Husain Haqqani, Lawyer Threatened In Pakistan

December 31, 2011

Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, had his passport seized and is restricted from leaving the country. An investigation into accusations that he sought US help to avert a military coup has bypassed all preliminary hearings and is being taken up directly by Pakistan’s Supreme Court – an institution that many fear has itself been working to unseat the democratically-elected government.

Today, Husain Haqqani is receiving credible death threats, as are his lawyer, sympathetic journalists and public supporters. Coming so soon after the assassinations of Gov Salmaan Taseer, Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, and journalist Saleem Shahzad some fear a systematic effort is underway to silence critics of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

Ambassador Haqqani’s wife, Pakistani parliamentarian Farahnaz Ispahani, spoke with Wolf Blitzer recently to explain the gravity of the situation in Pakistan, and what it means for her husband’s safety and basic human rights.

Roots of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

December 24, 2011

U.S.-Pakistan ties deteriorated significantly in the past year, and the anti-American rhetoric in Pakistani media (NYT), especially television, reached a crescendo. Najam Sethi, an award-winning Pakistani journalist and editor-in-chief of Geo News and the English political weekly Friday Times, says U.S. counterterrorism policies in Pakistan have caused this acrimony. The two countries, he says, have failed to develop a strategic relationship because of each side’s refusal to consider the other’s national security interests in Afghanistan.

Calling the development of Pakistan’s media “a work in progress;” Sethi says the anti-American and anti-Indian narrative runs more fiercely in the Urdu-language press. “English media is more liberal, rational, and oriented towards pragmatism” but do not reach as wide an audience as the other regional media, he says.

At the same time, Sethi points to attempts by the army to manipulate the media. The media’s main threats come from ethnic, jihadi, and sectarian groups, “some of which are patronized by the national security establishment,” he says.

How not to promote democracy in Pakistan

December 15, 2011

Bill Keller, formed Executive Editor of The New York Times, has a must-read piece about US-Pakistan relations in this coming Sunday’s New York Times magazine. There’s quite a bit worth mulling over, but one item in particular drew our attention.

In late October, Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, leading a delegation that included Petraeus, recently confirmed as C.I.A. director, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Mullen’s successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Petraeus used to refer to Holbrooke as “my diplomatic wingman,” a bit of condescension he apparently intended as a tribute. This time, the security contingent served as diplomacy’s wingmen.

The trip was intended as a show of unity and resolve by an administration that has spoken with conflicting voices when it has focused on Pakistan at all. For more than four hours, the Americans and a potent lineup of Pakistani counterparts talked over a dinner table.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about the dinner was the guest list. The nine participants included Kayani and Pasha, but not President Zardari or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who provided the dining room at his own residence and made himself scarce. The only representative of the civilian government was Clinton’s counterpart, the new foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, a 34-year-old rising star with the dark-haired beauty of a Bollywood leading lady, a degree in hospitality management from the University of Massachusetts and, most important, close ties to the Pakistani military.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has proven to be an able and effective representative for Pakistan, and she was appointed by the Prime Minister in accordance with constitutional requirements. Whether she has close ties to the Pakistani military, we are not in any position to know, but regardless, she is one official who should properly attend such a dinner. Unfortunately, so are President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the fact that they were left out speaks volumes about why democratic governments continue to be viewed as weak even within Pakistani society. If American officials believe that decisions realistically require the input of Pakistan’s military leadership, they should also require the input on Pakistan’s civilian leadership.

Talking about supporting Pakistani democracy is one thing, but it takes actually demonstrating respect for the civilian leadership to facilitate it.