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US unilateralism, Pakistani hyper-nationalism cause of concern: Haqqani

08 June, 2012

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WASHINGTON: Former ambassador to the United States Prof Husain Haqqani said that the US-Pakistan relationship was deteriorating due to the rising hyper-nationalism in Pakistan and the United States' unilateral actions that did not take into account Pakistan's sovereignty. Tensions between the two countries only benefit hardliners on both sides.

He was the main speaker at an event at the Washington-based think-tank Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD) along with two FDD experts Reuel Marc Gerecht and Bill Roggio. The event was titled, 'Is al Qaeda dead? – a conversation with Ambassador Husain Haqqani'.

Professor Haqqani said that although al Qaeda had been degraded, several components of the terrorist group were not yet dead and its ideology was alive, which could resuscitate the terrorist outfit any time. He said that the west had not paid enough attention to the ideas that draw some extremists to terrorist causes.

Most of the questions at the event, however, were about Pakistan.

Haqqani said that "the biggest complication in Pakistan is the rise of a very twisted version of Pakistani nationalism", which promotes an isolationist worldview. He said that for one or two days after Osama bin Laden being killed in Pakistan, the country's news media discussed why the terrorist mastermind was in the country. But after that, the media debate was focused only on how the Americans found bin Laden, without asking whether his presence was also bad for the country.

Prof Haqqani said he was concerned that "the Americans acted unilaterally. They should not have. It would be better if they had acted together with Pakistan". But he added that "they (Americans) had their own reasons for acting unilaterally".

Questioning the mainstream Pakistani media, Professor Haqqani said, "The debate (in Pakistani media) should at least be 50-50 (on the bin Laden raid). Half of the concern should be why bin Laden was there and half the concern should have been why there was a unilateral strike to get him. Instead of that it was all about sovereignty, sovereignty and sovereignty alone." He pointed out that the Pakistani discourse on the subject was out of touch with the international discussion.

According to the former ambassador, the national discourse in Pakistan is more anti-American than anti-al Qaeda and politicians as well as others have been affected by this national discourse. The same trend of what he described as hyper-nationalism could be found in the total unwillingness to face issues that made Pakistan globally unpopular such as nuclear proliferation, he observed.

Professor Haqqani said that reality is always complex and should not be over-simplified to make people feel good. For example, Dr AQ Khan may have done a good thing from Pakistan's point of view in helping Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons technology faster but "that doesn't give him a licence to proliferate nuclear technology and sell it to other countries", he asserted, adding that unfortunately that argument had become impossible to make in Pakistan.

"Even from Pakistan's point of view he had violated Pakistani and international law, but because of the way he has positioned himself... you cannot criticise him in Pakistan, you can't question him. He is somehow above criticism and question," Haqqani lamented. He said that some politicians, media figures and even the judiciary were responsible for equating Pakistani nationalism with certain views; blocking debate about what is good for Pakistan and shutting out discussion over why Pakistan is getting internationally isolated.

Professor Haqqani said Pakistanis need to ask why 30 years ago they could travel to many parts of the world without visas but are now facing restrictions in many countries and there is hardly any country that allows our citizens to arrive without visas. Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, described Haqqani as a strong voice for democracy in Pakistan and the Muslim world.

End.

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