Sohaib Athar, the Pakistani IT consultant who tweeted about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound while it was happening, has posted an FAQ at his site about that night. Athar has become something of an informal ambassador to Abbottabad, but it seems like he doesn't relish all the attention he's gotten--his FAQ spends a lot of time pushing back against misreporting and mischaracterizations. But if suddenly every media outfit on the planet was e-mailing you with a request for comment--and getting the facts of your story wrong--you might be a little prickly, too.
Here are some excerpts from Athar's post:
Q: How does it feel to be Osama Bin Laden's neighbor?
A: I was not Osama's neighbor -- my neighbor is a guy in the telecom industry (whose is nice enough to share his battery-backup'ed WiFi connection with me, hence enabling me to stay online from home without having to resort to my cellphone GPRS -- I am sure Osama wouldn't have done that for me as a neighbor).
The site of the operation is about 2.5 kilometers from my home, which means there are at least a few dozen houses between my home and that place.
I do not live 250m away from the site, 2.5km is 2500m.
Q: Describe what you saw during the operation?
A: I did not 'see' the operation, as some reports quote. I 'heard' what was later revealed to be the start of the operation -- I did proactively gather all the rumors and facts that I could from the Abbottabad locals who were online, and tweeted them. There is a big difference between 'seeing' and 'hearing' that the media should ideally be aware of. [...]
Q: If you don't want to talk to the media, why don't you just tell them to go away?
A: I could probably have handled a well-spaced queue of interview requests, but I am inundated with the sudden rush of emails that begin with 'I know you are inundated with emails but…'.
I have talked to a few random channels so far, it is hard to prioritize and is getting even harder to take out the time for it. I want to talk to them because there is too much misreporting and many distorted facts are being reported and repeated all over the world -- for example, Abbottabad is not in the outskirts of Islamabad, yet it has ben called that all over the media, hence creating a mental link between the Pakistani capital city and how Osama was living in Islamabad all along.
I could point out all the incorrect facts, omissions, and creative word-twisting, but it would be wise if you don't believe everything that everyone tells you about Pakistan and its people.
Photo courtesy of Sohaib Athar.