Pakistanis mostly unconcerned over Wikileaks

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Pakistan has strongly denied claims in leaked US military records that its intelligence agency, the ISI, backed the Taliban in the war in Afghanistan. Many Pakistanis seem unconcerned about those claims ? it seems, they have come to expect that the ISI and other agencies are meddling in Afghanistan, so the Wikileaks revelations have not come as a huge surprise. Fahad Desmukh reports.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. President Obama today offered his condolences to the families of those killed in a plane crash in Pakistan. He issued a statement that said, in part, the American people stand with the people of Pakistan in this moment of tragedy. Mr. Obama was reaching out diplomatically to a key country in the fight against terrorism. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan is routinely strained over the issue of how to deal with the Taliban. The latest irritant, documents leaked to the website WikiLeaks. The documents claim that Pakistan's intelligence agency covertly helped the Taliban in Afghanistan. Big news here, but not in Pakistan, it turns out. Fahad Desmukh reports from Karachi.

FAHAD DESMUKH: Like any where in the world, the media in Pakistan relish conspiracies. So you would think that the WikiLeaks revelations would be just the kind of thing they'd love. The secret documents contain over a hundred and eighty reports about the activities of Pakistan's largest intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, or the ISI. They accuse the ISI of being involved in everything from sending a thousand motorbikes for would-be suicide bombers in Afghanistan, to plotting an assassination of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, to planning an attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad.

KAMRAN SHAFI: Basically, it is old hat. I mean there's nothing new in them.

DESMUKH: Kamran Shafi is a Pakistani columnist and a retired Army officer. He says that many Pakistanis believe the WikiLeaks documents may have been willingly released rather than leaked.

SHAFI: As far as Pakistan is concerned, we know all about the ISI and what [INDISCERNABLE] to be doing and what the stories are. So, the more you repeat things, the more the pressure gets ratcheted up.

DESMUKH: The reasoning is that the US wants to pressure the Pakistani government to do more to crack down on extremism. Cyril Almeida is a columnist and an assistant editor at the Dawn newspaper.

CYRIL ALMEIDA: We in Pakistan have heard the ?do more? mantra for a long time because these kinds of views are widely held on both sides.

DESMUKH: The general view here is that the more outrageous claims about the ISI are false. But it's taken almost for granted that the ISI is doing some of the things in Afghanistan it's been accused of. Mosharraf Zaidi is a columnist for The News International.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI: Pakistanis, I think, are often torn between being critical of their country's intelligence services, for good reason, and being true to being Pakistani.

DESMUKH: Zaidi says that Pakistan actually has a strategic interest in being soft on the Taliban in Afghanistan, all the while conducting a war against the Taliban elements within Pakistan.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI: In so far as whether Pakistan is capable of supporting the Afghan Taliban on one hand and fighting the Pakistani Taliban on the other, that's very much the case, because the Pakistani Taliban have declared war on Pakistan, on the Pakistani people, on the Pakistani military, on the Pakistani state. The Afghan Taliban have done no such thing.

DESMUKH: Even so, the ISIs actions do raise questions in Pakistan. Should the ISI be deciding policies independently of the civilian government, as it's perceived to do? Cyril Almeida explains.

ALMEIDA: There is a sense that the politicians are corrupt and maybe there are some issues that are best handled by national security. An organization that the public perceives is more reliable, more pro-Pakistani, more vibrant and nationalistic.

DESMUKH: For The World, this is Fahad Desmukh in Karachi.