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Democracy only panacea to all ills in Pakistan: Haqqani

04 March, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has said democracy is the only panacea to all ills in Pakistan.

Haqqani told The Indian Express Editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in Walk the Talk programme on NDTV that Pakistan needs to go beyond its old paradigms to move forward on the road to progress. "Instead of being an ideological state, Pakistan needs to be state that is responsible to its people; a state that makes peace with its neighbours, rather than trying to win wars which we never have been able to win," he said.

The former envoy said it was the first time that a civilian government was going to complete its constitutional term. "We have seen five complete years of democratic rule. Pakistan is set to hold general election and, hopefully, hand over power to the next civilian government."

Haqqani said everybody in Pakistan is agreed on democracy. "There was a time when Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People's Party used to disagree and one would let the other be toppled. Now, neither one will allow a military intervention," he maintained.

The former envoy said the key thing in the last five years of democratic rule is that for the first time a civilian government didn't victimise its opponents. "For the first time, a civilian government didn't arrest its opponents. No case was filed against anyone on political grounds. Nobody was persecuted or prosecuted," he said, and added that if some people were prosecuted, they were within the government and were tried by the judiciary.

To a question about allegations against him, Haqqani said no court of law ever charged him for anything. "There are no charges framed against me. Neither any trial was held, nor did any court convict me."

Haqqani said he was a better patriot than those accusing him of treason. He said his only fault was that he offered an alternative vision for Pakistan.

To a question on jihadism in Pakistan, Haqqani said though Pakistan has a lot of jihadis who use force to try to take over but it never has been a jihadi state. "Jihadis want to grab power. They use force because they can't win elections. It's in fact a sense of insecurity (among them)."

He said there should be no lashkar (militia) or sipah (army) in Pakistan. The stage has come where a serious debate on the future course of action must take place in Pakistan. "Jihadism, extremism must be fought out. There should be no foreign interference in Pakistan. No foreign power can make Pakistan a strong nation," he said.

Haqqani said Pakistan's national discourse has been hijacked by the extremists. He said Pakistan's national discourse enables people like Abdul Qadeer Khan and Hafiz Saeed to project themselves as heroes. And they are supported by hyper nationalists."

The former envoy said any person whom the other world deems an international criminal, must not be projected as a hero. "It isolates a country. Pakistan needs to review this," he added.

He said Pakistan needs to be a plural state if it wants to move forward on the road to peace and progress. "Pakistan must be a practical, functional, constitutional state where Islam, being the religion of the majority, is respected and people belonging to different sects live in harmony."

He said Muslim can be in danger, but not Islam. "Islam has never been in danger for the last 14 centuries. Many Muslim empires in the world have vanished but Islam is still there. In fact, it has grown. Today, there are more Muslims living in the world," he said, and added that no one should be allowed to use Islam to impose his agenda on the people.

The former envoy said the biggest debate the country needs at this juncture is that what is Pakistan's national interest. "Pakistan will only benefit from focusing inward, strengthening itself and allowing democracy to function."

Haqqani said though Pakistan has been economically damaged but it has the capacity to stage comeback "But the reversal has to be a very conscious decision. And a very methodical efforts needs to be made," he added.

On Pakistan-India relations, Haqqani said people in both countries have negative views about each other. He said the definition of India being an existential enemy of Pakistan is not correct.

On relations with US, the former envoy said Pakistan needs to engage US in its own interest. "We must watch our own interests. But, we should also understand America's interests and work out where we have commonality of interests. We must stop just playing America and think that, somehow, we can get some advantage out of it."

On his return to Pakistan, Haqqani said he was waiting for the 'media noise' to settle. "I don't want to threaten my own life. Circumstances don't favour my return at this time," he said, and added that he will continue to work for a better Pakistan wherever he lived.

End.

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