Thursday, May 14

Dancing flack

Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani went on the Daily Show last night. Whenever a Pakistani politician goes on, I get the overwhelming sensation of Stewart being spun quite trivially because he’s out of his depth. He asks some of the right questions, but Haqqani, like Musharraf, dances. He’s less obvious than Zardari, to be sure, but it’s spin nonetheless.

On the other hand, in his job as flack, Haqqani can’t very well answer some of Stewart’s questions straight-up. Where’d the money go? Stewart asks, and the right answer is heavy arms for the eastern front and into the pockets of the looting elites. Haqqani doesn’t say outright that the ISI still backs the Taliban, though he tries to claim there’s been a genuine change of heart for some reason other than the American Cash Machine in the Sky. He can’t just say that the civilian government doesn’t control the military. He draws a line between the new government and Musharraf’s, though w.r.t. Taliban policy, little seems to have actually changed.

It’s a fascinating, Machiavellian tutorial.

Previous Haqqani news.



 Comment feed
  1. 1umber desi

    Stewart’s questions straight-up. Where’d the money go? Stewart asks

    I think his response to this question was the funniest part of the show, he actually said money went into building schools and something else, and throughout the interview he kept saying that about half the children of school going age don’t go to school in Pakistan.

  2. 2Mr. X

    Give the shaitan its due man. How many Indian politicians can spin that well on ice that thin?

  3. 3Kabir

    What did Haqqani say that was so wrong? He made a case that the US should have invested in Pakistan’s people and not it’s military. And he also said that Pakistani society has finally woken up and realized that we can’t negotiate with the Taliban and we have to fight them. I don’t think he said anything really wrong. Yes, he is the Pakistani Ambassador, so he has to spin things in such a way that Pakistan looks good, but all ambassadors do that.

    Also, Mr. X, as a Pakistani-American, I don’t appreciate your referring to Haqqani as “shaitan”. I feel that doesn’t promote a respectful atmosphere for all of us as South Asians to discuss the issues facing our region. Thanks.

  4. 4Pablo

    Kabir, I’m sorry if you feel offended when people want to puke at the sight of members of a ruling elite running around with their tails on fire as soon as the Taliban start banging on the doors of Punjab, when it seemed that they, and Pakistanis in general, and Pakistani-Americans as well, were hypocrites, and tolerated their excesses, when it was other people who were threatened by them.

    I apologise if that is not respectful enough for your atmosphere.

  5. 5Kabir

    Wow, Pablo, someone’s really anti-Pakistani. I have no problems with criticism of Pakistan’s government (I have plenty of criticism of my own). I was objecting to describing our ambassador as “shaitan”. I’m sure you understand that that’s a very loaded term and not really conducive to discussion.

    Secondly, as Ambassador Haqqani pointed out in his interview, the mujaheeden and the Taliban were created by the US to fight the Soviets. The US approved using of “jihad” and “Islam” against their enemies. Is it suprising then if Pakistan’s intelligence agency co-opted these same forces for their own strategic reasons? Haqqani admitted this, and he also said that we (the US and Pakistan) have hopefully realized the problems that this kind of strategy creates.

    Finally, one has to realize that fighting a war against the Taliban is a complex process and frought with problems. How would India react if US pressure forced it to declare war on a section of its own people, which then led to a major humanitarian crisis. According the NYT, the migration of the IDP’s is the largest migration since Partition. We have to realize that there may have been sound reasons that the Pak Army and govt. were reluctant to fight the Taliban.

  6. 6Hurricane


    I think Mr.X is just trying to be funny. I think UB has referred to Dick Cheney in worse terms in the past!

    The point still remains - what did they do with the money. Is anyone buying the whole building schools bit?

  7. 7Suraj

    Agree with Mr X.

    The guy did a great job at suggesting things are being handled well in Pakistan (although far from the truth). It was interesting to see him take a shot at Reagan, CIA and perceived American innocence in the region.

