By Sana Gulzar
Almost a week after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad in Pakistan, Pakistani residents in the Bronx have been left disillusioned and worried.
At one of the very few Pakistani restaurants near Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, many Pakistani Bronx residents watched a Pakistani news channel analyzing Bin Laden’s death. While all eyes in the restaurant were glued to the widescreen television showing images of Osama bin Laden’s compound, an awkward silence pervaded the room.
Many felt relieved at Osama bin Laden’s death. But when approached for comment, they had little or nothing to say about it. Embarrassed, shocked and angry at the presence of the 9/11 mastermind only a couple of miles away from the Pakistan Military Academy in a settled Pakistani town and worried about their country’s future, many seemed reluctant to talk about this sensitive issue. And the few patrons who did share their view were uncomfortable having their names published.
“Being a Pakistani, this was shocking—that he was in Pakistan and that too in Abbottabad,” said a Pakistani post-doctoral research fellow living in the Bronx, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity.
Those who did express their opinion said that the silence of the Pakistani government about the issue made matters worse. Some even said that the government of Pakistan should have taken its people living inside Pakistan and abroad into confidence immediately after the news came out.
“Our leaders could not protect their own image,” said the post-doctoral research fellow. “It has created a bad image in the U.S.”
As in Pakistan, conspiracy theories are circulating and questions are being raised here about the role of the Pakistani military and the premier intelligence agency, the ISI. Many are also questioning the Pakistani military’s capability to protect its borders, as the presence of U.S. troops within Pakistan went undetected.
“How is it that another country’s troops came in and they did not know about it,” said Muhammad Anwar, a Pakistani taxi driver living in the Bronx for 21 years and one of the few Pakistanis interviewed that was willing to give his name. “Although the killing of Osama bin Laden was a good thing, they should have reacted.”
While some in the restaurant seemed to agree that what happened was a major intelligence failure for the Pakistani military, they were skeptical about the allegations that the military knew about Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and played a double role.
“There might be a few at the lower level, like there are everywhere in the world, who sympathize with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, but why blame the whole Pakistan army and the ISI,” said the research fellow.
As the debate over Osama bin Laden’s killing rages on and the details come in, the Pakistani community in the Bronx, anxious and worried about the future of their country and its relationship with the United States, is mostly silent for now.