Silence is Not Always Golden

By: Agha Haider Raza

It’s not every day that you are woken up by the statement “oi jaago, Bin Laden ko khatam kur diya hai” (wake up, Bin Laden has been finished).

As soon as I heard the rumor, I did exactly what millions of others around the world must have done, and swiftly turned on the television. Indeed, blaring upfront was the breaking news that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been shot dead.  Tickers were already running below the screen on all news channels, as they anticipated President Obama’s remarks that would turn the rumor into reality. The President of the United States soon came on the air and with a straight face announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.  All eyes now turned to Pakistan.

In order to understand the audacity of Osama Bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, eager news junkies waited for a statement from the Government of Pakistan.  After all, it had been hours since the Operation to eliminate Bin Laden had been carried out on Pakistani soil. President Obama had already made his statement acknowledging the role of Pakistan’s intelligentsia at 8.35AM PST.  “It [is] important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding”.  With pride, I awaited the response from a government I am rarely proud of.  Pakistan had suffered tremendous losses over the past decade because of 19 hijackers on 9/11 and an uncomfortable policy in Afghanistan known as ‘strategic depth’ carried out by the ISI.  But here was our shining moment.  To silence those who consistently called on Pakistan to “do more”.

As the day progressed, the conventional and social media exploded.  Fox News had their stories while MSNBC captured live images of Americans celebrating in the streets in the wee hours of the night.  With little information in regards to the Operation, information released from various media outlets started portraying their own stories.  Questions arose about the extravagant compound Bin Laden was residing in with such close proximity to the PMA, while many inquired about the sincerity of the Pakistan Military.  Sohaib Athar who happened to be tweeting about a low-flying helicopter announced that he heard a loud explosion during the night, became an instant celebrity.  CNN published the news about his tweets and instantly @ReallyVirtual found himself as the most sought out tweeter.  The poor man was bombarded for media interviews from around the world.  I guess that explains how he was able to garner over 90,000 followers (and counting) within a matter of hours.

While the world dissected and deciphered any news story about Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistan Government chose to remain silent.  Soon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a rather awkward but amusing statement.  “This operation was conducted by the US forces in accordance with declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the US forces, wherever found in the world”.  The press release was truly mesmerizing.  It implied that the United States unilaterally undertook the Operation to root out Bin Laden – in stark contrast to what President Obama had announced earlier.  I tried to find President Zardari’s schedule, to see if there was any slot for a public announcement.  Luckily, via http://www.president.gov.pk I was able to understand Zardari’s absence from a public announcement in regards to Bin Laden’s capture only a 100 kilometers from the Presidency.  Asif Zardari was accepting credentials from newly inducted Ambassadors at Diplomatic Enclave along with presiding over the Oath-taking ceremony for 18 new Ministers (which in itself is shrouded in mystery).

While the international media openly criticized the Government of Pakistan (GoP) and the Pakistan Military for allowing Bin Laden to reside so closely to Islamabad and the PMA, our civilian leader chose to remain away from the mic and camera.  Assuming that the GoP may have let the Military handle such a worldwide story due to the sensitivity of the issue, I scanned the ISPR (Pakistan Military Press Dept.) but found nothing.  Here we were, at the core of the biggest news story of the century and beyond the 243 words of the press released issued by MoFA, nothing.

The entire day has passed by and world leaders have spoken on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Yet, our Government and Military have remained silent.  With hundreds of unanswered questions, the GoP and the Military have lost the opportunity to tackle the bull by the horns. when it missed an occasion to discuss the Operation in the morning.  Rather than acknowledging the role of Pakistan and her military, the Foreign Office snubbed the United States by hinting they operated unilaterally.  I find it rather hard to believe that US Helicopters were in Pakistani Airspace, conducted a 40 minute “solo” mission, and escaped with the body of Osama Bin Laden –without the knowledge of the GoP or Pakistan Military.

