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WikiLeaks — the people deserve to know

The writer is a lawyer and political commentator based in London

Rebuked by world leaders, dismissed by diplomats, hunted by Interpol — Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks have fundamentally altered perceptions. Though they may not have revealed much that is new, simply confirming suspicions and providing solid evidence is sufficient to modify opinions and significantly revise the nature of activism and whistle-blowing in a world where media self-censorship has increasingly become the norm. Julian Assange may be the face of WikiLeaks and its founder, but this certainly is no one-man operation. Sifting through multitudes of cables and presenting them in a readable and newsworthy fashion is no mean task. Moreover, the network of sources emanating from powerhouses willing to feed the data to WikiLeaks raises interesting questions about dissatisfaction with official policy from within the ranks, triggering some senior American and Canadian politicians to call for the blood of those who have leaked the information.

Regarding Pakistan, on the nuclear weapons front, three suspicions are confirmed. First, they provoke paranoia and deep-seated fear in the western world. Second, the Pakistani establishment continues to rapidly enhance its nuclear arsenal at the expense of money that could be spent on education and healthcare. Third, nuclear weapons have served as a deterrent for India, which may otherwise have already engaged Cold Start. And while a Pakistani general is quoted as saying that in that eventuality “the Pakistani Army would be no match for the Indian Army”, a US mission is quoted as saying that “India would likely encounter very mixed results”. Other suspicions are also confirmed on avid US interest in Balochistan, a resource-rich province. Karzai is sheltering Bramdagh Bugti while Pakistan shelters Mullah Baradar. While Afghanistan (with Indian help) supports the Baloch insurgency, Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban. The Americans have considered arranging a swap in securing Bramdagh asylum in Ireland and extraditing Barader to Kabul, but the ISI did not agree. Pakistan and Iran have had to postpone plans for a rail link due to Baloch uprising on both sides of the border.

While there has been much furore in Pakistan over what the Saudi monarch thinks of Zardari, the far more important issue is that the Saudi monarch, along with Bahrain’s khalifa, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and other Arab leaders, has egged America on to attack Iran. Although it is widely known that Iran and Saudi Arabia are not buddies, to encourage America militarily has prompted at least one Arab paper’s editor to demand an explanation, though most remain head-in-sand, avoiding mention of the story. The Arab street most likely does not reflect their leaders’ views. Although Iran’s official reaction and that of its English channel, Press TV, has been dismissive and inclined to blame the usual suspect, it is unlikely that this revelation will not further divide the Iranians and the Arabs. Also noteworthy are cables that reveal the US supporting Kurdish separatists, the PKK, by arming them against Turkey.

There are also revelations about Americans spying on UN officials and preventing independent investigations on human rights abuses in countries like Spain. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as stating that “We took in a lot of crazies” while referring to Muslim immigrants in the UK. Prince Andrew, the UK’s special trade representative, has been revealed to have played a part in thwarting an anti-corruption investigation in the infamous BAA-al Yamama deal, in which a Saudi prince has said to have profited handsomely from kickbacks. Zardari is not the only one that has been disparagingly referred to as a “numbskull” by Britain’s ex-chief of defence staff — Russia’s Putin and Medvedev have been described as “Batman and Robin”. From Yemen to China, WikiLeaks have caused a commotion and prompted rebukes across the globe. And thus, if there is one thing we can say about Julian Assange, it is that he must be independent. For better or for worse, the people deserve to know.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2010.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan December 2, 2010

Reader Comments (9)

  • I agree in many parts that many of those cables just prove what people thought, but governments have always dismissed peoples suspicions because the public does not have any solid evidence, now the public has and apparently in large part public does not appreciate getting those classified info, at least in America, while Europeans seems to embrace it.

    I wonder why you make so little of Hillary Clinton mission to spy on UN officials, that is a breach to UN laws and if it would not be for anything else Hillary should resign, What was Hillaries intention with this information?

    Blackmail? what else, she also violated privacy of those people which is against the US constitution.

    In fact I just do not understand why media does not make more of this UN spying.

