Readers of today’s edition of the The International New York Times in Pakistan might be forgiven for thinking there was a severe mix up at the printing press, finding a glaring blank space on the cover. It was actually a snipping of a story from the New York Times Magazine titled “What Pakistan knew about Bin Laden.”
In the piece, Carlotta Gall, who has reported from Afghanistan since around 2001, proposes that the Pakistani government not only knew about Osama bin Laden‘s whereabouts for years, but had a desk assigned to handle him:
The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan. The dynamic has played out in ways that can be hard to grasp from the outside, but the strategy that has evolved in Pakistan has been to make a show of cooperation with the American fight against terrorism while covertly abetting and even coordinating Taliban, Kashmiri and foreign Qaeda-linked militants. The linchpin in this two-pronged and at times apparently oppositional strategy is the ISI. It’s through that agency that Pakistan’s true relationship to militant extremism can be discerned — a fact that the United States was slow to appreciate, and later refused to face directly, for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation.
CNN’s Peter Bergen disputed the assertions based on his own reporting in the area in a piece yesterday:
The fact is that the senior Pakistani officials Gall alleges were harboring bin Laden were utterly surprised that al Qaeda’s leader was living in Abbottabad. Based on the bewildered reactions of top Pakistani officials to the events on the night that bin Laden was killed, it was obvious to U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter and to U.S. officials monitoring communications in Pakistan that the Pakistanis had not had a clue about bin Laden’s presence there.
A fascinating story, but unfortunately one the Pakistani people won’t be able to consider themselves. One wonders how many would even care?
An extremely well-timed survey from the Pew Research Center this week on opinions on government restrictions of the internet found Pakistan to be among the countries whose citizens are least likely to oppose it. Only 22% of respondents reported that they were against restrictions, while 62% had no opinion, making Pakistan the most indifferent to the free exchange of information among countries surveyed. Pakistan has banned the use of numerous web services in the past couple of years, but since only 10% of the country’s 180 million have access to the internet, sometimes, as in the case of the Times story, the government has to go about things the old fashioned way.
The original Times International front page below:
And then how it looked to many Pakistani recipients:
What the front page of the New York Times looks like in Pakistan today pic.twitter.com/EBwUzb3RRz
— Aleem Maqbool (@AleemMaqbool) March 22, 2014
UPDATE: The article was removed by the Pakistan-based printer, the paper’s Eileen Murphy explained to Bloomberg.
“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said.
>> Luke O’Neil is a journalist and blogger in Boston. Follow him on Twitter (@lukeoneil47).
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