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It is ironic that the Saudis have labelled Zardari as a “rotten head”, while their whole body polity is rotten. This comment is like the pot calling the kettle black. Pakistan has much more respect for human rights and freedom to criticise the government, while Saudi Arabia is politically far behind.
Blessed are the people who live in post-Second World War times, when humankind has progressed more than it has ever done before. Blessed are the people who live in the times of information technology. Blessed are the people who live in the times of democratisation of information. Blessed are the people who are using this technological revolution to bring out in the open what our rulers do behind closed doors.
Throughout human history, information has been the key to progress. It was always jealously guarded by the privileged classes to further their personal and class interests. But now information is flying in cyberspace and is easy to access at very little cost. The WikiLeaks creator and his unknown soldiers are thus the revolutionaries of cyberspace, bringing current information to the people that in the past was found only in the researched history of politics.
I remember when I came across the first book based on diplomatic papers declassified by the US State Department in 1982. The book — The American Role in Pakistan, 1947-1958 — was written by Professor M Venkataramani. As the book was not available in Pakistan, it was with great difficulty that I managed to get a photocopied version (pardon me for copyright violation). The book is not just a collection of declassified papers, but Venkataramani has used the information to trace the history of the US’s role in Pakistan.
Those who are now crying wolf and loss of sovereignty to the US should read this book to get the right historical perspective. Unfortunately, ultra-nationalist friends forget that the Americans were invited to dinner by the founder of Pakistan: “On May 1, 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, received two American visitors at his Bombay residence. They were Raymond A Hare, Head of the Division of South Asian Affairs, Department of State, and Thomas E Weil, Second Secretary of the US Embassy in India…he sought to impress on his visitors that the emergence of an independent, sovereign Pakistan would be in consonance with the American interests.
Pakistan would be a Muslim country. Muslim countries would stand together against Russian aggression. In that they would look towards the United States for assistance.” The meeting was reported by the US Charge de Affairs in Delhi, George E Merril, on May 2, 1947.
This is not the only incident that shows how Pakistan offered to play a strategic role to defend the region from ‘Russian aggression’, i.e. communism, and the spread of ‘Indian imperialism’ in the region. Right from day one, Pakistan has been asking for US arms to protect itself from the ‘Indian threat’. Liaquat Ali Khan followed this policy and, in his trip to the US in early May 1950, stressed: “Pakistan therefore politically, ideologically and strategically, holds the position of great responsibility…In addition to this, Pakistan is resolved to throw all its weights to help the maintenance of stability in Asia.”
In 1999, Oxford University Press published a book, The American Papers — Secret and Confidential, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Documents, 1965-1973, compiled and selected by Roedad Khan, a former senior Pakistani bureaucrat. These papers give an insight into behind-the-doors American diplomacy during the liberation struggle of Bangladesh and the happenings before and after the Pakistan-India 1965 war. As it does not include all the papers and the selection was done by Roedad Khan, one wonders what the criterion for this selection was. But, unlike WikiLeaks, the compilation is from the archives that had been declassified officially.
Even in the case of WikiLeaks, one does not know whether some documents were held back by its editors as not much can be found on the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto. Although on the very next day of her killing, one finds that American Ambassador Anne Patterson wrote a rather long assessment of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who she thought could be the next prime minister. The assessment is quite favourable. In this memo, she has mentioned Benazir Bhutto as “late”. Interestingly, in the same memo she has dealt in detail with the personal enmity between Elahi and the Bhutto family because of Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi’s assassination by Al Zulfikar (a militant group of PPP headed by Murtaza Bhutto). One reason for the omission of the US embassy’s memos on Bhutto’s assassination could be that the top secret category communication channel is perhaps still beyond WikiLeaks’ hackers.
While the media is outraged about the US administration and Pakistani politicians’ axis, they have underplayed the interference in Pakistan by the Saudi government. The Saudis have accepted that they are not just mere observers in Pakistan’s politics but were “participants”. Their interference in Pakistan’s politics and unabated support to the Islamic extremist groups has damaged the country’s peace.
Whether it is an issue of our leaders, closeness with American and British diplomats or unabated drone attacks, outraged media and some politicians shout from the pulpit that our sovereignty is being violated by the big powers. But very seldom do these protagonists of sovereignty mull over the fact that our political and territorial boundaries are breached by other countries. When we speak against the interference of foreign powers in our politics — and rightly so — we should keep in mind the basic principle of international laws regarding sovereignty. These laws have evolved over the last many centuries.
According to Professor Dr Douglas Stuart, “State sovereignty still remains an ambiguous and convoluted theory. As one looks at the role of state sovereignty in today’s international system, it is important to set some basic guidelines.” He argues that “the empowerment of local movements by strong international non-state actors poses a serious challenge to the theory of state sovereignty”.
This is where Pakistan’s predicament begins with its paranoia about India. Dictated by the same sense of insecurity and myopic view, our establishment has also gotten itself stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan. The desire to have a client state in Afghanistan has made us pushy to the extent that most governments in Kabul have remained unhappy with Islamabad. And in the process we have willingly become a client state of the US and Saudi Arabia.