Friday, December 3, 2010

Have Cake, Will Eat Too

Much can be said - and is being said - about the latest Wikileaks saga. Around the world, the two biggest issues being grappled with are the future of diplomacy - would interlocutors be open and frank with each other if they fear that what they say in private is going to find its way to the web - and the repercussions on sensitive regions such as the Middle East of some of the explosive confirmations of what people sort of suspected anyway about their leaders and American designs on the world.

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.

16 comments:

Nadir El-Edroos said...

I am getting abit fustrated with conspiracy theories. Not that Wikileaks may have dubious connections, it could do.

But how people have jumped from one extreme to another in a mere 24 hours is amazing. The first headlines from Wikileaks focused on two things from Pakistan.

One, what the Saudi King allegedly said about Zardari. Two, America wanting to remove enriched uranium from a nuclear research reactor, even though the uranium is in storage and under IAEA regulations, we were told to believe that this is more evidence of American designs on Pakistan's nuclear program.

Previously, documents published by Wikileaks detailed the murder of cilivians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cases of rendition.

Until this point, Wikileaks could do no evil, and everything that was divulged was highlighted as the truth.

24 hours or so later, when G. Kayani and the ISI were not being portrayed in the manner we are used too, suddenly the same Wikileaks, that 24 hours or so ago was a bastion of transparency and truth, became an Israeli-Zionist-Indian-American agent!

It seems that we have all lost the ability to judge the truth from fiction. Worse still we have lost the ability to evaluate information.

In that case, we should just appoint Kamran Khan and the lot as the national conscience and just buy products that his show endorses. Everyone's happy!

Yusaf said...

I don't buy your conspiracy Cafe Pyala! We have already seen the advisor to the canadian PM issue a fatwa for the murder of Assange on live canadian TV. This is a massive expose of historic proportions and the fact that many media centres in Pakistan and elsewhere ignored or misjudged the impact of these leaks shows why whistle blowers will always prefer to give their stuff to a brave person like Assange rather then some sold out journalist from NYT or WSJ (sadly I don't consider Kamran Khan a journalist at all!).

TLW said...

Uh, no Nadir, it's not us, it's just Kamran Khan (an maybe Talat Hussain ;-)

Them and their ilk are the ones who jump from one extreme to another. To repeat, it's just us citizens who're watching these talk show tits jump from vindicating a source for being proof of "conspiracies against Pakistan", to doubting it's authenticity when that same source openly indicts a holy cow these professional news actors have built a career studiously ignoring.

The wikileaks revelations are causing tremors in all countries, and I am sure Pakistan is not the only place people are looking at their journalists and asking, "Why didn't you talk about this stuff US analysts were kwetching about eons ago?"

The mainstream media is going to look very nervous in a lot of places over the next few months, for what Cablegate will demonstrate as their dereliction of duty.

And @ XYZ if you want an angle of somebody "feeding" Wikileaks these documents, you can speculate on rival institutions in Washington wanting to bring each other down a peg. Although this is too dangerous and mutually self destructive for rival institutions to do (i.e release hundreds of thousands of internal documents), I tentatively believe that this is all authentic. One very brutal metric of authenticity could be the current Interpol red notice out for Assange. If his organisation really is a threat and authentic (and I believe it is authentic) we can watch and see the zeal with which Interpol or Sweden pursue an extradition or arrest for Assange, the public face of Wikileaks.

Anonymous said...

What's with the post? You should have done another post on Kamran Khan as you failed to draw a logical conclusion of the first part: dubious credentials of WikiLeaks.

One can easily smell rats and it looks like that the leaks have been hijacked by the powers to be. The intent may have been novel in the start but now it all looks like dubious and scandalous. At the very least, US establishment is not much worried about the leaks. Anyone can imagine what would have been the actual reaction of the establishment if they were actually anguished. Julian Assange would have been history long ago but that's not the case. Think, think!

Anonymous said...

COULD THIS BE THE CONSPIRACY TO DEFAME GEN KAYANI WHICH KAMRAN KHAN REFERRED TO?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EnkUHUsrRs

Sara said...

Not only this program Anonymus dear, you can find another one. If you google it out, you may find which date Kamran Khan decided to praise Bahria Town and Malik Riaz. I have attached Youtube links of the program Reporter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj4OdAvYXtg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uUEAtNOVjk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md0pdxDcypA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zELyH_-h0tI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Volb3-sjpKg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6IUTwdKhRM&feature=related

I think this is what Kamran Khan is labeling as "Kuch shar-pasand anasir" :P

Anonymous said...

Kamran Khan is UNDESCNDET TESTES of pk generals .....crystal clear by this program....so he has to shout on the authenticity of this WL........

Anonymous said...

well done pyala ...good yorker again ...

Mushtaque Siddiqi said...

People like us, who work for media anywhere in the world fully support individual’s right to express his or her opinion, or to get into a discussion on an issue of personal or collective interest. Let me also acknowledge here that I follow most of your postings which discusses media organizations, individuals, or stories on/about the media.
Yes, there are exceptions, but on a lot of occasions, I thought that the media-related commentaries and opinion posted at this site were interesting, enlightening, and on several occasions, very close to the facts.
If we go with your own count, ARY has been discussed 12 times in the past, but never, in the past, have we felt that an issue discussed is so important that we should use our right to clarify. Today, we think that it is important that we clarify a comment made at you site. Because we see that an unverified and unsubstantiated comment has been made in a December 3 posting at your site entitled, “Have cake, Will eat too.”
The blog writer has a right to express his personal opinion about a TV program or its content, but in his opinion piece the writer has also tried to give a completely baseless “news story” about the ARY without giving the source of his information. He wrote :
“… Malik Riaz, the controversial billionaire owner of Bahria Town Construction, said also to have recently invested heavily in ARY….”
The owners of ARY Television Network have directed me to clarify the status and inform the writer, as well as the readers of the blogsite, that, “the owners of ARY Television network have neither asked for, nor have received outside funding from any individual or organization. They still own this network, and feel extremely proud to be the one who introduced privately-owned news television in the country.”

