The Wronged Man

Husain Haqqani tells it like it is. Husain Haqqani, Islamabad’s former ambassador to Washington, is making waves with his latest book, Magnificent Delusions, which speaks hard truths about the arrant alliance between Pakistan and the United States. In 2011, Haqqani was forced to resign as envoy under Army pressure, and the Iftikhar Chaudhry-led Supreme Court, champion of the hypernationalist narrative, zealously moved against him and his wife, Farahnaz Ispahani. The court declared open season on Haqqani: it dubbed him a “traitor,” placing his life at risk. And Ispahani, one of the most widely-lauded voices for human rights in Pakistan’s previous National Assembly, was ousted from the legislature. Faced with injustice at home, Haqqani returned to academia abroad. He teaches international relations at Boston University and is a director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. We spoke with Haqqani over email recently about his book and the delusions that continue to impair Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. Excerpts:

You have been a consistent advocate of resetting Pakistan-America relations on the basis of pragmatism. What exactly does this entail?

For 66 years, Pakistan has sought close ties with the U.S. with the sole purpose of offsetting India’s size and military advantage. This has been a security relationship. But no nation can become a regional power while also being dependent on assistance from other countries. A better option for Pakistan would be to normalize relations with India and Afghanistan and then have a broader, nonsecurity relationship with the United States. Pakistanis resent the U.S. partly because we have been dependent on it. The United States had not been constant in its relations with Pakistan, but it was also wrong on Pakistan’s part to expect constancy. I have studied several models of partnership with the United States and wondered why most other U.S. allies since World War II have prospered while Pakistan has not. The answer came down to our unwillingness to have an honest relationship. South Korea and Taiwan aligned their security policies and perceptions with the Americans. Pakistan refused to accept U.S. advice, especially where its regional view was questioned. My vision, encouraged by [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto, was for a strategic rather than tactical relationship. It would not be based on asking for military aid in return for providing some services to the Americans in their concerns. We need to build a self-confident Pakistan, free of the burdens of past blunders, especially jihadist misadventures. American assistance should be directed toward standing on our own feet. We need a relationship involving education, tourism, investment, and trade—like other countries have—not one that is all about seeking military equipment and aid in private and abusing America in public. But despite the mutual misgivings, Pakistan and the U.S. remain disenchanted allies.

Does the relationship lose relevance after NATO troops pull out from Afghanistan by the end of 2014?

I do not think Pakistan and the U.S. are allies. We just pretend to be allies. Each round of close engagement has been followed by disenchantment on both sides. This time I think the mistrust and disenchantment runs much deeper than before. A long-term relationship post-2014 is possible. But it would require a fundamental reorientation of Pakistani policies. Unlike the 1950s, when Afghanistan and India refused to be U.S. allies leaving Pakistan as the only partner in the region, this time the Americans have alternatives whereas Pakistan might not.

Can Pakistan and the U.S. avoid a bitter, perhaps inevitable, falling-out?

Both countries need to get past their one-sided narratives. Both have made mistakes, and both have raised expectations of the other that have not been fulfilled. Americans must understand that aid does not buy a people’s friendship. Pakistan must get out of the business of jihad and understand that spinning a narrative of victimhood at home is no way to ensure respect abroad. Above all, both countries must evolve a pragmatic relationship based on realistic expectations.

What steps can Pakistan take to right past wrongs?

Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on a psyche of insecurity. After acquiring nuclear weapons we should have felt secure. Instead, we act like the man who keeps buying guns to protect himself and his family and then stays up all night fearing that someone will steal his guns. Just as staying up all night would likely give high blood pressure to our imaginary gun-buying man, Pakistan is suffering internally from its insecurity-driven policies. Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin had suggested just this in his address to Pakistan’s Parliament in December 1996 that Pakistan should shelve issues that cannot be resolved for the time being. We should apply that advice and normalize relations with Afghanistan and India. Just as China did not give up its rights over Taiwan, Pakistan need not give up its claim on Kashmir. But it should start trade with India, which would enhance Pakistan’s economic growth. It would also ensure peace, which is a precondition for development. In the case of Afghanistan, Pakistan should befriend the government in Kabul instead of trying to impose one of its own choosing. Pakistan should put all terrorist groups out of action, come clean on its nuclear program, and develop a comprehensive program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration for the jihadists. Denial of the terrorists’ presence on Pakistani soil is no longer an option. We must become a trading nation instead of being a “warrior” state.

Is the warrior-state mentality, derived from Pakistan’s creation in the name of Islam, something that can be so easily refashioned?

Pakistan may have needed an Islamo-nationalist raison d’être for its creation; it does not need one for its evolution into a functional state. Most nations and countries have evolved through a process of history, not through propagated ideology. Some 95 percent of Pakistan’s population was born after 1947. We are Pakistanis because we were born Pakistani; we need to stop insisting on being an ideological nation. We just need to figure out how to make the nation we were born into secure and prosperous. We need to debate policies, not ideology. As long as we keep feeling the need to ideologically justify our existence, we will be psychologically insecure. Changing the ideological paradigm is the key to changing things for the better.

