OBL’s kin: crime and Punishment

Osama Bin Laden

In custody for about a year and ‘arrested’ early last month Osama bin Laden’s three wives and two grown-up daughters were jailed by a special court on Monday, perceptively wrapping up the saga of the al Qaeda presence in Pakistan.

They were the last confirmed remnants of the terrorist outfit and would be deported later this month.Their trial convened at the sub-jail, their residence in a leafy neighbourhood of Islamabad, began on March 3 and concluded on April 2 after a three-hour hearing.The accused didn’t contest the charge of illegal entry and stay in Pakistan and received 45 days of jail and nominal fines, after which they would be deported to their home countries.Since they have already served 30 days of jail, they would remain confined only for 15 days.

After serving the punishment, they will be deported.But where is a ticklish issue.While Yemen is ready to receive its national Amal Abdulfatah and her four children, but is the Saudi government also willing to welcome its nationals, Osama bin Laden’s other two wives and their children, is not known yet.He had forfeited his Saudi citizenship in 1994 because of his ‘verbal attacks against the Saudi Royal family’.

Had the FIA not dropped its charge of ‘harbouring an offender’ OBL’s kin would have been jailed for a longer duration.That the whole affair was conducted smoothly is certainly indicative of the direction the winds are now blowing.Ever since the Abbottabad raid in May last year, the Pak-US anti-terrorism alliance has been losing warmth.

But then there is a moral dimension to the hard times suffered by the helpless OBL family; it’s unthinkable that Osama bin Laden’s wives and children would have deserted him because he was at war with the Americans and their allies.Only that these women and children were caught standing on the wrong side of the law and are paying for it.What would these women and children say about their stay in Pakistan, however remains a question? Free from any fear of detention, their ‘disclosures’ are likely to be a hot sell in the international media.

But there is not much for the Pakistani authorities to be apprehensive of such ‘disclosures’.If not by mere chance, it is interesting to note that on the very day they were awarded punishment by a special court in Islamabad, US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta issued a clean chit to the Pakistan government, clearing it of any doubts of involvement in the al Qaeda chief’s rather longish, and undetected presence in Pakistan.”But the bottom line is that we do not have evidence that provides that direct link” (that Pakistani authorities were aware of Osama’s presence in Pakistan) he said in an interview.

That may be a kind of appeasement; some would say arguing that the Americans are bending backwards to bring Pakistan back into the fold of total, unquestioned co-operation.But the manner in which the entire case of OBL’s kin, from custody to sentence, has been dealt with certainly pleases the man in the street.Firstly, the family and children of Osama bin Laden have been treated with due respect – for the general belief they were not part of OBL’s grand design, as is generally the situation in our part of the world.

Secondly, they were sentenced after due process of law, and not just handed over like other associates in return for bounties.Remember, how President General Pervez Musharraf claimed to have made millions for Pakistan; “We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States.We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars.

Those who habitually accuse us of ‘not doing enough’ in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan,” he wrote in his memoirs ‘In the Line of Fire’ only to delete his shameful statement from his book’s Urdu version.That mantra is still being recited but no one is now keen to earn the millions as bounties. – Brecorder