Hours after US special forces killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden following an electrifying raid and a 45-minute firefight at his fortified compound in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, the magnitude of Pakistan’s lie began to unravel. That the Pakistani government desperately tried to camouflage a fact that was already,Hours after US special forces killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden following an electrifying raid and a 45-minute firefight at his fortified compound in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, the magnitude of Pakistan’s lie began to unravel. That the Pakistani government desperately tried to camouflage a fact that was already evident to a sceptical neighbourhood and a startled world. Not only had Pakistan become the heartland of terrorism, it had also been protecting the world’s most wanted terrorist. The plaintive defence the country’s spokesperson put out, that the country had lost thousands of its security forces in the war against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, was a non sequitur. Pakistan, after all, had also spawned these thousands of terrorists. The Pakistan government tried desperately to avoid collateral damage with a series of statements. Each statement only succeeded in contradicting the previous one.Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam activists in Quetta protest Osama’s killingPakistani officials seemed stunned into silence on Monday morning, but when their voice broke, it was babble. Officials and spokesmen began talking at cross-purposes. The initial claim of a wonderful “joint victory” was slowly replaced by confusion, as American officials denied there was any Pakistani role. The fog of war deepened under the haze of lies. Here is a brief list:May 2, 12.30 p.m. “Pakistan government was cooperating with American intelligence throughout and they had been monitoring (Osama’s) activities with the Americans and they kept track of him from Afghanistan, Waziristan to Afghanistan and again to North Waziristan and some other areas?” Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan high commissioner to the UK, claimed a heroic role for his country.advertisementMay 2, 10 p.m. “Nobody knew that Osama bin Laden was there-no security agency, no Pakistani authorities knew about it. Had we known it, we would have done it ourselves.” Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan high commissioner to the UK, subverting what he had said in the morning.May 3, 8 a.m. “Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilised world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an Al Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.” Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post,admitting there was no joint operation.May 3, 9 a.m. “If the Pakistani government had known that Osama bin Laden was there, we would’ve got him, like we got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan ambassador to the US, taking his own curve.May 3, 10.45 a.m. It is “inconceivable that bin Laden was without a support system inside Pakistan”. John Brennan, counter-terrorism adviser to US President Barack Obama, bluntly blaming Pakistan for being Osama’s saviour.May 4, 9.30 a.m. “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis might jeopardise the mission: they might alert the targets.” Leon Panetta, Director, CIA, virtually stating that Pakistan was hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda.May 4, 12 noon “This particular location (the Abbottabad compound) was pointed out by our intelligence quite some time ago to the US intelligence.” Salman Bashir, Pakistan foreign secretary, contradicting Zardari.May 4, 8.15 p.m. “This is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone,” Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in Paris in a desperate bid to spread the blame.Obama addresses the media at the White house after Osama’s deathEven as the Pakistani establishment furiously twisted and turned in its moment of shame, Zardari sought to bridge a yawning trust deficit with its close ally and largest benefactor. Not only did the United States not tell Pakistan anything about the surgical operation deep inside its own territory, it informed its ally about the mission only after the last US helicopter had left their airspace. Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John O. Brennan asked the question that is now reverberating around the world: “How did Osama bin Laden stay at that compound for six years or so and go undetected?” He went on: “We have many, many questions about this. And I know Pakistani officials do as well.”The Pakistani politico-military leadership is scrambling around to find answers to this embarrassment. Yet, the most recent indication that this deep US mistrust was building to a crescendo came as recently as last month. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the seniormost US military official, bluntly accused Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the isi, of being hand-in-glove with Afghanistan’s most vicious terrorist network. “It’s fairly well known that the isi has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network, Mullen said. advertisementOsama’s walled compound in AbbottabadThe volte-face by an offiicial who was once a votary of close US-Pak military cooperation was telling. That Pakistan has been running with the hare and hunting with the hound has been the worst-kept secret of the war on terror. The ISI was mentioned in at least 180 of the Afghan WikiLeaks reports last year as backing attacks on US and nato forces. But the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a military cantonment took US-Pakistan ties to a new abyss. Brennan promised to “get to the bottom of establishing whether Osama had a support system helping him inside Pakistan.The operation was a slap on the face of the ghq Rawalpindi, home of the powerful Pakistani