Original Articles

Bin Laden’s death, Pakistan’s counterpunch to the United States – by Shiraz Paracha

After losing the 2004 presidential elections, US Senator John Kerry said that one video message of Osama bin Laden cost him the presidency.

Days before the 2004 elections, bin Laden in a video message urged the US public not to elect incumbent President George W. Bush again. The message had quite the opposite but desired effect as President Bush was re-elected with a big margin of votes.

Osama Bin Laden’s appearance just before the 2004 elections was a shrewd and calculated move where the Pakistani military helped Bush to retain the presidency for the second time. Bin Laden was never a dangerous and formidable enemy as the Americans led the world to believe. Actually, the myth around bin Laden’s power, influence and reach was carefully orchestrated by the US.

Bin Laden wasn’t a military commander or a guerrilla nor was he a religious or spiritual leader. He was not a politician either. He was a rich businessman and a friend of a former head of the Saudi intelligence agency who introduced him to the CIA in the 1980s. The CIA was looking for sponsors for its proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Bin Laden provided money and the CIA and the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) helped in planning that war.

At the end of the Cold War, bin Laden was one of the characters that fulfilled the needs of the world’s biggest imperialist power which was pursuing its strategic interest in the beginning of the 21st century using new tactics and means. Bin Laden was a tool, a puppet and an actor whose strings were in many hands. It is an old trick of imperialist powers to exaggerate threats and create fear among the public about real and perceived enemies.

Presenting threats out of proportion and enemies bigger than actually they are, Western militaries and secret services play mind games with their own public and the media are partners in the military mind games or psychological operations. During the Cold War, the US and its allies presented the Soviet Union as an evil power that was a threat to “civilization.” After the Cold War, the focus was on personalities such as the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. All of them were presented as evil figures who wanted to destroy the West.

Probably retired Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed of the Pakistan Army and the then head of the CIA knew more about who was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington but in the post-9/11 America, al-Qaeda was presented as the culprit and the biggest threat. Every Western TV network ran the same footage of alleged al-Qaeda training camps at unknown locations where some people were taking “military training” in a childish way. The training footage was a joke but it worked well in the charged atmosphere after the 9/11 incidents in the US.

In the last 10 years, bin Laden, however, became a symbol of resistance against the US presence in the Middle East, and unjust, bloody and aggressive policies of the United States. The imaginary character of bin Laden has been much more attractive and effective than the real and physical man known as Osama bin Laden.

It seems that Pakistanis could not use the bin Laden card any more as relations between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the CIA have been heading towards a dead-end in recent months. Americans were looking for an excuse to corner Pakistan and the new head of the CIA General David Petraeus, who is a master in psychological warfare, appears to have dangerous designs for Pakistan. The Pakistani military sensed the US intentions and used a counterpunch in the form of bin Laden’s dead body. Now Pakistan can say that it has provided the US government with an opportunity to kill its “public enemy number one.” It shows Pakistan’s sincerity and commitment to the US as an ally. Pakistan hopes that the elimination of bin Laden will pave the way to the end of the “war on terror” and ultimately reduce the pressure on Pakistan.

But the death of bin Laden may bring more troubles for Pakistan. The killing of bin Laden by the US forces on the Pakistani land could lead to public anger in the country and put the military and government into serious political difficulties. Militants from around the world may see Pakistan as an enemy and can target it because it is easy to stage terrorist acts there. More bloodshed is expected in Pakistan, a cost that the state has been paying by joining the so-called “war on terror.”

It is time for Pakistan to put its own house in order. It needs internal unity and stability. The Pakistanis military has made the right decision to get rid of bin Laden and deflate the balloon of the US “war on terror.” But it will not deter the US from chasing Pakistan. The US is not an ally or friend of Pakistan. In reality, the United States wants to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities as Pakistan and Iran are the only Muslim countries which can challenge US imperialistic policies in the Muslim World.

Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst. His email address is: shiraz_paracha@hotmail.com

About the author

Shiraz Paracha

Mr. Paracha has worked as a journalist, with newspapers, television, radio and online companies in Britain, Central Asia and Pakistan. Between 1995 and1996, hosted and presented very popular television programs (Awami Forum and Awami Jirga) in Pakistan. His former employers include the BBC and Press TV among other notable names. Mr. Paracha is also a journalism professor and has taught journalism and communication courses at international universities outside Pakistan.


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  • What a bogus and senseless analysis. I think the only thing apparent in this whole episode is ISI’s protection for Bin Laden.

