Whichever way you look at it, the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in a comfortable house in Abbottabad within walking distance of Kakul (Pakistan Military Academy) and a short drive from the nation’s capital Islamabad, constitutes an abject humiliation for Pakistan.
The options are limited.
Either the Pakistani authorities did not know that bin Laden was there, apparently for several years. In which case their incompetence is so colossal that it should cause widespread panic, except that it beggars belief.
Or the Pakistani authorities knew of bin Laden’s presence in their midst. In which case the worst cynics have been proved right.
There are some tell-tale pointers as to which of these is more likely to be true. The first is that Osama bin Laden chose this location to hide: a clear demonstration that of all the choices available to him, he felt safest here. Not in remote caves in areas reputed for the dogged hospitality of their tribesmen, but in leafy Abbottabad. A few hundred yards from a premier military academy. Within a couple of hours’ drive from Islamabad.
Another is that the Obama administration did not tell the Pakistani authorities anything about this mission: a clear sign that their judgment was that if they did, it was likely that someone would tell bin Laden.
Pakistan’s leaders have acted earlier in their history in ways that suggest a significant capacity for self-harm, but Osama bin Laden in a bungalow in Abbottabad? The mind boggles. What were they thinking!