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In Pakistan, Doubts Persist Bin Laden Is Dead

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In Pakistan, Doubts Persist Bin Laden Is Dead


In Pakistan, Doubts Persist Bin Laden Is Dead

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Let's go to Pakistan now, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held meetings today in the capital, Islamabad - meetings that may help define the U.S./Pakistan relationship after the killing of Osama bin Laden. It's worth noting that many Pakistanis don't believe bin Laden was killed, something Steve Inskeep discovered in the city of Lahore.

(Soundbite of street)

STEVE INSKEEP: We're on a crowded shopping street here in Lahore, Pakistan. It's alongside the shrine to Data Ganj Baksh. It's one of the holiest places here in Pakistan, the shrine of a Muslim saint. It's a giant rectangle surrounded on all sides by great white stone arches. And this location was bombed last year, so we thought that this night - a very busy night here at the shrine - would be a good night to ask people about what's happening in Pakistan now.

In recent days there has been bombing after bombing across the country, even an attack on a naval base, all apparently in retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Mr. ZAFAR IQBAL: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: Zafar Iqbal says he's heard of the latest attacks. He says they're wrecking the economy and our defense system. Only God can save us, he says. Our government can't.

Iqbal is a teacher at a religious school.

Do you talk in class about current events, about the news of this year?

Mr. IQBAL: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: Sometimes, but not often, he says, because the bad news is too stressful for the students. I try to focus on good news.

So what positive things are you able to talk about?

Mr. IQBAL: (Through translator) That's why I don't discuss because we don't have much positive things.

INSKEEP: And there is one piece of news that he really doesn't believe.

Mr. IQBAL: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: It's doubtful, he says, that Osama bin Laden was really killed by U.S. Navy Seals this month. Nor is Iqbal the only person here who doubts it.

What did you think of the killing of Osama bin Laden?

Mr. MALIK SHABIR: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: Malik Shabir says I don't believe he could be killed by those dogs, meaning the Americans.

A Gallup poll of Pakistanis recently found that 49 percent do not believe bin Laden was killed in the way the U.S. says. This country embraces conspiracy theories, although in all fairness, that could make sense in a country where so many killings go unresolved and many conspiracy theories turn out to be true.

Lahore is the city where an American named Raymond Davis was arrested this year for killing two Pakistanis. The U.S. eventually admitted he was a CIA contractor. And when I visited the shrine in Lahore last night, I had trouble getting in with a tape recorder. I'm obviously American, and the guards kept mentioning Raymond Davis, as if they suspected me of being a spy.

All this year's events feed into a political culture that runs on conspiracy theories and skepticism.

Ms. FAISA AGHA: I mean, nothing is of face value. Nothing is of face value, so I would not believe what is being told to me.

INSKEEP: That's what we heard from Faisa Agha in another neighborhood in Lahore. She's in a coffee shop called Calories with her friend Alina Pasha. Alina works in a bank while Faisa is studying for a Master's degree in business. And as we talk, Faisa Agha begins a sentence: If there was an Osama bin Laden...

You said if there was an Osama bin Laden.

Ms. AGHA: If there was an Osama bin Laden at that location, - no, at that location, at that time, if he was present over there, there is a proper way to go about it.

INSKEEP: Meaning that you're not sure that he was there.

Ms. AGHA: Of course not. If he was there, you guys would've been there a lot sooner.

INSKEEP: To be clear, Faisa Agha is no Islamist, nor is she anti-American. In fact, she hopes to study in the U.S. someday.

Ms. AGHA: I am not somebody who is against America or against any nation. I'm not into this. I'm not at all into this. What I want is that I can actually, you know, enjoy life, live happily, not be afraid about getting killed the moment I get out of the house.

INSKEEP: So you are deeply suspicious of what the United States may be doing in Pakistan.

Mr. AGHA: I am deeply suspicious of what my own government is doing there, honestly.

INSKEEP: Faisa Agha spoke just before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan today.

After their meetings, U.S. and Pakistani officials may well spend the coming days making public statements to smooth over their troubled relationship. Whatever they say, we can feel certain many Pakistanis won't believe a word.

MONTAGNE: Steve Inskeep will be reporting in the coming days on Pakistan after Osama bin Laden.

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