military that effectively controls all the important aspects of national security and foreign policy. For three years, a frustrated Bush administration contemplated launching operations inside Pakistan without informing its ally in the war on terror. This followed mounting US-nato casualties in Afghanistan from Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan army chief General Kayani issued a stern warning that “no external force will be allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.” After Osama’s killing, there was a stunned silence in the army. The usually voluble head of Inter Services Public Relations, Major General Athar Abbas, declined to comment. The foreign ministry put out a second statement: such surgical operations violated Pakistan’s sovereignty, could not serve as a precedent and could undermine cooperation in the war on terror. Khaki fingerprints could be seen all over this second statement.Jamaat-Ud-Dawa activists offer funeral prayers for Osama on a street in Karachi”Bin Laden was the golden goose that the army had kept under its watch but which, to its chagrin, has now been stolen from under its nose,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Islamabad’s Qaid-i-Azam University. “Until then, the thinking had been to trade in the goose at the right time for the right price, either in the form of dollars or political concessions.” Events, however, have turned a potential asset into a serious liability. “Osama’s killing is now a bone stuck in the throat of Pakistan’s establishment that can neither be swallowed nor spat out. To appear joyful would infuriate the Islamists who are already fighting the state. On the other hand, to deprecate the killing would suggest that Pakistan had knowingly hosted the king of terrorists,” says Hoodbhoy.One of Osama’s three aides killed during the Abbotabad raid. Heavy bleeding indicates he was shot from close rangeUS lawmakers meanwhile clamoured for a review of the nearly $3 billion in annual aid assistance from the US to Pakistan. “I think this tells us once again that Pakistan is playing a double game,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins. Another Republican Congressman Ted Poe plans to move a legislation which plans to freeze aid to Pakistan unless it certified it had no knowledge of Osama’s whereabouts. “It seems unimaginable that Osama bin Laden was living 1,000 yards away from a military base in a million-dollar mansion built especially for him and no one in the Pakistani government knew about it. I don’t buy it,” Poe said.The end of Osama will not be the end of international jihadi terrorism. “The non-state head of international jihadi terrorism may be dead, but the State of Pakistan, which continues to use this terrorism, lives in denial mode,” says B. Raman, former additional secretary, r&aw. “Neither the state of Pakistan nor its civil society is prepared to admit that Al Qaeda and its surviving leaders have managed to escape arrest, prosecution or death so far, because of the support extended to them by the State of Pakistan.”advertisementWho Built Osama’s House?Compound was built around six years ago. It was owned by a family of Pashtuns believed to be Osama’s trusted couriers and his only contact with the outside world.Osama’s family lived on the secluded second and third floor, never seen from outside.House located in a middle-class locality of a military cantonment at Abbottabad, nearly 80 km north of Islamabad.Shopkeepers in Quetta gather around TV screensFor the past six years, india today found while speaking to neighbours of Osama in Abbotabad, Mohammed Javed believed his neighbour was a reclusive Pir, or a Muslim saint. The sprawling white house with the 11-foot high grey concrete walls topped with barbed wire coils towered over his modest house in the Pashtun-dominated Bilal town, a suburb of Abbottabad. The compound had several families of various ethnicities living inside. “I tried to meet the Pir several times to get him to cure my son, but was not allowed to do so,” he says holding up his polio-afflicted son Siddique. It now emerges that the mysterious Pir that Mohammed Javed sought was the world’s most wanted fugitive, Osama.The middle-class suburb, Bilal Town, is mostly inhabited by retired army personnel or by persons who converge for degree courses in Abbottabad’s educational institutions.Late on Sunday night, locals heard the clatter of helicopters, gunfire and loud explosions. Most residents emerged from their homes turning on their lights. “I saw soldiers emerging from the helicopters and advancing towards the house. Some of them instructed us in chaste Pashto to turn off the lights and stay inside,” Gul Khan told India Today . Osama was shot and killed on the third floor of the building, an apartment with a seven-foot-high privacy wall. The Al Qaeda leader lived there with Amal al-Sadah, 27, a Yemeni who was his youngest wife. Laden married her in Afghanistan over a decade ago. She was shot in the leg during the operation and is now believed to be in the custody of Pakistani security forces.Click here to EnlargeThe property was owned by three Pashtun men believed to be brothers: Mohammad Arshad, Mohammad Tariq and Mohammad Zareen. They lived inside with their families. Arshad and Tariq were, in reality, Osama’s trusted couriers, his only link with the outside world. Both were killed in the firefight on May 2. Arshad is believed to be Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti, the courier who inadvertently led the US forces to Osama. While purchasing the land and supervising construction of the building, Arshad told locals he was from Charsada, a Pakistani Pashtun town on the Afghan border.After the raid, nine children aged between two and 12 and three women, one of whom was Arab, were taken from the compound by the Pakistani military to a hospital in town. One woman and two children in the group were part of Osama’s family.However, in a new twist, a Canadian