Editor’s Note: Maryam Khan Ansari is a Montreal-born attorney living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her immediate family lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found hiding.
By Maryam Khan Ansari, Special to CNN
Over the past week, I’ve heard many commentators assume that bin Laden’s mansion in Abbottabad must have stuck out like a sore thumb. But I can tell you from frequent visits to the city and from extended conversations with family and friends in Abbottabad that this is not the case. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Large, walled compounds are fairly common: While it is said that bin Laden's compound was the largest in its vicinity, Abbottabad is still a city known for having many large compounds. Barbed wire on the outside walls is not uncommon, either. Barbed wire and embedded glass shards are found on the tops of outside walls to deter potential burglars. And in Abbottabad, burglary is a more common concern than fugitive terrorists.
In addition, many people have arrived from Swat Valley since the 2005 earthquake and the recent Taliban invasion. People from Swat tend to live in large, walled compounds with many families under one roof. Swat refugees tend to be religiously conservative and these walls allow women in the family to walk outside unveiled without being seen by strangers.
Another reason for the relative abundance of large compounds is that Abbottabad is as a retirement town where wealthy outsiders build their vacation homes to escape the blistering summer heat of other parts of Pakistan.
2. Abbottabadis are used to many outsiders: Abbottabad has a history as a medical safe haven. Tuberculosis patients once came to Abbottabad for medical care. It has become a place of rest and relaxation for the old and ailing as well.
So there is a great mix of people in Abbottabad – Swat migrants, rich retirees, and people seeking medical care.
Neighbors don’t always know each other and people don't ask too many questions of newcomers – partly out of fear that they may just ask a question that is too intrusive and partly to leave the retired and ailing to their peace.
3. The drug trade leads people to ask fewer questions of otherwise "eccentric" people. With rampant marijuana growing in the region, the drug trade hangs over Abbottabad. If people see a particularly large compound, they might assume it was built by black money. This is another reason people don’t dwell on abnormally large buildings, and certainly don’t try to explore them.
4. The unpretentious attitudes of the people: Abbottabad is a place where you don't show off and you don't act impressed by another's wealth. It's just not considered culturally appropriate. There are many wealthy people in Abbottabad. In the case of a three-story mansion, it's likely that people wouldn't give it much attention, even if they noticed it and even if it was (as reports say) eight times the size of neighboring homes. It would be considered crass to talk about it.
5. The military's presence. Much has been made of the fact that Abbottabad houses the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul, which is Pakistan's version of West Point. But PMA is essentially a gated village where the military officers live and train. Retired Brigadier Mohammad Sadiq, a high-ranking army surgeon once based in the academy says, "PMA Kakul is a village of its own, with its own shops and its own social circles. People don't venture out and nobody ventures in. They don't care about what goes on outside their gates."
While many questions remain as to the military's involvement in hiding Osama bin Laden, it’s very likely that the average military Joe didn't even notice that the building existed. True, they live nearby. But the military members rarely leave their base and the bin Laden compound was not in direct sight of the main road leading in and out of the PMA Kakul military areas.
In addition, the military's presence protected the privacy of the compound. Nobody expected the world's most wanted man to be living near a military base. And if the prospect of the compound being a drug lord’s house wasn’t enough, the average citizen may instead have assumed it was an army building.
Those are all the reasons picking Abbottabad was a smart strategic move. But bin Laden might have had personal motives too. Why endure the extreme weather of the rugged Afghani border areas when you could live in the "San Francisco" of Pakistan? Abbottabad has the rolling green hills, romantic fog and fresh air. And now, thankfully, it no longer has Osama bin Laden.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Maryam Khan Ansari.
If you want to talk about using terrorism as a state weapon then let us shed some light on India which claims to be the biggest democracy in the word and yet they opress Muslims, Seikhs and Christians living there. 10000 Muslims were burnt alive in 2001 Gujrat riots, 5000 Christians have been butchered in the last 2 years in India with churches burnt to the ground. In 1980s more than 20000 Seikhs were killed by the thug indian establishment. Right now Pakistan faces threat from its enemy Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan, which gets heavy supplies of weapons and money from believe it or not 13 INDIAN CONSULATES, 13!from across the border in Afhganistan (I wonder why they need so many of them). It is also very disturbing that all this is happening right under the american's nose in Afghanistan. Please keep you money to yourself and leave Pakistan alone. We have spent more than 70 billion $ on a war that was not even ours to start with and you brag about giving Pakistan 1.5 billion a year. Please keep it to yourselves. It goes in the pockets of our corrupt politicians anyways.
