Articles

Pakistan After Bin Laden

October 18, 2019


[INTRO PLAYING] [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: We’re
in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. We’re just two hours south of
Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was killed recently. And we wanted to see what life
was like here post Osama bin Laden, how people are reacting
to the fact that he was living here for five years. [ROCK MUSIC PLAYING] PRESIDENT OBAMA (OFFSCREEN):
Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world
that the United States has conducted an operation that
killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the
terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands
of innocent men, women, and children. And on nights like this one, we
can say to those families who have lost loved ones
to al-Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done. [CHEERS AND SCREAMING] [CHANTING USA] [CHEERS AND SCREAMING] [CHANTING USA, USA, USA] [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: So we’re on our
way to Abbottabad right now. We’re about 70 kilometers
away. And it’s an army place. The town itself, military garrisons, a huge army presence. It’s considered to be the safest
city in Pakistan, which is the irony of the fact that
bin Laden was found there. What we’ve been told is that the
house itself, bin Laden’s compound, there is a perimeter
of army guys around it. So we’re going to try to get
as close as we can to it. We’ll see how much
success we have. [MUSIC PLAYING] [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: So the police
stopped us, and they turned us around. So we’re going to try
a different route. Go around the block and see if
we can access the compound from another way. So we’re walking around
the back side now. See how far we can get. Probably not very far because
there’s guys with guns not far from us. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: So this is
kind of ridiculous. After bin Laden was killed, the
compound was apparently open for a few days. The journalists were showing up,
and people were picnicking around there. And now there’s a perimeter of
cops and army so you can’t even get close to the house. We still managed to steal
some shots anyway. But we wanted to find the guy
who actually broke the story. His name is Abrar Rasheed. He lives in Abbottabad. And he works for a Pakistani
Network, Geo Television. So you were basically
one of the first reporters on the scene? ABRAR RASHEED: Yeah. I was the first reporter
who was at the scene. And I am the first person who
broke that story at that particular night. Although I didn’t know who was
the high-value target until and unless the President Obama
claimed next morning. It was morning time Pakistan
that Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad. SUROOSH ALVI: So since I’ve
arrived in Pakistan, I’ve heard a lot of people say that
it was highly unlikely that bin Laden lived in that
house in this town. What is your view on that? ABRAR RASHEED: To tell you
frankly, still I am unable to believe that Osama bin Laden was
here in the first place. Like so many other Pakistanis,
it’s very hard for me to believe that he was here. And especially the people
of Abbottabad. I mean, if you go around and
interview a common man on the street, and if you go around
and interview certain officials, you know,
businessmen, traders, or journalists, nobody would tell
you that he believes that Osama bin Laden was here living
in Abbottabad, which is a garrison town. And his compound was hardly a
kilometer away from Pakistan’s military academy. And I’m sure his family members
were there, but Osama bin Laden wasn’t there. I think it’s a very mysterious
kind of circumstances. And unfortunately, government
of Pakistan, and Pakistani military authorities have added
more into this mystery. [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: Zarar Amjad,
there’s an 11-year-old boy who lived across the street from
the bin Laden compound. He was the boy who
played cricket. And when his ball would go
across over the wall into the compound, they wouldn’t give him
the ball back, but a man would give him 50 rupees. After May 2 when bin Laden
was killed, he became a bit of a celebrity. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] Can you tell me about living
across from the house? Did you see the people
that lived inside? ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: Thank you. MALE SPEAKER: Thank you. MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ZARAR AMJAD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: He was saying, for
five years I lived across the street from this house. I played with the kids
in the compound. I went into the house. He said the kids spoke
different languages. They spoke Arabic or Pashto. He saw one guy, Uncle Nadeem,
who was the guy who took care of the wives in the compound. He would get all the supplies. He said he never saw a
tall man that looked like Osama bin Laden. [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: We’re
on the campus of Ayub Medical College. We’re going to walk around and
try and find some students, see if they’ll talk to us,
give us some dirt. See if they’re believing the
hype, or if they think it’s a conspiracy like everyone
else in this country. [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: If bin Laden lived
here, and Pakistan knew, then Pakistan is
a rogue state. If bin Laden lived here, and
Pakistan didn’t know, then Pakistan’s a failed state. You know that’s one
way to look at it. The average Pakistani would
probably not agree because most people are saying, how
do we even know for sure that he was here? Where is the proof? Where was the body? And when you go to Abbottabad
and you see the house where he lived, it’s like really? He lived in there? That house Is a piece of shit. It doesn’t change history. In the annals of history,
Osama bin Laden died in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. And that’s fine. Ultimately, bin Laden
was dead. That’s all that matters. But that’s just bin Laden. This country as a whole
is having some serious problems right now. Since May 2, the number of drone
attacks have escalated. There seems to be something
happening every day. And also the response from the
Taliban has increased. There are suicide bombers
attacking everywhere, all over the country. We are back in Peshawar. And we are on our way to a
bomb site, a suicide bomb attacked the police station. Every day there’s something
that’s happening in Peshawar. The terrorists are definitely
stirring up the pot. [SIRENS SOUNDING] SUROOSH ALVI: Yesterday, the
Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, they sent a suicide bomber
in to the CID. It’s the crime and investigation
