In life,Hakimullah Mehsud,the leader of the Pakistani Taliban,was Public Enemy No. 1: a ruthless figure who devoted his career to bloodshed and mayhem,whom Pakistani pundits occasionally accused of being a pawn of Indian,or even American,intelligence.
But after his death,it seems,Pakistani hearts have grown fonder.
Since missiles fired by US drones killed Mehsud in his vehicle Friday,Pakistans political leaders have reacted with unusual vehemence. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the strike as sabotage of incipient government peace talks with the Taliban. Media commentators fulminated about American treachery. And former cricket star Imran Khan,now a politician,renewed his threats to block NATO military supply lines through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa a province his Tehreek-e-Insaf party controls with a parliamentary vote scheduled for Monday.
Virtually nobody openly welcomed the demise of Mehsud,who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians. To some American security analysts,the furious reaction was another sign of the perversity and ingratitude that they say have scarred Pakistans relationship with the United States.
Its another stab in the back, said Bill Roggio,whose website,the Long War Journal,monitors drone strikes. Even those of us who watch Pakistan closely dont know where they stand anymore. Its such a double game.
Analysts say,Pakistanis have a consistent,if relatively recent,history of rooting for people the West has deemed villains,and against people the West has praised.
Aafia Siddiqui,a Pakistani woman who is serving an 86-year jail sentence in New York for trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan,is a virtual national hero,popularly known as the daughter of the nation.
On the other side,Malala Yousafzai,the teenage education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year,making her an icon around the world,has been demonized in Pakistan,where she is regularly called a CIA agent or a pawn of the West.
These adversarial reactions stem in part from Pakistanis perception of their countrys history with the United States.
Photo of slain Taliban chief posted on jihadi websites
Islamabad: A photograph purportedly released Monday by the Pakistani Taliban shows its slain chief Hakimullah Mehsud after he was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan region. The photo,whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed,shows Mehsud lying on a white sheet with bloodstains on his face. It was posted on several jihadi websites and a Facebook page. PTI