Unfortunately, most of what is being said in Pakistan is terribly uninformed, and swings from one extreme of 'it's all a big CIA conspiracy to undermine the Muslim world' on the one hand to 'how can you argue with this gospel truth?' on the the other. The former position does not understand the phenomenon of Wikileaks in the first place and conveniently ignores the fact that, so far, only some 500 of the more than 250,000 confidential cables have been released in the media. The second also conveniently ignores the valid questions regarding Wikileaks' allegedly super-secret structure, how Wikileaks receives information in the first place and the potential for it to be 'played.'
With respect to the first position, the proponents of the "It's all a conspiracy" theory, fed on the idea of homogeneity in the West, are unwilling to believe that there can be ideologically motivated and principled anarchists within the Western world seeking to undermine what they see as repressive state control of information, and simply do not understand how new technological tools can be used to circumvent control. If you are interested, you can read Wikileaks' front-man Julian Assange's treatise on "destroying the invisible government" from 2006, long before Wikileaks became a household word. The conspiracy-minded also ignore the substantive point that none of the principals writing the cables or quoted in them have denied the content of the cables so far (except for Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who admitted meeting US Ambassador Anne Patterson and hosting a dinner for her but denied asking the US to support him for a prime ministerial slot as she claimed in the cable). And, as I pointed out earlier, the bulk of the cables are still yet to come. The decision to stagger the release of the information this time - unlike in July when the 92,000 plus Afghan War Logs were released in one go - is a decision taken by the mainstream media as well, such as the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais. 'Cablegate' will go on for months and will feature far more than the Muslim world.
With respect to the second position, I will refer you to my post in July about the last Wikileaks information dump and my ambivalence about it. Here is what I wrote at that time about Wikileaks itself:
"The second thing that makes me uneasy is WikiLeaks itself. I know this will probably sound terribly conspiratorial, but I cannot say with 100 percent surety that it is not all part of some grand psy-ops strategy: you know, build up an institution with calculated cred boosters (e.g. the leaked Iraq helicopter footage) and then use it to release info you want to release. It's not like it has never been done before, although of course never on a global level. Okay, I know I'm probably sounding like a nutter now but bear with me. Yes, I've read the wonderful profile of maverick Julian Assange (the driving force behind WikiLeaks) in The New Yorker, but I never quite understood the over-dramatized cloak and dagger stuff. Are we really being asked to believe that a man as publicly recognizable as Assange, who jets from continent to continent, can escape being tracked by international security agencies? Or that WikiLeaks, which claims to run entirely on donations (including credit card donations), does not have a single bank account or money transfer that is trace-able? Really?
Ok, forget my questions about WikiLeaks. Is it really beyond the realm of possibility for WikiLeaks and Assange, no matter how pure of heart they are, to be used by psy-op warriors wanting to put certain things out in the public realm? Are we really being asked to believe that 92,000 plus secret documents can be easily smuggled out of the Pentagon (on a Lady GaGa CD, no less, if some reports are to be believed) without anyone having any inkling? Anything is possible I guess but the probability on the other hand is a different matter.
Forgive me for being a doubting Thomas and slightly cynical. But these are the reasons I would not take the leaks at face value even as I accept the mining of the data for useful information. I hope my doubts about WikiLeaks are misplaced though."
Basically, my point is that either completely dismissing the contents of the leaked information as fake or having blind trust that nobody is feeding them to Wikileaks for their own purposes are both logically untenable positions.
But then we have Mr Kamran Khan on his Geo programme, Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath, deciding to embrace both positions. His programme tonight (December 2) was a marvel of double-speak and chutzpah. But before I come to tonight's programme, let me also run you through the recent history of this programme since the current Wikileaks saga broke, which I have been following and been amazed by every day.
Monday, November 29: On the day when 'Cablegate' was the top story in the entire world, the first cables having been released late the night before (according to Pakistan Time), guess how much coverage was given to them in Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath. None. Zero. Zilch. Cipher. Instead, Kamran Khan devoted the entire programme to an extended promotional interview of Malik Riaz, the controversial billionaire owner of Bahria Town construction, said also to have recently invested heavily in ARY. The only explanation I could come up with for this remarkable detour was that either Khan now had a home in Bahria Town or that Riaz has now invested in Geo as well.
Tuesday, November 30: Kamran Khan grudgingly does a segment on the Wikileaks expose, mainly focusing on those related to Saudi King Abdullah's perceptions of President Asif Zardari but seems still to be unsure about the news-worthiness of the story. Seems inclined to believe it's not really credible information until Professor Hasan Abbas from Washington tells him nobody's really questioning the authenticity of the cables. Manages to use the New York Times misquote about Abdullah calling Zardari "an obstacle to Pakistan's progress" and adding in "because he is not sincere to the country" of his own accord.
Wednesday, December 1: Finally realizing that 'Cablegate' is worth more than just a segment, leads his programme with the statement that the cables have caused a storm ("bhonchal") in the politics of the country. Continues to use the misquoted story and focuses almost entirely on cables related to Zardari. No mention of cables implicating General Kayani in domestic politics or ISI chief General Pasha in talks with Israel or of the alleged involvement of Arab countries in Pakistan's affairs or their instigations to the US to attack Iran, which would obviously have serious implications for Pakistan. No mention also of cables giving the lie to Nawaz Sharif's claims about his interactions with the Saudis.
Which brings us to Thursday, December 2: In an amazing display of whatever you want to call it, the first part of Kamran Khan's show was devoted to decrying the manipulation behind the leaked cables and casting doubt on their credibility. Why? Well, because they had 'tried to besmirch the good name and reputation of the Pakistan army and its well-respected leader General Kayani.' Incidentally, according to Kamran Khan, the army is "a totally uncontroversial institution." He concluded that there is a sinister game afoot to undermine Pakistan's interests through the 'selective' release of these cables. He then proceeded to 'contextualize' General Kayani's positions through "new information received", that shows how "brave" and upright the general is, which incidentally is the same 'information' presented by Syed Talat Hussain in Dawn today. (Hmmm, I wonder where both could possibly have received the information from...)
The second part of the show, on the other hand, was devoted to praising the credibility of and insight given by the leaked cables which have "documented everything" and "not one single word of which has been denied by anyone or cast into doubt." Why? Well, because they showed what a scumbag and how beholden to US interests President Zardari was. "What are the poor, powerless 170 million people of this nation to do?" cries Kamran Khan.
If that's not called having your cake and eating it too, I don't know what is.
You can watch the relevant portions of the programme below:
Having His Cake:
And Eating It:
What are the poor, powerless 170 million people of this nation to do, indeed.