By Muhammad Ali Ehsan: Hussain Haqqani, our erstwhile ambassador to the US, has once again written a hard hitting article (reminiscent of most of his previous works that continue to aim at pitching the narrative at home against the narrative abroad). Published in The Print (11 Oct 2018) and titled “Pakistan’s fortunes can’t be rescued by a celebrity PM and recycled foreign minister” the article is a complete throwback and a sharp and undue criticism of a Pakistani PM and his government that is still in a state of infancy and trying its best to extricate Pakistan from the economic woes that it faces during the current troubled times. Headquartered in Delhi, The Print was launched in August 2017 by Shekhar Gupta and since past one year it frequently utilises the services of many writers to churn out ‘anti-Pakistani’ propaganda written, explained and articulated beautifully by capable and able writers like Mr Hussain Haqqani. My concern is not what and why Mr Haqqani writes and what he writes — my concern is how his writings are interpreted by the young (student) minds in Pakistan? Mr Haqqani’s writings are like ‘razor sharp blades’ and every time I go through them I am reminded of a saying of German General Gunther Blumertritt who while admiring Carl Von Clausewitz’s masterpiece On War stated that ‘to give it (On War) to military is to allow a child to play with a razor blade.’ We can’t keep out Mr Haqqani’s ‘razor blades’ but at least we know where they are coming from and with what aim? Exposed to a hybrid war that loses no opportunity to ‘bleed us by thousand cuts’ the country today is more resilient and determined to do everything in its national interests. This centrality of national interest and not what Mr Haqqani terms “few friends unwilling to trust Pakistan’s promises under the new leader” defines the new leadership led-current Pakistani government. A government most willing and determined to put the ‘horse of national interests’ ahead and firmly in place to pull the ‘country’s political cart’ — something that the world and Mr Haqqani included have not been accustomed to seeing. Mr Haqqani writes that ‘Khan supports hyper nationalist Pakistani narrative that has given rise to Pakistan’s lack of international credibility’ what he doesn’t write is about all the other hyper-national narratives, including the one of New Delhi from where his article originated. Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken a lot about patriotism — he is more patriot than national and while nationalism of any kind triggers emotional responses — his has been a message to inculcate, exhibit, demonstrate and display patriotism at the forefront of all sub-national and national engagements.
Mr Haqqani believes that ‘Pakistan’s fortunes can’t be rescued by a celebrity PM and recycled foreign minister’ and claims that ‘appointment of a new top management cannot help sell the old bad product’ yet he himself has been a big model of change who started his political career joining (student wing of) the Islami Jamiat-e-Talba at the University of Karachi and then becoming its president. Didn’t he turn and change? Despite his ‘right wing political brought up’ Mr Haqqani allowed his political wisdom to alter overtime — writing in his own words in Asian Wall Street Journal he states that ‘over the last three decades, I have alternated between being attracted to and repulsed by political Islam.’ While he gives himself and his beliefs the leverage to alter overtime yet when it comes to his own country he hardly ever pitches his ‘theoretical constructs’ against the ‘instrument of history’ which if done would demonstrate the ‘fluctuating fortunes’ of this country have got everything to do with not only in how a political system never got entrenched and failed to work but also how the preference to ‘outside interests’ over our own let us down. Just the reading of the chapter titled, ‘The more things change….’ of his book Pakistan between Mosque and Military reveals how blatantly he misdiagnoses the element of context. If he doesn’t do that he would be much fairer in his assessments of some of the strategic choices that Pakistan made and the conditions under which they were made. Substituting quantity for detail in his book Pakistan between Mosque and Military, Mr Haqanni is obsessed with looking at his country from the prism of ‘West loved and admired’ accusations like ‘tolerance to extremism,’ ‘double-faced policy,’ ‘military and Islamists ensure that the policy direction of the country doesn’t change.’
Allowed by the Supreme Court to travel abroad and leave the country on the promise that he will return once summoned by the court Mr Haqqani continues to stay abroad and relishes the foreign warmth and hospitality by showcasing himself as a victim of ‘political differences’ with the government and state of Pakistan. The problem with Mr Haqqani is that objects when looked from great distance look the same from every angle. For Mr Haqqani — events in Pakistan and how he interprets them are like objects viewed from great distance.
Writing a letter to Supreme Court in 2012 explaining why he couldn’t return to Pakistan, Mr Haqqani wrote, ‘I will not risk my life until the circumstances that have put my life in jeopardy have changed.’ While he waits for the circumstances to change and become ideal for his return — Pakistan and the government that represents it doesn’t have that luxury. It has to act and take decisions in the given circumstances presented by the situations in which it finds itself. Unfortunately for the current government ‘of that that surrounds it’ — the current circumstance is not of its doing — it existed prior to and beyond them but any determined leadership would know that this circumstance has a potential for change and it is after this change that it seems that this government is after.
Lastly, the current Imran Khan-led government firmly believes in the justice of its cause and seems adamant to employ every means (even those that were once considered suicidal) to serve the interests of Pakistan. People like Mr Haqqani who think that ‘Pakistan’s fortunes can’t be rescued’ will be in for a surprise — the political system needs time to become responsive to the demands being placed on it — it needs time not ‘anti-Pakistani’ writings that Mr Haqqani showcases. All we have to do is wait.
(The writer is a member of the faculty of contemporary studies at National Defence University, Islamabad)