Author : C.Uday Bhaskar

The current response from Pak is one of bewilderment, though slowly the chutzpah is returning The elimination of Osama bin Laden (OBL) on Monday, May 2, 2011 – till then the most wanted fugitive in the world – by US Special forces in a swift air-borne operation in the cantonment town Abbottabad in Pakistan is a symbolic and substantive achievement for the USA and President Barrack Obama in particular.

US perseverance for almost 10 years after the enormity of September 11, 2001 paid off – and now we know that this achievement came about despite the duplicitous role played by the Pakistani establishment, which had refined the art of hunting with the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) hound and running with the al-Qaeda hare.

The current response from the Pakistani state is one of bewilderment – though slowly the chutzpah is returning. It is now being suggested – by no less a person than the Pak PM, Gilani – that the blame for OBL remaining undetected 800 metres from Pakistan’s premier military academy had to be shared by the global community. He observed gravely: “We have intelligence failure of the rest of the world including the United States. “

US officials have also been muted in their comments about the enormity of OBL staying in a safe-house for more than five years in the heart of Pakistan, while the GWOT was being fiercely waged along the Af-Pak border and other regions – and wherein many lives were being lost on a daily basis.

Was the Pakistan military unable or unwilling to do what was expected of it by the USA in GWOT? Should the failure to detect OBL in Abbottabad be attributed to institutional ineptitude – or deliberate turpitude? This is the central question that will determine the contours of the post OBL fall-out in the extended region including India.

While the USA may derive considerable satisfaction and some degree of exultation at having eliminated OBL – and hereby project this as a combination of justice and retribution for the victims of 9/11 – the removal of OBL does not represent the end of terrorism associated with the ideology espoused by the al-Qaeda and its adherent groups.

This stark reality was brought home a day before the OBL operation – when on Sunday (May 1) a young 12-year-old boy was used as a suicide bomber in the Paktika province in Afghanistan. This was part of the renewed spring offensive that the Taliban had announced. Thus the ideology of such distortion of religion and stoking continuous violence against society at large – to instill terror – will outlive OBL.

It was perhaps for this reason – to prevent the fugitive leader from being deified as a martyr in the cause of Islam that OBL’s body was consigned to a burial at sea. However, if the prayers in OBL’s honour that were offered in Karachi, Lahore, Muridke and other parts of Pakistan are any indication – it would be reasonable to infer that there will be an attempt to take ‘revenge’ – against the USA and the Pakistani state – and the index of violence may see a spike. India, which has been experiencing various acts of terror since 1990, will remain a target for groups such as the LeT and the JeM – and the blowback in those regions that have pockets of sympathy for OBL and the al-Qaeda ideology cannot be discounted.

However, there is a silver lining in relation to the OBL trajectory – from September 2001 to May 2011 – that merits notice. Against the post 9/11 turbulence and the popular perception that Islam had been hijacked by OBL and his constituency – over the last decade, there has been much greater introspection among the larger cross-section of Muslim civil society in the entire Southern Asian region – from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia – wherein the OBL interpretation of Islam has been questioned.

And where state and civil society, including the Muslim clergy have supported the more tolerant and modern interpretation and practice of the Islam faith – and unambiguously rejected the OBL variant – the challenge has been quarantined.

Turkey is case in point. At the other extreme, states like Pakistan that have a weak national identity index have cynically distorted the Islamic canon to advance a sectarian agenda – an opportunity that has been seized by the al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other like-minded groups that have espoused a supra-national Islamic/sharia derived agenda.

The removal of OBL thus provides both opportunities and challenges across the region, that need to be astutely used – and more discerning voices in Pakistan have suggested that this is a ‘transformational’ moment – for the state to gradually distance itself away from the OBL ideology and its ‘protection’ of Islam.
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