Just before the first anniversary of arguably the most embarrassing chapter of its history, Pakistan ensured that the last physical reminders of the presence of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in this country were removed from the scene.
So four days before the first anniversary of the culmination of the biggest manhunt in history, Pakistan deported his three widows, children and grandchildren from the country in the dead of the night last Friday. And prior to that, the thick concrete structure that had been his haven for several years in the garrison town of Abbottabad was razed in a bid to prevent it from becoming both a tourist spot and a pilgrimage centre; depending upon the visitor's bent of mind.
But memories and the historical fact are made of sterner stuff. And even if the people of the town — with the dubious distinction of being the most wanted terrorist's lair — want to forget, the media was not going to let them do that; at least not within a year. So, despite there being nothing but broken pieces of concrete and a makeshift cricket pitch where bin Laden's house once stood behind thick walls, the media were there in full strength over the weekend to be ready with their anniversary stories.
While the continuing strain in U.S.-Pakistan relations remains a stark reminder of the additional knot that the OBL raid added to the tied-up-in-knots bilateral relationship, strange myths are also being built around the compound. The Express Tribune reported that the compound — known locally as the ‘Waziristan Haveli' because of the shroud of secrecy that hung heavily around the premises during his time there — was attracting devotees as water is gushing from the place where his house stood.
Though in all likelihood the water is spouting from one of the underground pipes of the house that may have broken during the demolition, some locals are claiming it to be a miracle and attaching spirituality to the place. ‘Fateha' (prayers for the dead) are also being offered with people arguing that it is their duty to do so for every Muslim.
Hotels in the area reported full occupancy — courtesy the visiting mediapersons — but otherwise the OBL linkage with their town is something that most locals would rather not talk about. Given the fondness for conspiracy theories in the country and the general feeling that the U.S. is out to malign Pakistan, disbelief also persists as the Abbottabad Commission is yet to finalise its report and provide some answers to questions that shook the nation to its core on May 2, 2011.