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Will Pak bear the brunt of retaliation?

A careful reading of President Barack Obama's speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden raised more questions than it answered.

delhi Updated: May 03, 2011 01:13 IST
Vinod Sharma

A careful reading of President Barack Obama's speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden raised more questions than it answered.

He said little about the Pakistani involvement in the US-led operation except the passing mention that "our counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding."

No firm conclusions can be drawn from his address about the extent of Pakistani role in the capture and elimination of Osama in Abbottabad.

It can be safely deduced, however, that US operatives couldn't have taken out the al Qaeda chief in a ground combat without keeping the Pakistan Army and the ISI in the loop.

The giveaway is the terrain.

The mansion where Osama took refuge is a short distance - a couple of kilometres actually - from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The cantonment city named after British army officer - James Abbott - is the birthplace of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and the chosen redoubt of retired Pakistani servicemen.

It stands to reason that the host country's contribution to the operation was way more than what Obama stated in his address. Local authorities couldn't have been oblivious of the assault reported last night by private television channels without taking the Osama name.

Given the very peculiar situation in Pakistan - where a section of the population considers the US a bigger evil than the al Qaeda - it suits pro-American elements in the politico-military establishment to play down their role in Osama's killing.

Little wonder then that the US President's lines on Pakistan were carefully crafted: "Bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people… Tonight, I called President Zardari and my team also spoke with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates."

The question now staring Islamabad in the face is whether it will bear the brunt of the al Qaeda retaliation?

It's nobody's case that the global campaign against terror is over.

Abbottabad is just a battle won in the larger war with theatres across the world. Al Qaeda is a veritable brand name for independently operating, loosely networked terror groups in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt and Libya.

What binds these entities are the faith they flaunt and the hatred they share for America and its allies worldwide.

The US president conceded as much while announcing Osama's death: "There is no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us…"

Anticipating the terror conglomerates' retaliatory strikes in the name of Islam, Obama did well to reaffirm that the war against terror wasn't a war against Islam.

"The US is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims," he said.

Is the Islamic world listening? And agreeing?