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September 27, 2011

A different Haqqani approached to end tension over Haqqani network


September 27, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The country’s top civilian and military leadership has tasked a different Haqqani to defuse the tensions with the United States over the Siraj Haqqani network - Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani.
Although Pakistanis have shown their resolve to face US aggression, Pakistani leadership agrees that there is no advantage to Pakistan in pursuing a path of confrontation. “This is a time for diplomacy,” said a highly placed source, adding: “Even if we can inflict some damage on the US, the damage to Pakistan for confronting the US will be much more. Rhetoric will have to make way for rationality quite soon”.
The leadership has directed the Pakistani ambassador in Washington to use his wide personal contacts in the US government, political system and media to bring temperatures down after the harsh statements by US officials that began with Admiral Mullen’s criticism directed at Pakistan’s military and ISI.
Diplomatic efforts have, however, been complicated by the hard line statements by some Pakistani political leaders and the potential for more anti-US rhetoric at the forthcoming All Parties Conference.
According to official sources, Husain Haqqani has borne the brunt of criticism from politicians and media in Pakistan in the past, but that has been the price he paid for retaining access and respect among Americans, which makes him a useful interlocutor for his country at this critical moment.
“Ambassador Haqqani refused to join everyone else over the last three years in publicly attacking the US, anticipating that some day Pakistan will need a credible negotiator on its behalf. Pakistan needs such a person to help defuse the tensions that are not in Pakistan’s interests,” said one official. Others acknowledged that so far his assessments of US mood have always proved to be accurate and he has gained begrudging acceptance and admiration even from critics who deemed his views as very different from

the anti-American national mood.
Since the beginning of the current crisis, Haqqani has been keeping Islamabad fully informed of the developments in Washington and has been in touch with US officials at several levels. He actively defended Pakistan in the US media immediately after the unilateral US operation in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden, but has remained quiet in the latest war of words between the two countries.
Sources say the ambassador’s relative silence reflects his understanding that some elements in the US power structure would be willing to go farther than ever before in pressuring or punishing Pakistan for allegedly supporting the Haqqani network in Afghanistan in attacking Americans.
Pakistan’s military leadership understands the need for quiet diplomacy much more than internationally inexperienced politicians whose first priority is to cater to domestic sentiments. Prompted by anti-American rhetoric of Pakistani political leaders, American politicians too have started demanding a military response against Pakistan. While the power balance in Pakistan is such that the military can supersede the rhetoric of politicians, the opinions of Senators in the US system carry much more weight. The country’s decision makers do not want the war of words to escalate to a point where Americans feel compelled to follow up their statements with actions that could harm the country’s physical infrastructure or economy as a result of military action or sanctions.

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