By Express News Service
Oct 20 2013
Pakistan's ex-Ambassador to US Husain Haqqani speaks about the battle for Pakistan. (IE Photo: Ravi Kanojia
In this Idea Exchange, foremost Pakistani expert and Pakistan's ex-Ambassador to US Husain Haqqani speaks about the battle for the heart and soul of Pakistan, and why he believes Jihadi ideology has to and will lose. The session was moderated by Associate Editor Y P Rajesh.
Y P Rajesh: You are one of the foremost experts on Pakistan. You have worn many hats, been a journalist, an academic, diplomat, advisor to four Pakistani prime ministers, and an author. And you've just written another book, Magnificent Delusions.
Thank you very much. I expect most of your questions to be about Pakistan-India relations and US-Pakistan relations, but I would like to draw you all out. I'm not as concerned about the foreign policy aspects of Pakistan as the direction Pakistan is taking or might take as a nation... If you're adding new young people to the market and don't have enough jobs, it's a problem. In fact, our median age is one year less than yours. In terms of growth, our economy is not growing. Jihadism is not enough for a nation to move forward in the 21st century; nor is a culture of grievance. Pakistanis need to worry about doing something other than having young people burn the flag of some country or the other.
Magnificent Delusions is mainly about US-Pakistan relations. I write about delusions on both sides, and how the US-Pakistan relationship in some ways has undermined Pakistan's ability to think inward.
My concern has always been how to make sure that Pakistanis are part of the 21st century and not living in some dream world of the 7th or 8th century. Pakistan's raison d'etre shouldn't be some abstract ideology; it should be the prosperity of our people.
I'm also here because I'm working at a think tank in Washington DC called the Hudson Institute which has an initiative called 'India, its neighbours and globalisation'. Is this region the outlier in globalisation? Are our problems catching up and holding us back? Are we spending too much energy on our little quarrels? We've had a good sprint, but we've kind of run out of breath as a region.
Y P Rajesh: There have been several incidents recently across the Line of Control, with the ceasefire being violated possibly by both sides. These happened in the run-up to talks between the two prime ministers in New York. One school of thought says that the Pakistani army is trying to hamper the peace process. Do you agree?
It's not fair to blame the army alone. The Pakistani military has made a mistake in the past by endorsing jihadis, but it's not about the military making an institutional decision that there will be no relations between India and Pakistan. In fact, the way the jihadis see the world, they would like a war between India and Pakistan because they are basically nihilists. Now, the Pakistani state made the mistake of bolstering them, but in the heart of hearts, no jihadi really likes the Pakistani state as it exists either. They would rather that the whole structure crumbled so that they could build it again.
When I read Jihadi literature, I find that some of the groups really believe that their great opportunity for Ghazwa-e-Hind — the great battle of India — will come when there has been a big war. That said, I am sure that there are elements in the Pakistani establishment also who do not want civilian leaders to succeed in making some kind of accommodation with India... They undermined the (Asif Ali) Zardari government. Within the first few days of being elected, Zardari said many things that got him a lot of applause in India. Then Mumbai happened, which brought crashing any opportunity of moving forward. Why? Because those who caused it calculated that if we can't stop the Pakistani political leadership from embracing a better relationship with India, let us create circumstances in which India's hardliners will not want to do so. This is part of their game. How we can work around it may require wisdom that is not known to be found in politicians in the subcontinent.
Y P Rajesh: Do you see the risk of something like Mumbai happening again?
Until and unless all jihadis in this region are put out of business, none of us is really secure.
Manu Pubby: How strong is the hard-line faction within the Pakistani military establishment?
There are hardliners in the establishment and outside it. There are people in Pakistan's media, theocracy and political parties. Sometimes I wonder whether we in Pakistan have not become victims of our own contrived national narratives since Independence, such as telling children in school that Pakistan came into being not in 1947 but in 712 AD. There are hardliners who have cultivated the cult of the Muslim warrior. In the 21st century, the success of nations depends on economic and intellectual achievement... than on any war-like ability.
Manu Pubby: How significant is the stepping aside of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Pakistan's power equations?
