« Previous | Main | Next »

Osama bin Laden: what will Pakistan say?

Post categories:

Robin Lustig | 13:17 UK time, Monday, 2 May 2011

Not in a cave. Not in a remote and inaccessible mountain valley. Not in the badlands of Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden was in a villa, in a compound, in a military garrison town less than two hours' drive from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

And that, surely, raises a whole host of questions about relations between al Qaida and elements of Pakistani military intelligence. Because many people are already asking: 'Did they really not know he was there? Was he even under their protection?"

You may remember the furious reaction in Pakistan last year when David Cameron accused "some elements" there of "facing both ways on terrorism". It'll be interesting to see how Pakistani officials explain how bin Laden was able apparently to live almost in plain sight.

So over the coming weeks, expect some serious wriggling from the Pakistani authorities. It's no secret that Western governments have long been frustrated that the military seemed either unable or unwilling to do more to combat Taliban and al Qaida threats. The circumstances of Osama bin Laden's death are bound to add to the pressure.

But there'll be domestic pressure too. I've seen no evidence that jihadist ideology has a substantial following in Pakistan - for one thing, Taliban and other jihadi groups have killed far too many Pakistanis - but there's deep suspicion of the US, and no Pakistani government will want to look as if it is now succumbing to pressure from Washington.

I've long believed that Pakistan is one of the world's most dangerous potential flash-points. The killing of bin Laden makes it no less dangerous.


  • Comment number 1.

    Bin Laden is dead, has been dead since December, 2001.
    According to Dan Rather, a CBS anchor at the time, Bin Laden was hospitalized in a military hospital in Rawalpindi. one day before the 9/11 attacks, on September 10, 2001.
    CBS confirmed that bin Laden had received dialysis treatment.
    This information was the result of investigative reporting by a team of CBS news journalists, and by one of the best foreign correspondents in the business, CBS`s Barry Petersen. The report is readily available.
    Pakistan intelligence sources told CBS News that the doctor involved was a urologist named Dr. Terry Callaway.
    The hospital is directly under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani Armed Forces, which of course has close links to the Pentagon.
    A comprehensive understanding of this CBS report is a critical to understanding of 9/11. It negates the American position that bin Laden"s whereabouts were unknown. It points to a Pakistan connection, and worst of all suggests a cover-up at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
    Dan Rather and Barry Petersen failed to ask:
    Why does the US administration state that they cannot find Osama?
    Osama's whereabouts were known to US on September 12, when Secretary of State Colin Powell initiated negotiations with Pakistan, with a view to arresting and extraditing bin Laden. These negotiations, led by General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of Pakistan's military intelligence, on behalf of the government of President Pervez Musharraf, took place on the 12th and 13th of September in the office of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's office.
    In the height of hypocrisy, President Bush said: "We are on the offensive. We will not rest. We will not retreat. And we will not withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed."
    The alleged search for Bin Laden gives cover to the real perpetrators of 9/11. Bin Laden was never indicated in absentia; he was never charged.
    If Bin Laden was killed all over again in Pakistan and buried at sea, he must have been resurrected from Egypt (where his obit was printed) and dug out of the earth.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Army and the ISI in Pakistan have always done what any large organization does - look out for their own interests first. Pakistan has used terrorist proxies to fight for them in Kashmir and Afghanistan, both of which they believe are their satellites. Keeping Bin Laden alive kept billions of U.S. taxpayer's dollars funding for the Army and ISI year after year, which they channel into weapons to confront their imaginary enemy - India. With Bin Laden gone and Pakistan's role as his long-time home now common knowledge, U.S. public support for military aid to Pakistan will vanish. Hopefully the Army and ISI are smart enough to realize that their only other high value asset, their nuclear weapons, need to be sold off to the West rather than Iran, Libya, or some terrorist group.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'd be interested in what any country may have to say about the obituary that appeared in the Egyptian Paper, al-Wafd, Wednesday, December 26, 2001 Vol 15 No 4633. (This too quite a search to locate; it occurred so long ago.)
    Entitled: Bin Laden’s Death and Funeral 10 days ago
    "A prominent official in the Afghan Taliban movement announced yesterday the death of Osama bin Laden, the chief of AL-Qaeda organization, stating that bin Laden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death.
    The official, who asked to remain anonymous, stated to The Observer of Pakistan that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial in Tora Bora 10 days ago. He mentioned that 30 of AL-Qaeda fighters attended the burial as well as members of his family and some friends from the Taliban.
    In the farewell ceremony to his final rest guns were fired in the air. The official stated that it is difficult to pinpoint the burial location of bin Laden because according to the Wahhabi tradition no mark is left by the grave. He stressed that it is unlikely that the American forces would ever uncover any traces of bin Laden."
    Well, Obama, where did you say Bin Laden was found again, and where did you put the body?

