By Najam Sethi
THE Wikileaks are sprinkled with some well worn wicked portraitures and political insights about Pakistan’s weak and dependent ruling elites. But there are some surprises 1. President Asif Zardari thinks he may be assassinated or “ taken out” by the military . We know this already because Mr Zardari has often talked publicly about being taken out of the Presidency “ on a stretcher”. But we didn’t know that, in the event, he would like Bilawal Bhutto to make Mr Zardari’s sister Feryal, President of Pakistan. She was his original choice to be president of Pakistan before he decided to crown himself but we didn’t know that he still thinks she may have a role to play in the future.
2. General Ashfaq Kayani thought of seizing power last March when Nawaz Sharif launched the Long March to restore the judges but didn’t because he “distrusted” Nawaz more than he “disliked” Zardari and couldn’t work out how to get rid of Zardari without bringing Nawaz into power.
We have always known how this unresolved dilemma for the military establishment has helped to keep Mr Zardari in power as the lesser of the two evils. What we didn’t know was that General Kayani had “ hinted” to US Ambassador Anne Patterson that “ he might, however reluctantly, have to persuade President Zardari to resign if the situation sharply deteriorates” during the Long March.
This explains why Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani had to spend six hours in the Presidency on the night of March 15- 16, 2009, persuading President Zardari to back down in the face of a threat from the army chief and agree to a restoration of the judges. We also didn’t know that General Kayani had “ selected” Asfandyar Wali Khan to replace Mr Zardari while leaving Mr Gilani as prime minister in an intervention that stopped short of being a “ formal coup”. Of course, we remember that the army chief in 1993, General Abdul Waheed, had played a similar role behind the scenes in ousting both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan when the two were locked in a bitter feud and had brought government to a gridlock.
3. Nawaz Sharif’s government in Punjab province “ tipped” off the militant Lashkar e Tayba about impending UN sanctions following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, thus allowing the LeT to empty its bank accounts before they could be raided by the federal government.
We already know of Mr Sharif’s kid- glove policy toward extremist religious groups based in Punjab — indeed there have been media reports of secret “ deals” between some of them and the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif that neither would try to “ take out” the other. That is one reason why the Punjab courts, which are closely in tune with the Sharifs, have not dared to alienate these groups, in particular Mr Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the LeT, who is constantly being detained by the security forces and released by the courts in an elaborate charade aimed at frustrating India and the international community.
4. Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT neuroscientist convicted in the US of terrorism recently, was never detained at the Bagram NATO military base in Afghanistan.
This information is contrary to the widespread public perception in Pakistan. US embassy cables suggest that American officials felt genuinely that they had nothing to hide about Siddiqui and her three missing children.
Significantly, the cables also reflect the fact that PM Gillani repeatedly requested American leaders for Siddiqui’s return to Pakistan to appease domestic public opinion.
5. Following the Mumbai attack, General Kayani vetoed a decision by PM Gillani to dispatch DGISI General Shuja Pasha to New Delhi to allay India fears and suspicions. This is a matter of public record. But we didn’t know that the British “ over- reacted” when they believed that India might hit back by targeting alleged terrorist bases and headquarters inside Pakistan. US officials took a cooler view, according to the cables, even though the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and the UK High Commissioner in Pakistan, Robert Brinkley, continued to lean on General Pasha to visit Delhi and placate the Indians, advice that he spurned. British intelligence also strongly believes that New Delhi is covertly supporting the Baloch insurgency as a tit- for- tat for Pakistani support to LeT. This is also well known.
6. In talks with Afghanistan, Pakistan mulled swapping the Taliban leader Mullah Berader, in Pakistani custody, for Baloch nationalist Bramdagh Bugti, in Afghan care, but the two sides couldn’t work out a mutually acceptable extradition treaty.
We know that the former is in Pakistan and the latter operates from bases in Afghanistan but we didn’t know that a swap had been mooted in talks between Rehman Malik, the interior minister, and Atmar Hanif, his Afghan counterpart. The cables also reveal that the Americans thought of getting UNHCR to facilitate Bugti’s asylum outside the region, possibly in Ireland, but DGISI Pasha opposed the idea of formally granting Bugti refugee status. Later, Gen Pasha indicated that Bugti shouldreturn to Pakistan and face trial for his crimes. The US embassy then decided to advise against alienating the ISI. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Bugti may have secretly relocated to India now.
And so the cables go on, overwhelming readers by details about the troubled relationship and distrust between the Pakistani civilians and the Pakistan army, between the Americans and the Pakistan army, between the Indians and the Pakistan army, and so on.
Some disquieting conclusions are confirmed: that the military establishment dislikes and distrusts Mr Zardari; that it considers India as its principal enemy; that it is not ready to buy America’s mission statement in the region at any cost; that it is not ready to disband the LeT or abandon its Taliban assets in North Waziristan.
The conclusion is therefore inescapable: Pakistan is headed for political upheaval within and conflict without.
The writer is the editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today