Haider you need to check facts. You're post is wrong about everything. 10000 muslims burnt alive? Here are the facts on Gujarat. The 2002 Gujarat violence describes the Godhra train burning and resulting communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. On 27 February 2002 at Godhra City in the state of Gujarat, the Sabarmati Express train was attacked by a large Muslim mob in a conspiracy. As a result, 58 Hindu pilgrims, mostly women and children of ladies compartment returning from Ayodhya, were killed. The attack prompted retaliatory massacres against Muslims and communal riots on a large scale, in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed and 223 more people were reported missing. 523 places of worship were damaged: 298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples, and 3 churches. Muslim-owned businesses suffered the bulk of the damage. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled their homes. Preventive arrests of 17,947 Hindus and 3,616 Muslims were made. In total 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested. Nearly 10,000 rounds of bullets were fired in police shootings that killed 93 Muslims and 77 Hindus.
Disregard Haider's post
Problem #1: The Pakistani military doesn't care what goes on outside of their acadamy village gates.
They said it. Not me.
I guarantee you that nothing is going to change. The Pakistani military will keep getting the US taxpayers billions and the "war on terror" will continue. This is because this whole operation was totally made up with the involvement of Pakistani Army and USA. It benefits the Pakistani Army, and it benefits the Washington War Mongerers. Like a match made in heaven.
Give me isolationism. I'm tired of all this crap.
It may very well be that some of those in the Pakistani government are cooperating with us, but it's the few individuals that are creating the doubts about it. These are a people that would sell out their own families if the price is right, or they feel their own liberties are threatened. They have no allegiance to anyone but themselves.
I am amazed by the article. First of all, she is an attorney and secondly she is Pakistani. Offcourse, she will say anything to find an excuse for Pakistan. Pakistan is the most currupt country in the world.
He was taken there close to their Military Accadimy because if push comes shave they pick him up quickly and take him insde of the acadimy to hide.Never trust a paki or Pakistan... This paki woman is trying to hide the Sun with 2 fingers... lolz
Dear Ms.Maryam Khan Ansari:
Firstly you are of Pakistani origin, and nobody buys your agruments..............PERIOD!
It's just futile to even read through your justification. Most of them are just misleading, ex: point 5 (military presence). Please remember that in todays digital age, we don't have to be from Abbotabad to know what's in Abbottabad. We had Pakistani reporters say that they can't go more than 100 steps w/o bumping into a military installation.....essentially the entire towon is a well protected garrison town.
The only reason Pakistani ISI (& Military, the Govt and Pakistani people) KEPT OSAMA THERE IS TO PROTECT HIM DAY & NIGHT and PULL HIM INTO ONE OF THEIR INSTALLATIONS IN THE EVENT OF ADVANCE WARNING OF ANY SUCH STRIKE!!!.
No wonder the US gave no such warning!
So, please stop trying to comvince Americans on your theory. No wonder people in the west DON'T TRUST EVEN LOCALLY BORN PEOPLE OF PAKISTANI ORIGIN....EVEN AFTER SEVERAL GENERATIONS!
I am a born Muslim but am tired of my country Pakistan and the lies for which it and its people stand for.
I am a big fan of M K Gandhi and his principles.
I apologize to you all for this terrorist nation's deceit and misleads. How long will Pakistan act as an prostitute?
When will US lift its rose colored glasses and label Pakistan a failed and terrorist state?
Does Hinduism allow, conversion of religion or do you have to be born a Hindu, This is just for my knowledge?
Thanks and Regards
Just be a good insaan (human).
If you can have some faith that what goes around comes around, one is a hindu at some level. Rest is branding.
Or you can say I an infidel is trying to misguide you.
