[I usually don’t cross post all my articles, but my latest Op-Ed in Washington Examiner is getting massive hits, especially after it was reposted in LUBP, with some nice editorial add-ons. Check the comments!]
The dust settled. The answer is known. Pakistan had Osama bin Laden hidden deep inside a picturesque town of Abbottabad, more famous for being the town with a Pakistani version of Sandhurst, or West Point, placed there. Clearly, someone knew something: either the Pakistani army or the country’s military intelligence, the ISI. The fact that they didn’t know that the world’s greatest terrorist was staying there for the last seven years, in a pretty much barbed and fortified building – as confirmed by one of Bin Laden’s wife – is not only irrationally naïve, but also hilarious, and utterly absurd.
There came out some articles, with muffled anguish, and disbelief. Cyril Almeida wrote in Dawn, Pakistan’s large circulation English-language newspaper:
“Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they’re so daft they didn’t really take this whole business of pursuing Al Qaeda seriously. Maybe they just didn’t think it was their problem. But those voices, unconvinced by their own words, quickly trail off … They knew. They knew he was there. It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled. And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment. Away from the bleatings of the ghairat brigade — the paranoid schizophrenics marching this country into the abyss the shock is profound. Grim questions are etched on anxious faces, but so is fear of the answers. Proud men and women, people who love and serve their country, have cried as they connect yet another dot in the horrifying trajectory this country is on. If we didn’t know, we are a failed state; if we did know, we are a rogue state.”
Ejaz Haidar wrote a scathing piece for Pakistan Today.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press release PR. NO.152/2011 (Date: 03/05/2011) would be a laugh if this matter were not so serious. But since MoFA has come up with this joke at the behest of the military, and it is no time to mince words, I shall direct my questions to that institution. Firstly, I want to construct a high-wall compound right next to the Pakistan Military Academy, one with barbed wire on top. Next, when someone comes asking who I am because PMA is a high-security area, I am going to flash the MoFA logic in his face and say this is in line with my “culture of privacy and security”, thank you. This is nonsense, at its most nonsensical…”
But these are a couple of individual, proud, baffled journalists. The majority of Pakistan is quiet. Eerily silent. Day after day we are seeing rallies in Pakistan by uneducated Islamists, mourning the death of bin Laden. The JuD, the politial arm of the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba has been offering prayers for a “great martyr;” Tehrik-e-Taliban, of Pakistan, is vowing revenge for the “murder” of a great “Muslim Son;” while Pakistani liberals are looking on with cowering silence, hushed and apologetic. Some are raising questions about the “arrogant” Americans coming and infringing their sovereignty; some raising conspiracy theories; but at the end of the day, it’s the long silence. They have been searching for answers, when it is the time to ask questions.
Why don’t we see any rallies from civil society now? Why not a single candlelit march? Why not a single voice saying: if Pakistani forces couldn’t kill the most dreaded terrorist on the face of the planet, then let the American forces do the job. Why not a single voice saying: good riddance? Are they spineless cowards? Or have they ceased to exist, struggling to dribble between bomb blasts and terrorist attacks, everyday?
What of the 5 million urban, educated, moderate, liberal Pakistani who we hear so much of in our own liberal media channels? Our media always feeds us the same old syrup of standing beside the “moderate forces of Pakistan or else…” Stand beside whom? The forces of democracy can only stand beside those people, who are willing to stand up and fight for their honor, not those who appease and apologize.
This incident of bin Laden hiding in Pakistan under the patronage of “someone” high in the Pakistani administration, did it increase the international prestige of Pakistan? The westernized, educated, handsome womanizer, Cricket World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan, a childhood hero of mine, now supports the tribal jirgas of Pakistan’s North-West province, who barter with underage women. Is this the “civil society” our media wants us to support?
Sorry, but I guess the defining moment is here. The Pakistani army is not at all ashamed. It is giving statementsafter statements, how the next time any foreign forces would face “dire consequences” if they decide on any such “misadventure” on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani newspapers, the conscience of the society, prints them with equal jingoistic zeal.
There can be two courses of logic for them: if they knew they didn’t act, then they are malevolent; if they didn’t know, then they are incompetent, and negligent, or both, and, in matters relating to this level, are criminal and liable for punishment.
But until now, we have not seen any serious acknowledgment other than “threats” from their side. No heads rolled. They don’t even consider it to be wrong, perhaps.
The political parties, the moderates, civil society – they are all quiet, and numb, almost paralytic. Which is ironic, as they are the worst sufferers at the hands of the extremists, and symbolic of the cancer that’s roots go deep.
We can’t fight their battle, or fix their country. No one can. The streets of Egypt and Tunisia, and then Libya, erupted, for good or for bad, without any external support system, spontaneously. This is the time for Pakistan to follow them. They have to ask questions, flock to the streets, challenge the system and the politicians, stare into the eyes of the army and dare them to shoot. They have to engage the uneducated and extremist ideologues who are rotting the country from within. Or else, their dream of true democracy will never happen and Pakistan as a nation-state will cease to exist someday, either by internal gangrene, or by external amputation.