IEW: Wicked leaks—Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, December 12, 2010

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Our leaders have selectively believed in those few leaks that have favoured their own false claims and dismissed all others that do not tally with their self-aggrandisement

The juicy political gossip rushing through the unstoppable virtual world is a befitting end to a year where all has not gone to plan. WikiLeaks has become manna from heaven for the hungry media around the world to gobble the unknown, guzzle the unheard, and blast the unread. From Italian Prime Minister Burlusconi’s flings with beauties his granddaughter’s age to Hillary Clinton’s caustic remarks on Argentina’s head of state’s dire need for medicine for her mood swings, all private is now unprivate. The personal lives of politicians are, of course, the spicy scandals that add headline material for tabloids, but more chilling are the leaks about the political designs of the US and other countries on attempts to manipulate independent nation states in their game of political monopoly. These nations, of course, are aghast at this information spillage, which has assumed bigger proportions than the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by British Petroleum and thus are threatening to sue and pursue these illegal acts of piracy, but trying to put a lid on an information spill is like trying to bottle the ocean itself.

The leakage may seem like a miraculous piece of secrecy impairment, but was actually a rather normal act of downloading by a young American official, Bradley Manning. He downloaded the information on a CD that he had originally bought to listen to music by Lady Gaga. That they were 250,000 diplomatic cables in total is immaterial as the virtual beast once out is almost impossible to rein in. He provided these downloaded cables to Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, who in turn gave it to leading newspapers around the world. With all political bigwigs gunning for Julian’s head, strangely, he has been arrested not because of making other people’s lives illegally public but due to his own private life being exposed in a sordid sexual scandal. Thus the story of sex, lies and e-mails continues.

While the ‘who said what’ drama unfolds, damage caused to the reputation and image of many countries and leading personalities around the world is being assessed anxiously and counter-measures are being taken to catch hold of the initiators of this leak. However, one country that seems to come out unscathed from these leaks is Pakistan. The reason is not that they have a clean and above board set of leaders who nobody can raise a finger at but due to the completely scratched and scarred face of the leadership, where their thick and insensitive skins are totally impenetrable to attacks on repute and character. The news coming out of these leaks about our leaders is old news. Our own media leaks are so penetrative that each and every action and reaction of any political leader is magnified to a level where it becomes breaking news for a short time only to give way to something more sensational in the next news hour.

The reaction of our leaders to this baring of what the power brokers think about them is also typical. They have selectively believed in those few leaks that have favoured their own false claims and dismissed all others that do not tally with their self-aggrandisement scheme. So Pakistan resisting American pressure for access to their nukes is hailed as a sign of bravery, courage and independence by the current leadership, while all the claims of corruption and filthy politics have been dismissed as petty and unproven lies. While the world is scurrying into activity on how to tackle this erupting lava of information, our leadership merrily appears, from one talk show to another, denying obvious facts without batting an eyelash. Such is their apathy to their own deteriorating reality.

In the information era, what pours out of a brain into cyberspace has no place to hide. Even if security becomes super-tech, there are always going to be ways of breaking the codes. Those who make these codes also challenge the brilliance of devious minds to break the codes to lend sustenance to the creative destructive instinct of a human being. The question remains how to deal with such a diplomacy crisis, where this massive access to the political grapevine may become the death knoll of the mightiest and the highest. The answer is that the best strategy is to follow the principle of prevention being better than cure. Leaders, knowing whatever they say is porous, should either take a prudent stand on their verbal and written comments or have the courage to say their mind and stand by it regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, the world has a dearth of leaders with maturity and vision. Most countries are struggling to find leadership that is balanced in their approach and action. Obama’s meteoric rise to stardom has faded into disenchantment in a matter of two years. Countries like Japan have changed their leaders almost as an annual ritual. It is their inability to walk the talk and to deliver on their fancy rhetoric at voting time, which brings about their downfall. As the leaks shift gear from politics to the corporate world, we may see many huge corporations crumble and die, causing accommodation congestion in the leadership graveyard. Just the implication that a big bank was next in line made the Bank of America’s shares tumble and the US stock market tremble.

On the contrary, whether it is classified information spilling over or proven and documented corruption coming to the fore, politicians in Pakistan have not burned their midnight oil worrying over what the Saudis or Americans are saying about them. The ability to feel shame, embarrassment and guilt are emotions that have been substituted by insensitivity, arrogance and callous indifference. With a wholehearted concentration on getting what they can in whichever manner they can, these leaders have simply learned the art of shrugging off and dismissing all that may be damning to human beings of the more sensitive kind. Such leaders have a severe scarcity of vision and integrity. The dearth of such leaders has brought the country to its knees. However, while the leaders may not care for how they are viewed and perceived, the public, having reached the end of its tether, is ready to strike back and leak out the information to these leaders and the rest of the world that the time for a political cleanup is up close and present.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

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