Friday, November 13, 2009

Why is the Lamb roaring: Hussain Haqqani speaking for Pakistan—very strange

Pakistan ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani told an influential audience of Congressmen, academics and senior officials that Americans should not ignore Pakistani concerns about their sovereignty or about threats from neighboring countries. According to The Hill, a newspaper which covers the US Congress, “Husain Haqqani offered a candid assessment of where Pakistan stands” at the IFE / INFO Global Connections Public Policy Roundtable. The article’s author Kathy Kemper described Haqqani as “a strong advocate of the late Benazir Bhutto, who stood as symbol of democracy in a country where dictatorship has long prevailed.” Pakistanis, Haqqani noted, believe that the U.S. has long used their country, not engaged it. The envoy observed that Hillary Clinton’s trip to Pakistan was significant to the extent that the Americans saw a different side of our country. In attending town halls and visiting colleges and universities, she tried to demonstrate that the U.S. is genuinely concerned with Pakistan’s welfare.

But Haqqani pointed out that one high-profile visit is unlikely to do much, because many of Pakistan’s difficulties are historically rooted. “Pakistanis had no idea what suicide bombers were prior to 9/11. The U.S. supported radical Islamists in their fight against the Soviet Union, but it is precisely those extremists who are now waging jihad across the globe, including in Pakistan; Many Pakistanis regard the Taliban as an existential threat to their country,” ambassador said. According to The Hill account of Haqqani’s speech, he said, “Although Pakistan’s economy is back on track, insecurity limits its ability to achieve sustained economic growth. It shares a border with a hostile neighbor ( India ), with a desperately poor country in which the Taliban is reasserting its influence (Afghanistan ), and with a nation that is in the midst of tremendous domestic upheaval ( Iran ). Being in a near-constant struggle against internal and external threats has its consequences. Haqqani noted that India is perhaps the biggest elephant in the room. “Pakistan is wary of the Indo-U.S. relationship, which is robust and multifaceted,” and the US would have to treat Pakistan at par to win over Pakistani trust. He mentioned that India is Boeing’s largest customer, and also that 26 members of the Obama administration are Indian-American. Facts like these naturally make Pakistan nervous, the envoy explained to the U.S. influentials. As much as it is concerned with India , Pakistan is also anxious to see how its relationship with the U.S. evolves. Haqqani said Pakistanis want to receive credit for their counterterrorism efforts. Pakistan has killed or captured more al Qaeda leaders than has any other country. He concluded by saying that the U.S. won’t truly be able to win hearts and minds there until it adopts a more comprehensive engagement strategy --one that has a political element and a socioeconomic element.

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