Husain Haqqani has always been outspoken. Pakistan's former ambassador to the US, Haqqani has been candid about Pakistan, it's policy towards India, and the problems of Frankenstein monster of terrorism. In the Capital to promote his new book 'Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State', Haqqani, in an interview, talks about engagement with India, disappointing political leaders and on Pakistan moving forward for his arrest.
There has been recently a low point with India and Pakistan. There has been a rather ongoing diplomatic spat, which has just been called off. How does India engage then?
My advice to India would be to avoid the negativity and spitefulness that generally has characterised the relationship from Pakistan over the years. Pakistan's elite created an ideology, an important element of which is, antipathy to India. It was a means of creating national unity in face of the other. India does not need to this enmity to feel like a nation. So why engage this pettiness? India should be more generous towards all its smaller neighbours. And it should particularly be nice towards to Pakistan. So that the people of Pakistan can stop believing the state propaganda that India is Pakistan's eternal enemy. That said, state-to-state relations do depend on reciprocity, and there will be issues between the two sides. As long that there is terrorism, and clashes along the border, there will be a response. But the high road by either side could actually break the impasse.
As far as my book is concerned, the core argument remains as to reimagine itself not only in relationship to India, but for its own sake. And if that reimagination has to take place, India has to help the process by not increasing the antipathy towards India in the Pakistani national psyche.
There has been a withdrawal of aid from the US. You have talked about how conspiracy theories abound in Pakistan. The cutting of aid is being seen as an Indian conspiracy. Your comment.
The fact with dollars and cents is that they are a real, countable commodity. So, you can believe what you like about whether it is a conspiracy or not. But you still won't have to spend. That will have consequences and it will have an impact. That won't change because of the narrative. It will have a substantial impact.
Does that generate self awareness?
Most adversity can create self pity or self awareness. I would rather that Pakistan gain self awareness from its adversity and challenge it rather than it became embroiled of self pity.
A notice has been sent out for your arrest in Pakistan. You even retweeted it. Your comment.
The reason I tweeted it is because I know Interpol isn't likely to issue a Red Corner notice on political charges. Interpol's charter specifically says that no political charges will be the basis of their action. And even if, after charging someone with treason, like they have done in my case, they then decide to accuse them of other charges, those charges become redundant because the intention to get the person is their political view. I feel no pressure... It reinforces to me, what I have known for a little while that it is difficult for me to return home. It involves risking my personal freedom or even my life. The second thing is, the state continues to try and build a falisfied narrative to be able to extradite me. Why are they continuing to put out these stories that we have requested, we have written a letter? Doesn't the Supreme Court of Pakistan not know that international law totally excludes extradition for political charges? ... It is the reaffirmation of my opinion that the Pakistani state's real purpose is to fool the people of Pakistan.
You talk about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is India-centric. Do you think the nuclear weapons are safe?
I think the nuclear weapons are as safe as can be in technical terms. The Pakistan Army has a good command and control system. Pakistan has not had a nuclear incident as other nuclear weapon powered countries. So, they are safe. The question is, is the Pakistani state completely safe from being taken over by extreme ideas? I think that is what we should be focusing on. Is the Pakistani safe from extremists? That is what the international community should be focused on.
Do you think Pakistan has made progress in dealing with terrorism within?
I think the Pakistan Army has destroyed safe havens of the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) and those elements that took an extreme view and started attacking Pakistan. I think that there is national consensus that Pakistan has not acted against the Afghan Taliban and those groups that India-centric.
Do you think the solution to get Pakistan on the road is to act against them?
Absolutely. I think this attempt to try and make a distinction between various kinds of jihadi groups has not been in Pakistan's interest. Because, people can move from one group to another. The TTP when it first started was considered, it was described, as a patriotic group. Somebody within the group, said why are we not attacking Pakistan and they started attacking Pakistan. So having militias terrorist groups with warped ideologies has had its risks.
Civil society in Pakistan has always been very strong. Why has this transformation or the change of narrative happened so far?
I think three things stand out. I think Pakistan's politicians have always disappointed the intelligentsia and civil society. They have always chosen to cut a deal with the establishment when they could have actually shown some spine and stood up to it. The corruption of politicians has weakened them in asserting their constitutional authority even when they have been elected to office. Secondly, the xenophobic hyper-nationalist discourse, backed by the establishment, becomes very formidable to overcome. Thirdly, a semi authoritarian national security state often succeeds in an environment of fear. So, when people speak, some of them have to go down and be quiet or some are eliminated. Those who survive, the state recognises that this person is a nuisance, but not a threat. It is like Russian roulette, you don't know when the bullet will fire. So an increasing number is trying to go into exile.
Strong politicians with a will to confront the establishment, to say that you do not have the right to overturn the mandate of the people, will hopefully change the narrative.