December 12, 2010


The US 'viceroy' rules Islamabad (Sameer Arshad, 12/12/10, TNN)

So is any of this any more than idle gossip? Yes, says Pakistani analyst Shereen Mazari. The revelations have "aggravated mistrust between the state and the nation", she said to a Pakistani TV channel, and underlined a terrible truth for Pakistan and the wider world: American ambassadors in Islamabad are no less than "viceroys''.

But Stephen Cohen, authoritative American expert on the South Asia region, says none of this is new. "I discuss this in my book on Pakistan (published in 2004, before Patterson went there), and in fact every US ambassador that I talked to complained that they were being dragged into Pakistani politics by politicians and even the military," he said.

Cohen may have a point. The Wikileaks disclosures may not be strictly new but they are a revelation to the wider world. For instance, the US ambassador's good offices were used last year to resolve the judicial crisis that threatened to destabilise Pakistan's fledgling civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari. Thousands of lawyers, supported by the main opposition parties, had marched to Islamabad seeking the return to office of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Then there was the cable that recorded the astonishing leak — to the US embassy — by Pakistan's former national security adviser Mahmud Durrani of intelligence agency ISI's private briefing to parliamentarians.

Experts say Wikileaks may have, for the first time, told many truths Pakistan's all-powerful Army would have wanted to stay hidden.

The great benefit of the leaks is to make the ugly but mundane truths about other nations seem like news.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2010 9:25 AM
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