PS: we also feel proud to inform that very soon ARY is going to launch an Urdu-language daily newspaper in Pakistan.

------------------
Mushtaque Siddiqi
Executive Director
ARY Digital Network
-------------------

Mushtaque said...

People like us, who work for media anywhere in the world fully support individual’s right to express his or her opinion, or to get into a discussion on an issue of personal or collective interest. Let me also acknowledge here that I follow most of your postings which discusses media organizations, individuals, or stories on/about the media.
Yes, there are exceptions, but on a lot of occasions, I thought that the media-related commentaries and opinion posted at this site were interesting, enlightening, and on several occasions, very close to the facts.
If we go with your own count, ARY has been discussed 12 times in the past, but never, in the past, have we felt that an issue discussed is so important that we should use our right to clarify. Today, we think that it is important that we clarify a comment made at you site. Because we see that an unverified and unsubstantiated comment has been made in a December 3 posting at your site entitled, “Have cake, Will eat too.”
The blog writer has a right to express his personal opinion about a TV program or its content, but in his opinion piece the writer has also tried to give a completely baseless “news story” about the ARY without giving the source of his information. He wrote :
“… Malik Riaz, the controversial billionaire owner of Bahria Town Construction, said also to have recently invested heavily in ARY….”
The owners of ARY Television Network have directed me to clarify the status and inform the writer, as well as the readers of the blogsite, that, “the owners of ARY Television network have neither asked for, nor have received outside funding from any individual or organization. They still own this network, and feel extremely proud to be the one who introduced privately-owned news television in the country.”

- Mushtaque Siddiqi. Executive Director, ARY Digital Network

Aamir Mughal said...

Hamid Khan, counsel for Malik Riaz, stated before the court that a woman, Shamraiza, herself declared that there was no hand of Malik Riaz behind the murder of her husband and he read the declaration on the behalf of the that woman in the court.

udges "forgot" to pass below mentioned comment against Mr. Hamid Khan

The court also scolded the Rasheed A Rizvi for pleading the case for Ahmed Riaz Sheikh. The CJ said the court ordered to restore the accountability cases to October 5, 2007 position; however, the matter is being slighted with letters being addressed to the Attorney General and sometimes to the Law Secretary. - As per Daily Dawn - The court questioned Advocate Rasheed A. Razvi for pleading the case of Mr Sheikh while being the president of a bar association. The counsel replied that he strongly believed in the established principle that justice should not only be done but appear to have been done. REFERENCES: Hamid Khan [PBC], Malik Riaz & Jang Group's Omission & Commission http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2010/12/hamid-khan-pbc-malik-riaz-jang-groups.html

Usman Bashir said...

first of all i dont know what is it between You and GEO, as i just read a column by Abbas Athar (who supposed to be Editor of Express) who seems to take the same line for which u criticising GEO/TALAT.

Apart from this, i dont buy all of these columnist theories along with your own.
What everyone is missing that these are the cables by US ambessdors and as there are many which could be true , on the same side there would be many which might be false because they contain the opinions or intepretations. (as an example , lets take an example of our fav moulana shb who has its way of saying things which came in cables as "can you let me visit america?").
And please dont put such conspiracies again which often repeated for Osama that even with such advancements US is unable to track one person.... Just my own two cents.

Usman Bashir said...

first of all i dont know what is it between You and GEO, as i just read a column by Abbas Athar (who supposed to be Editor of Express) who seems to take the same line for which u criticising GEO/TALAT.

Apart from this, i dont buy all of these columnist theories along with your own.
What everyone is missing that these are the cables by US ambessdors and as there are many which could be true , on the same side there would be many which might be false because they contain the opinions or intepretations. (as an example , lets take an example of our fav moulana shb who has its way of saying things which came in cables as "can you let me visit america?").
And please dont put such conspiracies again which often repeated for Osama that even with such advancements US is unable to track one person.... Just my own two cents.

Asghar said...

XYZ
Good post as usual. What ever credibility Kamran Khan had left after his shows with pornographic obsession about Zardari, has gone six O'clock with this.
His sheer lack of respect for historical truth and his claim that the Pal Army is above controvery, was sickening.

XYZ,however, I now don't agree with your second point of Wikileaks having a "controller" in those "areas". The reaction in Germany, and Washington makes me almost certain that if Wikileaks is not the gospel truth but it is as near it could get to being one.

rashid1891 said...

With respect to the first position, the proponents of the "It's all a conspiracy" theory, fed on the idea of

Aamir Mughal said...

December 2, 2010 Syed Talat Hussain tried his best to serve "The Permanent Establishment of Pakistan i.e. Pakistan Army in ARV TV Program Off the Record with Kashif Abbasi. A “very rare footage” has been captured wherein Talat Hussain was declaring on 12 Oct 1999 that “General Pervez Musharraf” didn’t know about the Military Coup [last part of the footage] Off The Record By Kasif Abbasi [2 Dec 2010] Rare Clips - "LIE" with Syed Talat Hussain on DAWN NEWS.
http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2010/12/lie-with-syed-talat-hussain-on-dawn.html