Islamabad is only 90km from Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed, but it might as well be on a different planet. In terms of the stark contrasts between the design of the two cities, and at least for today, the political atmosphere.
In Abbottabad the atmosphere is one akin to a town in shock while in Islamabad, the neatly planned political capital, the atmosphere is one of political turmoil.
Pakistani politicians are flinging mud at each other, and then in a rare display of unity, are together flinging mud at the US.
The headlines in newspapers here say it all:
“Opposition says PM failed to satisfy nation”
“PM spurns accusations of complicity or incompetence”
“Pakistan warns of ‘matching response’ if country’s nuclear assets attacked”
Tough talking indeed from the Pakistanis.
But here is the problem for Pakistan. It only holds one card when it comes to America: Afghanistan. In order for the US to win in that country it needs Pakistan.
Pakistan is the main supply route for its forces and has deniable intelligence assets (for that read local contacts). This South Asian country has the support of much of the local population.
The US though holds the trump card: Money.
Pakistani military and civilian institutions would simply wither without US cash.
So for that money the US can act at will.
It goes through the diplomatic niceties and will talk of partnerships and joint goals but ultimately it has one aim: To leave as stable as possible Afghanistan, a ‘democratic’ Pakistan and withdraw its troops.
Nothing stands in front of that goal.
Not Pakistani borders, not its demands for respect, not even the fact 30,000 of its civilians have died and 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have died since US action in the region in 2001.
This operation, the raid on Osama’s house has brought into sharp view the need for Pakistan to take a long hard look at its relationship with the US.
That’s the view from many analysts both here and abroad.
But, the realpolitik of the relationship is a dependent one, and no one wants to kill the golden goose.
This is a tough part of the world.
Pakistan lies in the centre of Iran, Afghanistan, China and India.
None of those countries see eye to eye on the most basic of matters, never mind peace within the region.
You add al-Qeada and 100 other armed groups to the mix, throw the US and Europe in there and you begin to get an idea of how helpless Pakistan is.
Successive US governments understand and take advantage of that.
This is not about blaming the US. The reasons go much deeper than that, as I have tried to explain.
But on the surface though, and for many, right now there is only reason for Pakistan’s woes…and it’s bathed in red, white and blue.