The siege of a compound by US Special Forces and the subsequent reported killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad on Monday, May 2nd has left the population there numb. The quiet, green, forested town that was once a hilly retreat for the British has suffered none of the bombings or blasts that have plagued Pakistan over the past three years. Famously home to the elite Kakul military training academy and the country’s top school, a tranquil air prevails along the wide avenues and in the colonial bazaars.
While in America, many have been celebrating the death of the man culpable for the most notorious attack on US soil that left 3,000 dead, it is estimated that ten times that number have died in Pakistan as a result of terrorism since 9/11. Now at the centre of the world’s media gaze, residents of Abbottabad are gravely concerned that having being put on the map, they now risk attacks by the Pakistan Taliban, who have made concerted retaliatory threats against the country in the last week in revenge for its supposed complicity in Bin Laden’s death. While a survey conducted by the domestic media has estimated that 60% of Pakistanis do not believe America’s version of events, the pessimistic picture in Abbottabad suggests the number is much higher; few can believe that their home town ever played host to the Saudi born leader of Al-Qaeda.
Following the Raymond Davis fiasco, the incursions of US forces from Afghanistan onto Pakistani soil and the continued campaign of drone attacks, the distrust of American policy draws many to conclude that this “drama” has been played out for the sake of Obama’s election campaign and the need for troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. For now though, the site of Osama Bin Laden’s death has become akin to a tourist attraction. As in the bazaars, cafes and barbershops of Abbottabad town, the gup shup (gossip) and conspiracy theories outside the perimitre walls of the now infamous compound continue.