It has been a few days since the latest Wikileaks fiasco began, and news channels, online media sources and Twitter have been flooded with constant updates.
At this time, I really would love it if I didn’t have to see 1) the word Wikileaks followed by “dump” 2) the word Wikileaks followed by “state secrets revealed” (I mean, really? Berlosconi partying? Sarkozy chasing puppies?), 3) photos of Julian Assange in Zoolander-style poses, or 4) just the word Wikileaks.
However, since the “dump” in question on Wednesday had to do with Pakistan, I did a little sifting so that you, dear readers, wouldn’t have to. Here’s a run-down:
1. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid money were not used for its intended purpose. Yes, because U.S. aid to Pakistan has been spent efficiently for decades.
2. In a private meeting with former U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson, COAS Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Chief Gen. Shuja Pasha “complained vociferously” about provisions in the aid package calling for military accountability towards the civilian government (via The News). If you look up military accountability in the dictionary, you might find a photo of Kayani showcasing a “choice” finger.
3. The U.S. is frustrated with Pakistan. There is mutual distrust. They no likey each other.
The Somewhat Interesting
1. During the judicial crisis in March 2009, Gen. Kayani hinted to Ambassador Patterson that he may ‘reluctantly’ have to urge Zardari to resign if conditions deteriorate and “indicated that Asfandyar Wali Khan [leader of the ANP] or someone else broadly acceptable (though not Nawaz Sharif) might be an appropriate replacement,” [via the Express Tribune]. This would not have been an “official” coup and would have left the official PPP government (with Gilani) in place, so elections would not have to take place. According to Dawn, “The implied message in Gen Kayani’s contingency planning was immediately read by the ambassador as a plea to intervene and compel both parties to back down or else the army would play its role.”
2. In February 2009, Zardari told his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that if he was assassinated, then Bilawal should name Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur as president. According to Express, Kayani “told U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson that Talpur would be a better president than her brother.” Apparently we are the Islamic Monarchy of Pakistan.
Perhaps the most telling cable leak was the revelation that the United States were aware of the military’s extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses during operations in Swat and Malakand, but purposefully kept quiet, [remember this video taken by mobile phone?]. The September 2009 memo stated,
Senior military commanders have equally and repeatedly stressed their concerns that the courts are incapable of dealing with many of those detained on the battlefield and their fears that if detainees are handed over to the courts and formally charged, they will be released, placing Pakistan Army and FC troops at risk.
This belief by commanding officers that the judicial system was incapable of prosecuting detainees, as well as the belief that revenge killings were “key to maintaining a unit’s honor,” were reportedly reasons cited by Patterson that many of these alleged extrajudicial killings and abuse happened. However, while the U.S. privately expressed concern about these murders, they “deemed it was better not to comment publicly in order to allow the Pakistani army to take action on its own,” noted Declan Walsh of the Guardian.
Moreover, while the U.S. discussed proposing alternatives to military commanders in the hopes reducing human rights abuses, the memo ultimately advised that the U.S. “avoid comment on these incidents to the extent possible,” in order to preserve goodwill and resist criticizing this strategic ally too much.
For me, this leak further emphasizes the holes in the U.S. rhetoric towards Pakistan. The relationship is built on short-term strategic interests, despite crows from both governments to the contrary. This is not surprising from a realpolitik perspective, but it should nevertheless be a reminder to constantly read between the lines – to not generate more conspiracy theories, but to remember that every country will operate in a way that serves its best interest. Simon Tisdall at the Guardian makes this point when he noted,
All great powers intrude in pursuit of their own interests; it’s what they do – and picking up where the British left off, the U.S. is no different. It is a measure of the Pakistani state’s weakness that the Americans apparently have such scope and leeway to influence and direct its affairs.What is equally remarkable, however, is how little the Americans appear able, ultimately, to control their satraps.
The biggest casualties from this constant game, noted Tisdall, are ordinary Pakistanis, who suffer grievously from terrorism, “a ravaged economy, acute poverty and lack of education; and in the all but forgotten but still terrible aftermath of this year’s floods.” I’d have to agree.