Friday, December 3, 2010

Full marks for Gilani, Shahbaz strikes out

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/3273/wikileaks-2-0-full-marks-for-gilani-shahbaz-strikes-out/

So far a few hundred cables have been released – this is out of approximately 250,000 that WikiLeaks say will be eventually released. Newspapers, television channels, blog sites and other sources of information and media dissemination are having a field day, both in Pakistan as well as overseas with the wealth of information that has come out.

The head of Russia’s intelligence service has said that the cables provide a “treasure trove” of information and that his analysts will go through them in detail. Meanwhile Israel is gloating that its stance on many things is the same, both in public as well as private.

America seems to have suffered the most. Although most cynical commentators have said that by and large much the information that has been released is not unexpected. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t worrying.

But do we realistically think that once this blows over – ( no one knows when that will happen given the number of cables left to release) – governments and militaries will change the way that they interact with each other? Will the next Pakistan army chief or the next President of Pakistan be more reticent in his meetings with the American ambassador or visiting Congressional delegations, out of fear that their off-the-record comments and observations will make it to the world media stage?

Yousaf Raza Gilani: American diplomats and Pakistani leaders seem to have been mostly caught with their pants down in all of this. But in some cases, the revelations are in fact heartening. Take the case of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who, a cable leaked by WikiLeaks suggests, told the interior minister that he didn’t care too much about the drone attacks “as long as they got the right people” and that the government would complain about it in parliament and then “ignore it”. Prime Minister Gilani gets full marks for telling it like it is and for having the good sense to understand that, by and large, the drone attacks target terrorists who have proven by their deeds and actions to be no friends of the Pakistani people or state.

Shahbaz Sharif: The same, however, cannot be said of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. According to one leaked cable, President Asif Ali Zardari was quoted as telling a foreign dignitary in a meeting that it had come to his (the president’s) knowledge that just prior to the accounts of the Lashkar-e-Taiba being frozen, following a UN resolution, the Punjab chief minister had tipped off the organisation and it was able to empty all its bank accounts. This is the same Lashkar-e-Taiba that has been deemed as a terrorist organisation and banned by America, the UK, India, Russia, Australia, the European Union and in fact Pakistan itself. Furthermore, Islamabad has been trying in a court of law several members of the organisation for alleged involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman:The zero-marks prize is shared by none other than Maulana Fazlur Rahman, aka Maulana Diesel, who fulminates against America in public but in a private meeting with the then US ambassador Anne W Patterson suggested that he had qualities to become (or be installed?) prime minister. He also told the ambassador that he liked visiting America. The Maulana is thought by many to have played the role of a go-between the government and the Pakistani state and the Taliban. One can only wonder what the WikiLeaks revelation with regard to his overtures to the American ambassador suggests.

Saudia Arabia: The Saudis also don’t fare too well. While most of us know that America commands great influence and sway in Pakistan, many must have been surprised at the influence Saudi Arabia has on things in Pakistan. A leaked cable quoted extensively from a meeting that US special envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke had with Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister of the interior, Prince Mohammad bin Nayef. It said that the prince described General Kayani as a “decent man” and that the Pakistan army was the “winning horse” for the Saudis and the “best bet” for stability. This may resonate with ordinary Pakistanis to some extent, ironically the same kind who continue to cherish Pakistan’s ‘hallowed’ relationship with Saudi Arabia. Clearly, the Saudis share the same objective with the Americans in that both are interested in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons not falling into the hands of al Qaeda or the Taliban. But, unbeknownst to many Pakistanis, it seems that the Saudis are able to determine for us the nature and composition of our elected leadership.

On a separate, but equally worrying note, the same cable quoted the prince as telling Holbrooke that as recent as 2003 “radicals were present in 90 per cent” of Saudi mosques.

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