No tears for bin Laden in Abbottabad, only confusion

Residents of the Pakistani town still seem perplexed, confused, deeply suspicious about the operation which killed the terror leader.

Abbottabad Pakistan 311 (photo credit: Amer Farooq)
Abbottabad Pakistan 311
(photo credit: Amer Farooq)
ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan – As US President Barack Obama paid homage to victims of 9/11 at a Ground Zero service in New York on Thursday, residents of this Pakistani town of some 120,000 – where US Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid early on Monday – still seemed perplexed, confused and deeply suspicious about the events that unfolded here in the past few days.
But many also expressed the hope that life here would get better now that bin Laden was no more.
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“Don’t tell me that Americans could execute him [bin Laden] without the cooperation of Pakistan’s Army,” said Muhammad Ateeq, a doctor in this scenic hill station 50 kilometers from the capital, Islamabad.
Ateeq, whose practice is just meters from the compound where bin Laden was killed, willingly expressed sympathies with all victims of terrorism, especially those killed on 9/11.
“I believe Pakistan is a front-line ally in the war on terror, and raising questions about the commitment of Pakistan or its army serves little purpose,” he said.
Referring to statements made this week by CIA Director Leon Panetta, Ateeq asked: “If Osama’s presence in Pakistan can be viewed as a failure, or a compromised commitment on the part of ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence], then shouldn’t the presence in the US on 9/11 of al-Qaida operatives also be viewed as a failure of the CIA and Pentagon?” Voicing a popular concern here, Ateeq said he feared that Pakistan could now face adverse American policies.
“Now that Uncle Sam has got his target, we will be on the receiving end,” he said. “If the US really cared for international peace and justice, it should immediately withdraw from the region, having achieved its goal [of getting bin Laden].”
Murtaza Khan, a local charity worker, said the killing of innocent civilians merited condemnation. He quoted a Koranic verse to the effect that “whoever kills a single innocent, it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind,” and added: “Whatever al-Qaida did or does, has nothing to do with Islam.”
Still, he said he was skeptical of US administration motives, but differentiated between the American government and ordinary American people.
Four days after the firefight, this town – named after its 1850s founder, British army Maj. James Abbott, and known for its scenic surroundings, crowds of tourists, quality educational institutions and heavy military presence – is now relatively deserted.
Local businessman Ata ul Sher told this reporter that life had come to a near-standstill since the incident.
“Business has completely slowed down and the markets are empty,” he said, before going on to condemn the killing of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks.
“My sympathies are with the victims of terrorism in Pakistan, the US and elsewhere, but unless both al-Qaida and America leave this area, peace cannot prevail here.”
He, too, said that “Islam does not permit whatever bin Laden has done, and his activities have created trouble for the Muslims and Pakistan.”
Wazir Muhammad, a chartered accountant, agreed. He said bin Laden did not stand for Islamic causes, although he did feel some degree of sympathy with the man, saying he “challenged the very thought of American imperialism.”
While saying he could understand the pain of 9/11 victims, he added that “innocent American citizens face the reaction of American imperialist policies.”
“America should withdraw, leave this region and help stop the spread of anti-Americanism,” he declared. He said he thought this would indeed happen, “since the huge debt burden and recession also demand an early withdrawal.”