The Pakistani street has not exploded with grief or rage at the killing of Osama Bin Laden on May 2 by the US Navy SEALs in the picturesque city of Abbottabad. This is testimony enough that after suffering much murder and mayhem at the hands of terrorists, the average Pakistani and nearly all the mainstream Islamic political parties have long since outgrown the fascination with the kind of warfare waged against the Soviet Union which made Bin Laden a hero. And yet the dominant emotions in Pakistan are of humiliation, existential anxiety and helplessness at the revenge that the Taliban are already exacting, estrangement from the government and disenchantment with the Pakistan-US partnership. The Americans have explained the lethal attack with a narrative which is amended every day; the government in Islamabad had none on that fateful night and has not be able to knit together even now. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a statement to parliament on May 9 and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet met on May 12 mainly to claim that all stakeholders in Pakistan are on the same page and that Pakistan condemns unilateral America action. The armed forces have spoken forcefully but mainly to dampen down the demonstration of schadenfreude at Pakistan's dire dilemma in neighbouring India. The foremost amongst the numerous questions tormenting the people is the ease with which US helicopters travelled from their base in Afghanistan, landed in Abbottabad, invaded Osama Bin Laden's high-walled compound for 40 minutes and made it back to their base without any response by Pakistani authorities. The US Navy SEAL contingent met no resistance. There is pervasive anxiety about the state of air defences in the country. It would probably be much less if it was a joint operation but Washington has shocked Pakistan by divulging that Pakistani government was not taken into confidence as it might have leaked the operation to the targeted group. The audacious unilateral attack has shattered the national morale. Washington has also revealed that the CIA had watched Bin Laden's dwelling from a rented house for months. It meant either complicity or, worse still, strengthened the widespread belief that the US has been allowed to establish such a vast network of agents and special forces that Pakistan's national security agencies have simply lost track of them. Predictably, Washington has intensified efforts to extract even greater compliance from a government that is on the defensive for having denied for years that Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. There were reports that after his miraculous escape from the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in November 2001, a frail and sick Bin Laden had zigzagged through the Afghan province of Nuristan and the Pakistani tribal territory of Chitral. The trail petered out in the borderland. That Bin Laden had resided in Abbottabad for five years was beyond the people's wildest imagination. The foremost question from the US and several other capitals is whether to attribute Pakistan's persistent denials about Bin Laden to duplicity or professional incompetence. We may never find out the truth but we can anticipate the impact on Pakistan-US relations. The loud claims made by both the sides that the advent of the Obama era had ushered in an entirely new strategic partnership were never to be taken at their face value. It has remained a transactional relationship, with Pakistan having to carry an ever increasing burden of economic and human losses to keep it going. This could have continued beyond withdrawal from Afghanistan as the US also has an independent set of objectives related to Pakistan's nuclear capability, its role in the American-South Asian strategy and, above all, the transformation of the Pakistani society and its national security state. The uneasy Pakistan-US relationship may lose much of its importance once the critical phase of American disengagement from Afghanistan is over. During this period and beyond it when a residual nexus continues, bilateral relations may be marked by sharper coercive diplomacy by the US. Regression into the old cycle of sanctions and periodic reviews can no longer be ruled out. There are many voices in the US demanding a serious downgrading of relations with Pakistan. Pakistan's politics has greatly shrunk from her large global perspective to a total absorption in combating terrorism. Again, Islamabad has allowed the national economy to become hugely dependent on the US. If the US walks away again because Pakistan fails to deliver on fresh demands, economic support may be an early casualty. President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Moscow and Gilani's journey to China this week indicate that Islamabad understands the need for diversification of its external relations as links with Washington become fragile. Gulf News