department. This happened yesterday
morning. Eight people died. And they were avenging May 2,
Osama bin Laden assassination. They pulled out two police
officers from the basement who were still alive. And they’re looking for bodies
and trying to clear the wreckage right now. ABRAR RASHEED: Since 9/11, at
least 35,000 people lost their lives in this so-called
war against terror. And being American ally in
this war, 5,300 military personnel lost their life. $68 billion to $69 billion,
Pakistan suffered this loss. And against that amount,
Pakistan got $20 billion, out of which I think $13 billion
were paid to the Pakistan military and $7-8 billion to
the civilian government. Pakistan has sacrificed
a lot, and in return, what we have got? Humiliation, taunts, and demands
of do more, do more. Americans and the Western
world should realize Pakistan’s sacrifices. And now they should be aware of
another thing, that there are very, very strong
anti-American sentiments in Pakistan. Not only in the general public,
not only in the common masses, but now even
in the media. Even no political leaders, even
the popular political parties can’t publicly praise
America anymore. Because they know that they
can face the backlash. SUROOSH ALVI: There’s another
smaller bomb site. A convoy of cars from the
US consulate drove by here a few days ago. And there was a car situated
right here. It exploded when the
Americans drove by. It was a Taliban attack. And yet another example of
how the Osama bin Laden assassination has affected
this country. Now we have to try and track
down someone from the Taliban, get on the phone with these
fucking assholes and find out what they’re thinking. I’d been trying to interview
the Taliban for over six months but had no luck in
tracking them down. On this trip I met
two journalists for the tribal areas. The kind of guys that the
Taliban call after a suicide bomb to claim responsibility. I wrote down some questions for
them to ask on my behalf. Well, I would love to get on
the phone with the Taliban. Can we try to call them and see
if we could speak to them? RAFITULLAH ORAKZAI:
We can see. We’ll check if there
is any possibility. SUROOSH ALVI: OK. Thank you very much. We were trying to call the
spokesperson for the Taliban on the land line from
the office. We were getting a busy signal. Then two minutes after that,
the other guy’s cell phone rings, and it’s him. [PHONE RINGING] DILAWAR WAZIR:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] DILAWAR WAZIR:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] DILAWAR WAZIR:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: According to the
spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, their party line is
that they’re only after government institutions. But the reality is
very different. In the communities, people
have been terrorized, kidnapped, and killed
by the Taliban. And because the army and the
police have failed to help these people, a lot of them have
formed their own militias called lashkars. And they’ve taken matters
into their own hands. I’m standing outside of
Faheem Khan’s place. He’s the head of the lashkar,
which is a militia that protects the neighborhood,
the village, and the people that live here. We’re right on the edge of
the Khyber tribal agency. And these guys had to pick up
arms when the government and the police failed to beat
the Taliban down. He’s agreed to meet us. He normally doesn’t do
interviews with anyone. So we’re going to go in. [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: Assalamu
alaikum. Assalamu alaikum. FAHEEM KHAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] FAHEEM KHAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] LASHKAR MEMBER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: They basically are
saying, we don’t want to live the life that the Taliban
wants to force on us. And they’re protecting
themselves, and they’re doing a good job. I like them. They’re a good vibe. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] FAHEEM KHAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] Pakistan is in a very,
very critical time period right now. Probably the most dangerous and
unstable time in its short history as a country. As we saw, you have the
lashkars, who’ve picked up arms and are fighting
the Taliban. Then there’s the Taliban and the
30 splinter groups within it, who are attacking police
stations and government offices with suicide bombers
and bomb blasts all over the country. And then there’s the Americans
who are sending in drone planes to target the militants
in the tribal areas. This multi-front battle is
playing out in real time in the media which has exploded
in Pakistan in the last 10 years. Right now there’s almost
70 TV channels. And 26 of them broadcast
news 24 hours a day. It feels like the entire
population of the country are news junkies with a morbid
fascination for all the bad events happening in Pakistan
right now. The first time we came to this
region was in 2006 when we shot a documentary called The
Gun Markets of Pakistan in a town called Dara Adamkhel. At the time, it was the
largest illegal gun market in the world. [GUNSHOTS] SUROOSH ALVI: It was one of
the very first things that Vice ever filmed. We tried to go back when we
filmed the follow-up to it called The Taliban in
Pakistan, but it was impossible at that time. Just four kilometers that way
is the gun market where we filmed four years ago. That area has been taken
over by the Taliban. So before we left the country
on this trip, we wanted to give it another try to see what
the impact of the Taliban has been on this town. Taliban are still coming in. They’re still fighting them. But my driver, Muhammad Khan,
he’s from there originally. So he is going to get us in. We’re going to do a quick
drive-by and see what it looks like in there. [MUSIC PLAYING] SUROOSH ALVI: We’re going into
the Dara Adamkhel bazaar. So let’s see what we find. A bomb blast there? MALE SPEAKER: Yes. SUROOSH ALVI: It’s very, very
different than it used to be. A few shops open and garbage
strewn everywhere. 80% of the shops are closed. MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] SUROOSH ALVI: It’s creepy
and spooky here. So we’re going to get the
hell out of this town. This is the end of six years
of covering this place. And, you know, it’s
a microcosm of Pakistan as a whole. You could take any place in the
city, in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, or you
could take the Dara Adamkhel market, and you see
the decline. And this is a small
example of the disintegration of this country. And I hope that it’s going to
hit bottom soon, because after that the only place
to go is up. It’s pretty bleak. [PUNK MUSIC PLAYING]

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