newspaper claimed that the house belonged to the Kashmir-based militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen (hm). The hm’s chief Syed Salahuddin also heads the United Jehad Council, a loose confederation of militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The council had close links with Al Qaeda. Brennan said that Osama lived in this house for at least five or six years. “He had virtually no contact with the outside world. But he seemed to be quite active inside the compound,” he said. The property is also thought to be the place from where Osama periodically issued his videotapes and later, a series of audio tapes, calling for war against the West.Set on an acre of land, it was a scaled-down version of the featureless compounds inhabited by the Al Qaeda leader and his entourage in Sudan, Kandahar and Tora Bora. From those mini-settlements, he plotted his war against the West using unlikely weapons like hijacked passenger jets against office buildings. From this modest dwelling in suburban Abbottabad, it seems likely, Osama planned survival. From this self-contained 13-room abode, security forces recovered two cows and a buffalo and 150 chickens. The building had a large kitchen to cater to its inmates.The sole access to this triangular compound was through two iron security gates. Inside, a maze of high walls were purpose-built to befuddle intruders. The compound had electricity but strangely, no Internet, telephones or even the mandatory satellite dish. Abdul Saboor, a local electrician who wired up the house when it was built in 2005, calls it a house of mysterious people. “It had a large courtyard. I once saw three cute Arab-looking children,? he says. No one knew what went on behind the high walls. Osama was never seen outside. His couriers lived a low profile life with limited contact with the outside world. The only outsiders allowed into the gated compound seem to have been children. Eight-year-old Abubakar was a frequent visitor to the Osama home, where he played cricket with Raheel Khan, a resident of the compound. “I miss Raheel, we used to play cricket in the lawn of his house,” Abubakar says wistfully.Click here to EnlargeAbubakar says he never met Raheel’s family. Shopkeeper Shuja Raja says he knew two adult males who purchased cigarettes from his shop. No one knew what the men did for a living. They sometimes said they were businessmen and money changers. At other times, they said they lived on remittances from the Gulf. “They were six feet tall, well built, sported flowing beards and wore the regular white shalwar kameez suits. They were courteous but never spoke anything beyond a cursory exchange of greeting,” he recalls. They spoke Pashto with an Arabic lilt, he adds. “But we never ever saw the women.”The lightning strike by US Navy Seals on the compound also demolished several myths. Among them, that Osama and the senior Al Qaeda leadership were hiding in caves on the Af-Pak border. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the decade since 9/11 the Al Qaeda leadership fled their Afghan sanctuaries and the rugged Af-Pak borders for the relative anonymity of Pakistan’s major towns and cities. 9/11 plotter and Osama’s No 3, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, was arrested from a safe house in Rawalpindi. Two other 9/11 plotters, Abu Zubaidah and Ramzi Binalshibh, were picked up from Faisalabad and Karachi respectively.It was the location of the Al Qaeda chief’s residence that was befuddling: less than two kilometres away from the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy (pma). The equivalent of the Indian Military Academy, the pma boasted of alumni such as Generals Pervez Musharraf and Ashfaque Kayani. It seemed to offer undeniable proof of Pakistan’s complicity in sheltering the Al Qaeda leadership. “It is inconceivable that the army did not know Osama was there,” a senior Pakistani military official told india today.Abbottabad, a military cantonment founded by Major John Abbot in 1853, is an educational hub and hosts several major universities like the Ayub medical college, the Army Burns Hall college. It is also a major holiday destination for people looking to escape the searing heat of the Punjab plains. Over the years, it has become a refuge for Internally Displaced Persons fleeing the 2005 Muzaffarabad earthquake or the devastating floods in Waziristan last year. A major town in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, it was insulated from the rest of the province’s chief worries: bomb attacks and drone strikes. In short, the best place to hide a high-value target.The town first surfaced on US radar screens in 2005. A key Al Qaeda figure, Abu Faraj Al Libbi, lived here in 2003. Libbi was captured by Pakistani forces in 2005 in Mardan, another city in the nwfp and transferred to Guantanamo Bay. His interrogation report appeared on WikiLeaks’ Gitmo files. “In July 2003, detainee (Libbi) received a letter from Osama’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting him to take responsibility for collecting donations, organising travel and distributing funds to families of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Osama stated the detainee would be the official messenger between him and others in Pakistan.”The Qaeda leadership lived off the grid. They eschewed cellphones and Internet, which would allow them to be tracked by the formidable US technical snooping capabilities. Osama instead relied on human couriers who would physically carry tapes and messages into the world outside his sheltered compound. Ironically, it was this human courier network that led US security agencies to Osama, to end history’s largest manhunt. And laid the burden of proof at the door of his benefactors in Pakistan.It was this courier that led the US Navy Seals Team Six to his doorstep on May 2.How keen the US was to positively identify Osama’s body was seen in their choice of platform: heliborne commandos over