Deposing a President, “Dirty Bomb” & Diplomatic Excesses: WikiLeaks Expose Pakistan
By Manzoor Ahmed
Who can imagine a country’s president complaining that the all-powerful army in his country wants to “take him out”?
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari used that term to convey to the United States Vice President Joe Biden that the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani wants him out. The US is left wondering whether it is merely to depose him or to eliminate him physically.
And think of a country, despite legitimate fears that it may be working on a “dirty bomb” for Al Qaida, getting billions of dollars in aid to sustain its economy.
That is the relationship between Pakistan and the United States.
If WikiLeaks have exposed America’s diplomacy, Pakistan comes out in poor light, as an unreliable, untrustworthy and ungrateful ally.
The leaked cables, many of them from the US envoys based in Pakistan, show Pakistan as one that bites the hand that feeds it.
This is more of “confirm than inform” as is being said about the leaks pertaining to the US-Pak relationship and what is underway in Af-Pak theatre in the name of war against terror.
Besides surviving, no matter which way, Pakistan’s only obsession is to counter India – no matter which way.
The new set of leaked State Department cables portray US diplomats’ “deep scepticism that Pakistan will ever cooperate fully in fighting the full panoply of extremist groups,” as an insurance against India, according to the New York Times.
“This is partly because Pakistan sees some of the strongest militant groups as insurance for the inevitable day that the United States military withdraws from Afghanistan – and Pakistan wants to exert maximum influence inside Afghanistan and against Indian intervention.”
In one cable, US ambassador Anne W. Patterson, who left Islamabad in October after a three-year stint, said more money and military assistance would not be persuasive.
This merely confirms Pakistan’s known attitude towards India. But it is shocking to know that it has punished American diplomats – and the US has lumped it – merely because Pakistan sees the US as favouring India.
The plight, and possibly anger, of the American diplomats can only be imagined.
Some leaked cables indicate that Pakistan’s security services harassed US diplomats in Islamabad, delayed visas, clogged customs clearance and sabotaged security contracts as punishment for American support for Pakistan’s civilian government and India’s nuclear programme.
Zardari can at least complaint to the Americans. Who can the American diplomat lodge their complaints with?
In a briefing to FBI director Robert Mueller ahead of a visit to Pakistan, US embassy officials in Pakistan sketched out a difficult relationship.
In a secret Feb 22, 2010 cable, US diplomats told Mueller that “while we have had major successes in our military and law enforcement cooperation with Pakistan, cooperation has frequently been hampered by suspicion in Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment about US intentions and objectives”.
“Among other things, the Pakistanis believe that we have favoured India over Pakistan-most notably, by approving civil-nuclear cooperation with India-and that we aim to dismantle Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, which, in light of their conventional military disadvantage vis-a-vis India, they consider critical to their national security.
“The military and intelligence establishment is also concerned that we are working with Pakistan’s civilian leadership to limit the military’s prerogative in determining Pakistan’s national security policies.
“As a result of these concerns, the military and intelligence establishment has taken steps since Spring 2009 to hamper the operations of the Embassy.”
In particular, Pakistan has resented American pressures to get the investigations into the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
“The government has continually reassured us that the prosecutors will win convictions against all the defendants after a trial lasting several months, though it has a stronger case against the five LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) operatives than against the two terrorism financers.”
Noting that in October 2009, a Pakistani court had quashed all remaining cases against Hafiz Saeed, the head of LeT alias Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), US officials told Mueller: “The government has repeatedly told us that it would need much more evidence of Saeed’s direct involvement in the Mumbai attacks to move forward with Mumbai-related charges against him.”
Pakistani officials, they said, had also informed the FBI that it would be difficult to introduce evidence related to a key plotter Pakistani American David Coleman Headley “in the government’s prosecution of the Mumbai defendants, including because Headley’s statements to US authorities would be treated as hearsay with little evidentiary value in court”.
Another “more of confirmation that information” is about the reason why Pakistan is nursing terror groups. The target is India.
“There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support for these groups, which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India,” wrote US envoy in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. .
In what the New York Times called “a rare tone of dissent with Washington”, Patterson said Pakistan would only dig in deeper if America continued to improve ties with India, which she said “feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir focused terrorist groups.”
The groups Patterson referred to were almost certainly the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group financed by Pakistan in the 1990s to fight India in Kashmir that is accused of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the NYT said.
Americans are not alone in their dilemma vis a vis Pakistan. The British are in the same boat when it comes to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists.
The leaked cables contain warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country’s growing instability and “pending economic catastrophe”.
Mariot Leslie, a senior British Foreign Office official, told US diplomats in September 2009: “The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” according to one cable classified “secret/noforn [no foreign nationals]”.
US diplomats in Islamabad were told Pakistan was working on producing smaller, tactical nuclear weapons that could be used on the battlefield against Indian troops.
“The result of this trend is the need for greater stocks of fissile material . Strategic considerations point Pakistan in the direction of a larger nuclear force that requires a greater amount of fissile material, Pakistani officials argue.”
In May 27, 2009, less than a month after President Barack Obama assured reporters that Pakistan’s nuclear materials “will remain out of militant hands,” US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson sent a secret message to Washington suggesting that she remained deeply worried, the New York Times reported.
“Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon,”
The Pakistani government, she reported was yet again dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier to have the United States remove a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, sitting for years near an aging research nuclear reactor in Pakistan.
Her concern was that there was enough to build several “dirty bombs” or, in skilled hands, possibly enough for an actual nuclear bomb, the Times said noting: “The fuel is still there.” (ends)