By choosing to remain quiet, the GoP and the Pakistan Military have allowed the conspiracy theorists (found in abundance) and international media to construe their own stories and draw their own conclusions.  I cannot fathom the fact that on such a monumental news story, the GoP and the Military would revert to silence. However, this morning President Zardari deemed it necessary to publish an Opinion piece in the Washington Post.  Yet again, President Zardari assumed it was a better approach in reaching out to the American public rather than quashing the fears and queries of Pakistani’s.  Sending out bland statements (by PM Gilani and MoFA) should have been done once the President or Prime Minister addressed the citizens of Pakistan and the world.  It has been more than 24 hours since Bin Laden was shot dead and we are still awaiting a public statement by the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister or Senior Military Officials.

In a globalized day and age, where social media has brought down dictatorships and reinforced democratic ideals, the sheer recklessness of those in power is mind-boggling.  The tranquility of the Government has only garnered more suspiciousness and resentment towards a fledgling and weak leadership.  At a time when the whole world is eyeing Pakistan for a statement on the death of its most notorious terrorist, it is shocking that Zardari or Prime Minister Gilani would remain silent.  With plenty of damage done to Pakistan’s reputation over the course of 24 hours, I sure hope Firdous Awan has her talking points ready for a media and country that still needs answers to many questions.

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8 responses to “Silence is Not Always Golden

  1. Do you think that our Army and Civilian, and Political leadership chose to remain quite, they were most probably told to “Shut up and get lost”. I have been feeling the sentiments, and I think it not about Usama, but the process which has been followed, 170 million people are feeling deceived and betrayed, and certainly insecure, what the hell we have this world 7 largest army for, and this system of corrupt governance, we can not call our self a respectful sovereign nation, it is a shame

  2. Sardar Taimoor

    @Haider and @Zulfiqar Syed.. I wonder what world you live in.. the main problem with us Pakistani’s is that for a few moments of glory we are willing to give our whole future up. These issues are BIG issues; beyond facebook and twitter for crying out loud. Do you think they just missed this chance? would you want them to come out in the open so every terrorist known to this planet can have their eyes on Islamabad for their annual feast! talk some sense.. And Mr. Zulfiqar Syed; I do not know who you are or what your age is and I do not misbehave with people who are elder to me and so please do not take this the wrong way; but if calling your nation a respectful sovereign nation is such a big shame to you then please do not call it your nation and please do not give pessimistic comments and pretend that you are aware of my nation; of which I am very proud and of which you are very shameful! to be very honest… leaving the government aside; shame on the thought process that is evident in your comment.

    If you want to degrade yourself by convincing yourself that you were told ”shut up and get lost” thats your own problem.. but the fact remains that Pakistan’s role was acknowledged by the president of america in the most historic speech of the century.. and that; any optimist would easily be able to spot; along with the fact that it is in Pakistan’s best interest to keep the matter in the grey area. I’ll tell you what is a shame though; it’s the pessimism inherent in most of the face book and twitter ‘thaykaydaar’s of Pakistan. Peace

  3. @Sardar Taimoor. I’m assuming you are one of the people who simply nod to everything that comes their way. Sorry to say, but you are no one to judge how other’s feel about this nation, which just by the way is not “yours” ( “ours” remember?). The questions posed by Mr Haider are the questions on the minds of every Pakistani. The people of this country need to know what the hell is going on! In case you are unaware, let me tell you that a spokesman for Taliban has already threatened to attack the political leaders, army and the people of this country. The least the President and Prime Minister of this country could have done was to gain the trust of their people. But even for that, it’s too late now. All sorts of pathetic statements are making rounds in the foreign media! This is just embarrassing!

  4. Sardar Taimoor

    @Pakistani: after assuming what sort of a person I am you went on to say I am no one to judge anyone; first off, I did not judge anyone, all I was trying to get across was that this sort of pessimism is unhealthy. And, of course if someone is going to say us calling ourselves sovereign is a shame, I am obviously going to say that their saying that is a shame.

    I am very well aware of who said what as I saw this news live and I have been up since; but maybe you are not aware, zardari has released a statement already.

