From Wik­iLeaks to Pak­iWeaks

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Cyril Almeida

WIK­ILEAKS has vindi­cated at least one Amer­i­can diplo­mat: Anne Pat­ter­son. The re­cent US am­bas­sador to Pak­istan comes across as one sharp cookie, learn­ing quickly on the job, and soon enough cut­ting through much of the fog of Pak­istani pol­i­tics and se­cu­rity to get to the bot­tom lines. Some­times the out­side ob­server can tell a lot more about a place than those im­mersed in it for long years. And so it is that Pat­ter­son hones in on many truths.

My per­sonal favourite, her com­ment about the Pak­istani psy­che af­ter Nawaz Sharif thanked the Amer­i­cans for 'se­lect­ing' Kayani: "The fact that a for­mer prime min­is­ter be­lieves the US could con­trol the ap­point­ment of Pak­istan's chief of army staff speaks vol­umes about the myth of Amer­i­can in­flu­ence here."

But there is an­other lit­tle pas­sage in a cable in the runup to the lawyers' long march last year which is re­mark­ably re­veal­ing, and per­haps goes to the heart of what is the prob­lem in Pak­istan:

"Kayani hinted at dis­quiet among his corps com­man­ders who be­lieve Zar­dari is cor­rupt and has not been pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to Pak­istan's eco­nomic and se­cu­rity chal­lenges…. Kayani told am­bas­sador he has talked di­rectly to Zar­dari, but he does not ap­pear to have con­veyed the se­ri­ous­ness of army con­cerns about Zar­dari or the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion vis-à-vis the march. (Note: Kayani may be seek­ing to avoid a con­fronta­tion that would prompt Zar­dari to make a dis­as­trous de­ci­sion to try and oust the COAS.)"

The last sen­tence is, if you think about it, quite amaz­ing. Here is the US am­bas­sador to Pak­istan mus­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity that if the Pak­istan army chief told the Pak­istani pres­i­dent what he thought of the said pres­i­dent, the pres­i­dent may try and sack the COAS, his­tor­i­cally and un­ques­tion­ably the most pow­er­ful of­fice in the coun­try.

That's your tran­si­tion to democ­racy right there, that's how ten­u­ous this whole thing re­ally is.

The great myth about Pak­istan is that some­one is in fact in charge of this place, a pup­pet mas­ter up above pulling strings at will. But ev­ery­where you look, you find prin­ci­pals who are of­ten un­cer­tain them­selves, grop­ing around in the dark, search­ing for an­swers.

Sure, some in­sti­tu­tions and of­fices and per­son­al­i­ties and power cen­tres are more pow­er­ful than oth­ers. Had push come to shove in March 2009, it's more likely than not Kayani would have emerged vic­to­ri­ous. But there's no swag­ger ev­i­dent read­ing Pat­ter­son's ac­count.

In­stead, we get a pic­ture of a gen­eral dis­tinctly un­com­fort­able. He needs to go to some­one else he thinks has the abil­ity to coun­sel Zar­dari. The rea­son is ob­vi­ous: pow­er­ful as the army chief may be, the pres­i­dent had the power to hurt him.

If there is lit­tle doubt Kayani could van­quish Zar­dari, there is also lit­tle doubt a vic­to­ri­ous Kayani would have im­me­di­ately been en­gulfed by all sorts of prob­lems: be­ing sucked into the vor­tex of pol­i­tics for one; hav­ing to de­fend yet an­other derail­ment of the demo­cratic project for an­other.

A few days later, Kayani did di­rectly in­ter­vene, but only once it be­came ap­par­ent Sharif had the num­bers on his side and that tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were cer­tain to con­verge on Pindi and then Is­lam­abad in a mat­ter of hours.

Ex post it may seem, Ah, of course, that was what was go­ing to hap­pen in the end any­way. But ex ante, be­fore the event, the un­cer­tainty is pal­pa­ble.

Var­i­ous power cen­tres with dif­fer­ing in­ter­ests com­pet­ing for power, some cen­tres more pow­er­ful than oth­ers, but none so pow­er­ful as to al­ways dic­tate the course of his­tory - that, more than a great pup­pet mas­ter at home or abroad chore­ograph­ing the dance of chaos, is what best de­scribes power pol­i­tics in Pak­istan.

Anne Pat­ter­son took less than three years to fig­ure it out. Pak­ista­nis are on their 64th and count­ing.

Two other de­tails lost in the Wik­iLeaks frenzy come cour­tesy a po­lit­i­cal spar­ring part­ner. They both point to a very scary thought, one few here ap­pear to be aware of let alone concerned by: the in­creas­ing iso­la­tion of Pak­istan in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

"In the Rus­sian view, there is an­other se­ri­ous threat that should be dis­cussed: Pak­istan. Pak­istan is a nation with nu­clear weapons, var­i­ous de­liv­ery sys­tems and a do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion that is highly un­sta­ble. Rus­sia as­sesses that Is­lamists are not only seek­ing power in Pak­istan but are also try­ing to get their hands on nu­clear ma­te­ri­als."

Ummm, so now the Rus­sians think we are verg­ing on bas­ket-case, too?

"[Leslie Mar­iot, UK for­eign of­fice of­fi­cial] noted that the Chi­nese had 'pretty much' said a year ago that if the US rat­i­fies the CTBT, China would fol­low suit. Fur­ther, China has 'dumped' Pak­istan in the Con­fer­ence on Dis­ar­ma­ment (CD), which is a 'good sign'. Tauscher urged P5 ac­tion to get Pak­istan to stop block­ing progress in the CD on the Fis­sile Ma­te­rial Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)." Ummm, so our 'best friend' China has 'dumped' us on an is­sue the army con­sid­ers vi­tal to our na­tional se­cu­rity? (An FMCT would pre­vent Pak­istan from pro­duc­ing more raw ma­te­rial for nu­clear bombs, some­thing the army be­lieves would un­der­mine our 'cred­i­ble min­i­mum de­ter­rence' against In­dia.)

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