Following on the heels of some speculation Pervez Musharaff was known to engage in, Pakistani President Zardari has been musing recently that perhaps Osama bin Laden’s dead:
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has raised the prospect that Osama bin Laden could be dead after he said that intelligence officials could find “no trace” of the al-Qaeda chief. […] There have been regular reports of bin Laden’s ill health, notably speculation about his kidneys failing. Mr Zardari said his own advisers believed there was substance to the rumours. […]Mr Zardari’s comments came as he sought to reassure the international community that it need not worry over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
I suppose Pakistani leaders have an incentive to speculate in this manner. The leading alternatives would seem to be the hypothesis that Pakistani security services are too inept to find the most wanted man in the world, or else that the Pakistani security services are so penetrated by radicals that OBL is being deliberately sheltered.
Then again, I often wonder what Pakistani intelligence would actually do if they found bin Laden. Turn him over to the United States? Put him on trial? Either way sounds like it could be dangerous. And suppose you catch him and that leads America to decide it’s no so interested in Pakistan anymore. Paradoxically, the threat that Pakistan might collapse into anarchy and fanaticism is one of Pakistan’s leading assets, allowing them to extract strategic rents from the United States. So maybe you just shoot him, bury the body deep, and pronounce the whole thing a great big mystery. Maybe his kindeys failed? Who’s to say?