Posted by Mahim Maher
Just got word that a Namaz-e-Janaza or funeral in absentia for Osama bin Laden is going to be offered on University Road in Karachi at 6pm. It is being organised by the banned Jamaat ud Dawa group.
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May 3, 2011 | 2:37 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
It is a measure of the trust deficit that many people are questioning whether Osama bin Laden was indeed killed in Pakistan in an operation early Monday morning.
That night, Urdu television channel Express News ‘Kal Tak’ [Until Tomorrow] programme host Javed Chaudhry opened his show with some questions. And while his may not be the most highly rated show, it does provide some idea of the debate in media and street circles.
Mr Chaudhry opened the show by posing some questions. He gave an incomplete list of the seven times that the international media has declared that Osama bin Laden has been declared dead. The first people to do this was Fox News in Dec 2001.This was followed by The New York Times, daily Telegraph, the US president at the time and an Arab newspaper even gave the news of his funeral.
A Taliban leader was quoted as saying he had in fact, attended bin Laden’s funeral. Then in July 2002 a top FBI official gave the BBC an interview saying that bin Laden was deadl. By Oct 2002, Afghan president Hamid Karzai told CNN that this was true. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf said the same thing, adding that bin Laden had died of kidney failure. In Oct 2002 the Telegraph quoted Israeli intelligence saying the same thing.
News of Osama bin Laden dying continued to resurface, according to Javed Chaudhry, in the years 2005, 2006 and 2009. It last appeared in Dec 2010 in The Washington Times that went so far as to show bin Laden’s grave. All this information is not my own, it was presented by Javed Chaudhry in his introduction to his show.
Mr Chaudhry then went on to ask the following questions: If bin Laden has died now, in 2011, then who were the bin Ladens who died in 2001, 2002, 2005 etc. Who were the bin Ladens they buried earlier on?
Mr Chaudhry then raised the question everyone is asking. Why didn’t the Americans/Pakistanis hand over bin Laden’s body to his family in Saudi Arabia? Why were journalists not invited to view the body and why were DNA tests not conducted to prove it? He asked why the body was “thrown” into the sea [phenk dia gaya]. In Urdu this sounds offensive and disrespectful. His use of that phrase is telling. Someone else on television, I caught in between the madness in the newsroom, also said that burying at sea is not Islamic.
Then, Mr Chaudhry went on to pose more questions:
Is it that Osama bin Laden died earlier and the Obama administration decided to announce it now as a re-election ploy?
Is it that by saying that Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, America wants to give the world the impression that Pakistan is a terrorist state?
Mr Chaudhry then went on to say, well, if we accept what the US president says, that Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbotabad then:
Where did the American helicopters come from? If they came from Jalalabad, it would have taken them 3.5 hours to reach Abbotabad. Why were they not stopped by the Pakistani authorities when they were in our airspace? If they were already in Pakistan, then is it true that the US army is in Pakistan – even though our government has denied this previously?
If Osama bin Laden can live in Abbotabad, asked Mr Chaudhry, then perhaps we can assume that Ayman al Zawahiri can live in Karachi or Lahore. If the US forces can sweep in and target Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, then can they do the same for Ayman al Zawahiri in Karachi or Lahore?
If indeed bin Laden was living in a compound a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s Kakul academy (like say Quantico or Sandhurst), did the intelligence agencies not know this? Was this a massive failure on their part? What are they doing with all the money the Americans and Pakistani people are giving them?
May 3, 2011 | 1:18 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
I sighed with relief when the news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbotabad, near Islamabad – not just because well, he was dead, but because I thanked my stars as the city editor of Karachi that he wasn’t killed on my turf. Karachi has had its fair share of violence over the years and our team’s good at covering it, but digging for an OBL story would have been a nightmare.
I watched people celebrating outside the White House and thought about all the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. This was probably one of the best things the Americans could have done for them, hunt down bin Laden and kill him. In the newsroom we cracked jokes about how Obama would be re-elected for the next 20 years.
But, as I and many of my colleagues in the newsroom know, it is not that simple. Just a day ago I had helped one of our stellar reporters, Saba Imtiaz, put together the WikiLeaks information on how Karachi is or at least was al Qaeda central. We gave it a double page spread and had a special story done on a hotel downtown where all the operatives used to stay. All the major operatives transited through this city.
The battle has been won, for America, but indeed, the war is not over. A seething city like Karachi – unmapped and unmanaged by its administration – will continue to provide just the right petri dish for terrorism. Anyone can hide here, get guns and explosives and funnel money through it for any organization without being detected. It is like a city on the loose.
And I’m sure the American administration knows that much more work has yet to be done. Osama would have died at some point, either of natural causes or some other. But don’t you think he and his men expected that and prepared for it? I am not a terrorism expert at all, or a defence analyst, but the prospect, and I stress, prospect of this worries me.
Also, we have seen increasing evidence that relatively smaller militant outfits have been hooking up with one another, depending on their sectarian leanings. The pro-Shia groups and the anti-Shia groups are divided neatly. From what anti-terrorism investigators have told my reporters over the years, it is most probably the case that they abet and train each other, depending on their strengths. These outfits are the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundullah, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehreek-e-Taliban etc.
Also, Karachi is just one city – what about Peshawar, Quetta, North Waziristan, the entire stretch of border with Afghanisan, Chaman? Heck, the south of the Punjab has produced the most suicide bombers this country has seen. Jhang is the place where they have emanated from.
That said, I must mention that in Karachi at least, the police have been hard at work trying to bust these networks and have managed some successes. While we were looking at the WikiLeaks data, Saba Imtiaz pointed out to me that after 2003 the number of foreign visitors dropped to Karachi because certain groups had been busted. Just recently, the new chief of Karachi police Saud Mirza told officers from across Pakistan at a seminar that they needed to coordinate more across the provinces to catch these men. I can only hope that our law-enforcement agencies – who have lost an estimated 5,000 personnel in the fight against extremism – will manage to get the funding to meet their challenges.
May 3, 2011 | 12:46 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
I was expecting a major backlash when news of Osama bin Laden’s killing spread on Monday morning. I thought the major madrassas in Karachi and the religio-political parties would come out on to the streets and burn the place down.
But that didn’t happen. Instead Karachi saw reactionary violence over the target killing of a political party worker. At least 25 buses and trucks were burnt and several people were injured and four were killed in aerial firing. But it wasn’t for OBL.
That said, I’m still expecting some reaction. A reporter who I know at a television station who is close to the mullah parties said that only one of them told him that a “response” is being planned. Otherwise there was silence.
The chatter erupted instead on the media. And certain ugly questions will surface in the days to come for Pakistan’s army and its politicians. (More on this in a bit).