After Bin Laden - Amir Zia - Tuesday, May 03, 2011

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The killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is indeed a triumph in the global war against terrorism, but for Pakistan its implications should be more a cause for concern than relief. The mere fact that Bin Laden was holed inside a luxury compound in Abbottabad not very far from the Pakistan Military Academy should be seen as a massive security lapse.

For how long had Bin Laden and his aides been using this plush compound, surrounded by 18-feet high walls and barbed wire, as a hiding place? Why did such a big compound, which was without a telephone or internet connection, not raise suspicion within the ranks of our intelligence agencies? Who were the Pakistani collaborators of Bin Laden and his gang and how did they manage to secure this property? Why was it the US and not the Pakistani security forces which conducted the raid? And, most importantly, why did the world’s most dreaded terrorist gravitate to Pakistan and manage to find a foothold here?

Although details about Bin Laden’s last hideout, his final moments, his life in Abbottabad and the raid remain sketchy so far, in the era of Wikileaks and an aggressive media, these facts and the gloss over them are likely to hit us sooner than later.

US president Barrack Obama has certainly talked about Pakistani cooperation in efforts to fight terrorism while announcing the death of America’s number one enemy, but Al-Qaeda leader’s killing on our soil has given Islamabad’s opponents and critics a brush to paint Pakistan black.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already said that the war against terrorism should not be fought in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. New Delhi has expressed concern over the presence in Pakistan of safe havens for terrorists. There are strong lobbies in the West, especially the United States, which have been carrying out a sustained propaganda campaign against the Pakistani armed forces, and the Inter Services Intelligence, accusing them of doublespeak and double games.

It is indeed ironic that Pakistan, which suffered and sacrificed the most because of terrorism, including the deaths of more 30,000 civilians and 5,000 security officials in recent years, is seen as providing sanctuaries to terrorists.

Bin Laden’s killing will increase pressure on the country both on the international and domestic fronts. On the international front, there will be an increased pressure now on the civil and military leadership to pursue and strike the local and the Taliban terror network, especially in the country’s northern rugged mountainous region, more decisively now. The focus of the war on terror will be on Pakistan more than Afghanistan, which is being portrayed by the Afghan leadership as a victim of militants coming from across the porous frontier.

Both the covert and overt demands of Washington and its allies from Pakistan to do more against militants are all set to become more loud and pressing now.

There also remains a possibility of an increase in US drone attacks and operations against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants following Bin Laden’s death, which is likely to create problems for the civil and military leadership.

On the domestic front, there is a huge possibility that Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their shadowy Pakistani sympathisers will try to hit back – just to prove that they still matter and remain a force to reckon with, even without Bin Laden.

Members of the local terror network, which remains intertwined with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban militants, have the potential to carry out assaults with more vengeance now. To create mayhem and terror, they are likely to go for soft targets more aggressively now, along with selective attacks on the security forces and government officials whom they see as collaborators of the West. In an era of ideological confusion in which sacred Islamic teachings have been misinterpreted, the concept of jihad, or holy war, is distorted by religious fanatics and extremists, and there isn’t a dearth of willing recruits.

Legal religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the major factions of the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam, which have a history of keeping mum over the spate of terror attacks within the country, need to show maturity and come out openly to condemn and disown terrorism. This is not the time to ignite emotions but to help the security agencies in getting rid of extremism and terrorism in the country.

The killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan is a big blow to those religious parties and their likeminded politicians who opposed Pakistan’s cooperation with the international community in its bid to defeat terrorism. Living in a state of self-denial is not going to help Pakistan’s cause. The world is justified in its demand that Pakistani soil should not be used for terrorism against any country or provide shelter to the extremists. This is also the stated policy of successive Pakistani governments. In the country’s own enlightened self-interest, there is need to ensure that the state’s writ is established across the country and all terror havens are abolished. Our failure to do so will prompt others to go for terrorists as in the case of Bin Laden. This is necessary if Pakistan wants to keep pace with the international community in the 21st century.

Bin Laden’s killing on Pakistani soil is indeed a test case for both our civilian and military leadership as to how they handle the pressure and turn this incident into an opportunity to get rid of the twin monsters of terrorism and extremism that have bled Pakistan more than the United States. It is time not just for a more decisive, resolute and determined action against these monster groups on our own but to increase our collaboration with the international community to defeat these groups. It is time to seize the moment.

The writer is business editor, The News. Email:

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