It's heartening to find a handful of Pakistani Muslims like you, a trait we don't see even amongst MOST Indian Muslims incl. MR. FAREED ZAKARIA.
Quite frankly, while Hindusim does allow other people into its fold, Islam needs people like you to transform that religion. It's a long hard battle if the so-called mioderates are willing to take up the fight. The fact is the so-called moderates also are no different from their jihadist brothers/sisters. That's why I said people like you are few and far between.
This website will censor n1gger sp1c and g00k but wont censor paki.
I tried to read your comments after this one, as I also have flagged people for offensive comments, but I was disappointed. It appears, all you are saying is screaming 'racial slur' and calling others ignorant and idiot.
The only other comment is where you are telling us that the Ottoman empire was greater than the West, in its times. That might have been, but what is the point of liberalism if it passed You by?
So in Pakistan, what is the percentage of women voting today (not 100 years ago)?
Al queada has killed more Muslims in thier attacks than the have Westerners. When will the Muslim world wake up that their biggest enemy is Al queada?
Al Qaeda is dead, 10 years from now, maybe nobody wants to talk about this organization anymore. OBL was a rich man; with his wealth, he could cover for all Al Qaeda terrorist activity, but after the death of OBL, this organization would collapse because of financial problem. If the world concentrate on the financial donation from the Muslim community to make sure the money don't come to the hand of terrorists, they will be doomed. Even when OBL was still alive, his organization was very weak. How many strikes his people had done lately _ not much. Look at Egypt, Yemen, Syria and especially, in Libya, do Al Qaeda people help these people overthrow their government or these people don't need Al Qaeda? The Somalian pirates had more robbing activity in the sea than the members of Al Qaeda did in the last few years. The real thread for the world is the Taliban _ not Al Qaeda. If the Taliban succeed overthrowing the Afghan regime, they would be like another Iran state.
maryam i am also living in abbottabad.please dnt give the reason for abbottabad compound as the hideout..if USA says incident of 9/11 was conducted by OBL,so its a fact.they say iraq had WMD,so its fact, they said afghan were holly warrier fighting against USSR under the umrella of CIA and ISI.so they were holly warrier and now they say they are terrorest so its right because boss is always right..AMERICA IS THE BOSS OF ALL NATIONS.being a soldier i say if i had been usama and i would select a hideout which no body can think of but at the same time i will plan for the escape route if being caught. so tactically if you see this compound.it has no escape route. osama knows he should not select an isolated compound and there cannot be any mutual support for other buildings. my messege to the soldiers is to see the site.Analyze and grade usama. is he that capable to be al quida no 1.
Umar Patek, a key wanted terrorist for the bali bombing, was found in abbottabad in january 2011, that was 4 months ago, he was picked up by the pakistani gov. and has yet to be released for interogation by the U.S or Indonesia. A terrorist of that stature being located in this city would send enough red flags for a complete sweep of abbottabad but to no avail. This of all things should be reason enough to implicate pakistan's isi with alqaeda.
Thanks to Maryam Khan Ansari, and to CNN for finally publishing something about this affair that makes good sense. This good information helps to explain a lot about the realities of daily life and local attitudes in Abbottabad. No wonder Bid Laden was able to pull this off! Seemingly neighbors and the local police there have no clue as to who lives in these compounds or what is going on inside any of them and this is an accepted way of life! In the United States, at least the tax assessor's office would be curious!
Nice article to tell the world why Abbottabad is a great choice. But hinting the unawareness of Army is a wrong assumption. This massive building designed to conceal people without entering in to the room, was built by a company of Dawood Ibrahim, a mafia don of South East Asia. Dawood has been given shelter in Pakistan and his links with Army and ISI were known and there is no surprise Al-quida get help from them. Don't suggest the Muncipality has not approved this plan which has a bunker too. Pakistan has become a paradise for the world most wanted terrorists and I pity on the average moderate Paki who lives there.
