Tag Archives: Husain Haqqani

Ambassador Husain Haqqani speaks on the ‘magnificent delusions’ that plague US-Pakistan relations

Husain Haqqani, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011, has spent many years researching and writing about his country’s complex political history. His new book Magnificent Delusions explores how, despite over 60 years of being “most allied allies,” the US and Pakistan have never really understood each other. Ambassador Haqqani’s first-hand experience in US-Pakistan relations notwithstanding, Magnificent Delusions is not a memoir, but a case study. Neither is the book a polemic against the US or Pakistan. From Secretary of State Dulles overlooking the eerily prescient observations of Ambassador Langley in the late 1950s to Pakistan’s misunderstanding of the limits of US obligations in bilateral security agreements, Haqqani details a history in which both countries have developed foreign policy around a set of wishful assumptions rather than contextual analysis.

The US has failed to fully understand the India-centric narrative that has defined Pakistan’s national identity and served as a myopic focal point of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies as well as the role of anti-Americanism and fundamentalist religious groups in serving as leverage in bilateral negotiations. Ambassador Haqqani offers an equally incisive analysis of the failure of Pakistan’s political and military elite to understand their position relative to US regional and global interests, taking an outsized view of both their strategic importance and the limits of US .

Magnificent Delusions serves as a important point of reorientation for US-Pakistan relations, and is recommended to anyone who wants a keen understanding of not only how US-Pakistan relations got where they are, but how to forge a more productive relationship for the future.

Pakistan’s Progressive Voices Refuse To Be Silenced

Pakistan has taken several important steps forward over the past four years. From President Zardari’s willingly devolving powers that had been consolidated under past military dictators to an elected parliament completing its full tenure, there are, as Peter Bergen recently noted, many reasons to be hopeful about Pakistan’s future. But despite Pakistan’s overall positive trajectory, there remains a disturbing trend that threatens the promise of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan – the ongoing attempts to silence Pakistan’s progressive voices.

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Four Pakistanis Make Top 100 Global Thinkers List

Pakistan's Top Global Thinkers of 2012

Foreign Policy published its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers this week, reflecting on people whose ideas had global ramifications during the past year. Four Pakistanis made the list this year – Malala Yousafzai, Husain Haqqani, Farahnaz Ispahani, and Sana Saleem. Each was selected for their efforts in promoting and defending freedom and justice in a nation struggling to reconcile conservative religious values with an increasingly interconnected modern world.

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Muslim Americans ask Clinton to ensure justice for Ambassador Husain Haqqani

AILC logoThe American Islamic Leadership Coalition has joined a group of prominent American Muslims that has appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her and President Obama to intervene in the matter of the former Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani who is under house arrest in Pakistan and expressed a fear for his life.

The letter signed by among others, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser and author Irshad Manji, asked Clinton to “let Pakistan’s military chief General Kayani and ISI boss General Pasha know that they will be held responsible for any harm that comes to Ambassador Haqqani.”

Ambassador Haqqani’s travails began after it was alleged that he had initiated a letter to the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, following the US military action inside Pakistan in which Osama Bin Laden was killed. The letter reportedly asked for American intervention in Pakistan in order to forestall a military coup.

Ambassador Haqqani vehemently denied these allegations, yet honorably offered to resign his position and return to Pakistan to clear his name and answer any questions. He acted in good faith, but Pakistan’s military-judicial establishment and the country’s anti-American media have “convicted him” in the court of public opinion, without the benefit of any criminal charges.

In the letter to Mrs. Clinton the American and Canadian Muslim leaders also asked for the safety of Ambassador Haqqani’s wife. The letter said, “We also ask you to ensure the safety of Ambassador Haqqani’s wife, currently in the US. She is constantly followed by ISI agents working inside America. She should have the ability to live here free from intimidation and threats.”

“We American and Canadian Muslims have watched with increasing anxiety the situation of the former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani. Motivated by our deep concern for the life and safety of Ambassador Haqqani we write to you to ask you to speak on his behalf. Ambassador Haqqani is living under virtual house arrest in Pakistan. Pakistan’s security agencies confiscated his passport and the judiciary, under pressure from the military, has restricted him from travelling outside Pakistan,” the letter added.

The signatories of the letter to Mrs. Clinton said, “… Ambassador Haqqani … represented moderate Islamic values and was vocal in his opposition to radical elements in Islam, which was a source of pride for moderate Muslims in North America. During his stay in the United States, Ambassador Haqqani was an effective, intelligent and articulate refutation of all the negative stereotypes associated with the Islamist leadership inside America.”


State Dept: US Monitoring ‘Memogate’ Hearings

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters today that while the US considers the issue dubbed “memogate” an internal issue for Pakistan, they are monitoring the situation closely and expect Pakistan’s former Ambassador to be “accorded all due consideration under Pakistani law and in conformity with international legal standards.”

QUESTION: On the subject of Pakistani ambassadors to the U.S., is there anything more than the very little that you’ve had to say this week about former Ambassador Haqqani?