unmanned drones. Since 2010, over 142 cia drone strikes have killed over 600 suspected militants in Pakistan. But on Sunday night, 79 commandos rode into Abbottabad on six high and fast flying MH-60 helicopters. Pakistani surveillance radars were jammed by the Americans during the mission. When helicopters fly low to avoid radar, they are slower and more vulnerable to ground fire, a fact the US knows well. President Carter’s 1980 mission to rescue 52 hostages from the US embassy in Tehran ended in a fireball in the Iranian desert. A helicopter collided with a transport aircraft on the desert floor, leaving eight US servicemen dead. The 1993 US attempt to kidnap a Somali warlord resulted in embarrassment: the shooting down of two Blackhawk helicopters and the deaths of 18 US soldiers. This nearly happened in Abbottabad: one MH-60 crashed after its tail rotor hit the Osama compound wall. No one was injured and the chopper was quickly scuttled.”Putting boots on the ground would mean the US could also unearth vital documents indicating locations of other Al Qaeda leaders,” says a veteran usaf helicopter gunship pilot. US officials say they unearthed a ‘mother lode’ of valuable data: computer hard drives and flash drives containing information about the Al Qaeda network. The information is currently being analysed at a secret location for clues on future plots and also unravelling the terrorist network.The Future of TerrorAl Qaeda has dwindled to less than 100 fightersAyman al-Zawahiri, anointed No. 1 after Osama, moves up to fbi’s most wantedKilling likely to make Pakistan worry about the safety of its protectees like Mullah Omar of the Taliban and the father-son duo of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani.US officials say that the nucleus of Al Qaeda has now dwindled to a strength of just under 100 hardcore operatives. The space vacated by Osama, who carried a $50 million bounty, could be filled in by his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born physician who was reportedly anointed Osama’s successor by a shura in Afghanistan. He now automatically moves up to become the fbi’s most wanted man and is doubtless the subject of another US manhunt. However, the man who seemed fated to eternally remain Osama’s sidekick is nowhere near as charismatic as the slain number one.The group was formed by Osama in 1988 to channel Arab fighters in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the past decade since the 9/11 attacks that killed over 2,700 US nationals, Al Qaeda morphed from a closely knit group into a loose amorphous ideology. Increasing US pressure on the group killed and captured most of its senior leadership, disrupted its command and control and sent the rest into deep hiding. It has now become an inspiration for a new wave of self-radicalised and self-taught youth who carry out strikes on their own.Over the years, militant groups had begun to see the scion of a wealthy Saudi millionaire as a messianic figure. Now with groups like the Pakistani Taliban warning of attacks against US and Pakistani military targets, analysts predict a step-up in the violence. “This is the beginning of another kind of war,” warns Pakistani military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.Within hours of Osama’s killing, security was beefed up at all Pakistani military installations as the army braced for retaliation. “We expect attacks against the army units particularly those in cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi,” an army official told india today.For over 48 hours, Pakistanis regarded news of Osama’s death and his sea burial off the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the north Arabian Sea with a sense of disbelief. But as the news was confirmed by the political leadership, a wave of outrage swept the country. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and one of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, led a gayabana namaaz janaaza or ‘funeral in absentia’ prayer for Osama in Lahore. People took to the streets of Abbottabad, Quetta and Karachi, shouting slogans, waving Osama placards and railing against the US.”He was a hero for all of us,” says a student of Abbottabad’s degree college for boys. A similar protest was led by around 100 veiled students from the city’s degree college for girls. Other protesters blamed the Pakistani armed forces. “Where were the protectors of our frontiers when this operation was on?” one of the demonstrators asked. “Osama was the hero of the Muslim world and after his martyrdom, he has attained the title of a great Mujahid,” said Asmatullah, a protester in Quetta.”The killing of Osama gives America the space to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan and thinking about what to do next,” says Siddiqa. This is precisely what India is uncomfortable with. A US troop drawdown could mean Islamabad could use its strategic assets like the Taliban to wield greater influence over the shaky Hamid Karzai regime. “The clear issue is the need to focus on the situation in Afghanistan,” said a senior Indian government official, who declined to be named, in a reference to the situation post-Osama. “No one wants a precipitous withdrawal of international forces in Afghanistan. There is still much work to be done.”The killing of Osama, however, will have the Pakistani military looking over its shoulder. “It will make the Pakistani military more nervous about the safety of its strategic assets like the Haqqanis and Mullah Omar whom it is shielding,” says G. Parthasarathy, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. Some of this nervousness was reflected in a second response from Pakistan’s foreign office two days after the incident. “This event of unauthorised unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule. The Government of Pakistan affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the US,” the statement noted. A terse warning the US may not pay heed to.