Tribute to ‘Hazrat Sheikh Osama’…really?

Published: July 3, 2011

In the latest string of posthumous support for OBL, we find an essay/poetry/design competition to pay tribute to him.

On May 2, 2011, when President Barack Obama went on international television and announced to the entire world that Osama Bin Laden was dead, and that US forces had found the world’s most wanted man hiding safely ensconced in a luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many things changed. Especially, for Pakistan.

As a nation, we had to collectively swallow the bile of many-a-public boast regarding our unquestionable allegiance to the United States government in its War on Terror and our repeated claims that we were the greatest of US allies, in said struggle. Above all, was the mixed response to Bin Laden’s demise.

While, over 11,000 people in Times Square celebrated the demise of the al Qaeda leader infamous for spearheading the global attack on the free world, more than three times that number could be found mourning Bin Laden in absentia funerals all over Pakistan. Districts in southern Punjab, including Faisalabad and Rahim Yar Khan, played host to massive crowds a day after the man’s demise. In Multan, a funeral actually took place within the compounds of the district coordination officer (DCO). As one part of the world was jubilant at the man’s death, another was unequivocally in mourning.

For Pakistan, however, the aftermath has proven both shattering and simultaneously anti-climactic. The entire nation appears to have been waiting with baited breath for a reaction to both the take down of Bin Laden, as well as the locale from where he was discovered. There have been attacks following the assassination, but there were attacks before it as well and most Pakistani’s still fear that the worst is yet to come.

People in the country are ambivalent of US reactions with regards to aid for Pakistan and reprimands in whatever form they may continue to occur. On the other hand – as is always the case – the public sphere is awash with conspiracy theories. There is a vast majority that thinks he is still alive; another that believes the US staged the entire operation to embarrass Pakistan and yet another that thinks the Pakistani military conducted the operation but let the US take credit for it. Few are willing to even acknowledge the embarrassment to the Pakistan Armed Forces or ISI.

Political analyst at Government College, Lahore, Ishfaq Raza, says:

“It’s funny that no one has bothered to acknowledge that this is a travesty no matter how one looks at it. If the Army knew he was hiding right next to Kakul then we were supporting him and if it wasn’t then the Army is incompetent. Neither of those conclusions really suits us.”

In the wake of all this, it is interesting to note that our practically dormant artistic and literary lobby appears to finally be taking some ill-conceived initiative. Normally, essay competitions in Punjab require the chief minister to tirelessly push advertisers and school staff to find students willing to explore their creative streak. It appears that the pro-Terrorist lobby, however, has discovered its muse.

In the latest string of posthumous support for OBL, we now find an essay/poetry/design competition inviting entries paying tribute to the world’s most famous terrorist. The topics for the essay category (of 500 words minimum) include ‘Discuss Hazrat Sheikh Osama’s real miracle’ and ‘Sheikh Osama bin Laden – friend of the Muslim Ummah and Osama: The hidden thorn in the hearts of the Kuffar.’

Subject categories for the poetry competition include a poem attesting to the ‘glorious’ character of ‘Hazrat Sheikh Osama’ in at least five stanzas.

Last but not least, is the design category inviting artistic renderings of Bin Laden’s many ‘accomplishments’. This category asks that ‘Hazrat Sheikh Osama’s’ acts be rendered through art but that the candidates refrain from submitting his profile and portrait as this would prove contrary to Islamic principles.

The advert lists specifically, that while cash prizes will be sent to the winning participant’s home address, the real prize was the blessing of the ‘Sheikh’ from his high throne in heaven. It invited entries at [email protected], which while not exactly subtle, is certainly apt. Sadly, for anyone still wishing to pay tribute to the dead terrorist the deadline for submissions passed on June 20,2011.

In the face of all this, a journalist friend of mine recently said:

“I’m beginning to lose my ability to find humour in the absurd. It was the only thing keeping me functional in the Pakistani media. What if we all finally begin to realise, how messed up this country really actually has become?”

What, indeed.


Maria Amir

The writer has a Masters degree in Women's Studies from Oxford University and writes on identity, culture and current affairs

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.