What did you discover about Pakistan-America relations while ambassador, and what’s your advice to the ambassador-designate?

Magnificent Delusions, with its 32 pages of endnotes, is my answer to the first part of your question. My advice to the incoming ambassador is to make sure he is seen by his interlocutors as credible. Playing to the gallery back home does not enhance an ambassador’s ability to influence events in his host country, particularly a place like the United States. I may have been burnt at the stake by the [national-security] establishment at home, but I still have my integrity internationally. That enables me to speak for my country even without any office.

What do you say to detractors who allege you have been “unkind” to Pakistan?

Just because I refuse to accept myths circulated for public consumption throughout our history does not mean I am unkind to Pakistan. Vibrant nations encourage self-criticism and adjust policies based on different ideas. Honest debate is not possible without facing facts. Don’t forget, on Dec. 17, 1971, a day after thousands of our troops had surrendered at Dhaka, the headline in Dawn was “Victory on All Fronts.” If that was being kind to Pakistan, it did not change the fact that we had lost half our country’s territory and more than half its population. I would rather be accused of being unkind while marshaling facts than being guilty of deception that results in an irreversible loss to my country.

Link to original piece Newsweek Pakistan December 21st, 2013 edition:

Farahnaz Ispahani’s interview to “The voice of Russia”

Former Dictator General Pervez Musharraf indicted in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s murder case

Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf has been indicted on three charges over the 2007 assassination of the country’s opposition leader and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Prosecutors say that he is accused of murder, criminal conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder. The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani, a Pakistani politician and Public Policy Scholar for Woodrow Wilson Center from Washington DC, comments.

First of all, Musharraf has been indicted on three charges, as we know, over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. What do you think the verdict will be, is there any general opinion about it?

Absolutely I do not want to go into the matter of the case and what will probably result because that is left to the court at this point. What is very clear to all Pakistanis today is that this first step is a good thing as it is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a coup-making general has to answer charges in a court of law. As to the specifics of the case at this point, as I said, we cannot comment because it is subjective and we will have to watch and wait for that.

The indictment of Musharraf is actually an unprecedented event, as you said, it’s a step forward. At the same time the military have big authority in the country. So can you say that this decision is actually supported by most people or do they think that this is sort of a blow to the tradition of Pakistan and to the military who are highly respected in the country?

We have two things unclear right now. One is the history of Pakistan’s judiciary. Pakistan’s judiciary has not always stood with the democrats, as in the case of Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s father, Prime Minister and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was in fact condemned to death by judicial action of the court of Pakistan. It was what we call a ‘judicial murder’. So very often we have seen the judiciary aligning itself with the military and the establishment against democrats. As to the Pakistan military and military operators, we have yet to see, they have allowed this case to come so far that whether they will be meddling or going forward – again we’ll have to wait and see soon. Right now this case of this indictment of General Musharraf is going to be very important for Pakistan’s future, going forward, as to whether the judiciary and the military stay out of politics and do not play politics with this case and go forward on the evidence.

How would you explain that although you said that the judiciary and the military were together all the time, how would you explain the fact that this time it seems different, they are making independent decisions?

Well, this is the problem. One of the things that neither my party, the Pakistan People’s Party, which was Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s party, what we don’t want to happen right now is that the judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justice were removed by General Musharraf and Mr. Nawaz Sharif who is the prime minister right now was also removed by General Musharraf. We do not want politics played at the expense of the truth in this case. The case has to go forward. We feel that there will be vindication for Pakistan, democrats in Pakistan and members of Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s family’s party but this case must not become a revenge mechanism for the judiciary and Mr. Nawaz Sharif against Pervez Musharraf because that will devalue the case.

Given what you’ve just said, maybe the death penalty will anyway be perceived as revenge. Is it better for the political development of the country to have life imprisonment as a sentence?

At the moment both are the possibilities. In our former government under President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani, we did not put a single political person or any person to death because President Zardari did not believe in the death penalty. But since Mr. Nawaz Sharif has taken over it seems that he is going to get the death penalty exercised. So we will have to see going forward whether the death penalty option is one that is exercised. But as we always say, democracy is the best revenge, we are not looking for blood but we are looking for justice to be done. And if you look at the United Nations Commission reports, what we’ve done on this, the assassination of Ms. Benazir Bhutto, it was clear that Mr. Musharraf was if not directly complicit he was complicit in certain ways, including the fact that he did not allow Ms. Bhutto the level of security that was due to her as a former prime minister and one who stood up against Muslim extremists and the Taliban.

Link to the original interview and Audio File & Read more:

“In denial on Abbottabad” by Farahnaz Ispahani

The leaked report of the panel set up to look into the 2011 Osama bin Laden incident in Pakistan skips many hard questions including how the nation came to acquire a jihadi mindset


Erasing memory: A February 2012 file photo shows local residents watching the demolition by authorities of the compound where Osama bin Laden and his family lived in Abbottabad.

