Former diplomat Husain Haqqani on the need to re-imagine Pakistan

11 February 2019
Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg / Getty Images

In January 2019, the Pakistani government reportedly initiated the process to extradite Husain Haqqani from the United States. Haqqani, a former diplomat facing charges of embezzlement in Pakistan, served as the country’s ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993, and to the United States between 2008 and 2011. He has also worked with four prime ministers of Pakistan.

Haqqani’s career as a diplomat has been marred with controversy—in 2012, a judicial commission set up by the government accused him of undermining the country’s security. Subsequently, he left Pakistan and moved to the United States. In March 2018, the Federal Investigation Agency, a Pakistani security agency, registered a case against Haqqani for “criminal breach of trust, misuse of authority and embezzlement of funds” during his stint at Pakistan’s embassy in the United States. The embezzlement case is believed to be the basis of his proposed extradition.

Haqqani is a vocal critic of the Pakistani military, and has repeatedly accused the country of being run by a “deep state.” He is the author of two books on Pakistan’s militancy and foreign relations—Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military and Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. At present, Haqqani is the director of the south and central Asia division of the Hudson Institute, a US-based think tank. In an interview with the journalist Hanan Zaffar, he discussed terrorism, Islamic extremism and the necessity to re-imagine Pakistan. On the prospect of returning to Pakistan, Haqqani said, “It makes more sense to survive and to question the state narrative in Pakistan, rather than going [back to] become a victim of that state narrative.”

Hanan Zaffar: When you were a student, you were associated with an Islamist political organisation—the Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing. In recent years, you have publicly criticised Islamic extremism and Pakistan’s deep state and military.
Husain Haqqani: I was never associated with Jamaat-e-Islami but with a student movement at Karachi University called Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba. [Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba is the student wing of the Pakistani political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.] That was an era of student politics some forty years ago. What is relevant is what one’s opinions are today.

HZ: You have claimed that Islamic extremism is not an aberration, but institutionalised in Pakistan. Then why did Islamic parties, such as the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, which is reportedly linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jamaat-e-Islami, barely win any seats in the 2018 general elections?
HH: Parties like Jamaat-e-Islami or Jamat-ud-Dawa, which try to coerce changes in personal choices and lifestyle, lose out to nationalistic parties with strong political views. [Jamat-ud-Dawa is led by Hafiz Saeed, who is a co-founder of the LeT. It reportedly backs the Allah-o-Akbar Tareek.]

Hanan Zaffar is a journalist based in Delhi.

Keywords: Pakistan Lashkar-e-Taiba united states Jamaat-E-Islami Hafiz Saeed insurgency CPEC