Tea in Abbotabad – Osama bin Laden’s hideout

As we sit and sip tea in this garrison town northwest of Islamabad and prior to entering the notoriously insecure province of Kohistan to our overnight stop in a compound at Besham and contemplate our big day tomorrow where we’ve been told to move along smartly and whatever we do not stop in Chilas, it is hard to believe here we are. It’s the town where Osama bin Laden hid for 6 years right under the nose of the military and apparently in full knowledge of the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service. And even as we hang for our morning chai 4 people are killed across town in targeted attacks signalling loud and clear that we should start to move along smartly, no lingering.

For all that the chai is sweet, the hospitality at our truck stop fine and the fascination with Joanne a woman on a motorcycle, infinite. It’s a good time to reflect on the deep reach of intelligence services these days with Osama’s presence apparently uncovered by the DNA samples taken from his children during routine innoculation programmes. That fact has apparently led to a deep paranoia around here now over so-called altruistic NGO’s carrying out vaccinations on the local children. The staff of those agencies are very far from being safe around here nowadays.

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