The coordinated release of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks is likely to lead to days, if not weeks, of analysis, denials, claims and counter claims. Many in Pakistan will quote the released documents and point to American hypocrisy. However, they will fail to recognise the significance of what the documents say of the world around us.
In relation to Pakistan, one of the most sensational revelations is that the US has been actively lobbying to remove highly-enriched uranium which it fears may be used in an ‘illicit nuclear device’. There seems to be active negotiation on this point, though a local official is quoted as saying that such a move is not possible due to fears that the media would portray it as America wanting to grab Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
While the cable will be considered as evidence of American designs on our nuclear programme, the document lacks background and adequate detail on an issue that was up for discussion over a three-year period, encompassing both the current and previous governments. It also suggests that the media is either extremely powerful, so much so that it is today shaping Pakistan’s nuclear policy; or is being leveraged as an excuse to delay action.
Is the media more powerful than we had ever imagined or is our state not confident in her ability to communicate state policy?
We in Pakistan continue to ignore the power struggle between Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Iran. The leaked documents suggest that the Saudi government has consistently advocated the use of force against the Iranian nuclear programme.
It also suggests that the Saudi government agreed to compensate China for any loss in oil supplies from Iran to soften Chinese support for Iran. The documents detail how the interests of Israel and several Arab states have now converged due to the Iranian issue, though governments are unable to acknowledge any form of collusion fearing public reaction. Where does that leave us? What will Pakistan’s ‘principled’ stance be?
Whether it's Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the war on terror, or the internal conflicts amongst our neighbours, what is clear is that the overly simplified narrative that our “experts” prefer — pointing to US hypocrisy and then towards Indian designs — is not only outdated but is perhaps damaging to our nation's security. Is it not ironic that while we ask America to be transparent on its designs on our nuclear programme we do not demand the same from the Pakistani state? What is our government’s position in the event of hostilities between Arab nations and Iran? How are we preparing ourselves to insure that we are not adversely affected?
The Pakistani state seems afraid of the way in which the domestic media would cover such revelations. Our neighbourhood is changing and the people of Pakistan are left in a constant state of nationalist fervour, all while the powers to be act in consort with those that they rally the people against.
The state must take the people in confidence. We cannot just sit and wait for the next batch of leaked documents to come along. Why? Because we must not tie ourselves down to a ‘one size fit all’ explanation of the world. Our allies and enemies are evolving as they take stock of ground realities. We, on the other hand, still throw around terms like ‘brotherly Muslim states’and the ‘Muslim Ummah’, as if it ever existed.
If we continue along this path, tomorrow we may witness a conflict in our neighbourhood where Saudi Arabia and Israel will be pushing the United States to launch coordinated attacks against Iran! How will our current explanation of the world accommodate such events?
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2010.