Media outlets from the Dawn Media Group, Pakistans leading media house, published the first set of WikiLeaks files relating to Pakistan on May 20.
The leaked US cables revealed that the Pakistani military is complicit in US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, bordering Afghanistan.
Each set of cables published by the group has had a ripple effect, with the leaked US cables widely reproduced.
At first, embarrassed military spokespeople and politicians exposed by the leaks denied the contents. Later, they tried to ignore them.
However, there is nothing particularly new or shocking exposed in the cables, which were mostly sent by officials at the US Embassy in Islamabad.
That the Pakistan military is complicit in drone attacks and that top politicians seek approval from the US embassy before making decisions is hardly news in Pakistan.
These cables, fashionably named the “Pakistan Papers”, were published after an agreement between the Dawn Media Group and Sunshine Press Productions, the publishing arm of WikiLeaks, for the exclusive first use in Pakistan of all the secret US diplomatic cables relating to the country.
Dawn Media Group runs the country’s largest English-language daily Dawn, an English-language TV channel, DawnNews, an English-language monthly, Herald, as well as some smaller publications.
Pakistan’s English-language press, a colonial hangover, enjoys great influence, despite a tiny but “highbrow” audience.
The Haroon family owns the Dawn Media Group and is courted by every government ― military as well as civilian. The Haroons, in turn, have been equally obliging. They have served dictators and elected governments with equal dedication.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, a coveted appointment, is a scion of the Haroon family.
Will Dawn outlets publicise a cable implicating any Haroons? Forget it.
Apna Greban (Our Underbelly) TV show was an instant hit on DawnNews. Exposing journalists’ corruption, it was recently shut down after only 12 episodes.
Similarly, the fate and shape of the Pakistan Papers will be decided by media managers at Dawn Media House.
Still, what has been brought forth by the Pakistan Papers so far, despite the fact it confirms what many already believed, is worthwhile as an insider’s confirmation.
For instance, we now have further proof that Washington told Islamabad not to “provide Iran with a foothold”.’ Dawn reported that one cable said: “The meeting between Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia during the Bush administration, and President Zardari took place on October 18, 2008 at the Aiwan-e-Sadr [Presidential Palace], during which Mr Zardari apprised the visiting official of the Iranian offer that the President 'did not believe he could refuse' ...
“Boucher reminded him of Ambassador Haqqani’s recent conversation with Deputy Secretary Negroponte in which the Deputy cautioned against providing Iran with a toehold in Pakistan.”
Months after the talks with Boucher, Zardari, in a discussion with a US Congressional delegation, again referred to Iran’s offer to provide “oil, gas and electricity to Pakistan”.
Zardari told the delegation at a May 25, 2009 meeting that “Pakistan desperately needed energy resources” and that “no one else” was ready to help.
However, he went on to tell the US delegation: “I need you more than anyone else, so I will take my cue from you.”
Similarly, the Pakistan Papers reinforce a widely-held notion that Pakistan military has been running with the Taliban hare and also hunting with the US hound ― playing both sides of the “war on terror”.
For instance, one cable reveals that in a January 22, 2008 meeting with top US military official Admiral William J. Fallon, Pakistan’s army chief General Kayani asked Washington to provide “continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area” in South Waziristan.
We now also know that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s widower Zardari, bossing over the country’s largest party, the Pakistani People's Party, told US ambassador Anne Patterson that he would do nothing to rock the status quo.
In an imperial fashion, Patterson noted that “Zardari is far less emotional than his late wife. He seems both ruthless and practical but his political skills have not really been put to the test”.
Every top politician, including the Islamist ones, pays visits to the US embassy in Islamabad.
A few cables reveal information for the first time. For instance, one revealed: “The UAE government was extremely concerned, as far back as 2005, that details about its military cooperation with the Americans at a Pakistani airstrip had been leaked.
“Speaking to a US diplomat in Abu Dhabi, an official from the UAE government 'expressed his displeasure ... that some details of the UAE’s cooperation with the US military in Pakistan have become public'”.
But, again, an autocratic Sultan offering his services to the empire is hardly surprising.
Hence, the Pakistan Papers have hardly managed to stir up a storm in a teacup. A country beset by nonstop earthshaking tragedies, almost daily, hardly has time for “revelations” that reveal little.
The publication of the leaked cables was overshadowed by the assassination of Osama bin Laden and reprisal attacks by the Taliban that claimed dozens of lives.
Despite making headlines, the leaks have not become a major subject of media debate. Rather, the mainstream media, largely controlled and commanded by Pakistan military, have been busy spinning fantastic conspiracy theories, such as “Osama was already dead” and “the Taliban are backed by India”.
These aim to spread mass confusion in a bid to rescue the military’s badly tarnished image after the US raid that killed Osama and Taliban attacks on military targets.
The military, particularly its intelligence arm the ISI, has been presenting itself as a force that entire world fears for helping drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.
On the night of May 22, four Taliban fighters conducted the Rambo Class operation at Mahran air base in Karachi. They mocked the sixth largest army in the world for 16 hours before blowing themselves up ― a drama covered live on TV networks. They destroyed two P-3C Orion aircrafts worth $110 million and killed a dozen soldiers.
Pakistan's establishment has even bigger issues than the latest WikiLeaks cables that prove what everyone already knew.