The leaked cables are dominating all bulletins and talk shows on TV news channels, with viewers tuning in to lap up all the classified information about the tenuous relations between the government and the military .
Pakistan’s political and military elite have been shaken by damaging disclosures about the country’s foreign policy and internal politics in hundreds of secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, with the media screaming “WikiWreaks havoc” and “WikiLeaks bombs rock Islamabad“.
The media described the revelations as a cause for worry and introspection. Virtually all key political personalities, including President Asif Ali Zardari and his arch-rival PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, and all important institutions, including the powerful military, have been touched by the disclosures, which contain detailed readouts of meetings and conversations between US diplomats and Pakistani leaders.
The leaked cables are dominating all bulletins and talk shows on TV news channels, with viewers tuning in to lap up all the classified information about the tenuous relations between the government and the military as well as the divisions among the politicians.
“WikiWreaks havoc” was the headline in The Express Tribune while the headline on the front page of the Dawn read: “WikiLeaks bombs rock Islamabad”. The blunt headline in The News said: “WikiLeaks throws tons of dirt, shame on Pak players”.
Most of the leading newspapers devoted several pages to extracts from the cables which provide an insight into the negotiations and meetings that have shaped Pakistan’s policies on key issues, including the war on terrorism and relations with India.
“Ever since WikiLeaks started releasing US diplomatic cables on Sunday, we continue to discover one thing or another every day. Some new revelations about the power equation in Pakistan are not just interesting but quite revealing,” the Daily Times newspaper said in an editorial titled ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall...”
Referring to one cable that quoted Western leaders as saying that Mr Zardari had expressed fears about a threat to his life, the editorial said: “These may be the personal views of President Zardari and cannot be substantiated without proof if plans to assassinate him are indeed afoot but when the President of a country fears for his life, it is time to get worried.”
Calling for introspection on the revelations made about the Pakistani military’s perceived double role in the war on terror and the fragile democracy in Pakistan, the editorial said army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is the “most powerful man in the country and has positioned himself as the sole person to negotiate with as far as our foreign interlocutors are concerned. But it is time that democracy is allowed to take root in the country so that the civil-military relations are put in a proper perspective”.
Since WikiLeaks began releasing the cables over the week, information has come to light about hitherto unpublicised fears among the US and Western powers about materials from Pakistan’s nuclear programme falling into the hands of extremists.
Some cables show key leaders like Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in an unflattering light.
Gilani, who condemns US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt almost daily, is quoted in one cable as saying that he has no problems with the attacks by unmanned spy planes “as long as they get the right people.”
The debate on the WikiLeaks’ disclosures extended to the internet, where Pakistani bloggers and users of social networking websites like Twitter shared information and views on the leaked cables.
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, a close aide of President Zardari, was among those who joined the debate. “One thing is clear from Wikileaks that elected persons with people’s mandate don’t run Pakistan. Makes elections pointless,” Mr Taseer said in a message on Twitter.
In another message, he noted that the three traditional A’s of political success in Pakistan were “Allah, Army, America”, while the “new 3 A’s of political success in the correct order of priority (are) 1.America 2. Arabs 3. Army”.