RATHER THAN ADMIT COMPLICITY IN HIDING OBL, AND GIVING UP OTHER TERRORIST LDRS. MULLAH OMAR, AND AYMAN ZAWAHARI, PAKISTAN IS BUSY WARNING THE US OF EVEN NUCLEAR WAR IF WE TRIED ANY SUCH MIS-ADVENTURE AGAIN,
PAKISTAN IS BUSY ASSEMBLING A ANTI-US COALITION WITH CHINA (PM Gilani is now on a 4 day visit to China) and RUSSIA (Pres. Zardari is leaving to Russia today), and OFCOURSE ALL THE MUSLIM COUNTRIES (OIC).
As I have said repeatedly in these columns THIS UGLY ISLAMIC TERROR WAR WILL NEVER END, UNTIL & UNLESS WE IMMEDIATELY CUT OFF ALL AID, DECLARE PAKISTAN A TERRORIST STATE, DISMEMBER THEM, SIEZE THEIR NUCLEAR WEAPONS, AND STOP THE THREAT OF THEIR DIASPORA IN THE WEST BY STOPPING THE INFLOW OF UNADAPTABLE MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS INTO THE WEST................NOTHING ELSE WILL WORK.........PERIOD!
The greatest danger from the Pakistani Islamic bomb is to America, Europe, Israel and much less to India. We all should join together to end this menace once & for all.
The Time to act is now, before a Pakistani provided Nuclear bomb explodes over one of our cities. That day is surely not too far off, or far fetched as the CIA & FBI only know too well. The only question is when?
Pakistani PM GILANI – “BLAME MUST BE SHARED BY “ALL THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES OF THE WORLD”!!!!!!!!!!!!. That will strike many as a bit rich, given that the Al Qaeda chief was found not in Abbottstown, PA, or in Abbotsbury in Dorset, but in Abbottabad, little more than the proverbial stone’s throw from Pakistan’s pre-eminent military academy.”
Dawn story – “EXCUSE US, WE KNEW NOTHING” by Mahir Ali
I'm sorry but it just seems absurd to me if the compound appeared to be "military" in nature in a garrison town that the military wouldn't take notice and come calling.
a good article and a real insight into the circumstances , under which the terrorist head lived,,,,agreed with whatever the author has written, beyond any doubt,,,
Kamran Shafi – Ex-Pakistani Major and one of their leading columnists writing in Dawn- Story Title “Clean Bowled”
Check out the Pakistani complicity and also how our aid is being mis-used on things like top of the line BMWs and Mercs that our own military top brass can’t even dream of!
“SO WRAPPED UP IN THEIR (PAKISTANI MILITARY) OWN ARROGANCE; SO COMFORTABLE IN THEIR MANSIONS AND MADE-TO-ORDER TOP-OF-THE-LINE MERCEDES AND 7-SERIES BMWS, and secure in the knowledge that they had at least four plots of land in choice housing colonies carved out of military lands were they that the warning sounded by fellow Pakistanis who have also seen some of the world mattered not a whit to them. NO, THEY KNEW IT ALL.”!!!
WANT TO READ THE GREATEST OF PAKISTANI CONSPIRACY THEORIES – MANY FROM HIGHLY EDUCATED PAKISTANI AMERICANS, AND EX-PAKISTANI GENERALS (Yes, GENERALS!!!!)......TRULY ENTERTAINING!!!!!
In addition to the complex religious, historical, and political issues in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there is the matter of their multi-billion dollar opium trade. (They also smuggle hashish and other illicit items, of course.)
This multi-billion dollar opium (soon to be converted to heroin) trafficking is being done with the full knowledge, support and aid of the military and government.
This opium will soon be converted to heroin, of course, and will cause even more violence and destruction, once it moves to the cities of the US and other parts of the world.
We know something about the corruptive influence of vast sums of drug-money, as we’ve seen from Mexico, because of their trafficking of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine; and, we know how this has corrupted the country and caused so much death and suffering there and throughout the world.
I'm surprised that more isn't being said about the opium (soon to be heroin) trafficking from these countries, the billions of dollars generated by this, and the corruption and violence generated by this.
For all those who said kashmir to be a part of Inida or Pakistan. They are just wrong. See the history. See the promise made by Ghandi in UN. See his speech about kashmir issue if you donot trust. I am Kashmiri and i never like to live either with India or With Pakistan.
ohh boy ... everyone in the world knows that americans are not very smart .. i had some doubts about it before reading all this discussions .. now it's clear: no other country in the worls is more ignorant than the US .. for god's sake .. God MUST blemss America cuz it He does not do that ... what wil these people do in life ?