Hours after U.S. Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, the Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, held a meeting with the Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and the Director-General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt.Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. The Pakistani leadership was stunned both by the news of bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and the fact that the United States had eliminated him on Pakistani soil without the latter’s information or participation.

A statement issued after that meeting by Pakistan’s Foreign Office declared: “Osama bin Laden’s death illustrates the resolve of the international community including Pakistan to fight and eliminate terrorism. It constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world.”

The very next day, another Foreign Office statement said, “The Government of Pakistan recognizes that the death of Osama bin Laden is an important milestone in the fight against terrorism and that the Government of Pakistan and its state institutions have been making serious efforts to bring him to justice.” The second statement clearly denied prior knowledge of the U.S. operation and insisted that “this event of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule.” It further said, “The Government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the U.S.”


The government’s earliest reaction reflected its first concern: what would the world think of bin Laden being discovered in Pakistan? It was not in Pakistan’s interest to confirm what its critics have always said about Pakistan being a safe haven for international terrorists. No one at the highest levels of government knew anything about bin Laden’s presence or had advance knowledge of the military operation that killed him.

The second response related to fears expressed by some retired generals and television anchors that the clandestine operation against bin Laden had set a precedent that could be repeated by the U.S. and emulated by India. Fears were expressed about similar operations against Taliban leader Mullah Omar or even the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) Hafiz Saeed.

But within a couple of days, the acknowledgement of bin Laden’s elimination as a positive development or being sanctioned by the United Nations had been overtaken by orchestrated rage against American unilateralism. The Pakistani establishment’s worldview of Pakistan as a state under perennial attack took over the national discourse. More important than answering the world’s concern about bin Laden’s presence was the question of why and how the Americans managed to “stab Pakistan in the back.”


The recently leaked Abbottabad Commission report has clearly been written by a group of Pakistani establishment individuals. Apparently the leaked version is one of several drafts and we still do not know the language of the final version. The report makes several valid points. But notwithstanding harsh words about the failings of military and civilian leaders, the report’s authors do not directly confront the issue of Pakistan having become one of the centres of global jihad.

This sidestepping of the most crucial issue facing Pakistan and Pakistanis today is both irresponsible and dangerous.

The report recognises that the military failure to dismantle Pakistan’s “terrorist infrastructure” paved the way for the U.S. violating Pakistani sovereignty though there is no effort to detail the terrorist infrastructure. The report’s focus remains the isolationist Pakistani view that the U.S.’s military action was “an act of war” against Pakistan.

The commission boldly discounts conspiracy theories and concludes that bin Laden was indeed killed in the U.S. raid on Abbottabad. But by asking and answering such questions, the Commission makes it clear that it is addressing domestic Pakistani opinion, shaped by the country’s establishment, not the serious concerns of the international community and many Pakistanis who are faced with daily suicide bombings and sectarian killings, as a result of the strategic depth doctrine.


The international community wanted answers to some hard questions: why was bin Laden able to live in Pakistan for nine years? Who protected him and how? Why, after billions of dollars in international aid ostensibly given to fight terrorism, does Pakistan still remain central to global terrorism networks? Why, after cooperation in arresting several al-Qaeda figures in 2002-2003, do the Americans think they cannot trust Pakistan’s security agencies and had to act unilaterally on intelligence about bin Laden?

Throughout their report, the commissioners reflect their belief in the incompetence of various government personnel and functionaries — both civilian and military. They blame some individuals’ errors of judgement and the weakness of the state for bin Laden managing to hide in Pakistan and for the Americans finding him before the ISI could track him. They talk of the military’s obsession with India and the creation of a jihadi infrastructure. But the commission treads lightly in addressing thejihadi mindset that has been cultivated in the country by its establishment for almost three-and-a-half decades.

The Abbottabad Commission recommends civilian control of military and intelligence institutions, balancing it with suggestions that some civilian leaders may have colluded with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in finding and acting against bin Laden unilaterally.

The commission reflects more on how the people of Pakistan were “outraged” by the “deliberate major violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and seeks to explain how the U.S. could “execute a hostile military mission on a target in a cantonment area” without “any kind of military response.” That outrage seems to drive the authors of the report even where they engage in some much needed self-reflection.

Poll findings

According to a Pew poll administered one month after the killing of bin Laden, 63 per cent of Pakistanis disapproved of his killing and 55 per cent thought it was a “bad thing” he was dead. The real tragedy for Pakistan is this widely held opinion; not the fact that Osama bin Laden was killed by a superpower that ignored Pakistan’s sovereignty in its effort to kill a wanted international terrorist.

(Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of Pakistan’s Parliament, is currently a policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC.)

The Article is published in “The Hindu” on July 25th, 2013- The link to original article is