February 23, 2020

Strangely muted reaction for Bin Laden

“The apathy of this nation has no bounds,” said one of my colleagues in the newsroom when I asked him how he would categorise the reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. I’ve been left scratching my head. Why haven’t all the Taliban and al Qaeda supporters burnt the place down already? When Benazir Bhutto was assasinated, Karachi was ripped apart at the seams – all of Sindh went up in flames. She was a true leader in many respects.
But aside from a few hundred men who gathered for prayers in absentia for Osama bin Laden in Quetta and Karachi, not much else has happened. People are more upset with the fact that American forces swept in and held an operation on Pakistani soil. As people say when they translate from Urdu sometimes: it outrages our honour. Sovereignty is more important than an al Qaeda leader who had faded into the background.
So now the question is, and I think the Americans are asking themselves this, if the Pakistani public isn’t that upset with the killing of the most wanted al Qaeda target, then perhaps they’ll be OK with the killing of other such men? Does this mean now that we’ll see more and more American special forces in covert operations in Pakistani cities?
I think it’s important to consider that public reaction to drone strikes has been particularly bad. Our politicians have come under fire as well and the religous right has, I believe, successfully used this to gather more support. I am no so sure the Pakistani public will be happy with American forces conducting their own killings on Pakistani soil.