MS. NULAND: Well, just to say again what we’ve been saying, but perhaps a little bit more clearly, while it’s obviously an internal matter for Pakistan and we respect Pakistan’s constitutional and legal processes, we expect that any process for resolving the matter of Ambassador Haqqani will proceed in a way that is fair, that’s transparent, that is as expeditious as possible. We also expect that Ambassador Haqqani will be accorded all due consideration under Pakistani law and in conformity with international legal standards. And we will be watching and monitoring the situation closely.

Statement of Senators McCain, Lieberman, Kirk on Husain Haqqani’s Mistreatment in Pakistan

United States Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today released the following statement in response to reports of ongoing harassment and mistreatment of Pakistan’s former Ambassador the United States Husain Haqqani.

“Husain Haqqani served Pakistan honorably as its ambassador to the United States. While we did not always agree with Ambassador Haqqani, and our exchange of views could be spirited at times, we always had the highest respect for him and knew he was serving his nation and government with patriotism and distinction. We regret that the Pakistani people have lost a tough-minded, eloquent, and principled advocate for their nation’s interests now that Ambassador Haqqani has departed Washington.

“We are increasingly troubled by Ambassador Haqqani’s treatment since he returned home to Pakistan, including the travel ban imposed on him. Like many in Washington, we are closely following Ambassador Haqqani’s case. We urge Pakistani authorities to resolve this matter swiftly and consistent with civilian rule of law and to prevent the judicial commission investigating Ambassador Haqqani from becoming a political tool for revenge against an honorable man. The Pakistani people can be proud of the service that Ambassador Haqqani has provided Pakistan, and we look forward to the day when he can once again serve the government and people of Pakistan as one of the nation’s finest leaders.”

Husain Haqqani, Lawyer Threatened In Pakistan

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.

Ambassador Husain Haqqani Resigns

Ambassador Husain HaqqaniAmbassador Husain Haqqani announced today that he has resigned from his post “to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy.”

In an email to Yahoo! News, Ambassador Haqqani said that, “a transparent inquiry will strengthen the hands of elected leaders whom I strived to empower. To me, Pakistan and Pakistan’s democracy are far more important than any artificially created crisis over an insignificant memo written by a self-centred businessman. I have served Pakistan and Pakistani democracy to the best of my ability and will continue to do so.”

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, called Haqqani’s resignation, “a loss for US-Pakistan relations.” Indeed, many in Washington have been surprised by the turn of events, describing the memo at the root of the controversy as “a clumsy fake.”

“Haqqani’s accuser, Mr. Ijaz, has a long track record of fabricating false information and self-promotion,” said Bruce Riedel, former CIA officer who chaired President Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. Pakistan’s army is, “using this invented scandal to oust a long time critic” and weaken the civilian government, said Riedel, now a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution, a D.C. think tank. “None of this is good for U.S. interests.”

Sen. Kerry (D–Mass.) noted that Husain Haqqani was “was a strong advocate for his country and the Pakistani people,” and said his “wisdom and insights will be missed here in Washington.”

Many in Washington continue to express concern for the personal safety of Pakistan’s former Ambassador, though on his famous Twitter feed, Ambassador Haqqani confidently states that he will be focusing his energies on “building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance.” Washington insiders have long asked where Pakistan would be without Husain Haqqani. Despite his resignation, he does not appear to be finished working for democracy and justice in Pakistan. We wish him well, and look forward to seeing what he does next.

Trouble Brewing in Pakistan

Pakistan's President Asif Zardari with the Gen. Kayani
Pakistan’s political class is a buzz over rumors that the country’s military and intelligence agency are working behind the scenes to alter the makeup of Pakistan’s government. All of this comes following a closed door meeting on Monday between Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, and President Asif Zardari in which the nation’s military chief allegedly demanded the removal of some civilian officials.

Newsweek Pakistan reported on Twitter early this morning that a “source claims Army has asked President Zardari to sack three officials”, and that “Army also pressing Islamabad to appoint a National Security Adviser” – no doubt they have a recommendation readily at hand.

One of the officials Pakistan’s military is trying to push out appears to be Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. On his political talk show, Aapas Ki Baat, Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi reported that Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) – long suspicious of the outspoken ambassador – no longer wishes to have Husain Haqqani remain at his post.

Husain Haqqani is a controversial figure in Pakistan. He has long issued warnings about the rise of extremism and intolerance in Pakistan, including in the nation’s military and intelligence agencies, and he has openly called for a change in the nation’s national security paradigm.

Some in Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies may see this as a threat to a security strategy in the region that relies on militant groups like the Haqqani network to “[shape] an Afghanistan that is more favourable to Pakistan,” and defend against a perceived threat from India. Right wing commentators for years have called on the ISI to “put [Husain Haqqani] under surveillance if not on a lamp-post,” while others have posted today that the “Time for ruthless accountability of those who’ve betrayed our nation and people nears.”

Today’s issue of The Nation, a right-wing English-language daily, carries a front page headline, “Husain Haqqani in hot waters.” Pakistan’s mainstream media reports that the Ambassador has been summoned to Islamabad to brief the government on recent developments in US-Pakistan relations, but some worry that a trap is being set and that the Ambassador could be used as a reminder to other civilian officials not to stray too far from the establishment line.

