WikiLeaks shake the ‘ummah’

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower non-profit media organisation, has taken the world by storm once again. On November 28, WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 US embassy cables from 1966 to February 2010. As per its website, these are “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain”. These cables are not only a blow to US diplomacy but have also shattered many a myth, especially in the Muslim world. From a Pakistani perspective, the Saudi monarch’s remarks about President Asif Zardari were quite revealing. A cable from US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), James Smith, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “King Abdullah firmly believes that Asif Zardari is the primary obstacle to the government's ability to move unequivocally to end terrorist safe havens there (“when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body”).”

Now, this is quite rich coming from the Saudi monarch when the leaked documents report that Saudi donors remain the chief donors of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s obsession with propagating Wahabi Islam has led to strengthening the fundamentalist mindset in the Muslim world. During the Afghan jihad, the Saudis funded most madrassas (seminaries) in Pakistan and also monetarily supported militant networks. The Saudis continue to do that to date. President Zardari and the PPP government have actually been trying to quash extremism in Pakistan. This government has not only owned the war on terror but has also built up a public consensus against religious terrorism. Thus, it was not just an uncalled for remark from the Saudi monarch but also factually incorrect. Traditionally, we have been beneficiaries of Saudi petro-dollars, which has led to relative influence of the Saudis in our local politics. Back in 2000, it was Saudi Arabia that negotiated with General (retd) Musharraf in striking a deal with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who then went into exile in the KSA. Though the KSA was close to the PPP back in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s days, after General Ziaul Haq came to power, their loyalties have shifted to the Sharifs. On the other hand, the UAE is now much closer to the PPP. As per the leaked cables, in July 2009, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said that President Zardari was “dirty but not dangerous” while Mian Nawaz Sharif was “dangerous but not dirty” and hence he could not be trusted to honour his promises. It seems as if both the KSA and the UAE have their own interest in Pakistani leaders. Another interesting revelation made by these leaked cables is that Mossad chief advocated that General (retd) Musharraf be kept in power. So, it seems that Pakistani politics is not just of interest to the Arabs but Israel as well. When Musharraf was in power, there were reports that backchannel diplomacy was taking place between Pakistan and Israel. There are some within the establishment who think that we have not gained much by supporting the Arab cause and since India is close to Israel, we could benefit by recognising Israel. This idea did not go down well within the country and Musharraf had to give it up in the end.

On another note, many people in the Muslim world still believe in the erstwhile concept of a Muslim ‘ummah’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the Muslim states are interested in protecting their own vested interests rather than looking out for each other. This was proved by a shocking revelation that Saudi Arabia had urged the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear programme. Apparently, Saudi King Abdullah told the US to “cut off the head of the snake”. Saudi Arabia’s enmity with the Shiite Iran is an open secret, but going so far as to ask the US to bomb Iran is a serious matter. The hypocrisy of the Saudis cannot be more obvious since they are themselves funding the hydra of terrorism. The so-called Muslim world has been up in arms against the US and Israel for threatening to bomb Iran but another Muslim country supporting and asking the US to go ahead with its plans should serve as a wake-up call to the Muslims that every country is out there to save its own skin.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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