    I still remember the events during Kargil - when the Paki ambassador came across refined,confident and did a wonderful job of defending pakistan, while the Indian dude fumbled, mumbled & unfortunately, came across as a desi uncle at a dinner party.

  8. 8Kabir

    I don’t think he actually said that the Pak govt. used US money to build schools. I may have missed it, but I heard him say that the money should be used for the people and not the military. Additionally, he made the point that many Pakistani children of school-going age aren’t in school. Maybe this caused the confusion that he said US money went to build schools?

    Haqqani is definitely a good ambassador. Whatever we may think of him personally (and he is known to be a pretty sleazy man), he certainly does a great job of defending Pakistan’s interests and making the country look as good as possible under the circumstances.

  9. 9Mr. X

    He made a case that the US should have invested in Pakistan’s people and not it’s military.

    Pakistan should have invested in Pakistan’s people and not its military.

    P.S. what #6 and #7 said.

  10. 10Kabir

    Mr. X, you’re right. But, if the US was giving aid to Pakistan, they should have given that aid for the people and not the military (I think that’s what Haqqani is saying).

  11. 11umber desi


    I remember from watching the interview last night. I believe the ambassador was making the case that Taliban can pay their foot soldiers more money that Pakistani Govt can, then Stewart asked him what happened to the $15 billion and I believe that is when he mentioned that the Pakistani govt invested it in its people (like building schools) and then throughout the interview he kept saying that 50% of the children of school going age are not in school. So I think the issue is the contradiction and it is entirely possible I have completely backwards.

    Can someone please confirm.

  12. 12Kabir

    Umber desi, He did say that the Taliban can pay their foot soldiers more money than the Pak. govt. can. He also said that many of the school-age children are not in school. I didn’t hear him say, though, that the Pak. govt. invested US aid money into building schools. What I think he was saying was that the policy of supporting the military to fight the Taliban might not have been the best policy, and that US should rather aid the Pakistani people for health and education.

  13. 13umber desi

    The impression I got was that he was justifying why the US aid has not been effectively used to combat terrorism (reason he gave was that the Pak Govt spent it on schools and other things), which he contradicted later in the show.

  14. 14Kabir

    No, I don’t think he even answered the question, just said that solely funding the military rather than the people is not a good strategy. As an ambassador, I don’t think he can answer the question directly.

  15. 15Sarig

    America should give more money to Pakistan. Pakistan needs strong army to fight Taliban. If it doesnt fight Taliban then they will take over pakistan and the world will come to an end as it exists today. There is no other way. I say US congress approves atleast 5-6 billion dollars per year in aid ASAP. We all know Pakistan is fighting this war for US, Pakistan itself doesnt have any problem with Taliban or other Jihadis. Several imminent Pakistanis (as well as regualar salim) like Imran Khan and Zaid Hamid have explained it numurous times..

  16. 16umber desi

    Starts at 3:02, he was responding to the question about what Musharraf did with the money and he said we invested it in pakistan’s people not just Pakistan’s Air Force and Army alone.

  17. 17Kabir

    Umber desi, I’ve just watched it again. He doesn’t say that Musharraf’s govt. used the money to build schools. He says “Actually, the attitude in the US over the last several years has been that all you need to defeat terrorism is muscle. So you support the military, but then half of Pakistan’s school-age children don’t go to school”. He never actually says that the govt. used the money to build schools. But maybe you and I just interpret things differently.

  18. 18umber desi

    You left out the portion I quoted in 16 that follows right after what you said.

  19. 19Kabir

    Actually, no. I started right where you said at 3:02 (I just watched it again to make sure). He never says “we built schools with the money”. He says that what was needed was investiment in the people rather than just the military, and US policy didn’t recognize that. He then moves on to answering the question about Zardari.

  20. 20RC

    Haqqani is spinning the whole present offensive as some kind of clever Zardari strategy of playing mind games with the Taliban. Give me a break. It was the pressure from US and Sec. of State Clinton calling Pakistan a “mortal threat” to peace in the world, is what got the ball rolling. Otherwise why would Pakistani army turn on their strategic asset??