Let me be very clear. He's not stepping aside; he is retiring after a three-year extension. Very frankly, it's a good thing that the Pakistani military will change its chief. The question is whether it will change its thinking. All long-serving military chiefs in Pakistan have made a negative contribution to Pakistan's evolution as a democratic state. Ayub Khan was the first to get extensions. Then Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf. General Kayani's role is relatively positive because he took an extension from civilians... However, the Pakistani army still has to embrace the concept that an army exists primarily to face enemies in the battlefield, but the definition of who the enemy is should be taken by civilian leaders.
Manu Pubby: There has been a lot of talk in India about our retired Army chief General V K Singh, about him having not been in sync with the government when he was in the post.
I'm glad that he is no longer the chief for India's sake as well as for the region's sake. The last thing the world needs is a Bonaparte in the Indian Army... All modern nations need an army. It should be a professional army. Generals thinking that they should define what the national purpose is are a bad idea... Very frankly, Pakistan has come to grief because Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf tried to impose one vision on the Pakistani nation. A vibrant nation should allow different visions for its future. So my vision is as valid as General Kayani's vision. The Pakistani people should have the right to weigh both the visions and choose one. So if your generals also start doing this — saying that civilians don't know what to do, we are going to tell them what to do — it's going to be harmful for your country as much as it has been harmful for ours.
Rakesh Sinha: How does Pakistan view the US pulling out from Afghanistan in 2014? Doesn't it open a window for the Taliban?
The establishment still erroneously thinks that Pakistan needs to have some kind of strategic influence in Afghanistan to ensure its national security. Pakistan is now a nuclear power and a nuclear power should act more secure. The view (on Afghanistan) is an erroneous concept — you keep the security paradigm that you had before nuclear weapons and continue to persist with the paradigm after obtaining them.
My view is that Pakistan should befriend whoever is in government in Afghanistan. But Pakistan's establishment still thinks that it needs to have some say in what that leadership is. If that is the case, then Pakistan will also be drawn into a prolonged battle. So I am worried about the post-2014 transition. The Americans provided a degree of stability.
Y P Rajesh: There are fears that Pakistani nuclear weapons may fall into Jihadi hands.
Fears about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of jihadis randomly are incorrect. The real fear is the possibility of Pakistan being taken over by the jihadis. Therefore it is important to keep Pakistan primarily a democratic state. Nuclear weapons are not some biscuits lying in a cupboard that you can open and steal. Pakistan has a very solid command and control system, and it will remain effective unless the people who are in charge have another belief system. Supposing somebody who thinks like Hafiz Saeed becomes the prime minister of Pakistan...
D K Singh: How is Pakistan looking at the prospect of Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister of India?
I haven't seen much in the Pakistani press. As far as I am concerned personally, I think it's the Indians who choose their leader... If Modi is elected as prime minister, whoever is the government in Pakistan would have to figure out a way to deal with him. In any case, history tells us that most politicians moderate their stance once they are in office, and quite often the positions they use to rise to power do not necessarily stick while in office. If you remember Nawaz Sharif's rhetoric from 1990, or even from 1993, that was not a guide to his policies.
Anil Sasi: Pakistan has always denied this, but how aware was the establishment of Osama bin Laden being holed up in Abbottabad?
I have honestly no clue about who did or did not know about bin Laden's presence. What I do know is in my book. But it is highly unlikely that his presence was known because a golden principle of governments in the subcontinent is that secrets are not well kept. There is no way that a secret of this magnitude can be kept within a government. The private sector is better at it. That said, his presence in Pakistan is very troubling. The fact that he was able to stay there with a support network is something that should worry all Pakistanis. We need to investigate who those support networks were and find out why they thrive in Pakistan... A State should not allow or encourage the presence of armed militias in its territory.
Dilip Bobb: You wrote about the tripod Pakistan policy in your book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military...
