BU professor-turned-Pakistan-envoy Haqqani draws fire


Senior Member
Mar 10, 2009
BU professor-turned-Pakistan-envoy draws fire
By Farah Stockman
Globe Staff / November 4, 2009

WASHINGTON - Professor Husain Haqqani, who took a leave of absence from Boston University to become Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States last year, is one of the most influential figures in his nation’s government. But in recent weeks, Haqqani has been fighting for his political survival, accused of something that can tank a government career in Pakistan: being too “pro-American.’’

Some journalists in Pakistan have denounced him. Opposition members of parliament have given scathing speeches about him. Pakistani military officials have sought his dismissal. The attacks have been so nasty that Haqqani has filed a defamation lawsuit against a leading Pakistani newspaper.

If he returned home, friends say, his safety could be threatened.

“It’s brutal,’’ said Michael Krepon of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank

Ironically, the recent spate of criticism stems from Haqqani’s role in shaping a $7.5 billion, five-year US aid package to Pakistan that aims to strengthen the friendship between the countries.

The package, which triples US assistance for projects such as schools, clinics, and roads, was widely celebrated by Pakistan’s civilian leaders when it was announced in September.

But the aid - pushed by Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts - has drawn an angry reaction from Islamist opposition politicians and senior officials of Pakistan’s military. They have called the aid bill insulting to the Pakistani armed forces because it suggests that military purchases should be tied to continued cooperation in the war against the Taliban, and because it promotes control of the military by civilian government.

Two weeks ago, the Pakistani Observer newspaper called the aid “a slavery accord’’ and incorrectly reported that Haqqani would be replaced within 48 hours.

The furor has exposed a dangerous, continuing struggle between Pakistan’s powerful military, which Haqqani criticized as a professor, and the fledgling, democratically elected government.

“The [Pakistani] military clearly has decided that it would like to have him removed,’’ said a US congressional aide who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Haqqani declined to comment in detail on the situation. “Nobody in the government at any level has broached the subject of my going to any other job or any other role so far,’’ he said.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said Haqqani is welcome to return early from his two-year sabbatical, which is slated to end next June, but that he has not raised the issue. Haqqani has maintained ties to Boston University and continues to advise a student pursuing a doctorate who is defending her dissertation this month.

Haqqani has a reputation for emerging victorious from political warfare in Washington and Islamabad. Born in Karachi, he was once a radical Islamist activist. Then he turned to journalism, and finally to politics.

Known as charming and shrewd, he was a senior aide for two rival prime ministers. In 1996, when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was ousted for a second time and went into exile, it looked as though Haqqani’s career was finished. But he managed to reinvent himself and rise to a more important post.

In 1999, when the Pakistani military toppled the civilian government in a coup, Haqqani’s political future appeared bleak. But after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan became an important US ally, and his writings sparked great interest in the United States. In 2002, he joined the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based think tank. In 2004, he arrived in Boston, becoming a popular professor whose office was packed with interested students.

While at BU, Haqqani finished his book “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military,’’ which detailed the troublesome alliance between Pakistan’s military and radical Islamists groups. In the book, he argued that the United States should use its aid to break the cycle of military dictatorship in Pakistan. Haqqani told his students that the United States needed to become a long-term ally of Pakistan’s government, not just a fair-weather friend to its army whenever Washington needs help fighting a war - a key principle enshrined in the new aid package.

In 2008, Pakistan’s military leaders stepped aside and allowed for the election of a new civilian government. Ali Asif Zardari, the husband of the late Bhutto, became Pakistan’s new president and sent his friend Haqqani to Washington.

Already on a first-name basis with many key congressmen, the professor quickly became an influential figure, a frequent visitor to the White House and Capitol Hill. An avid Red Sox fan who is more likely to wear an expensive suit than a loose-fitting traditional shalwar kamiz, Haqqani captivated US audiences with speeches about Pakistan’s woes.

But his role in Washington has long caused consternation among those who say he is out of touch with Pakistan and too American in his point of view. Although his wife, a former CNN producer, holds a seat in Pakistan’s parliament, Haqqani hasn’t returned to Islamabad for eight months.

“Many Pakistanis say that they think he is too close to Washington, that he has spent too much time outside the country, that he doesn’t understand the demands of the Pakistani people,’’ said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who said complaints about Haqqani came up frequently during his meetings in Pakistan last week.

Haqqani’s failure to predict or prepare for the outrage in Pakistan over the language in Kerry’s aid package “may be an example of that,’’ Markey said. “The embassy should have known that some people were going to try to make hay of it, and headed that off in advance.’’

But Samina Ahmed, an Islamabad-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said the attacks on Haqqani were carefully orchestrated by the military to weaken the government he represents. She predicted more will come.

“These are the first rumblings of the storm,’’ she said. “This is the beginning of the military trying to take down this civilian government.’’


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Jun 3, 2009
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Ah, Hussain Haqqani :music_rock:... an interesting but tumultuous character. His playboy magazine bio would state his "hot factors" as: ridiculously apt at surviving anarchy and can insert the word "democracy" in any given sentence whether it makes grammatical sense or not. No I'm serious, I've heard this guy speak live numerous times and even seen him on TV, he uses the word democracy as he would an article or preposition. His "not factors" would be the uncanny ability to piss off the military on an hourly basis at a 24X7 rate (I think Mushy tossed his a$$ into the can for a bit), and his complete lack of attachment to the ground reality in Pakistan. Having said that I do think he is an extremely intelligent fellow and it comes of no surprise to me that he is very popular as a professor.

His dichotomy as a political figure of course remains the centerpiece of any discussion. On one hand he is exceptionally realistic in recognizing and accepting Pakistan's position as a de facto client state of the US and conducts himself accordingly. He is also pretty honest about the decrepit state of the nation and doesn't bother promoting a false picture, an otherwise standard part and parcel of an "image" conscious system. I think this is the primary reason for his lack of popularity among the Pakistani masses. Unlike all the other hypocritical demagogues who talk big and then surreptitiously run around Washington DC with a begging bowl until the whole system implodes (or in the case of Zia- explodes) he has no qualms about seeking help from his benefactors as a prophylactic measure. His detachment from the real time ground reality in Pakistan of course remains major source of concern, as the article rightly points out. It must be noted however that this disconnect is by no means unique as far as Pakistan's diplomatic representatives to western nations are concerned. I have seen Pakistan's representatives to the UN and other diplomats here who are far more oblivious than Haqqani.

Either way, it seems like he means well for Pakistan even if he isn't haggling over the image of Pakistan.

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