Extremism exists everywhere. Pakistan is only lime light.
You just have to know it, do the research, and then you will see that there has been more killing of civilians (by Military & extremist) in some other countries, much more than number of people killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and US on 911 and as a result of that.
Why media never brings it up? Think about it.
I would ask everyone concerned, to gather number of civilians killed in various regions of the world.
nclude every country, including Germany (Holocaust), Bosnia, Kashmir, Manipur (Eastern region of India), Gujrat, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine.
And then determine who has killed more civilians, Muslims or Non Muslim.
Who ever kills civilians is extremist and bad.
Pakistan is no exception.
Some countries are better at hiding their sins, and good at propaganda. IT does not absolve them.
Propaganda is always based upon half truth.
Who ever kills civilians is bad.
Pakistan is only in lime light.
Please do not pay attention to anyone talking out hate.
Please do not pay attention to anyone using incomplete information.
Please do not pay attention who does not know that drone attacks have killed mostly civilians, and resorted victims of drone attacks to retaliate
Pakistan's economy has taken more than 10 billion dollar of toll on economy since 911
America should stop giving aid, because most of the money goes into administration, consultants, into many deep pockets.
Out of 1.5 billion last year, only 179 million has been accounted for, and all of that has also not gone towards welfare of people.
One should speak out based on total facts, not hate.
Pakistan Military has been fighting terrorists who came to the country from outside, and killed thousands of them.
5000 Pakistani soldier have so far lost their lives fighting terrorists.
Terrorists have been killing civilians inside Pakistan, so far killed 35,000 Pakistanis.
There was no terrorism in Pakistan until 2001
Pakistan allowed the US to destroy Afghanistan government by joining the war on terror with America.
Pakistan did not create Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda came into Pakistan from outside, mostly through Afghanistan
Where Al Qaeda gets its millions from.
It is not a peanut operation.
Remember Al Qaeda is fighting Pakistani Military & killing Pakistani civilians.
All extremism has to go without discrimination, to attain peace in the world.
Money, hidden agenda, might, propagandistic does not have to be criteria to assess who is extremist and who is not.
Also, we should understand the meaning of collateral damage from the example of fire truck with lights one and siren and some body gets in the way and get killed
It is not collateral damage when almost everyone being killed is civilians, and few extremists get killed. Most of the time they manage to run.
Also, it is true, so called mansions in the frontier province have large gates, high walls, and it is common, it is culture, and nobody pays attention. In fact people out respect and privacy mind their own business.
MUST WATCH VIDEO
CNN's Wolf Blitzer REPEATEDLY GRILLS Pak PM Gilani on Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts. Gilani CATEGORICALLY states that OBL is NOT in Pak as the Pakistan military is on top of things and would have easily found out!
Check out their exchange here:
Yes it is true, Pakistanis are with their brothers in Kashmir, and some of them have been covertly & privately 7 occasionally engage in retaliation from time to time.
Indian Military has killed, raped many thousand Muslims in Kashmir since 1947, specially in the last 20 years.
This oppression and their occupation is the underlying cause, that we cannot ignore.
And, Muslims feel it is their obligation to support them, at least at heart, or using pen, by mouth, and some of them use their physical strength.
But the number of ones who covertly try to retaliate in support of their Kashmir brothers are like grain of salt in a bag of rice, very very few.
It is also true, some in military, privately and covertly and rarely, use their capability to retaliate against India in support of their brothers in Kashmir.
Again, these initiatives are exceptions, and initiated by individuals on their own, and strongly disapproved by their departments or the government of Pakistan.
I think such surprises will happen, as long as there will be oppression.
Surprises happen everyday and everywhere, because the underlying causes are generally neglected, and not in control of the concerned department and the government.
Intelligence failures happen everywhere.
As an example, Kargil operation was a surprise for India, an intelligence failure.
Americans missed OBL in Tora Bora, it was their intelligence failure.
911 was apparently a huge intelligence failure.
