Is India the sole victim of Pakistan’s State-sponsored terrorism? While some Indians may believe that this is indeed the case, the reality is somewhat different. Hounded out of Sudan by American pressures, Osama bin Laden had nowhere to go in 1996. But, lo and behold, he headed for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, then a virtual ISI protectorate. Laden soon joined Taliban leader Mullah Omar in creating an “International Islamic Front,” committed to worldwide jihad, with a particular focus on countries ranging from Israel and the US, to Russia, the Central Asian Republics, Saudi Arabia, China and India.
Two close allies of Pakistan — the US and Saudi Arabia — were the targets of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. He turned against Saudi Arabia and vowed to overthrow its monarch after the king allowed American forces (regarded as kaffirs) to be stationed in Saudi Arabia in 2000. Despite this, Pakistan turned a blind eye to and even encouraged the links that bin Laden and the Taliban forged with Pakistani and other jihadi groups worldwide. Shortly after bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda targeted American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and placed explosives on the US naval ship, USS Cole, in Yemen. At the same time, elements of the al-Qaeda clashed with Saudi security forces. The Americans responded with an unsuccessful cruise missile attack on one of bin Laden’s hideouts in Khost, in southern Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia’s powerful intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal met Mullah Omar in Kandahar and demanded that bin Laden should be extradited to Saudi Arabia. Mullah Omar flatly refused.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the US responded with the invasion of Afghanistan. bin Laden became the most wanted terrorist in the world. Helped by followers of Taliban warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani, who remains a close ally of the ISI, bin Laden crossed into the tribal areas of Pakistan in November 2001. He lived briefly in Peshawar, before moving to Haripur near Islamabad, along with two of his many wives, four children and a few grandchildren. His youngest and favourite wife Amal gave birth to two children in government hospitals, when he was in Haripur.
In 2005, bin Laden moved from Haripur to the heavily guarded cantonment town of Abbottabad, where he lived in a huge mansion, barely one kilometre away from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy. Amal gave birth to two more children in Abbottabad, though her life became somewhat uncomfortable when bin Laden was joined by his first wife Khairiah in 2011. There was no love lost between these two ladies. When the Americans stormed the Abbottabad residence on May 2, 2011, they found that bin Laden’s entourage included his son Saad bin Laden, who was gunned down, apart from three wives, eight children and five grandchildren.
Despite the circumstances under which bin Laden and his large family and entourage were living in a cantonment town, where not a bird can fly without the army’s knowledge, Pakistan still peddles the fiction that the ISI did not have a clue about the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted terrorist. Moreover, bin Laden was also public enemy No. 1 in two countries — Saudi Arabia and the US — which have sustained Pakistan financially and militarily for over five decades.
Can one, therefore, seriously believe that Pakistan will suddenly have a “change of heart” and turn over Hafiz Saeed and the perpetrators of the 26/11 outrage to India? Have we forgotten that Dawood Ibrahim, the perpetrator of the 1993 Mumbai bomb attacks in which 250 people were killed and over 700 injured, lives in plush comfort in the elite Defence Housing Society of Karachi? Members of the Babbar Khalsa, which was responsible for the assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, still roam around the Dera Sahib Gurudwara in Lahore. The use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy by the Pakistan army will end only when it finds the costs of such a policy unaffordable.