A new day, a new controversy.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has come under fire from opposition MPs, and the public at large, after telling parliament that the US “martyred” Osama Bin Laden. Not only that, #ImranBinLaden has been trending on Twitter ever since Imran Khan uttered these highly incorrect words.
According to the widely believed, official rhetoric, Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was killed in 2011 when US special forces raided his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The fact is that our country was not informed in advance. “I will never forget how we Pakistanis were embarrassed when the Americans came into Abbottabad and killed Osama Bin Laden, martyred him,” Khan said.
We sided with the US in the War on Terror but they came here and killed him, martyred him and … used abusive language against us (and) did not inform us (of the raid), despite the fact that we lost 70,000 people in war on terror,” Khan told Parliament.
Khan used the word “shaheed” – a reverential Arabic term for a martyr of Islam.
Opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif criticised Mr Khan, calling Bin Laden the “ultimate terrorist”. “He destroyed my nation, and [Khan] is calling him a martyr,” Mr Asif said in parliament. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose party (PPP) was in power when Bin Laden was killed, accused the prime minister of appeasing violent extremism.
Meena Gabeena, a high-profile Pakistani activist, wrote on Twitter: “Muslims all over the world are struggling because of the discrimination they face due to recent terrorism and our PM makes it worse by calling [Osama Bin Laden] a martyr of Islam!”
Since taking over, Khan claimed his government had reset the Pakistan-US relationship, elevating it to one of mutual respect, for which he also credited the personal rapport he has built with President Donald Trump.
“No one insults us now,” said Khan.
How far that statement is true is a debate for another time. But when the Premier of your country calls an international terrorist “shaheed”, he brings the entire country and its people into a very different kind of light in the international media.
Mr Khan’s speech came as Pakistan’s foreign office rejected a US state department report accusing Pakistan of continuing to be a safe haven for regionally focused terrorist groups.
“While the report recognizes that al-Qaeda has been seriously degraded in the region, it neglects to mention Pakistan’s crucial role in decimating al-Qaeda, thereby diminishing the threat that the terrorist group once posed to the world,” the foreign office said.
While we can understand how frustrating it can be to see our ally, the United States of America, continue to downplay our contribution and sacrifices made in the War on Terror – it still does not explain why exactly our Prime Minister decided to call Osama Bin Laden a “shadeed”. Does he really believe this or was it a horrible, slip of tongue? Will he issue a clarification, or better yet, an apology?
Only time will tell.