May 13, 2011 was the day when newly trained FC cadets were mounting buses and coaches at Shabqadar Tehsil of Charsadda, Peshawar for a 10 day leave. They had been training and were leaving for a family visit in their civilian clothing.
Shabqadar is just about 30 KM north of Peshawar, the main city in the North-West region where militants linked to Al Qaeda and Taliban have repeatedly attacked the government forces. On the Festive Friday morning the Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed their first major strike in vengeance of Osama Bin Laden’s death, by detonating dual bombs among the happy FC cadets. They converted the scene into a bloodbath marking the attack as the deadliest in nuclear-armed Pakistan this year, with a current death toll of 98 and 97 wounded. Destroying 20 nearby shops and 12 cars.
“This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” – Tehrik-e-Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan
“I was sitting in a van waiting for my colleagues. We were in plain clothes and we were happy we were going to see our families…I heard someone shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ and then I heard a huge blast. I was hit by something in my back shoulder. In the meantime I heard another blast and I jumped out of the van. I felt that I was injured and bleeding.” - Ahmad Ali, a wounded paramilitary policeman, recalled the horror when the explosions took place.
“The suicide bomber came on a motorcycle and blew himself up among the FC personnel. The bomb disposal squad told me the second bomb was planted…Most of those killed are FC cadets. Five dead bodies of civilians were taken to the Shabqadar hospital,” - Police chief of the Charsadda district, Nisar Khan Marwat.
The recent US helicopter raid in Abbottabad that resulted in the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 has put the people of Pakistan sandwiched in a bleak situation. Washington did not inform Islamabad about their elite team of navy SEALs flying their helicopters into Abbottabad until the commandos had cleared the airspace carrying Bin Laden’s corpse with them. Plunging Pakistani politics into turmoil with many including President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the ISI head facing calls to resign.
Pakistan is going through immense domestic pressure. Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too inept to know Bin Laden’s hide out especially when it was at such close proximity of their armed forced academy, or worse, if they conspired to protect Osama.
Washington is now asking for an investigation of how Osama could have had lived in Abbottabad for five years under the noses of the military with his children and wives. They are questioning the safety of Pakistan’s Nukes and in-turn the National security of the United States and they are contemplating to drop their troops on Pakistani soils.
There has been little public protest in support of Bin Laden in a country where more people have been killed in bomb attacks and drone attacks in the past four years than nearly 3,000 who had died in Al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attack.
Osama was not even a Pakistani citizen; instead he was from Saudi Arabia. In light of what happened on Friday, May 13 would it be fair to ask if anyone has considered the price that Pakistanis are paying for all this mess? How is the death of thousands of innocent lives justified? How is the death of these young FC cadets justified? Till when will innocent people of Pakistan pay the price to the US and to the Taliban?