Laden in a clueless Pakistan

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on October 05, 2012

Roli Books, Rs 395 291 pp

Imtiaz Gul uses his excellent contacts and reach to portray Osama Bin Laden, considered the world’s No. 1 terrorist until the Americans took him out. His book Pakistan Before and After Osama explores at some length whether Pakistan was aware of the US’ plans of raiding Abbotabad, the last hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.

The author talks about the intense debate in Pakistan about the transcript of the conversation between the Pakistani air traffic controller and the US pilots involved in the raid. The book reveals the attempts that were made by the Pakistan Government to deny that Laden was in the country. According to Gul, most observers described the killing of Laden as Pakistan’s worst intelligence and security debacle since the fall of Dhaka in 1971. When news of Laden’s killing became public, the author recalls what Amrullah Saleh, the former Chief of Afghan Intelligence, said in Washington in December 2010: “Unless all these boys (Laden, Mullah Omar, Hekmatyar) are pulled out of their hideouts in Pakistan… .”

The author claims that Saleh also sent former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf into a fit of rage when he told him that Laden was hiding in Pakistan. “Am I President of a Republic of Banana?” the author quotes Saleh as recalling of the meeting that he had with Musharraf.

Pre-, post-laden pakistan

The book analyses pre- and post-Laden Pakistan. It also looks at the various versions connected with the killing of Laden — one which was put together in Washington and another in Pakistan about the long history of US involvement in the region. At another level, the book also takes a look at the nexus between jihadi militants, the criminal mafia and the bureaucracy, and how this has helped spawn cross-border crimes. Through a series of interviews including some with those who had interviewed or had good contacts with jihadi outfits, the author pieces together the journey of Laden from Tora Bora.

The book states that few could claim to know the Tora Bora hills, it’s hiding places and it’s refugees as well as Laden. During the 1980s, when fighting alongside Afghan mujahideen forces against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Laden had converted the site into a formidable stronghold by creating a dirt-road link to the ancient trading centre of Jalalabad before moving in military gear and other essentials to fortify the inter-linked tunnels that his people had dug. Laden, qualified as a civil engineer according to some accounts, supervised the excavation of connecting tunnels so the fighters could move unseen between locations in their fight against Soviet troops.

Controversy over killing

The book also chronicles the early years of Laden and talks about the various attempts that were made to get him to surrender. On the controversy over whether Laden had actually been killed or not, the author states that when a Federal Court in Manhattan formally dropped criminal charges against Laden a month after his death, it signalled that the US authorities had provided the court with conclusive evidence that he was no more.

Published on October 05, 2012

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