So was, OBL hiding right under the nose was a huge intelligence failure.
Any way, Pakistan did provide, few years ago, Americans information about the suspicious house in Abbot_Aabaad (Name after Major Jones Abbot), where later Americans killed OBL later
Also, Americans did not jam the radars, the helicopters flew low through the deep mountains where the radars do not pick up the signal. Pakistani F16's did scramble, within the hour, and could not detect the specially equipped helicopters because the radars could not pick them.
Also, it is evident from the event that Americans do not trust Pakistan. I think it leaves no justification to expect Pakistanis to trust Americans, because trust is reciprocal by its nature.
I think it does not make sense to continue cooperations with Pakistan in the absence e of mutual trust
i think we should all speak the truth, does not matter if it mean even if it is against the country of ones origin.
Speaking the truth, gives peace of mind, even if it is against one own self.
Life is short and temporary, and the benefit of lying, speaking half truth, and dismissing others & elevating one own self on their shoulders has huge long term consequences, in the form of surprises by extremists. Killing or oppressing civilians is extremism, regardless who does it.
Similarly, Pakistanis are with their brothers in Taliban and Al Qaida, and some of them have been covertly & privately 7 occasionally engage in retaliation from time to time.
Abbot_Aabaad (Name after Major Jones Abbot) and Gadaafi Stadium in Lahore, named after?
Most of the 500 to 600 million Muslims who live in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are off springs of former Hindus, who accepted Islam.
Muslim is majority in Kashmir, and they are also offspring of Hindus.
If the minority Hindus have their gods or their shrines in Kashmir, or that Hinduism has been there for thousands of years, does not mean the majority of Hindus whose forefathers had reverted to Islam do not get their self determination democratic right to choose.
The people of Jammu & Kashmir have more rights than a Pakistani in Pakistan. If you count the total number of days Pakistan has been under open military dictatorship.
Forget about Kashmir or Afghanistan. They can manage very well without Pakistan. The reason because there is a problem in both is because of Pakistan (backed terrorism)
Don't believe in any propaganda without your own research, and objective thinking. Propaganda is half truth.
Also, ancient heritage obtained from places like Moenjodaro (Indus Valley is inside Pakistan), Harrapa, Ghandara and other regional ancient civilizations have same historical connection to Muslims and Hindus of that region, unless somebody thinks forefathers of 500 to 600 million Muslims living in the region came from middle east, central Asia, Iran.
Today we have 500 to 600 million Muslims, and we know all Muslims of the region are not from middle east, central Asia.
Also, ask any Kashmiri, and he or she will tell you that Indian military have killed hundreds and thousands of them since 1947, specially in the last 20 to 30 years.
If somebody says, Pakistanis sent terrorist to kill more than 100,000 of their own brothers in Kashmir, that person is not talking sense, obviously.
Indian military atrocities in places Kashmir, Manipur, is not even disputed by many Indians.
Read up on Internet and those authored by Arundhatta Roy, and many other who do not deny it.
We should not be biased.
We should have the courage to look at things with a neutral eye, by blocking our whims or desire how we want it to be.
As an example, Pakistani administration is corrupt and incompetent, it is true. Indian administration is much smarter, that is true also.
World will be a peaceful place, if everybody starts accepting their flaws, and not point finger on one party.
The underlying causes have to identified, and solution determined and implemented, to avoid symptomatic reactions by those get into reactive modes and extremism
"...ancient civilizations have same historical connection to Muslims and Hindus of that region, unless somebody thinks forefathers of 500 to 600 million Muslims living in the region came from middle east, central Asia, Iran."
This is where I do agree with you, but Indus Valley civilizarion of Mohenjodaro, Harrappa or Ghandhara (modern name Kandahar or Afghanistan), have been practically erased from the conciousness of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
They looked upon as inferior infidel culture and of people who are not of the Book.
Objectively, any idea, how many East Pakistani (now Bangladesh) brothers did West Pakistanis kill in its crackdown?
Hello, all the time i used to check website posts here early in the daylight,
as i love to gain knowledge of more and more.
Ohhh.... What a hatred i see here btw people of India and Pakistan.....when will they evolve to be loving and peaceful....?
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