To begin with, let us be clear that the Panama disclosures are not a genuine ‘leak’. Beginning with ‘scandals’ like Watergate, Iran-gate and so on, the world was introduced to such scandalous discoveries made by investigative journalists, which could impeach presidents of the US. In more recent times, we were introduced to ‘leaks’; wherein conscientious individuals serving an organisation, or government, discovered that these organisations, in coordination with governments, were indulging in illegal activities. Unable to stop these acts, they blew the whistle on their own organisation or government, by making their activities public.
The Panama disclosures are neither of the above. This time, Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian corporation, has been hacked and therefore a cyber-crime has been committed; a fact to which no one seems to advertise. In fact, apart from Mossack Fonseca, no one seems interested in even acknowledging that a punishable crime has been committed. On the Panama Papers, according to Wikipedia, “An anonymous source using the pseudonym ‘John Doe’ made the documents available in batches to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, beginning in early 2015. Given the scale of the leak, the newspaper enlisted the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) … The first news reports based on the papers, and 149 of the documents themselves, were published on April 3, 2016. The ICIJ plans to publish a full list of companies involved in early May 2016.”
Despite the fact that the disclosures begin by admitting that nothing contained in these disclosures indicates that a crime has been committed and merely points out the possibility that a crime might have been committed, the disclosures have proved embarrassing to many political leaders. Iceland’s prime minister resigned, as did Spain’s minister of industry, who had initially lied. David Cameron too, made a fool of himself by initially denying but quickly recovered by disclosing all to the public. In Pakistan, the ruling political party is still reeling from the shock. China included, there are also other countries whose political leaderships are among those named. However, it is unlikely that Chinese leaders will find their feathers ruffled by this news. The Middle East survived the Arab Spring, but only just. These disclosures could again fan the anti-kingdom/princedom anger in that region.
It seems, therefore that, apart from Europe, Pakistani political leaders and the Middle Eastern kings and princes might be the most embarrassed. The first question I ask here is why? Why this disclosure and is the timing of any relevance? Seeking answers, I came across “Mossack Fonseca: inside the firm that helps the super-rich hide their money” in The Guardian. If this article is authentic, it all started in 2013 with a threat by Cameron, the British prime minister, to sweep away decades of off-shore “tax-secrecy”. Cameron, whose father holds an account there?
A couple of Swiss lawyers, disturbed by Cameron’s threat, were seeking safer safe havens and discovered Mossack Fonseca. Interestingly, within days of the disclosures being made public, a US-based respected scholar of Russia suggested that the Kremlin might be responsible. Russia becomes suspect because even though numerous friends of Vladimir Putin have benefited, disclosures pertaining to Russia appear to be legal; and, therefore, unembarrassed. But the accusation fails to vector in why the Kremlin should do so.
Neither Barack Obama nor his acolytes or associates are among those embarrassed. So, who is Putin targeting and why? It does not seem likely that Putin would seek to embarrass the leadership of any country listed so far. Putin soon responded by accusing the US of being behind the disclosures. Once again, the question arises, if the accusation is to be given credence, who is Washington targeting and why?
Again, I find myself at a loss. If my conjectures about the US having seized to target Pakistan in hybrid wars is correct, I fail to understand why. US relations with the Saudis have deteriorated in the recent past. The US-Iran rapprochement began the slide and it’s still sliding. A bill is in Congress seeking to nominate Saudi Arabia as responsible for 9/11. Saudis have warned the US that if the bill is passed, they will sell their holdings of US bonds and securities worth $750 billion. Obama is desperately trying to block the bill. In earlier articles, I have pointed out the desperation of the Saudis which has made them coerce Pakistan into joining their 34-nation Islamic Alliance. But apart from Syria, where the US confronts Russia, why should the US be interested in destabilising the Middle East?
There is only one more possibility. Even as the understanding between the US and Pakistan improves, I am conscious of the fact that there is a strong anti-Pakistan lobby in the US. Initially powered by the Israel-India nexus, it has acquired a following of believers who are convinced that Pakistan must be cut to size. Pakistan has often been accused of having ‘rogue’ elements in its security establishment, an accusation that has, on occasions, not been totally groundless but, I am firmly of the view that it is the US that has empowered its CIA to an extent that creates many times the rogue elements that 10 Pakistans might house. Could it be one of these making a last ditch effort to further destabilise Pakistan at a juncture when it seems that it might, just might, have begun to find its feet?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2016.