WASHINGTON, Nov 29: US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reflect an increase in oil-rich Arab nations' interest and influence in Pakistan, with some Arab rulers offering frank, and often unfavourable, remarks about Pakistani leaders.
A cable sent from the US Embassy in the UAE in July 2009, quotes Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, calling President Asif Ali Zardari “dirty but not dangerous”.
He also calls former prime minister Nawaz Sharif “dangerous but not dirty”. “This is Pakistan,” he adds disparagingly, claiming that Mr Sharif, although the main opposition leader in Pakistan, could not be trusted to honour his promises.
Another cable, already highlighted by the Pakistani media, shows Saudi King Abdullah speaking scathingly about President Zardari. He calls the president the greatest obstacle to Pakistan's progress. “When the head is rotten,” it quotes him as saying, “it affects the whole body”.
Mr Zardari's office responded by saying the president regards the king as an “elder brother”. “The so-called leaks are no more than an attempt to create misperceptions between two important and brotherly Muslim countries,” his spokesman Farhatullah Babar told journalists.
Another cable says that the UAE crown prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and its de facto defence chief, strongly supported the US decision to sell F-16 aircraft to Islamabad to keep a balance of power between India and Pakistan.
This particular cable quotes Prince Mohammed as telling US officials that while the Indians had and would continue to balk at the decision, the region needed Pakistan to stay strong. Besides, he continued, the F-16 decision would not tip the military balance between India and Pakistan.
Another cable from the US Embassy in the UAE shows how Pakistan became a focus of attention during US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen's visit to Abu Dhabi in February 2010.
The cable sent on Feb 9 says that the UAE has taken a leading role in the Friends of Pakistan initiative and has provided about $800 million in assistance in recent years.
The cable notes that the Al Nahyan family had a longstanding relationship with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and this has transitioned to support for her husband, but the UAE “stays in touch with all elements on the Pakistani scene, including former president Pervez Musharraf”.
Prince Mohammed “will be very interested in your dialogue with Gen Kayani,” the cable tells Admiral Mullen.
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