towards Arabian Peninsula where the conditions for them are relatively better particularly after the uprisings in several Arab countries. Their departure in turn will weaken Taliban to certain extent since they would be left entirely at their own and it would also become easier for the US to concentrate fully towards Taliban only.

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The Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and leftover Al-Qaeda would carryon with their terrorist activities with greater vengeance to avenge the death of OBL. Two suicide attacks killing 80 newly passed out recruits of Frontier Constabulary in Shabqadar on 13 May was a reminder that suchlike attacks would be stepped up. CIA under cover operatives and Blackwater based in Pakistan would also step up covert war to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program. One US spy Mathew Criag was caught sniffing near nuclear facilities in Fatehjang on 14 May. CIA would also speed up its activities to track down Zawahiri who according to Mike Rogers is in Pakistan. 

The US will press Pakistan for opening a consulate in Quetta and to increase CIA presence in Balochistan to nab and kill Mullah Omar and his other Shura members allegedly based in Quetta region to give a deathblow to Taliban resistance movement. Greater pressure would be mounted on the Taliban leaders to detach from al-Qaeda and agree to American dictated plan of political settlement.

People of Pakistan are still dumfounded and quite a large majority still refuse to believe that Osama was in Abbottabad and is dead. The nation had believed that irrespective of the apathy of the rulers and their impotence against drones, the military and ISI were matchless and capable of thwarting any external aggression. They cannot believe that a small US force carried out the operation undetected and managed to sneak back uncontested. They would have been overjoyed if the intruding helicopters were shot down. Their faith has been shattered and never before they felt so embarrassed and insecure. Their anger is mounting and they want to know the whole truth and those responsible for dereliction of duty or complicity punished. Some pro-active measures will have to be taken to restore their confidence. Anti-Americanism has touched new heights and even pro-American elements are dejected. Although the US says that it wants Pakistan to become a real ally, there is a widespread feeling here that the US as an ally has stabbed Pakistan in the back. It is continuing to kill innocent people with drones in Waziristan.       

Lt Gen Shuja Pasha boldly admitted intelligence failure in front of the parliament and offered his resignation but was rightly rejected by the PM. This decision must have disappointed his detractors in USA and India and some within PML-N. Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution to review Pak-US ties as well as issue of drones. It was honorable on part of CJCSC Gen Shameem Wynne to cancel his scheduled visit to Washington as a mark of protest. Zardari timed his visit to Moscow well and got a friendly response. China has declared that it will not leave Pakistan alone in its testing times. Kerry will be visiting Pakistan to do some damage control but lot of water has flown down the rivers of Pakistan into the Arabian Sea. Coming days are likely to witness further strains in Pak-US relations.