    Anyhow, nice article and does cover many things correctly but not all.

    sigthor jonsson Dec 2, 2010 - 11:00PM
  • Ayesha
    The timing of Wiki-leaks publishing the cables indicates that something very big is in the offing in the very near future. Why are they publishing bits and pieces at a time?. The media papers chosen by Assange’s lot are slightly left wing to be precise so that the authenticity can be maintained…It all boils down to word ‘@Islamic’ and the Russian and Chinese governing Mafia in short where there is no accountability.
    There is no real democracy in any of the countries covered so far thus it looks there is an agenda which if successful will lead to a better world. Just be prepared for the bigger scale 9 after shocks because some of the Govts will not survive after this exercise,
    Therefore I will not be surprised if Pakistan finds it difficult to shake the control of the Army Generals.In order to survive and maintain control they are capable of destroying anything including the whole population of Pakistan The word Nationalism does not mean anything otherwise they would have done something to improve the education,health,economic and living standards of Ordinary Pakistani citizens.
    Regards and god bless
    Viren Naik

    viren naik Dec 3, 2010 - 12:24AM
  • wiki leaks exactly a bold role ever staged in the world since the emergence of human groups,city states ,nation states in this universe and is certainly an unprecedented may clean the iron coated dust if not completely the esoteric political via military activities,which were kept secret from common man….

    karim Dec 3, 2010 - 1:05AM
  • left wing, why is people so crazy about right and left.

    both left and right promote democracy!!!

    sigthor jonsson Dec 3, 2010 - 2:10AM
  • The article is a thoughtful and sincere reflection on WikiLeaks and their impact upon how the people would, from now on perceive the true nature of diplomacy. Unfortunately our memory is too short and all this brouhaha will blow over much sooner than expected, leaving no apparent sign of change in the nature of diplomatic-philosophy it shall remain dubious and insincere as it has always been since days of Cardinal Richelieu.

    khurram Dec 3, 2010 - 8:08PM
  • Yes Ayesha, Wikileaks have stirred all over. Mostly these are the things that were already speculated in one way or the other but now they have been authenticated as the source (US) has condemned but hasn’t denied these.
    But here in Pakistan, we are again being mislead by our sweet politicians. They (mostly government corners) are adopting the funny line these aren’t authenticated and are yet to be confirmed. Well whom they are waiting the confirmation to come from? They themselves know whether they have said those things or not. So if they haven’t said those things, they should straight away deny that.
    Whether some one likes it or not, the leaks have put the things in more clearer perspective.
    There is onyl one thing thats kinda suspicious. There isn’t much stuff in these about Israel or India.

    Sajjad Ahmed Dec 4, 2010 - 8:23PM
  • @ Sajjad Ahmed—thx for your post. Regarding Israel, there is a lot of cable emanating from the Tel Aviv embassy so it would be incorrect to say that there isn’t—in fact more than that from Islamabad thus far. There is wikileaks and then there is what part of wikileaks the media chooses to highlight—the two are not necessarily the same—and here I am not only talking of Pakistani media but world media at large. As far as New Delhi goes however, so far I have read only two cables from there and I don’t sense that this is by design but probably simply that more leaks from there are yet to come. Remember of the 250,000 cables, we only have access to roughly 700 yet.

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan Dec 5, 2010 - 12:31AM
  • @ Ayesha. Thanks for calrifying that.
    Infact thats (Israel, India) a point being raised by some who are linking these leaks with conspiracies. Well, even if its a conspiracy, people should come up with explanations about what they have been communicating to US Embassies.
    Secondly, US can benefit (if they do) only in short term from leaking such information and will lose a big time in the long run. People will stop trusting them and level of secrecy in their communications. The way our politicians communicate with US offcials will change for good.

    Sajjad Ahmed Dec 5, 2010 - 1:57PM
  • Hamid Dabashi has put it best in his article on CNN page:

    “The poetic justice of the WikiLeaks dump is to provide a correction, so that ordinary citizens, many under surveillance, can eavesdrop on their elected and unelected officials and learn about the reckless language and demeanor with which these officials endanger our lives and callously put our planet in peril.”

    Qazi Dec 5, 2010 - 3:54PM

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