Amb. Haqqani – Lobbying for “Transformation” – by Anas Muhammad

Ambassador Husain Haqqani

On January 15, 2009, Ambassador Husain Haqqani, was a special guest to a gathering at the Nixon Center, which discussed the US-Paksitan relations. This is one of the many forums Honorable Ambassador has addressed, since being appointed at his current position in April 2008. Since taking office he has lectured many think-tanks and academia on a regular basis, which is a part of his efforts to bridge the gaps between US and Pakistan and create a better understanding and relations.

With the return of democracy to Pakistan, it has become critically important for both US and Pakistan to establish close strategic relations. This partnership shall not only be limited to military – transactional – like in the past, but needs to be a transformational that serves the interests of both nations.

As the former Prime Minister late Ms. Bhutto had envisioned the future of both countries – US and Pakistan – is tied together and is directly linked with the eradication of terrorists networks from the region and establishing democracy along with improving and supporting Pakistan’s economy for the long term.

It is vital that United States does not remain just a fair-weather friend like it has in the past. US has used Pakistan when it was strategically required but did not follow through with its partnership and left Pakistan to face the consequence, which at times had been dire for Pakistan’s interests and security. Mr. Haqqani wants that attitude to change:

There is barely a think-tank in Washington that has not heard Mr Haqqani argue this must change. “We are transforming ourselves from an authoritarian state to a democratic state. We want it to be a real alliance this time round.” – Financial Times

For the longest time US has allied itself with the dictators in Pakistan, which indirectly ended up keeping them in power. As an Ambassador Mr. Haqqani has lobbied to change that image along with the misconceptions and bad-taste that exists, between the two nations, due to the burden of history.

Representing and clearing the image of Pakistan might be one of the hardest job on the planet, which is why Mr. Haqqani might just be the right person for the job. Ambassador Richard Holbrook has occasionally admired and claimed that Mr. Haqqani is:

“one of the most skilled ambassadors I have ever seen.”

“Some ambassadors’ influence is derived logically from the country they represent; Husain Haqqani’s influence is derived from his absolute mastery of the American media.”

Amb. Haqqani has repeatedly argued that it were the Pakistan’s insecurities towards its much larger neighbor and a foe India – that forged previous military relationships between US and Pakistan – which has changed over time and US needs to address Pakistan’s much larger concerns which are not only the military needs but also social and economic situation.

There needs to be a partnership between the democracies of two nations that will help complete the democratization of Pakistani society. Ambassador argues that the goal should be to offer alternatives to militancy and militarism and a future to the very vibrant youth of Pakistan, which can only be done by helping Pakistan increase its literacy rate from 49% to upper 90s.

Mr. Ambassador has been able to put forward his argument to the policy makers in a way that has already started to change perceptions and policies. One example would be the passage of Kerry-Lugar Aid package along with recent announcement of $1 Billion into Pakistan’s energy sector. He does not only enjoys the trust of President Zardari but also, being a familiar face on Capitol Hill, gives him access to the corridors of power and important decision-makers of American politics. As the Washington Post article noted:

As spokesman and political confidant of then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Haqqani became a familiar face at Washington think tanks, on American news programs and on Capitol Hill, where he lobbied, after being exiled in 1999, against the government of President Pervez Musharraf

His deep insights and lobbying skills has most probably helped Pakistan Air-force secure the delivery of much awaited F-16 that Pakistan had been lobbying to receive since the 1990. It is apparent that:

Mr. Haqqani has become an influential figure in Washington — a silver-tongued interpreter in public of his country’s bewildering politics, but also a relentless, unyielding defender of Pakistan’s image and reputation – New York Times

With all that we wish you best of luck Mr. Ambassador.



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