Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
At about the time WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, including one related to a secret attempt to remove enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor, a top Pakistani military official held a briefing for journalists that focused on U.S.-Pakistan ties.
Dawn’s Cyril Almeida has written a piece based on the officer’s comments made on the condition of anonymity, and they offer the closest glimpse you can possibly get of the troubled ties between the allies.
First off, as the officer says, Pakistan has gone from being the “most sanctioned ally” to the “most bullied ally” of the United States. Presumably the sanctions that the officer is referring to relate to those imposed on Pakistan following its nuclear tests in 1998. And as for the most bullied ally the other comments offer a clue:
These include and I quote from Almeida’s piece:
“The U.S. still has a transactional relationship with Pakistan; the U.S. is interested in perpetuating a state of controlled chaos; and perhaps most explosively given the WikiLeaks revelations, the “real aim of U.S. strategy is to de-nuclearise Pakistan.”
U.S. and Pakistani security interests aren’t the same including over Afghanistan and India, the military officer says. And while Islamabad understood America’s growing focus on North Waziristan, it had to first settle South Waziristan and also factor in the blowback any operation in the area would stoke. The officer intriguingly also talks about indications that parties in the conflict in Afghanistan can renounce al Qaeda and even ask it to leave Afghanistan. In other words he is suggesting that the Taliban are ready to break ties with al Qaeda and if so that removes a big obstacle to peace talks.
But clearly the most significant revelation from the briefing which reflects frank exchanges between the upper echelons of the Pakistan military and the Obama administration is the one about the the nuclear disarmament of Pakistan. There isn’t any further elaboration in Almeida’s article but taken together with the WikiLeaks disclosures it seems to confirm the Pakistani people’s worst fears. America is on its borders and its overriding objective is to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, its national asset and deterrent against much larger and nuclear-armed India. Indeed the whole idea that the United States has Pakistan’s nuclear programme in its sights just as it has virtually recognised India as a legitimate nuclear weapon state must rankle deep across Pakistan.
“The people of Pakistan measure the strength of U.S.-Pak relations on the scale of the U.S.-India partnership,” the military officer is quoted as saying.
According to WikiLeaks, the United States has been secretly trying to convince Pakistan to allow it to remove uranium from a research reactor on fears it may be stolen or diverted for use in a nuclear device. But Pakistan has refused visits from American experts, according to a May 2009 report by former U.S. Ambassador Anne W.Patterson because “If the local media got word of the fuel removal, they would certainly portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” a Pakistani official told her.
The question is which reactor the Americans are talking about? Top Pakistani nuclear scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy thinks the report probably refers to the enriched uranium that Pakistan received under the Atoms for Peace programme that America ran for several countries including India back in the 1960s. He told the Christian Science Monitor that the only reactor running on highly enriched uranium was a small 5mw facility at PINSTECH closed to Islamabad. Pakistan whose weapons programme is based on the uranium enrichment route rather than plutonium has since built its own capability. Any attempt to remove the uranium from that particular reactor is not going to impair its nuclear programme.