Pakistan’s War on Terrorism

The novelist Mohsin Hamid has a provocative column in The Guardian: on how many in Pakistan sees the killing of Bin Laden:


Conspiracy theories abound. Some say that Pakistani intelligence agencies uncovered Bin Laden but wanted the US to take responsibility for his killing in order to blunt a possible backlash against Pakistan. Others argue that it is inconceivable that US helicopters could have penetrated so deeply into Pakistani airspace without being detected by the Pakistan army and air force (in the past, US helicopter incursions near the Afghanistan border have been turned back with warning shots), and therefore that the operation must have been jointly authorised.

I do wonder about how US helicopters made it so deeply into Pakistani territory, e.g., perhaps there were electronic countermeasures or deception at work.

But there are other, truly frightening theories, such as that even in a town with as dense a military presence as Abbottabad, Bin Laden managed to elude Pakistani security forces, suggesting a remarkable degree of incompetence. More terrifying still would be if there were official complicity in harbouring him, putting Pakistan on a collision course with the US. Pakistanis must hope that neither of these is true.

The terrifying scenario in Hamid’s words is, in my view, the most plausible. 


Crowds are justifiably celebrating Bin Laden’s death in downtown Manhattan, where a decade ago al-Qaida terrorists infamously massacred nearly 3,000 people.

Less well known is the statistic that since the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, terrorists have killed nearly five times that number of people in Pakistan. The annual number of Pakistani fatalities from terrorism has surged from fewer than than 200 in 2003 to almost 1,000 in 2006, to more than 3,000 in 2009. In all, since 2001 more than 30,000 have died here in terror and counterterror violence; slain by bombs, bullets, cannons and drones. America’s 9/11 has given way to Pakistan’s 24-7-365. The battlefield has been displaced. And in Pakistan it is much more bloody.

If Osama Bin Laden’s death means that the war in south and central Asia can now begin to end, that America can begin to withdraw its forces from the region, and that Pakistan and Afghanistan can somehow rediscover peace, then one day there may be celebrations here as well.

There are, of course, other views, but I am increasingly of the view that the sooner we disentangle ourselves from Pakistan, the better. Pakistan’s struggle is very different from ours. The country badly needs political and economic reform and cultural change, and it can’t be imposed by any external power.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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