Bin Laden's Legacy Inspires Pakistani Extremists The legacy of the terrorist leader in Pakistan is mixed. Overall, support for his al-Qaida movement is down, according to opinion polls, but he remains a revered figure among militants. And the U.S. raid that killed him is still a source of friction between the U.S. and Pakistan.
NPR logo

Bin Laden's Legacy Inspires Pakistani Extremists

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Bin Laden's Legacy Inspires Pakistani Extremists

Bin Laden's Legacy Inspires Pakistani Extremists

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

INSKEEP: President Obama marked that anniversary last evening, making a surprise visit to an air base outside Kabul. And he used the moment to talk of how U.S. troops may finally leave Afghanistan.


OBAMA: The goal that I set - to defeat al-Qaida and deny it a chance to rebuild - is now within our reach.

INSKEEP: We're hearing about the anniversary and the presidential visit throughout today's program, including from Renee Montagne, who was in Afghanistan.

Across a volatile border from Afghanistan is Pakistan, where bin Laden hid for years. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on bin Laden's lasting influence in the country where he was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The legacy of bin Laden is on full view at rallies like this in Islamabad, awash in virulent anti-Americanism. The errant U.S. raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November has fueled the rage and prompted Pakistan to shut down NATO supply lines.

While radicalism parades on the streets, deep suspicion about American motives are also heard in the country's markets.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)


MCCARTHY: Amid hawkers in this Rawalpindi bizarre, veiled women loaded down with bags wend their way through the pyramid-like piles of vegetables, fruit and fly-encrusted meat.

Shopkeeper Sajjad Ahmed says average citizens are deeply offended by the U.S. drone missile strikes on their soil, and says that sentiment has grown the past year.

SAJJAD AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: He says the United States should not carry out drone attacks, because they are a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan. He says if they must carry them out, they should do it in collaboration and coordination with the Pakistanis themselves.

So you're not opposed to drones. You're opposed to the way they're being used. Is that right?

AHMED: (Through translator) He's saying, obviously, terrorists are a danger to everyone. They are a danger to America. They are a danger to Pakistan. They must be eliminated.

MCCARTHY: Fresh MBA graduate Beenish Ashraf says the younger generation has become psychologically disturbed by the accumulation of drone attacks and NATO raids, and even the secret raid on bin Laden. All of it, she says, is alienating young Pakistanis from the United States.

BEENISH ASHRAF: Anyone can come and interfere in our country. That's why we are disturbed, that we have no future. We have no future in Pakistan if Americans or any other country is continuously interrupting in our country. We want peace only, whether in our country and in America.

MCCARTHY: Many in this bizarre say that the May 2nd operation was a drama staged by the Pentagon to say bin Laden was dead. They don't consider themselves extremists. Their view is shared by a large segment of Pakistanis, and reflects more on the conspiratorial nature of information here. Fifty-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed says that only a misguided minority of Pakistanis sees bin Laden as an inspirational figure today.

MUSHTAQ AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: He says there are people who do heap praise on Osama bin Laden here. But as far as he's concerned, he was an animal, and he used people for his own purposes.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center found that support for al-Qaida has declined in Pakistan, with 13 percent holding a favorable view of the organization. Mushtaq Ahmed thinks that militants have also been weakened since the death of bin Laden.

AHMED: Ninety-five percent (foreign language spoken).

MCCARTHY: Ninety-five percent of them have been eliminated, with help from the Americans and Pakistan's army, he says confidently proclaims. Only 5 percent are left, he says.

AYESHA SIDDIQA: That's a very generous view, I must say.

MCCARTHY: And far from reality, says defense analyst Ayesha Saddiqa. She says there may be fewer attacks on the state, but that doesn't translate into a decrease in militancy.

SIDDIQA: The militancy is there. It has increased. It's not reduced. I mean, forget about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. It's happening in the plains of Pakistan. It's happening in mainland Pakistan.

MCCARTHY: The bin Laden compound in Abbottabad has been demolished, but the mystique of the man remains. A leaking pipe has become a source, to some, of holy water.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.