EDITORIAL: After Osama - Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\04\story_4-5-2011_pg3_1

The world’s most wanted man for almost a decade, Osama bin Laden, led the Americans on a wild goose chase only to have them locate and kill him in Pakistan. And not just any odd place in Pakistan but in Abbottabad, a garrison town — his hideout located a mere mile or so away from the Kakul Military Academy. These are highly suspicious and deeply embarrassing circumstances, given the fact that Pakistan has been an ally of the US in the war on terror since 9/11. To have al Qaeda’s supreme leader found on our turf, living in a relatively comfortable shelter, right under the nose of the military, is enough to make the US ask us some very pressing, very difficult questions. While the US ire is expected in the coming days, one wonders how the army is going to answer a few homegrown questions, which are deeply suspicious of its claim that the military was not involved in the operation.

After news of the US troops storming a compound in Abbottabad and killing bin Laden broke out, everyone waited with bated breath for word from our army and government higher ups. It was a long wait. Both President Zardari and the Foreign Office have officially claimed that Pakistan had no idea that Osama bin Laden was hiding on Pakistani soil. They have also said that in the war on terrorism, Pakistan has stood by the US. In his speech, announcing the success of the operation, President Obama acknowledged that the location of bin Laden was identified due to shared intelligence and cooperation of Pakistan. Our officials have stated that the ground operation that killed Osama was a surprise one, carried out by the US troops alone, without our prior knowledge. One finds this claim particularly hard to believe. Once intelligence sharing occurs, it is known to all parties concerned that some action will be taken on the information given. When it was identified that a high-value target was living inside the compound, how could our intelligence officials afford to ignore it, or expect the US to do so? It is being reported by locals living near the site of Sunday night’s attack in Abbottabad that Pakistani officials told them to switch off lights and stay indoors. As soon as the raid was over and the Americans had left, the fire brigade, police and ambulances arrived. In Pakistan, such speedy dispensation of services is almost unheard of. Obviously, they had been told to stand by. It is all too convenient to deny involvement in this operation to contain militant backlash, but it is not only a very weak attempt but has also given rise to more troubling questions. The military stance, in effect, means that the US can make incursions at this level in a highly sensitive area without our security systems getting the wind of it. This is a self-defeating stance and is not being taken seriously by anyone. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other al Qaeda affiliates have already vowed revenge on the Pakistani state.

Pakistan has been double-dealing for too long now and the circumstances in which Osama bin Laden was found are all very troublesome. If we have helped the US track down and kill the most wanted man, we need to tell it as it is. If we shared intelligence and then wiped our hands clean of the whole matter, then the public has another thing to think about. Our defence budget shoots through the roof every year, slashing funds for the development and social sectors. If the army and the government had ‘no idea’ about what was going on in a garrison town, we need to rethink our priorities. If our forces were indeed involved in this raid, we need to man up and tell this to the public and the world at large that we too take a strong stand against terrorism. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Karachi violence

As a reaction to the killing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) senior member, Farooq Baig, four more people were gunned down in Karachi and about 25 vehicles were set ablaze by armed men across the city on Monday. According to city police chief, only buses and trucks had been targeted, giving this whole episode an ethnic colour, as the transport business in Karachi is the exclusive domain of the Pashtuns. The MQM has responded by condemning the killings as well as incidents of arson attacks. However, this seems to be an exercise of political papering over. Given its history, it is highly unlikely that some of its activists were not involved in these incidents and these were solely orchestrated by MQM opponents to malign the party.

It has almost become a routine that whenever an important member of MQM is killed, it responds with yet more violence, plunging the city into panic and fear. In August last year, after the killing of MQM MPA Raza Haider, more than 90 people were killed in a series of incidents of violence that extended over weeks that followed. Farooq Baig, a veteran member, was intercepted by a motorbike rider when he was on his way to Nine Zero. This happened at a time when a delegation of MQM was in a meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad to discuss the possibility of MQM’s rejoining of the cabinet. There are speculations that this killing was intended to sabotage negotiations and ensure that the MQM stays at bay. However, these are all speculations. The hard fact is that violence is the prime tool for achieving political objectives in Karachi. Due to political differences of various parties, Karachi’s security remains fragile. This must stop, because Karachi is the hub of industry, trade and commerce and its instability affects the entire country. The Sindh government must take action to arrest this wave of violence. *

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