Reports that Pakistan’s military and ISI are once again interfering in domestic politics are deeply troubling for Pakistan’s fragile democracy. That the civilian officials being targeted by the ISI appear to be those speaking openly against extremism makes the reports even more dire.

Time For A New Approach to US-Pakistan Relations

Zalmay Khalilzad

A response to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post

US-Pakistan relations may not be broken, but they’re certainly strained. Events in recent months have reinforced fears on both sides, and leaders in both countries are under increasing pressure from their respective publics to abandon each other. It’s clear that a new approach to US-Pakistan relations is needed. Unfortunately, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post reflects a mindset steeped in past thinking, and his recommendations represent an old and dis-proven approach

What drives Pakistan?

Amb. Khalilzad offers two theories for why Pakistan’s military might support militant groups: Either they are trying to prolong the Afghan war in order to extort US aid, or they are trying to conquer Central Asia. This represents not only a false dilemma, but a fundamentally silly one.

The Kerry-Lugar-Burman bill (KLB) provides for $1.5 billion in economic aid annually for five years. While this aid is valuable, it represents about 0.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Moreover, in the first year of KLB, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only $179.5 million was actually disbursed. Even if it were possible to buy Pakistan’s cooperation, this amount of foreign aid is simply insufficient to do so.

The alternate theory offered – that Islamabad has a secret “ambitious plan to consolidate regional hegemony in Central Asia” – is equally nonsensical. With China and India sitting on its doorstep, Pakistan’s strategic priority is not to expand its influence across Asia, it’s to defend its own sovereignty. If Pakistan seeks influence in Kabul, it is not as a means of expanding its influence to Tashkent, it’s as as means of preserving it’s control of Lahore which sits precariously on the border with India.

So why might some in Pakistan’s military support the Afghan Taliban and militant groups like the Haqqani network? The same reason that they – and the US – supported these groups in the 1980s: they keep other people out. During the Cold War, the US supported the Taliban as a way of fighting Soviet influence in Kabul. Similarly, some security strategists in Pakistan today see the Taliban as a way of fighting Indian influence and preventing the nation from being boxed in by hostile neighbors.

What drives Pakistan is neither banditry nor ambition – it’s a basic desire for self-preservation. While some individuals in Pakistan may have ideological or religious affinity for the Taliban, this does not represent an official position any more than the existence of radicals in the US represent any official positions on the part of the US.

This is why it is disappointing that Amb. Khalilzad continually references “Pakistani support” for militant groups. By suggesting there is some state policy in support of these groups, the Ambassador ignores the incredible sacrifices that Pakistanis have made in the fight against militancy and extremism including the lives of over 35,000 Pakistani citizens.

Carrots and Sticks, re-revisited

Ambassador Khalilzad proposes using aid along with the promise to facilitate trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. In other words, what we’re already doing. But if these carrots are not sufficient to change Pakistan’s strategic outlook now, why would they be tomorrow?

The fact is that Pakistan seeks to reduce its reliance on aid, not prolong or deepen its dependency on foreign donors. We know this because it has been stated repeatedly by Pakistan’s President, Asif Zardari, as well as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.

And the the Government of Pakistan has been doing more than just talking about improving its domestic economy. Pakistan announced this week that it has beat tax collection targets, bringing its tax-to-GDP ration to 9.2 percent, up from 8.9 percent a year ago. This demonstrates that the Government of Pakistan is making serious efforts to get its books in order, despite significant political obstacles – something Washington may want to eye with more sympathy as American lawmakers struggle to create consensus on their own economic policy.

Rather than continuing attempts to use economic and military aid as leverage, the US would be better advised to listen to Pakistan’s leadership and seriously discuss the possibility of improved trade deals such as Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), lower textile tariffs, and investment in energy production and delivery to improve capacity in Pakistan’s domestic industry.

Similarly, the “sticks” proposed by Amb. Khalilzad amount to little more than cutting aid to Pakistan – a strategy that will only further entrench anti-democratic forces in Pakistan and reinforce suspicions that the US is a less reliable ally than Taliban militants. Again, we don’t have to assume this to be the case. We can look to the outcome of America’s policy of disengagement in the 1990s as a response to Pakistan’s nuclear program – a nuclearized Pakistan suspicious of US motives and interests.

Strengthening Civil Society

Despite his other errors, Amb. Khalilzad gets one thing right: “Ultimately, only the Pakistani people and a new generation of civilian leadership can rein in the country’s military leaders.” Whatever US interests in South Asia, the future of Pakistan will be defined by Pakistanis themselves. If the US wants to see a free and prosperous Pakistan, the only way forward is to invest in the success of Pakistan’s civil society.

That means dealing with the civilian political leadership, even when it might seem more efficient to deal directly with the military; it means focusing aid and investment on sustainable ways of improving the lives of ordinary Pakistanis; and it means listening to Pakistanis about their own priorities, rather than trying to convince them to prioritize American interests. Above all, if we are going to see a peaceful and stable Pakistan, the US must move beyond the strategies of the past and engage Pakistan as a partner, not a patron.