  • How would the learned author explain that ISI were in fact kept in dark by the US on this operation? In fact this is what Pakistan army said as a damage control measure:

    ak military caught in the crossfire
    By Baqir Sajjad Syed


    As the United States announced the death of Osama bin Laden, the Pakistani state, especially its military struggled to explain the role it played in the momentous event and contain the domestic political fallout on Monday.

    In a damage control exercise, the Pakistan military tried to find refuge in ‘intelligence failure’ as the elusive Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a CIA-led helicopter borne raid on a house right under the nose of Pakistan military’s training academy.

    “We had been looking for him in no-go areas, unaware that he was living so close to an installation of ours. Yes, it is an intelligence failure,” a senior military official told Dawn in a background session on OBL’s death in an operation carried out by a US Navy SEAL strike team under CIA command.

    Even as military officials tried to downplay Osama’s killing in a compound less than a kilometre away from Kakul academy, they found very few takers of their explanation.

    This was hardly surprising as it is hard to believe that the paranoid security agencies never conducted a reconnaissance of the vicinity of their main training facility during times when military installations faced a continuous threat of terrorist attacks. Odder still is the fact that the military authorities or the intelligence sleuths never felt the need to find out who was using a heavily guarded structure that was protected by barded wires and fortified walls and had the extra precaution of surveillance cameras.

    It is in fact tragically comical that this compound was at a stone’s throw from where Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani attended a parade around a week ago; when he said publicly that his soldiers had broken the back of militants.

    Was the general completely unaware that the most wanted man lived but a short distance away? Did he also not have a clue about what was to happen in the coming days in that town?

    Military officials vehemently insist that they had not been taken on board by the Americans about the operation.

    In hindsight, the flurry of activity that took place in the past week or so indicates that something was up.

    ISAF Commander Gen Petraeus paid an extraordinary visit to Islamabad last Monday (April 25), when he is said to have held ‘a short and crisp’ discussion with Gen Kayani at an unusual meeting venue — Chaklala Airbase. The two generals are even said to have taken a short trip to an undisclosed location on board an aircraft. The same night Gen Petraeus had through teleconferencing attended a White House meeting chaired by President Barack Obama.

    Observers feel that President Obama referred to that meeting in his speech on Monday morning, in which he announced the death of Osama: “And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorised an operation to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice.”

    The very next day, Pakistan’s top military coordination body — Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee — held its quarterly session, which was attended among others by ISI Chief Gen Shuja Pasha, who otherwise isn’t a regular member of the body. The meeting was unscheduled.

    The final orders for the raid were signed by President Obama last Friday in the presence of National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, his deputy Denis McDonough and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.

    However, it is not just the denial of the Pakistan army of any prior knowledge of the operation that is raising eyebrows.

    Another anomaly in the Pakistan military’s account of the raid is their explanation of how four US helicopters evaded the country’s air defence system for about an hour (almost 30 minutes each side) as they flew in from Bagram and returned after a 40-minute long foray.

    One official claimed that the helicopters succeeded in avoiding detection through ‘Nap of the earth flight’ — a military tactic involving low-altitude flying to evade air defence systems. Yet another maintained that the air defence systems had been jammed by the Americans.

    If this sequence of events is to be believed then why did President Obama appreciate Pakistan’s cooperation in the operation? Was it out of love for the country?

    “But it’s important to note that our counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,” Mr Obama said.

    Whatever the case, Pakistani commanders took heart from President Obama’s and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statements on the incident.

    They think that the statements had provided Pakistan with a way out of the awkward situation and given the space for both sides to continue with their war on militancy cooperation.

    It was in line with this assessment of the situation and the subsequent American stance that the Foreign Office statement on Osama’s killing was drafted. The carefully worded statement renewed its pledge to continue cooperation with the US in fight against militancy.

    “Pakistan has played a significant role in efforts to eliminate terrorism. We have had extremely effective intelligence sharing arrangements with several intelligence agencies, including that of the US. We will continue to support international efforts against terrorism.”

    The statement had hailed the operation as “a major setback to terrorist organisations around the world”.

    Evident from the statement were the worries in the foreign ministry and among the civilian leadership and among military command about the questions that would be asked, especially about the violation of country’s sovereignty during the conduct of the operation. Hence, it took recourse to America’s right of defence and international law.

    At one point, the statement noted that “the operation was conducted by the US forces in accordance with the declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the US forces, wherever found in the world.” Whereas at another point, it said “Al Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan.”

    The statement emphasised that the operation had been carried out by the US forces, and not Pakistani troops.

    This is also the line pushed by the civilian government whose Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the operation was carried out by the US in exercise of UNSC mandate.


  • The author’s distrust of imperial / colonial USA is fine but this should not lead to his eulogizing of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.

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