The policy tripod I wrote about has become less sustainable. Among the factors that have changed is the stress within Pakistan. The issue of India as an eternal enemy has come under question as international relations are not about eternal enemies. The US and Pakistan relationship is also under a lot of strain. Before the bin Laden raid, Pakistan was a subject that was discussed only among American foreign policy elites. Now Pakistan has become part of the American pop culture. Pakistan's elite should embrace a new liberal paradigm. There is no eternal enemy of Pakistan, there is no existential threat to Pakistan, it should maintain an effective military, it should maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent, and after that it should focus on educating its people. Put our 48 per cent children who do not go to school into schools, open up the economy, organise agriculture, create jobs, take advantage of being at the centre of trade ties from India to Central Asia, from Iran to India, from the Middle East to India and China. For 66 years, the elite have thought that Pakistan is strategically important because it sits at the crossroads of conflict. I say that Pakistan should now look at itself as sitting at the crossroads of opportunity.
Kaunain Sheriff*: Looking at the Arab Spring, do you see failure by Islamic nations to adapt to democracy?
Indonesia is an Islamic country and is a democracy. Bangladesh is an Islamic country and a democracy. The good thing about Pakistan is that we've had four military dictators and yet never gave up on democracy. It is so much the phenomenon of Islamic countries failing to embrace democracy. It is primarily the Middle East as a region. When a country lives on only one resource like oil, you are not productive as a people. The next wave of democracy will be in the wider Islamic world…
Krishna Uppuluri*: Do you see Malala Yousufzai as the next Benazir Bhutto?
Malala Yousufzai is a brave girl and she took a stand that many of our leaders have been reluctant to do... Benazir Bhutto was very special person. She was someone who repeatedly faced the wrath of authoritarianism. Her father was killed by the dictatorship. She could have left the country. But she was brave... I hope that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, her son, has a similar sense of responsibility. There are a lot of people in this country who do not like dynastic politics, and I have my own intellectual objections. But sometimes it is not dynastic politics, but politics of family legacy.
Muzamil Jaleel: The US is a friend of Pakistan, but it doesn't seem to be very popular on the streets of Pakistan.
To be honest, Pakistan and the US distrust each other immensely. And that distrust has been growing since 9/11. Americans feel Pakistan plays a double game on the issue of terrorism. Pakistanis feel the US has been a fair-weather friend. As ambassador, I tried to serve as a bridge. Now I have reached a conclusion that maybe it is better for both to find a new definition for their relationship.
Ravish Tiwari: We have seen that whenever a global crisis emerges, the first port of call for Pakistani authorities is Beijing. And in India, it is felt that China may be using Pakistan as an irritant against India. Now, is Pakistan using China or China using Pakistan?
I think China, in recent years at least, has always given good counsel to Pakistan, and has consistently advised Pakistan to mend fences with India. They have their own concerns about Jihadi terrorism, and while they may look at strategic divergences with India, they would want a more stable subcontinent. There are people in Pakistan's establishment who think that China still thinks like it did in the '60s and '70s. But I think China has moved beyond that. That's why you don't see any Chinese involvement in supporting Pakistan on the Jihadi issue.
Raj Kamal Jha: Where do you think the change in Pakistan will come from?
The current situation is untenable in the long term... Jihad doesn't create jobs, it doesn't create an economy. There will definitely be a reaction to all of this. Will that reaction manifest itself through Pakistan's elite changing its course or will it be a popular movement is something I cannot predict. But I can say that Pakistan's embattled liberals are not as weak as people think they are. We have had many many courageous and gutsy people. Look at the number of people who have been killed for taking a stand against an extremist world view. Benazir Bhutto and Salman Taseer, Malala Yousufzai, people like myself have been in prison, Asma Jahangir... So the point is that there is a battle for the heart and soul of Pakistan, and while one side may look more dominant because of the backing of the State apparatus, the other side has not lost... I am convinced it will end in victory for us because it is about vision. What is the vision of the Taliban? That no girl will go to school? That women will stay at home wearing Burqas and be baby-producing machines? That there will be people with sticks forcing morality on the streets? Be in a permanent war with India and America? I think the lasting success in Pakistan would be of those who want a modern, liberal, democratic society and peace with all our neighbours.
Transcribed by Naveed Iqbal & Geeta Gupta
These are EXIMS students
Husain Haqqani is a very sensible and learned man. His views are like a breath of fresh air.