The Station House Officer (SHO) used to meet with the residents of Bilal Town, where Osama bin Laden reportedly lived, once a week in a nearby mosque to get information about every family and person, especially those who were new to the locality.
During the police-public meeting, the SHO was keenly interested in knowing about the ‘new settlers’ in the town. Reason was obvious. In the small and peaceful city of Abbottabad, Abu Faraj al Libi, Al Qaeda No 3, and Umer Patek, a top Indonesian terror suspect, were found and arrested.
According to the mosque’s imam, the SHO visits every Friday night and meets with the dwellers of the town established some 15 years ago. “The SHO has a list of every inhabitant of the colony. He updates it on the basis of their own information and information provided by the locals,” said Qari Waheed, imam of the mosque.
And that is why the Bilal Town people doubt the claims that the police and intelligence agencies were caught unawares in one of the most sensitive cities of the country housing Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul.
Though the world media and conspiracy theorists are constantly coming up with their views on the May 2 episode in Abbottabad, many in Bilal Town insist the police and intelligence agencies know the “inside story”.
They say the three-storey house on six kanals with unusual high boundary walls and a barbed wire fence was enough to catch
the attention. Moreover, the “suspicious lifestyle” of two brothers, said to be owners of the house, was sufficient for the police and intelligence agencies to probe into their connections, roots and source of income. For the residents, the most unusual aspect was that they did not meet with the people of the locality during the five-year stay.
Although nobody in the town could dare ask them who they were, people had concerns over their odd behaviour.
“The house was said to be owned by two brothers from Charsadda but people didn’t know their names and their source of earning,” said Adil Ali, a shopkeeper. “We didn’t know their names and usually called the two brothers Chota (younger) Khan and Bara (elder) Khan. We had seen some children and two to three women in the house.”
Some residents said police and military personnel screen the area whenever the chief of army staff and top government officials visit the military academy. Only a few days before May 2, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the academy as a chief guest at the passing out parade of the cadets.
“Even after taking steps for high security and intelligence cover, authorities could not know bin Laden was living in the town,” asked an old man, who requested not to be named.
But there are many people in Bilal Town who refused to believe the claim that bin Laden lived among them for five years, maintaining they never saw any “suspicious activity” outside the house.
The mystery of two apparent owners of the house, one identified as Arshad Khan, is yet to be solved. What happened to them during the US raid? Were they among those four security guards of bin Laden who were said to be killed during the midnight operation?