Our much maligned Ambassador the US, Husain Haqqani, talks to Edward Luce from the English newspaper Financial Times in a video on their website, and what he says may surprise you. Frankly, I have never understood what all the fuss was about Haqqani. Despite being painted as such a villain, every time I see a video of him he is speaking rationally from what I can tell. But don’t take my word for it, please take the time to watch for yourself and leave some comments about what you think. Here are some highlights:
Edward Luce, FT: There’s the old saying, with which you’re more than familiar, that one of the three A’s – or a combination of two out of three A’s – governs Pakistan: Allah, America, and the Army. Which is in the ascendant now?
Husain Haqqani: I think for once the Pakistani people are in the ascendant. In fact, A can also go for ‘Awam’ which in Urdu means people. For the first time, every institution in Pakistan is working together to make Pakistan a successful parliamentary democracy. The ride is not easy, but that is the ride we are trying to take.
On Afghanistan and National Security
Husain Haqqani: Pakistan wants a stable Afghanistan not ruled by the Taliban. That should be clear to everybody. It is not in Pakistan’s interest to have the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan…The biggest reality for Pakistan is we do not want Taliban running Afghanistan and therefore destabilizing Pakistan with demands from Pakistani Taliban to try to create a similar system on the Pakistani side. All we want is that the government in Afghanistan should be friendly with Pakistan – and the means were are pursuing for that is to build good, friendly relations with Afghanistan; and to make sure that Afghanistan’s territory is not used in any way to undermine or weaken Pakistan.
Husain Haqqani: Any Indian presence in Afghanistan should not be a strategic military or intelligence presence that threatens Pakistan’s integrity, stability, or strength…But Pakistan seeks close and friendly relations with India as well. And the worldview we want everybody to understand as our national worldview now – supported by the military, endorsed by the civilians, backed by the parliament (which is the elected representatives of all Pakistani people) – is, we want good relations with India, but we want those good relations on the basis of resolving outstanding disputes, and we want a stable Afghanistan where there is no scope for Afghanistan being the launching pad for proxy wars against any of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including us.
On Pak-US relations
Edward Luce, FT: Previous phases of good relations between US-Pakistan have been short lived. When America has got what it wanted – to put it crudely – it’s then withdrawn, and in some cases pivoted to being a relatively hostile partner. What makes you so sure this time its different?
Husain Haqqani: The truth is, I’m not sure and nobody can be sure about the future. But, both Americans and Pakistanis understand that it has not served the interests of either country – American withdrawing after sporadically supporting Pakistan or working with Pakistan has led to deep rooted anti-American sentiment in Pakistan…
Pakistan, on the other hand, has suffered because we have pinned hopes on the Americans that have been dashed when the Americans have left. So neither country has benefitted from this episodic relationship…
Pakistan is not a client state, it does not want to be a satellite state, it does not want to be an aid recipient forever. So what we are looking towards is a multidimensional engagement.
On Terrorism & Security
Husain Haqqani: Pakistan will work with the international community and its neighbors to make sure that no terrorist group that threatens Pakistan, or its neighbors, or the international community remains operative. We have successfully fought the Pakistani Taliban in Swat, we have fought them successfully in South Waziristan; you have seen the high-profile arrests of Aghan Taliban figures on Pakistani soil. You will see more action, but at the same time it must be understood that Pakistan’s concerns about having a friendly regime in Afghanistan should not be misinterpreted as our willingness to tolerate any elements that pose a threat to the security of either our neighbors, ourselves, or the international community…
The fact is, we do believe that if there is a reconciliation process in Afghanistan and there are individuals with whom the Afghan leadership wants to interact – and it is an Afghan-led process, not a Pakistan-led process – Pakistan would like to be part of that process and would like to encourage it and make sure that it results in positive circumstances in Afghanistan. But we are right now working on making sure that there is no one on Pakistani territory that poses a threat either to Pakistan, or to its neighbors, or to the international community…
It is incorrect to assume that our logistical or other difficulties are in any way a lack of will on our part. The Pakistani military is overstretched. We have 147 troops in the areas along the border with Afghanistan. Compare that with only 107,000 troops from over 43 nations in Afghanistan.