2011-05-23 Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers: 'On the issue of the US, Pakistan's playing with fire.' [podcast]

ImageThe Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the "Pakistan Papers." Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: Pakistan's military asked for continued drone coverage, the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

For this episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks," Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan, joins us. He regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN on myriad topics such as history, arts, literature and society. Rumi has worked in Pakistan and abroad in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. His day job comprises working as a policy adviser and development practitioner. As a policy expert, Raza works with international development institutions, government agencies and leading Pakistani NGOs. He is also an adviser to an Asia Pacific governance network and serves on the editorial board of Journal of Administration and Governance and contributes to various publications in Pakistan and abroad.

Rumi's writing can be read here.

To hear the show, click play on this embedded player.

You can also click here and select it from the list of episodes (it's called "Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers"). And, also, it can be found by searching iTunes for "CMN News."

Below is a partial transcript of part 1 of this episode. The full transcript will be up soon.


KEVIN GOSZTOLA: What do you think these documents are telling Pakistanis or the world about how the Pakistan military has been deceiving the Pakistani people?

How have they not been forthright and not letting Pakistani people know the truth?

RAZA RUMI: I think, Kevin, it’s not just the Pakistani military. I would say Pakistan’s civilian and military elites have never trusted their people and they have been posturing on the one hand on an anti-Americanism platform and on the other they have been negotiating and bargaining with the West and in particular the Americans. And so I think this is an absolute shame because the more you do such things in a country, which is armed with nuclear weapons and where you have very strong public opinion on the particular issue of the US, you’re playing with fire. It’s an irresponsible behavior by the elites.

GOSZTOLA: The relationship, along with these cables, is compounded by the fact that US President Obama is now asserting this right to be able to come into Pakistan whenever and kill potential terror suspects or to kill who the United States considers to be militants. Any of these US leaders just being just wanting to be able to take out these people any time. Can you talk about the tension this creates for Pakistan, that the US asserts this authority?

RUMI: I think this is going to be a really difficult phase for US-Pak relations because we have a stated position now through the parliamentary resolution of early May, which basically says Pakistan’s Parliament is seriously worried about the breach of sovereignty that the US operations such as the OBL operation caused. And, therefore this puts Pakistani state into a very tough position of selling their partnership with the US at home.

I think President Obama’s statement has not really helped. But then we are also cognizant of the fact that Obama is also addressing his domestic political imperatives and he has to demonstrate to the American people that he is a tough president and that, because of Pakistan’s discovering – That OBL’s discovery mean’s the United States should be tough with Pakistan. So, there are all these complications that are taking place. I would say that this recent statement in this interview by Obama is not going to help the US-Pak relations. Maybe, he could have been a little more diplomatic.

GOSZTOLA: What about all this conversation because one of the things in the cables that are being posted is revealing the nature of the US presence, the revelations on the US having troops in Pakistan. And, that’s quite a bombshell especially for Americans because the official policy is to say there aren’t US troops in Pakistan. Can you talk about how that further complicates the relationship?

RUMI: I think in terms of public opinion again that is going to be very adversely viewed by the Pakistanis because while our official position and our state’s official position has also been that we are not letting the US use our soil to station or maintain any military operations. That myth has also been busted.

Essentially, the problem with Pakistan – I mean, the US has its own set of problems and there are huge issues with its policy regarding the war on terror, which obviously has not been that much of a success notwithstanding this little strike against OBL, but overall it’s a policy which has not really done well in Afghanistan particularly and to some degree in Iraq as well. But, let’s forget about that.

In Pakistan, there is a crisis of governance and it is not a new one. It has been there for ages, which is to say Pakistani state is not a democratically aligned or structured state. It is not transparent. It is not accountable to the people.

So, it had failed to inform the public about the kind of compacts it was entering with the United States after war on terror, which means there are agreements on drone strikes. There are agreements on picking up high value al Qaeda targets. And, these are all reported alleged from the media reports we find out that there have been understandings to this effect.

So, the Pakistani state and the government should have taken the public into confidence. It has been ten years now. And they should have actually prepared the people of Pakistan to understand what this partnership entails. Because it is a joint problem and it is a joint issue now. It’s no longer the US’s war.

It’s also the Pakistan’s war given that 35,000 Pakistanis have died in the recent years as victims of terrorism. So, obviously the Pakistani state has not been doing the job. And similarly, the US has not made enough efforts to engage with the Pakistani population, which has also been a failure.

GOSZTOLA: Now, throughout these cables you’ll see leaders suggest to United States officials that if only you give us control over the technology, if only you let us do the bombings, do the attack of the militants – They’re pretty open to letting the United States be in the country to carry out the operations. I guess, in your analysis of the situation, why do you the US isn’t letting Pakistani leaders take over and have more control?

RUMI: Again, all of this is pretty complicated because of the history. This is not a new partnership or a new relationship. It is a decades-old relationship. It has seen its ups and downs. And, it has been there since the mid-50s, when the US was forging alliances to contain Soviet Union during the Cold War. And Pakistani state’s policy and especially its military policy has been to collaborate with the policy in lieu for US support, financial and technical. And that policy continues very much even to this date. And it is in that context that these cables reveal that relationship is pretty much in tact, the historical relationship.

The problem that has emerged is the time period when after the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan a large number of Pakistani people think and believe the US abandoned Pakistan at that particular juncture and Pakistan was left and high and dry and faced all sorts of sanctions from the late 80s, during the 90s, most of 90s. So, that major letdown has led to this whole political public opinion against the US and I think the army is very conscious of that and that is why it has been arguing for acquisition of the technology for drone strikes, etc.

And, the second imperative that the army as an institution feels that—It is very much an India-centric army. It’s entire military machine, it’s might, it’s strategy, is directed towards India. And it feels that in that particular real and imagined combat with India it needs the support of the two big powers i.e. the US and China. And the Chinese have been helping Pakistan due to the regional complexities. But the US has always kept its national interests above all such consideration. And, therefore --- This is what the Pakistani mindset is and I have trying to lay that out for you to have a better handle—and in that context these discussions on allowing the US troops and bargain for acquisition of technology make sense because it’s sort of creates some sort of an equality between the two sides. Otherwise, Pakistan’s army feels that it is, as a very effective institution and plays a very important position in the region, able to leverage its position and get a bargain from the US.

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