  21. 21manish vij

    Haqqani is spinning the whole present offensive as some kind of clever Zardari strategy of playing mind games with the Taliban.

    Signing a Taliban truce was a reverse bank shot. Fighting them was the plan all along. Zardari’s a tactical genius!

  22. 22Pagal_Aadmi_for_debauchery

    Signing a Taliban truce was a reverse bank shot. Fighting them was the plan all along. Zardari’s a tactical genius!

    Its not that crazy actually. There have been signs from the beginning that the truce was temporary and the Pakistani army was going to launch another attack soon. I don’t think it was some Obama like rope-a-dope strategy but anybody who follows that area close enough had an inclination that an attack from the Pakistani army would follow.

    I thought Haqqani was surprisingly candid though the joke about Stewart’s son wearing a turban was in poor taste. Haqqani did state that the Pakistani army believed at one point that the religious fervor of the taliban could be used against India but that fervor was now working against the Pakistani state. He also said that people in Pakistan initially thought that Taliban could be negotiated with but the opinion is now changing. Thats very true as well.

    He was of course bull shitting about where the money went and corruption, but that is to be expected.

  23. 23Pagal_Aadmi_for_debauchery

    Some gossip now: I was talking to this Pakistani chick the other day and she told me that Haqqani is a big Bollywood Romeo with an eye for the young ladies. I have also heard similar things from other Pakistani movers and shakers who are in his wider social circle. Cant confirm that but desi uncles being creepily lecherous is not exactly news.

  24. 24khoofi

    Haqqani did state that the Pakistani army believed at one point that the religious fervor of the taliban could be used against India but that fervor was now working against the Pakistani state

    nestling a viper and all that sort of thing. asparagusopapilla! dont ve ever learn.

    was talking to this Pakistani chick the other day and she told me that Haqqani is a big Bollywood Romeo with an eye for the young ladies.

    i notice that you talk with chicks while romeo talks with ladies. -arches brow-

  25. 25Present-Indicative

    here have been signs from the beginning that the truce was temporary and the Pakistani army was going to launch another attack soon. I don’t think it was some Obama like rope-a-dope strategy but anybody who follows that area close enough had an inclination that an attack from the Pakistani army would follow.

    A truce is temporary by definition! In Urdu, the word for truce is sulH (alternatively, iltiwaah-e-jang is used, which literally means ‘postponement of hostilities’). However, in this case, the term used was aman muhaidaah, which is ‘peace agreement’. Nothing in the Urdu discourse accompanying suggested any temporariness to the agreement, . The word ‘truce’ appeared only subsequently in selected English language reportage, while nothing on the ground suggested that it was merely a truce. Among the Pakistani elite, there was a certain resigned acceptance of the agreement, that it was the best that could be hoped for, since the Army had failed to impose its will in Swat. As someone who followed things reasonably closely, I had no idea that the Pakistani army would attack soon.

  26. 26bowman

    This nonsense about America not investing in Pakistan’s education needs to be punctured even more. To start with, what Mr. X said. But beyond that, Pakistanis like Haqquani are lying, being hypocritical, and refusing to take the responsibility for what is their own collective failure and delusions of bleeding India through terrorists. The fact is that after the crate of mangos sent Zia to his 72 in 1988, they had 10 years of “democracy” and “civilian rule”. During this time, they continued to work on nuclear weapons, testing in 1998, AQ Khan ran his nuclear wal-mart, they midwifed the Taliban and helped them take over Afghanistan, and planned the war with India over Kargil while India’s “fascist” prime minister was in Pakistan to make peace. And the Mumbai attacks happened now under Zardari’s watch. Anything else? Oh, and the US had decided to give them soyabeans instead of the F-16s they had paid for because they were under sanctions. Why didn’t they invest in the schools then? What prevented them?

    They want to have it both ways. They cry they are a soveriegn country, and yet appear to be the biggest incompetent nincompoops who have no clue which way to pull their heads to get it out of their ass. They have been given a blank check, but can’t help themselves; it all goes to the military and terrorists. But any conditions on aid attached, as it was in the PEACE bill, they jump up and down, and even got yet another clueless US administration to back off from that.