    What exactly do you suggest should be known to the people of this country? the exact operational planning? the details of the night visions used? I mean its only common sense that you need to have to get your answers; the american president came on air and acknowledged Pakistan; it seems very sensible to deduct from that speech that Pakistan had a role here. When you ask yourself the second question which is why Pakistan let this remain in the grey area; common sense would also lead you to the conclusion that it is the best thing to do; considering if you do come out in the open with this you are screwed till the time Islamic radicalism is alive in this world which basically means you are screwed till judgement day.

    Gain the trust how? get a referendum asking whether Osama should be caught? I mean if you actually seriously think that the president or the prime minister control games played on this level; then I wont even need to assume, I’d know for a fact that you nod to everything that comes your way; in fact I know that already.

    And what ‘people of Pakistan’ or ‘international media’ are you talking about?
    In case you missed the location of Osama Bin Laden, let me remind you its abbottabad; where the second largest division of Pak army is present; and this compound was only 300 metres away from a huge military establishment. Answers need to be given by ISI/Army not zardari and gillani; how naive can you possibly be? I mean no disrespect but what are you even talking about? this is politics and dirty games on the next level.. this is what they call ‘the great game’.. and who we are talking about was the spearhead of this game. And this man was living comfortably in abbotabad! and you are telling me the people of pakistan want answers? let me please repeat to make you understand where we stand..

    O S A M A B I N L A D E N was found in PAKISTAN; LIVING COMFORTABLY FOR YEARS NEXT TO THE BIGGEST MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT IN PAKISTAN.

    If that doesnt make sense to you mr.pakistani, then sure.. im definitely the one who nods to everything that comes my way; and you are definitely the one who has the impeccable wisdom/knowledge/intellect to rise above band wagoners like myself! And please, do not ‘assume’ things or pass comments when you can’t even own up to them using your name. Thank you very much.

  5. Sardar Taimoor

    And what Haider is saying; I felt the exact same way initially! And what he was saying is his opinion and so my comments were not really directed towards him. They were basically towards Mr. Zulfiqar, because I do not agree with the mentality reflected in his comments.

  6. Mariam Malik

    I second that Haider. It just seems rather too shady to just burry such a big event in such an unconventional way. The fact that Pakistani authorities had nothing to say on top of that did put the icing on cake I felt.
    We have to remember when Sadam was found, they had the footage, they gave him a physical examination to make sure it was him and gave that event a thorough TRANSPARENT protocol. I was expecting something greater for capture of the World’s Most Wanted.
    Having seen what Osama’s ‘jihad’ has clearly done to the Pak/ Afghan image and of the whole Muslim World in the West nontheless– Some acknowledgment of such an achievement would have been, if not necessary- appropriate.

  7. It is very simple to know that why our establishment and political teams are in state of Coma as someone has killed their hen laying golden eggs.We all know Osama was nothing more than a symbol of war or some kind of representation of typical mindset.This war trend has given extension to Kiyani and Pasha, giving booster injection to Zardari and Co or one can say this name is reason of merry go round of corrupt Pakistani leadership.
    CIA operation and its declarations on this combat issue is acting like swallowing some bitter pills for Chief of Army which neither can be eaten nor spit so its better for him and ISPR to remain silent on this unexpected move,until some good time come and give them some space to justify all.

  8. Reading the above comments it simply amused me. What we need to know from the locals to reach a correct answer for this dillema are following;
    When was the Compund constructed, by whom and when leased. If there is any denial to the questions then I would assume they were all involved and were taken by surprise. Why US administration did not inform GoP there is
    one good reason, they would have arraigned Osama before the law, alive he was a liability for the US administration and specially for the Neocons. The Alibi to 09/11 and invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq would have been a great
    embarrassment for the WhiteHouse had been placed in the docks at the New
    York Court and cross-examined about his presence in that Compound. If on
    the other hand Pakistan knew of his presence they would not have denied it
    to WashingtonDC. Osama’s role as the ”Bogeyman” had reached its climax
    and like any villain of various horror movies the curtain had to fall. What we
    need is to change our own attitude by removing the blinds from our eyes, the
    cotton from our ears and learn to speak without fear to those who think they
    have a right to control our minds and destiny.

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