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National

April 23, 2015

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Haqqani’s plea to US not a surprise

It was amusing to hear an anchor in a TV show saying that Husain Haqqani’s article asking the United States not to sell Viper helicopters and Hellfire missiles to Pakistan was bewildering and unbelievable. Is he a Pakistani still, the anchor wondered.
Intellectually honest that he is, the anchor’s amazement was understandable. But so is HH’s plea to the US president not to trust the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government (read the Pakistani people) with military hardware for, it is, according to HH, likely to be used against India. Anyone who has ever known HH would not be surprised. I am not.
From a high profile office bearer of the ultra right Jamiat-e-Tulba (students wing of Jamaat-e-Islami) in Karachi to an ardent supporter of the late Gen Ziaul Haq who had Bhutto hanged and who laid the foundation of the jihadist movement in the region to fight the Soviets as a US proxy, to the then Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Assistant in Punjab, to the caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Jatoi’s and later Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Press Assistant, to his (Nawaz Sharif’s) High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, to Benazir Bhutto’s Secretary for Information and Broadcasting to Asif Zardari’s Ambassador to Washington, HH’s journey of the past three decades has indeed been a bewildering one. The speed and ease with which he has changed course and colour is truly remarkable.
I know no one else who could come even close to him in this rare art form. So why bemoan HH’s somersaults and his tirade against his own country? Or is it now his former country? There are exceptions in all species of living beings including humans. HH falls in that rare category for whom loyalty has a very different meaning. I have been groomed differently so I shall say no more.
Coming to the main arguments in his article in the Wall Street journal as reported in The News, Haqqani argues that unless Pakistan’s worldview changes, the US arms sold to it will

end up fighting India or menace India. What a fallacy? Pakistan menacing India! With ten times in size than Pakistan, with a many times larger economy, with a many times bigger army, with a far larger nuclear arsenal, with a history of armed conflicts with neighbors China and Pakistan, having helped dismember Pakistan in 1971, having fuelled a long insurgency in Sri Lanka, if India can still be menaced by Pakistan as says HH, what would you attribute this statement to? Frailty or naivety? Or overzealousness of a new recruit? The choice is yours. As far as the reality goes, it is India and not Pakistan that must change its worldview.
Haqqani goes on to say that Pakistan suffers from a delusion of being India’s regional military equal and asks the United States to convince Pakistan to abandon its ambitions of rivaling India. Both untrue.
Pakistan has never sought or pursued military equality with India nor has it ever had an ambition of rivaling India. And Pakistan has good reasons not to do so. However, Pakistan has longstanding disputes with and concerns viz a viz India. It is India that has defied the United Nations and the world by forcefully occupying Kashmir and blatantly ignoring every international or bilateral effort to resolve the issue. It is India that callously continues to build dams on rivers flowing towards Pakistan in violation of all international law and ethics only to deny the much needed water to farmers in Pakistan. It is determined to turn Pakistani farmlands into wasteland. It is India that stealthily occupied Siachin and converted it into the highest battlefield in the world three decades ago and refuses to resolve the issue. Should not the United States convince India to be rational, to be fair and to be a peace seeker with Pakistan, a much smaller country with a much smaller economy and a much smaller army.
Haqqani alleges that Pakistan violated its promises to the US not to acquire nuclear weapons. Did Pakistan have a choice after India invaded Pakistan in 1971 and broke the country into two, our own follies on the issue being a different story? And thereafter, in 1974 it was India that went nuclear. Pakistan tested its nuclear capabilities 24 years later.
He also apprehends that the arms sold by US to Pakistan will be used against insurgents in Balochistan and Kashmir. Are all the armaments being used by India against the freedom activists in held Kashmir made by India and not bought from overseas? I say this not to suggest that Pakistan would do what is apprehended by Haqqani but only to counter an argument which is based on indefensible motives. After all, is India not fighting more than two dozen insurgencies within its borders excluding the freedom movement in held Kashmir? Should then the world not put an embargo on all military sales to India? Will that not be a service to world peace? Should Haqqani not be preaching that, if it all he has taken on such a responsibility, to the president of his new country, if he has adopted one as it appears from his expression “we” in relation to the United States in his article?
I will conclude with two anecdotes. While serving as Press Secretary to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1991, I was called by him and tasked to do something which fell in the domain of another colleague who was also handling the prime minister’s media relations. I politely reminded the prime minister that he had assigned that responsibility to the other colleague. Nawaz Sharif repeated his instructions as I repeated my submissions. Then, the prime minister looked upto me and asked how long had I known that colleague. Many years, I replied. “Then you do not know him”, retorted the prime minister and firmly repeated his instructions. Many years later, I was called by former General Pervez Musharraf who I was told was looking for another Information Secretary, a third one only one year into his takeover as the Chief Executive of the country. It was my first meeting with him and at the end of the “interview” when he told me that he had decided to appoint me as the new Information Secretary I could not help ask him if Javed Jabbar, the then Information Minister, would continue. “No”, he said. I tried to explain that this was one Ministry that should not be left without a political head. General Musharraf said there was a seasoned campaigner who had offered to join but “he carries, too much baggage”. And so I carried the responsibility of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting without a minister for nearly one year and a half. I need not disclose who was my colleague with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or who was the person carrying too much baggage as described by General Musharraf? But my greatest wonder is at those who entrusted HH with Pakistan’s interests in Washington. He surely deserves a trophy or a medal from you know who.
The writer is a former Federal Secretary

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