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Osama And Pakistan

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For six years, Osama bin Laden continuously lived in a large, detached walled house in the outskirts of the Bilal neighbourhood of Abbottabad in Pakistan — an isolated building surrounded by potato and cabbage fields on all sides. The house was three-storied and much larger than any in the area. The compound covered some 38,000 sq. ft. The boundary walls were 12-18 ft high. It had four electricity connections. It could be hardly mistaken as a humble abode of a Pakistani farmer. And it was a mere kilometre from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

The world is expected to believe that no authority in Pakistan knew anything about the whereabouts of this man. I can believe that the civilian government did not know. Since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, civilian governments in Pakistan have been powerless, dysfunctional and devoid of any real intelligence gathering capabilities. President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani could be conceivably let off the hook. But the Army? The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? And General Ashfaq Kayani, the chain smoking ex-ISI boss with counter-intelligence running through his vein, a Machiavellian India hater, and a man who has his tentacles everywhere? Even he didn't know of the identity of the long- standing worthy guest at Abbottabad? Give us all a break!

On 9 May, Gilani told his National Assembly: "It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or the ISI and the armed forces for being in cahoots with the al-Qaeda... Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd. We emphatically reject such accusations."

But there can be only two possibilities: complicity or incompetence. The Pakistani army and the ISI are not incompetent. So why should not the world believe in its complicity?

 Let me end with an excerpt of an e-mail sent by a friend called Shavak Srivastava — an intelligent, highly educated Indian who lives abroad. He echoes all our sentiments:

"Nothing will happen to Pakistan. They will get past this one, as they always have done. As they have for the last 20 years harbouring and nurturing terrorists, the Taliban and the Mumbai attackers of 26/11. By constantly lying, as they will this time too. At best the ISI was incompetent; at worst completely complicit in hiding and protecting Osama less than a mile away from their pride and joy, the Pakistan Military Academy, in the military garrison town of Abbottabad! They didn't know he was there? A man who needed dialysis and got it at a hospital in Abbottabad. For six years? Or was it seven?

"Pakistan will continue to get away because of a flawed US AfPak policy. The terrorists live in Pakistan, the Taliban leadership is in Pakistan, and yet the US and Nato fight is on in Afghanistan. The terrorists, the al-Qaeda and the Taliban are in a loose alliance with the Pakistan army and the ISI, which covertly support their activities in Afghanistan and India. Pakistan is the headquarters for the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Hizbul Mujahideen. The terrorists most wanted in India for 26/11 and other attacks roam free in that country. One of them, Hafiz Saeed, even led a prayer in Lahore for the soul of Osama. But, rest assured, we in India will be told that there is not enough evidence against him. Dozen other terrorists and radical Islamist leaders float around the country, appearing on Pakistan TV every other day — hobnobbing with the Pakistan army and the ISI, trading notes, planning and plotting. For the next 26/11.

"Yet Pakistan will continue to receive billions of dollars of US aid. Meant for fighting terrorism and boosting their failing economy, the money will be spent on training terrorists and buying weapons to be used against its enemies, primarily India. Pakistan knows that it will continue to get away.

"The US will look on. Still, proclaiming that Pakistan is their ally in the ‘war against terror'. When push comes to shove, they will act unilaterally — as they have in their drone attacks and eliminating Osama. But will turn a blind eye to everything else. While continuing the billions of dollars of aid to keep the failed state afloat. Good luck to India!"

Says everything that we want to say, doesn't it?

So what can we do? It is silly to think of sending our choppers over to get Dawood Ibrahim and his ilk. We don't have the capability. The best that we can do is to dramatically strengthen our intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism capabilities, with the best people, facilities and equipment. To show no mercy to infiltrators. And to persuade the US that we are worthier friends than the failed state to our west.

The author is chairman of CERG Advisory.


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 23-05-2011)