Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Abbottabad (pronounced "Ahb-ta-baad") seems an unlikely place to house one of the most notorious men of all time. A city in the Khyber Pukhtunkwa province of Pakistan, Abbottabad was once seen as a mountain resort town and most recently has been used to house a prominent military training facility for the Pakistani army. Despite the fact that its locals are typically media skeptics who shy away from drama and hype, Abbottabad has been no stranger to the news media in the past few years, most notably for serving as a medical epicenter for the 2005 earthquake victims.
But last night, the news surrounding this generally media-shy town was not as altruistic. Alleged terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden, was killed in an apparent U.S. helicopter raid in Abbottabad, in an attack the White House is calling "a strategic blow to Al Qaeda."
In light of his death, several questions are being raised, most interestingly how such a wanted man was able to hide in a large house right outside a heavily fortified military area. Indeed, Osama Bin Laden was found to be living in a large mansion, said to have tall walls with barbed wire, sitting right outside the Kakul (pronounced kaah-kool) area of Abbottabad-- a small and heavily guarded gated community housing the military and their families. What seems even more peculiar is the fact that some reports claim that Bin Laden had been living in this house for quite some time and that it had been custom-built for Bin Laden.
So in light of such peculiar circumstances, how could the most wanted man in the world go unnoticed in a thriving city with a large military population?
It would seem that the answer to this question may lie in the customs and the attitudes of the people residing in the area. Abbotabadi people are generally either of Pushtun descent or are Hazarawaley, an ethnicity akin to their Punjabi neighbors to the south. While most Abbottabadis speak and understand Urdu, the language spoken in most homes is Hindko, which is similar to Punjabi. However, unlike the traits sometimes associated with Punjabi people, Hazarawaley are very subdued and quiet people, often abhorrent of drama and media hype. In fact, when asked about the recent events, many are simply asking to be left alone and several deny that Osama Bin Laden ever existed, claiming that he is a fabrication of America.
"Leave us be" seems to be the resounding attitude in Abbottabad today, as people are rebuffing media attention and asking the media to leave them to their daily lives. In the midst of the events rose an unlikely Twitter celebrity who unknowingly tweeted the events from an Internet cafe as they unfolded. Today, Sohaib Athar's tweets are exhibiting the typical Abbottabadi reaction as he tweets : "I don't own a TV set and stopped watching TV many years ago. Sorry three-lettered-big-tv-news-channels for not replying to your emails."
Osama Bin Laden couldn't have picked a better place to hide than a town where the citizens would likely pay no attention to a large, dominating house with fancy cars driving to and from. He couldn’t have picked a more strategic location than a city where the prevailing mentality is “mind your own business” and where citizens refuse to keep up appearances or take note of what the neighbors are doing.
And in the end, it was not in a cave where they found Osama Bin Laden, but rather, in a mansion of a sleepy Pakistani town-- a mansion that was in the plain sight of the Pakistani military.
And so the American public came to learn last night as President Barack Obama interrupted Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice to relay what may be the biggest victory of his presidency-- that Osama Bin Laden was caught and killed by a covert operation of the Obama Administration.
Author's comment: I lived there and much of my family is still there-- while it should be pronounced "Abbot-abad", the people of Abbottabad usually drop the "O" in "Abbott".
May 2, 2011
I am afraid that the writer, in her attempt to set the record straight, has mispronounced Abbottabad. The city, named after a British army officer (James Abbott) is either pronounced "ab-ta-baad", or "ab-ut-a-baad".
May 2, 2011