A week after the world learned that Osama bin Laden was dead, the tense relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan shows signs of further strain - with the U.S. pressing for more information about whether Pakistan harboured the world's most wanted terrorist and Pakistan trying to stem the flow of embarrassing stories from the city in which he was found.
Truckloads of soldiers cordoned off Mr. bin Laden's neighbourhood over the weekend, as Pakistani authorities ordered nearby hotels and guesthouses to expel any foreigner without written permission to stay. Broadcast regulators in Islamabad warned television crews to halt live coverage from Abbottabad, the city now infamous as Mr. bin Laden's final home.
On Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will address his people for the first time since the U.S. raid. He is expected to condemn the secrecy of the operation that happened less than 50 kilometres from Islamabad and without his approval.
Mr. Gilani is also facing suggestions that Mr. bin Laden had help inside Pakistan, which U.S. President Barack Obama addressed on Sunday.
"We think there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan," Mr. Obama said on 60 Minutes, pressing Pakistan for a probe into whether the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks had assistance.
The U.S. has also demanded access to Mr. bin Laden's three widows, who are in Pakistani custody and who may be able to answer questions about who harboured the al-Qaeda leader.
As questions about Mr. bin Laden's fugitive existence mount, Pakistan's clampdown on Abbottabad appears to be working.
The chill extended to the streets, as some residents apparently believed a rumour that anybody caught speaking with a journalist could be arrested. Police have asked foreigners to stay indoors at night, citing fears of violent backlash.
A senior officer said he's simply tired of all the ruckus.
"It's enough," he said. "They were climbing on the roofs, in the fields, everywhere."
Some residents agree, and have started to mock the reporters who swarmed into the area in recent days, looking for any detail that might help them understand how the most notorious terrorist in the world lived under the noses of Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence agencies.
"Hundreds of people have come here, asking: 'Have you seen Osama? Have you seen Osama?' " said Tayyab Shah, 48, owner of a brick-making factory. "We didn't have any tourist attractions before; now we have tourists, but still no attractions."
Mr. Shah's men carve their bricks from the orange clay of the hills around the village of Chak Shah Mohammed, a sleepy settlement of perhaps 260 houses about 50 kilometres north of Islamabad.
His village became the latest focus of attention over the weekend, as news emerged from Pakistani interrogations of Mr. bin Laden's youngest wife that the family had lived in the area from 2003 to 2005. Security agents rushed to the area on Friday, asking detailed questions about any sightings of outsiders during those years. Journalists arrived the following day, attracting so many gawking children that a local school was forced to cancel classes.
None of the visitors appear to have found anything except wheat fields, fruit trees and marijuana plants. The discovery of caves in the hills aroused brief excitement, because they showed signs of habitation. Residents explained that the caves are sometimes used by local bandits, making them good hiding spots for outlaws, but all of them dismissed the idea that Mr. bin Laden could have taken refuge there while he awaited construction of his spacious retreat in the nearby city.
"We know every face in this village," said Busharat Hussein, 34. "It's impossible."
Such blanket denials have also become fashionable among the record-keepers in Abbottabad.
Ashiq Hussein, chief of investigations at the Nawanshehr Station House, responsible for the neighbourhood where Mr. bin Laden was found, said his men implemented a "foolproof" record-keeping system to track all newcomers to the area about three years ago.
While effective at reducing crime, he said, the system apparently did not register the presence of an unusually tall houseguest in a high-security compound, living with two brothers whose manner of speaking Pashto immediately marked them as outsiders.
When confronted with the absurdity of this omission from his ledger, Mr. Hussein sneered: "We don't have time to inspect each house."
While regular inspections were not part of the routine, his boss confirmed by telephone that he visited a nearby mosque every Friday to monitor the community. The closest mosque has a clear view of the bin Laden compound, but Inspector Khan Nazir was not inclined to elaborate about his routine.
"You have seen the situation, and I have nothing more to add," Insp. Nazir said, and abruptly hung up the phone.
With reports from The Associated Press and Reuters
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