Turns out it's not just television talking heads in the U.S. who are criticizing Pakistan for claiming it didn't know the world's most wanted terrorist was living in a mysterious, heavily fortified compound in a sleepy military town near the capital for years. In a reminder that a critical punditocracy is a global phenomenon, Pakistani journalists are piling on the government and the military for their incompetency as well.
Pakistan's foreign secretary gave a press conference this morning defending the Pakistani intelligence agency's "brilliant" record and warning the U.S. against further unilateral incursions inside Pakistan. But on Pakistani TV the pundits have been brutal towards their government. Kamran Khan (shown above), who has a nightly show and is known to generally support the military, blasted them for incompetence: “We had the belief that our defense was impenetrable, but look what has happened. Such a massive intrusion and it went undetected.”
Khan's comments came during the same week that Karachi's The News wrote in an editorial that Pakistan's failure to find bin Laden was "shocking" and an embarrassment, though the paper added that it's still not clear what role Pakistani security and intelligence played in the operation. At Dawn, Kamran Shafi noted that if Pakistani officials didn't know bin Laden's whereabouts, "why didn’t they know? The truth will out one day ... Only this time it will bring great peril to us if we don't shape up."
The military has its defenders in the local media, of course, but the line of argument typically contradicts the official line that Pakistan was not involved in the operation. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that some media outlets are arguing that Pakistan was aware of the operation and shared pivotal intelligence with the U.S. Other outlets, at least initially, dismissed the whole episode as fiction, with one anti-American security analyst claiming on a talk show that bin Laden was killed long ago and that the U.S. announcement was a mere publicity stunt for President Obama's 2012 election campaign. Still others are defending bin Laden, with one TV anchor calling bin Laden a "shaheed" (martyr) and another columnist writing "we only believe Osama was a terrorist because America told us so." And then, RFE/RL adds, there are media personalities who feel the U.S. raid violated Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. One TV channel branded bin Laden's killing, "Abbottabad Operation: The Funeral of Our Sovereignty."