Information technology consultant Sohaib Athar has one thing in common with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Both sought refuge in the pleasant climes of Abbottabad; the only difference being that bin Laden was on the run as the world’s most wanted man and Akhtar just wanted some quiet from the madding crowd of Lahore.
And, curiously enough, it was this neo-convert to Abbottabad who unknowingly tweeted the 1 a.m. (Pakistan time) raid on the compound where bin Laden was reportedly hiding. "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)", Athar tweeted a good eight hours before U. S. President Barack Obama announced to the world that bin Laden had been killed.
"Go away helicopter - before I take out my giant swatter," came the second tweet with a frowning smiley. "A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty," was his third tweet about what subsequently became the first reportage about an event that would get the cantonment township of Abbottabad global attention.
This triggered a series of back-and-forth middle-of-the-night tweets as three loud blasts rudely shook awake the town. Twitter-zone was abuzz with speculation of whether the blasts were caused by the helicopter being shot down. "Seems something nasty happening in Abbottabad, God save us," said one tweet.
As for Athar, the blasts had him wondering about his "moving to Abbottabad was part of being safe strategy". From his tweets, it was evident that the residents of Abbottabad conjured up all sorts of scenarios; ranging from a terror strike, a drone being gunned down to an Unidentified Flying Object visiting their town.
In the morning as the formal announcement came from White House, Athar tweeted that a taxi driver had told him of the Army cordoning off the area and conducting door-to-door searches. Minutes later came another tweet; this time based on what a sweeper had told him. "A family also died in the crash, and one of the helicopter riders got away and is now being searched for."
With TV channels giving up advertisement time to offer detailed coverage of what was being billed as the biggest story of the decade since 9/11 and life came to a standstill in Abbottabad, Athar – who runs a coffee shop – was wondering how to run his business for the day as staff was having trouble getting to his part of the city.
For this man who had sought out the quiet of Abbottabad, the lament was "guess Abbotabad is going to get as crowded as the Lahore that I left behind for some peace and quiet. *sigh*". Stating that Abbottabad "just became a sexy new spring break destination" as media crews rushed to the valley, Athar soon tweeted "Leave Abbottabad alone, Osama and Obama..." and "I need to sleep, but Osama had to pick this day to die."