The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Asif Ezdi

Dur­ing the Mushar­raf dic­ta­tor­ship, much of the most im­por­tant diplo­matic busi­ness be­tween Pak­istan and the US used to be con­ducted through tele­phone calls from Washington and in di­rect deal­ings be­tween him and the US am­bas­sador. The main " ad­van­tage" of this form of diplo­macy for both sides was that Washington got its re­sponse promptly, while Mushar­raf was able to cut out from the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process all but a small band of cho­sen and faith­ful ad­vis­ers, held to­gether and guided solely by a com­mon wish to pro­long their hold on power. In one call shortly af­ter 9/11, Colin Pow­ell de­liv­ered his fa­mous ul­ti­ma­tum to Mushar­raf and quickly got his con­sent.

The com­ing into of­fice of an elected govern­ment in 2008 was sup­posed to change that. But as the French say­ing goes plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The peo­ple have changed but the way the af­fairs of state are run has not. That is es­pe­cially true of the man­ner in which top-level diplo­macy with the US is con­ducted. As the ca­bles re­leased by Wik­ileaks con­firm, the doors of the Pres­i­dency are al­ways open for the US am­bas­sador. Zar­dari him­self meets him fre­quently or tele­phones with Washington, some­times with­out the knowl­edge of the For­eign Min­istry.

A cable sent by Am­bas­sador Pat­ter­son fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Zar­dari on Jan­uary 2, 2009 is both re­veal­ing and shock­ing. It says: "Zar­dari re­minded the am­bas­sador that it had only taken a 'phone call' from the US to en­sure that Pak­istan did not op­pose the US-In­dia civil nu­clear deal at the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group." She was re­fer­ring to the dis­cus­sions at the IAEA Board of Gov­er­nors in July-Au­gust 2008 on a safe­guards agree­ment with In­dia which cleared the way for the ap­proval of the In­dia-US nu­clear deal by the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group shortly af­ter­wards.

Pak­istan had ini­tially ob­jected to the safe­guards agree­ment but later gave up its op­po­si­tion un­der US pres­sure. Now we know that only a ' phone call' from the US had suf­ficed to pro­duce this turn­around. There is more. The cable goes on to say that "Zar­dari em­pha­sised he had no prob­lem mak­ing de­ci­sions, re­call­ing that we had asked him to refuse the re­lease of de­tainees in the con­text of 'peace deals' [with Is­lamic mil­i­tants] when the army and the ISI were press­ing to do so."

It is breath­tak­ing that Zar­dari was at such pains to as­sure the US am­bas­sador that he had no qualms about set­ting aside the ad­vice of the For­eign Min­istry or the army when it went against US wishes. A more ob­se­quious act by a per­son oc­cu­py­ing the high­est of­fice of state is hard to imag­ine.

The ca­bles also re­veal that Zar­dari has been talk­ing to the Amer­i­cans and the Brits on ISI ap­point­ments and a "re­form" of the agency, code­word for bring­ing it un­der civil­ian con­trol and cur­tail­ing its sphere of ac­tiv­ity. Most coun­tries would brook no for­eign med­dling in such mat­ters but Pak­istan un­der its present rulers is an ex­cep­tion. Zar­dari dis­cussed this mat­ter in Novem­ber 2008 in a tele­phone call from Miliband, then the For­eign Sec­re­tary of Bri­tain.

While Pak­istani po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, whether in the govern­ment or in the op­po­si­tion, have been as­sur­ing the US am­bas­sador that they could be counted upon to take care of Amer­i­can in­ter­ests, none of the ca­bles re­leased so far shows that they took up is­sues of vi­tal na­tional in­ter­est to Pak­istan such as the US push to "make" In­dia a global power or the de­nial of civil­ian nu­clear technology to Pak­istan. A cable sent by the US am­bas­sador in Fe­bru­ary 2010 re­ports on the un­hap­pi­ness in "Pak­istan's mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence es­tab­lish­ment" on the US favour­ing In­dia over Pak­istan, most no­tably by civil nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion with In­dia. But our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ei­ther have no com­pre­hen­sion of these mat­ters or are so keen for US favours that they do not want to jeop­ar­dise it by rais­ing "in­con­ve­nient" sub­jects.

If the Wik­ileaks ca­bles have un­masked the true face of our rulers, they have also fur­ther ex­posed the du­plic­ity of the Western coun­tries which deny Pak­istan ac­cess to civil­ian nu­clear technology and reg­u­larly be­rate the coun­try for al­low­ing " ter­ror­ism" from its soil while they re­main mum on In­dian atroc­i­ties in oc­cu­pied Kash­mir. The main rea­son why the US con­tin­ues to deny civil­ian nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion to Pak­istan to­day is that it does not want to dis­please In­dia. But Washington has re­fused to ad­mit it and in­stead seeks to jus­tify its re­fusal on grounds of Pak­istan's " pro­lif­er­a­tion record".

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