Pakistan has condemned the release of classified U.S diplomatic communications as an irresponsible act. Excerpts from the documents made public by WikiLeaks have reportedly raised concerns that highly enriched uranium could be diverted from one of Pakistan's nuclear facilities to make illicit weapons.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit says Washington had alerted Islamabad to the "unauthorized leaks" pertaining to official communications within the U.S government system. He dismissed suggestions the action will undermine the bilateral relations.
"We obviously condemn this irresponsible, I would say, disclosure of sensitive documents," said Basit. "We are still in the process of examining them and I do not think that these documents in any manner would have negatively impact Pakistan-U.S. relations."
The latest documents released by WikiLeaks have revealed that the United States was secretly making efforts to push Pakistan to accept help in removing highly enriched uranium from one of Islamabad's nuclear facilities. American officials feared the material could be diverted for use in illicit nuclear weapons.
In May 2009, say the latest WikiLeaks documents, the then-U.S Ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, reported that Pakistan was refusing to allow American experts to visit the site. In her reported official communication to Washington, she cited concern expressed by a Pakistani official that "if the local media got word of the fuel removal, they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons".
Pakistani spokesman Basit has defended his country's decision to deny the U.S. request, acknowledging the matter was under discussions. But he did not give any details about the nuclear reactor in question.
"No, I do not think there are any secret operations going on," said Basit. "This matter was discussed between Pakistan and the United States. The atomic research reactor, along with nuclear fuel, was provided to Pakistan by the U.S. in the 1960s. And the U.S. had suggested that the fuel we return to the U.S. But we have very clearly told them that now it is our property and their suggestion cannot be accepted."
Mr. Basit again dismissed fears about Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, saying it is placed under international safety and security controls.
But critics fear the disclosure of secretive U.S efforts to remove the nuclear fuel will strengthen suspicions particularly among right-wing political parties and Islamic groups that Washington is working against Islamabad's nuclear weapons.
Defense analyst Talat Masood says the release of this information has put civilian and military leaders of Pakistan on the defensive.
"It will help in radicalizing Pakistan and also giving an impetus to the right wing and conservative forces, which are opposed to America and Western alliances, and of course, oppose to the whole idea of Pakistan linking itself with America. So I think it is very counterproductive in that sense," said Masood.
The release of confidential U.S documents could also prove embarrassing for countries known as Pakistan's staunch allies.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is quoted in one of the communications as calling Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to the country's progress. The Saudi leader is quoted as saying, "When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body.
A spokesman for President Zardari has dismissed the reported comments as an attempt to create misperceptions between what he says are two important Muslim countries.