By Sultan M. Hali
Some people have started believing in the WikiLeaks as if they were the gospel truth. The fact is that anything having a dubious origin must be taken with a pinch of salt. This scribe is not privy to any conspiracy regarding the WikiLeaks being a creation of the figment of imagination of the CIA, but the latest exposé by WikiLeaks, definitely gives the semblance of a selective use of information to damage the image of the Pakistani armed forces in the eyes of average Pakistanis; to make them more accessible, the medium selected for dissemination is Pakistani dailies. A method in the madness can be detected by the fact that the WikiLeaks exposé in question is exclusive to revelations regarding Pakistan and have been simultaneously leaked to India’s premier daily “The Hindu” and NDTV and a Pakistani daily and TV news channel. Unfortunately, a section of the Press and some TV anchors are using the leaked information without verifying the veracity and even at times refute or rebuke expert panelists by quoting the WikiLeaks exposé.
Let us take some examples of the so selective leaks; some dispatches reveal that the US authorities have been describing Pakistan’s premier intelligence service ISI as a terrorist organization. Follow up US media reports and trail of subsequent events lead to a smear campaign against the ISI. Regarding the sale of F-16 military aircraft to Pakistan by the United States, announced in 2005, comes up with shocking disclosures. Described by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an attempt to “break out of the notion that [India and Pakistan are in] a hyphenated relationship,” the decision was met with anguish in New Delhi. But leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggest that the sale was used only to further America's broad strategic interests, with Pakistan standing to gain little from the deal.
The dispatches, from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, reveal that the deal was, among other things, meant to assuage Pakistan's fears of an “existential threat it perceived from India.” The diplomatic cables, accessed by “The Hindu”through WikiLeaks, suggested that the purpose of the sale was to divert Pakistan's attention from “the nuclear option,” and give it “time and space to employ a conventional reaction” in the event of a conflict with India (151227: confidential). Privately, however, the U.S. acknowledged the “reality” that the F-16 program would not change India's “overwhelming air superiority over Pakistan.” In fact, the cables bluntly assert that the F-16s would be “no match for India's proposed purchase of F-18 or equivalent aircraft.”
Given India's “substantial military advantage,” one cable (187576: confidential) even surmised that the F-16s would at the most offer “a few days” for the U.S. to “mediate and prevent nuclear conflict.” the U.S. continued to press ahead with the deal, and cables document hectic parleys to bring it to fruition. Before the agreement was signed in September 2006, the U.S. played hardball to make Pakistan sign the Letter of Acceptance (LoA). The U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad, Ryan Crocker, suggested that Washington “convene” the Pakistani Ambassador, Mahmud Ali Durrani, to remind him that “missing the deadline [to sign the LoA] would have serious ramifications.”
“Do not think there is a better deal out there if this one expires,” was one of Ambassador Crocker's suggested bargain lines for Washington to use (77877: confidential/noforn). The agreement was inked two weeks after the cable was sent. At the time of signing the LoA, Major General Tariq Malik, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Production, had expressed reservations about the payment schedule as an “immense strain on Pakistan's fiscal and foreign exchange reserves…, jeopardizing growth.” But Maj. Gen. Malik's memo was dismissed by Mr. Crocker as “separate from the valid, legal contract” (80337: confidential/noforn). Even if the sale was considered only “symbolically important” by the U.S., the deal came with many strings attached. Pakistan paid for the F-16s through its nose. The U.S. also expressed concerns about basing the F-16s in Pakistan due to “concerns about potential technology transfer to China.” The outcome? Pakistan was made to fork out another $125 million to “build and secure a separate F-16 base” (197576: confidential) at Jacobabad to house the Block 52 versions. More lethally, they were provided without the critical “cryptokeys”. At Pakistan’s objection, it was told that the F-16s would still fly (but have no punch). Pakistan also invested heavily in midlife updates for its older F-16 fleet. A year after the agreement was concluded; Pakistan learnt that mid-life updates for the F-16s could only be performed in a third country. Eventually, it was agreed that Pakistan would pay $80 million to perform the updates in Turkey.
Certainly the above cannot be true as no blue blooded Pakistani would agree to such suicidal terms for Pakistan, forking out billions of dollars by cash strapped nation to acquire toothless junk; hence the selective leak has served its purpose of attempting to demoralize Pakistanis and lose confidence in their armed forces.
Other leaks divulge French and British concerns regarding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In another exposé, according to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Diplomatic Adviser, a sarcastic comment has been quoted that Pakistan remains “an army in search of a country.” The condescending characterization, made to former US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador to France, by Charles Rivkin, is contained in a previously unpublished secret US diplomatic cable dated September 3, 2009.
The attacks on Pakistan’s armed forces by the miscreants, followed by the deadly attack on the GHQ and PNS Mehran, make it crystal clear that WikiLeaks has been used to serve the agenda of lowering the morale of the people, ridiculing and humiliating Pakistan’s armed forces and the ISI and in some cases, attack them tooth and nail, demanding a reduction in their strength. To some extent, the heinous plot has succeeded, but it is for the national media to expose the machination, so that the people and armed forces become one solid mass, deterring any evil designs against its sovereignty.