The sensational revelations contained in the voluminous leaks compiled by Wikileaks, have potentially crippling consequences for Pakistan. However, the government of Pakistan may be able to deal effectively with the material that relates to its intelligence agencies helping some militant groups with plots for carrying out assassination of Afghan leaders. This could be done since many of the reports have no genuine foundation. For instance, some of the material is based on reports provided by the National Defence Directorate — Afghanistan’s intelligence agency — which has a known bias against Pakistan and its policies.
Amrullah Saleh, until recently the Panjsheri chief of the Afghan intelligence agency, had consistently worked to undermine Pakistan’s position and standing with Afghan policymakers, during his long tenure. There would, therefore, be a clear motive in presenting such manufactured or concocted evidence before the US security forces in order to achieve a desired objective. But there is no doubt that the evidence or reports that have been made public, would have grave and serious implications for Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in the months and years to come.
Both governments, under intense American pressure, would not allow a permanent breach to occur in their relations because that would negatively impinge on the US agenda in the region. But in the realm of relations in its totality, the damage would be substantial. The reports could provide fuel to those groups in Afghanistan who blame Pakistan for the many sufferings of their people and country.
The development would also reduce space for Pakistan as a peace broker and would tarnish its image as a country that is only seeking a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
A tremendous amount of hard work, coupled with brilliant diplomacy may help contain the negative fallout of the reports. Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 troops on the border in order to provide stability to the regime in Kabul. It also continues to allow 65 per cent of US/Nato supplies to pass through its territory.
The intelligence agencies throughout the world keep contact with all relevant players in a conflict. The important point is, have these contacts prevented Pakistan from acting in a way it has operated in support of the coalition forces in the last nine years?
This standpoint would help salvage the situation to an extent. But there may not be many takers of this explanation in the US Congress and the mainstream US media.
The many sceptics on the Hill, in the CIA, in the Pentagon and the state department as well as the influential media and the think tanks would launch new reinvigorated attacks on Pakistan’s credentials — its motives for standing with the coalition forces and its futuristic view of Afghanistan. This will be reflected in reduced funding, diminished level of cooperation, less support for Pakistan, vis-a-vis India and greater American-Afghan collaboration in order to prevent a post US-pullout Afghanistan falling into the lap of Pakistan’s establishment.
These are very serious consequences. With regard to its motives and role in Afghanistan, Pakistan is potentially in deep trouble. The way out of this impasse is not only launching a robust defence of its policies, exposing the many inaccuracies in the reports, questioning the motives, but also in a reappraisal of its entire policy — a policy that is based on the whole hearted support of the coalition forces at the cost of destabilising Pakistan itself.
Pakistan should sincerely promote a genuine reconciliation process based on a recognition of Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty and ensuring the mainstreaming of all resistance groups in the political process of Afghanistan. That will have to be premised on the withdrawal of all coalition forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2010.
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