When the WikiLeaks story initially broke, a journalist I knew said to me, “so, it looks like the mad conspiracy theorists were right all along”. I had to agree with him — the world view of the conspiracy theorist that avoided facts and played with fancy was somehow right.
At that time, the only cables that had been processed were ones that showed the unbelievable extent to which Pakistani politicians took their cue from the Americans and that the only country that really cared about the massive corruption in Pakistan was Saudi Arabia.
But, the conspiracy theorists in the press have not championed these cables. That may sound strange, since part of their bread and butter is celebrating ‘Muslim & Magic Kingdoms’, decrying democracy and lauding the military at the expense of Pakistani politicians and representative institutions.
What explains this? Nothing more than the fact that, as more and more cables come to light, several myths are being broken. The Jamiat-i-Islami protest the leaked cables themselves as a conspiracy because it has come to bear just how much their beloved Saudi Arabia cooperates with the Americans, and just how much they feed into the possible attack on Iran.
The PML-N has been exposed for its exile deal, the PPP for protecting a dictator. So much for never cooperating with illegal authoritarians. And then our true parasites: the intelligence agency “sponsored” small-time columnists and anchors whose specialty is throwing mud and misleading the public. They haven’t taken to WikiLeaks at all. It’s because their “Islamic Army” has been busy in trying to help Israeli nationals in India cooperate with the Indians, and are hand-in-pocket with the Americans.
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar put it nicely in the political economy section of The News on Sunday when he described the effect of WikiLeaks, saying that it puts an end to the pious posturing of the army at the expense of democratic players.
And so how do “intelligence” agencies react? Incompetently, through the bad advice of the hacks at their disposal, ultimately embarrassing them by creating an easily disproved fake cable.
But the thought behind the fake cable that took in The News, this newspaper and some Urdu ones is truly mindboggling when one considers how perversely the institution that authored it sees the world. Indian generals are geeks (‘na mard’ from a military perspective) and secret fundamentalists (secularism is hogwash) and India isn’t united (look at how great ours is). Add to that a mix of the Freudian slip of a desire for approval; the fake cable also mentions that the ISI had nothing to do with the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
From the naysayer’s perspective, Pakistan is the centre of the world’s universe. They clearly ignore the extent of the effect WikiLeaks has had on so many other countries, from petty to major issues. Take the one from Azerbaijan, where the US embassy has an unflattering opinion of the first lady’s excess of plastic surgery and inability to create a range of facial expressions. And her husband is still president.
Or take a cable on the Vatican and how it’s uninterested in tackling paedophilia. Maybe most damaging is the release of the secret desire of the Pope to keep out Turkey from the EU because it’s a Muslim country. That’s scandalous.
But these are just a few of many. I find it incomprehensible that most people do not seem to realise the true beauty of WikiLeaks. It exposes the Americans, British and Arabs with their incessant meddling, “secret governments”, the lies told to the populace (that the army and government have nothing to do with the drone attacks), mythical narratives (we are independent, we will never have foreign troops work with us), etc. Hopefully, this exposure will make it far more difficult in the future for anyone to take everyone for a ride under false pretences.
But the best reaction has to be Ahmad Quraishi’s — a sometime-blogger for this newspaper’s website — in “Guardian Uses WikiLeaks For Propaganda, Pakistani Media Can’t?” (or, it’s ok for us to lie to our own people and take their trust for a ride because I think others do it too), and then, inexplicably, state he is not an ISI mouthpiece.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2010.