  • Comment number 4.

    It will certainly mark a turning point IN American/Pakistan RELATIONS.
    Droning has strained relations between the countries, but now -bin Laden found and killed on Pakistani soil!
    Pakistan was offering tacit support for US droning allegedly targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Droning was intensely unpopular because of civilian collateral damage. Islamabad was still seething over the January incident wherein CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, shot and killed two Pakistan men who he Davis claimed were attempting to rob him. Meanwhile the US was frustrated over what it calls Pakistan's lukewarm attitude re extremists.
    It was Adm. Michael Mullen (Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff) who said recently that Pakistan is the link among ISI and the Taliban factions in Afghanistan.
    On bin Laden, President Obama said Pakistan helped provide intelligence that led the US to Bin Laden; he praised Pakistan for its "close counter-terrorism cooperation" but said that no other country, including Pakistan, knew about the operation in advance. So, if Pakistan did not know about the operation, what sort of intelligence could it provide...exactly?
    Several Pakistani officials disputed Obama's account...
    The US has long suspected that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, although officials suspected that he was given safe haven in the country's remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. In July, while in Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused the Pakistani government of not doing enough in the hunt for bin Laden, suggesting that the government knew where he was. Pakistan probably did know where he was and that was six feet below in accordance with Wahhabi tradition.
    The fact that bin Laden was found in a small city that is so close to the capital of Islamabad and home to the country's military academy raises more questions than answers. The answers to those questions are critical and will go a long way to determining the course of the American/Pakistani relationship going forward. They could both confirm Washington's greatest concerns about Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism or DEEPEN MISTRUST ON BOTH SIDES.
    For now, the US and Pakistan are in a delicate balance...personally, I think Pakistan is in total shock. The US will claim that bin Laden's death vindicates its strategy of targeting extremists in Pakistan and argue that droning helped the US hunt down bin Laden, though I would VERY MUCH LIKE TO KNOW...exactly how?
    Will Pakistan apply more pressure to stop the droning now that "the head the snake" has been removed?

  • Comment number 5.

    I have read that bin Laden had severe kidney problems requiring regular dialysis treatment which, considering how immobile he must have been, makes you wonder where he was living during the last ten years. Was he in that villa for all that time? If not, where else was he hiding? Not in a cave surely!

  • Comment number 6.

    bin Laden uses dialysis...not something readily available in caves of remote areas...of course he was in an urban area.
    Pakistan is a limited government..not much beyond the capital and the army. We give aid to Pakistan because the have nuclear weapons and the aid is the price of keeping those out of the wrong hands...extortion..maybe..but better than the alternative. It is like dealing with banks...only self interest.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was never one to believe in the myriads of conspiracy theories floating around -- but there are so many questions concerning the circumstances of the ´killing´ --that ridiculously, most seem logical.

    ---- If America had only kept its mouth shut --we would not have to be worried about an increase in terrorist attacks --- that will have their supporters dancing in the streets.

    PS It appears to be only a matter of time before Mr. Lustig´s blog takes on the new BBC format-- I say goodbye and thank you to ALL --before some decide not to participate further.

  • Comment number 8.

    I've known about the "touchy" relationship between the US and Pakistan for well over decade. Imagine my surprise when Hillary Clinton expressed surprise at the "hatred" that ordinary Pakistani's expressed towards America during her first diplomatic visit there. Knowing this and the "need" for cooperation that the US military in Afghanistan felt was often thwarted by the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI, I felt dismayed at the increasing frequency of drone flights over Pakistani airspace. Now we have the celebrated daring commando raid and assasination of Osama bin Laden. The "cowboy action" celebrated in the US for its daring success by a select group of Navy Seals, the diplomatic consequences of this feat is yet to be determined. According to a story in the NY Times, "the head of Pakistan's army, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Thursday he would not tolerate a repeat of the American covert operation that killed Osama bin Laden warning that any similar action would lead to a reconsideration of the relationship with the United States."

  • Comment number 9.


    I'm not sure why the US should be concerned about the Pakistani reaction. The duplicitous Pakistanis are the ones who should be worried. And if you imagine that they didn't know where Bin Laden was all this time, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

    Pakistan has always played a double game regarding Islamic terrorists - fighting them on the one hand and protecting them on the other. It protected the terrorists who committed the atrocity in Mumbai and it protected the terrorists who murdered Daniel Pearl. Musharraf was one of the very first leaders who rushed to offer condolences to the US after 9/11. I believe he feared a US attack because of Pakistan's links to Islamic terrorists.

    The sheltering of Bin Laden a stone's throw from a major military academy has finally exposed Pakistan's hypocrisy.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.