Editorial – Would Al Qaeda Die Too

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Al Qaeda`™s charismatic and dreaded chief, Osama Bin Laden was killed today in a mansion at the garrison town of Abbottabad, in Pakistan. While this is definitely a victory for the United States of America, there are numerous questions to be asked, many of which are leaving Pakistan red faced, already forcing it to further retreat into self denial. All these years, Pakistani leaders have been claiming Osama, who was the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, attack on America that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, was not in Pakistan. Today that claim has been belied. Not only this, the operation that killed Osama was conducted within Pakistan territory by American troops, ostensibly without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. It is true Pakistan has been inducted as a non-NATO military ally of the US, but this intrusion is in many ways a violation of Pakistan`™s sovereignty. This would understandably portray the Pakistani government and military in anything but flattering light before the world, but more importantly before its own people. In the days ahead, the Pakistani government can be expected to face plenty of flaks from the radical sections of its people, even if it receives praises and promises for fresh and liberal fund crutches from America and the West.

The more pointed question is, was the Pakistan government all the while lying to the world that it knew nothing of Osama`™s whereabouts although it was hiding him in its territory? How else could Osama have set up his establishment in the garrison Pakistani town, and that too just 600 yards from an elite military academy? According to experts, nobody, not even diplomats could have been allowed to enter the township without being checked by the Pakistani Army because it is high security and sensitive area. Or was it a case of the Pakistani Army acting independently of its civil government? There are some within Pakistan who say that the American operations within Pakistani territory could not have happened without the tacit support of the Pakistani government. Their argument is, the gun battle in which Osama was killed lasted 40 minutes, so there was no way the Pakistani Army nearby would not have reacted if it was done without its knowledge. They even say that the operation was supported by the Pakistani Army for it would not have been possible otherwise. The counter argument is, the US intelligence and troops planned the operation on their own for they did not trust the Pakistani Army or government and only informed of their plans in the last moment even as the US commandos were on the verge of reaching the Osama hideout. It remains to be seen if the whole truth comes out in the coming days and weeks.

What is also a matter of intense speculation is, how much would the death of Osama be a blow on the capability of the Al Qaeda? It definitely would deplete the organisation`™s morale, but hardened fundamentalists as the organisation is, it possibly would have the resilience to bounce back, and the fear is, in the immediate wake of the death of its most important leader and founder of the organisation, it would be desperate to make its presence felt, in the language it knows best `“ terror. The suspense is, where would Al Qaeda try to hit next? Would it try to hit any of the super alert Western nations, in particular the US, or would it look for softer targets? India is also understandably wary, for it also does have home grown Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist organisations cells and support centres within its territory, as it became clear in the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Moreover, India has always believed and said Pakistan has been sponsoring terrorism to target India. Or perhaps the Al Qaeda had been reduced to a shadow of its past, hounded as it had been in all these years by the US and NATO troops. In this case, maybe this organisation which came into prominence with such a bang would disappoint even its sworn enemies by simply riding and fading into the sunset to die with a whimper, a phrase made famous by American poet, TS Eliot. Or closer home, a spirit of let down encapsulated perfectly in the Manipuri adage `bomb-na houraga poklaobi-na loisinba` (a war that begins with bombs and end with pea-shooters).

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