By DHAMINI RATNAM,
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, described famously as ‘the last friendly Pakistani’ towards the US, will soon come out with a book Magnificent Delusions that explains why that epithet isn’t too far off the mark.
While Haqqani is in the country this week to meet strategists and discuss the subcontinent’s role in globalization, his book, which releases later this month, looks at an altogether different aspect of globalization – the war on terror, and more specifically, US-Pakistan relations from the time of Partition.
Haqqani, who served as the ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011, resigned in the wake of the ‘Memo-gate’ controversy, in which a US businessman of Pakistani origin Mansoor Ijaz accused him of writing a secret memorandum to Admiral Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs requesting US intervention to prevent a military takeover of Pakistan in the aftermath of America’s raid of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad that was carried out without the Pakistan government’s consent, or knowledge. Ijaz said that Haqqani had approached him to be an interlocutor. Haqqani strongly denied these claims, and while a three-member judicial commission released a report the following year, in June, which said Haqqani had authored the memo, it was contested as being influenced by Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.
The affable 57-year-old who was in the city on Wednesday, disagreed when asked whether the book was a considered response to the controversy. “My first book was on the origins of Islamic radicalism in Pakistan and how it was an outgrowth of Pakistan’s strategic policies. This was a natural second book, because in Pakistani foreign policy, the most important relationship is the one with the United States.”
“The memo was always a non-issue. It was a typical example of a paper tiger that is first created and then demolished. Had there had been a real memo, there would have been real consequences,” Haqqani told Mirror. Yet, there have been personal consequences. Two years on and he still faces a threat to his life in Pakistan, which is why he now lives in Washington DC. “I’m misunderstood by my countrymen, but they are not allowed to understand the difference between someone with a different point of view and someone who is acting against the state,” he said. “I care deeply about Pakistan, and my desire to start a dialogue within Pakistan is a consequence of my patriotism, not treason. We don’t allow an alternative nationalism and policy to emerge.”
Haqqani noted that the Abbottabad operation was a turning point for Pakistan and induced an increased xenophobia in the country. “The gap between how the rest of the world sees Pakistan and how Pakistanis see Pakistan has widened enormously.”
Part of the reason is the “dysfunctional relation” between the United States and Pakistan, which dates back to the Partition, Haqqani explains in his book. Stating that the two countries do not possess “shared interests, not just in statements, but in a real understanding of the world,” he said, “Every time there has been a major crisis, Pakistan’s alliance with the United States has deluded Pakistan’s leaders into thinking that they can get over the problem, because they are close to a superpower. Now that the possibility of sustaining that delusion is no longer there, Pakistan and the United States are drifting apart.”
♦ Haqqani was accused of compiling a memo seeking US help to avert a military takeover in Pakistan following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.
♦ The controversy had put already tense relations between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders under severe strain.
♦ While Haqqani denied any role in the controversy, he resigned and returned to Pakistan to face an inquiry.
♦ A three-member judicial panel in June 2012 held that Haqqani had authored the memo.