    What Pakistan needs, even more than Iraq, is to have itself invaded by the Americans, its military-terrorist kleptocracy destroyed, and be ruled for a while. There will be a lot of civil bloodshed as in Iraq, it might split apart, but it will be for the good of mankind. At the very least, America should appoint a governer general to Pakistan, and keep a close acount of how and where funds are spent. And of-course, all revenue that comes in through taxes etc also needs to go through American proxies so that those are not diverted to military adventurism. Sovereign indeed.

    Of-course, Jon Stewart, and everyone else is completely out of their depth to puncture the Pakistani lies and deception. But yet, he was better, appeared less naive than in the Pak-af-caplypse piece. His dismissive laugh at the outrageous begging from Haquanni to be treated like GM and AIG was also telling.

  27. 27Kabir

    “What Pakistan needs is to have itself invaded by the Americans”. I can’t believe you’re seriously suggesting that and even comparing Pakistan to Iraq. We all saw how well the Iraq war went. US soliders are still there. Plus, that whole war was conducted on false premises.

    As for Pakistan developing nuclear weapons during civilian rule. Why shouldn’t they have developed nuclear weapons? India developed nuclear weapons and as long as India has them, Pakistan needs to have them too. That’s just how geopolitics works.

  28. 28bowman

    You are right. What I meant to say is that

    “What Pakistan needs, unlike Iraq, is to have itself invaded by the Americans”.

    Of-course, that is an extreme wish that is unlikely to occur. Which is why I suggested an alternative.

    As far as your nuclear weapons comments go, this is exactly the delusion: monkey see, monkey do. India India India. Why complain then that you aren’t investing in schools? I guess that since China’s defence budget is 70 billion, and India’s is only 25 billion, India should also divert resources to “match” China? See, if the paki establishment had any sense, and any desire to actually run the country as a country, these wouldn’t be choices. As the wall-street journal recently asked, “Is Pakistan a state, or a space pretending to be a state”? For the desis, this is akin to “Tu admin hai ya pajama?”

  29. 29Kabir

    bowman, you are clearly rabidly anti-Pakistan and nothing I say is going to change your mind. But anyway, Pakistan and India have a long history of bad relations (to say the least). They’ve fought three wars in the last 60 years. I think it’s a legitimate perspective from a security and military standpoint that if your “enemy” has nuclear weapons, you need to have them too. Do I wish that Pakistan didn’t feel the need to have nukes? yeah, but unfortunately that’s the way it is. Anyway, the US has nukes, Isreal has nukes, India has nukes, so I don’t think we need to obsess about Pakistan having nukes as if this is some horrible, egregious thing.

  30. 30bowman

    The point is that Pakistan lives waaaay beyond its means in its delusion to fight India. All of these wars have been started by Pakistan. So that is the original sin that needs to be addressed by Pakistanis and those who interview them. Pakistan is the one that wants to change borders with India. All of this leads to this sort of idiotic spending on weapon systems that a place like Pakistan has no business having or being able to afford. Comparisons to USA, Isreal, India are laughable for this very reason. And at the end of it all, to blame someone else that *they* are not putting in resources into *your* education system, even as you divert 10-20x the money that an education budget would entail for a huge military-terrorist complex that has no logic and is unaffordable is the hypocracy and the deception that needs to be exposed. The point I am making is that you can’t have it both ways. The blame-others mentality needs to be exposed.

  31. 31Hurricane

    What bowman said. He hit it right on the head.

  32. 32Kabir

    Ok, Pakistan doesn’t want to “change borders” with India. The government has a legitimate position that Kashmir belongs to Pakistan. Whatever you or I think about this position, that is the region under dispute. It’s not like Pakistan wants random parts of India (say Tamil Nadu). There is a specific conflict that as a Muslim-majority region, Kashmir should have gone to Pakistan. At the time the British left, India was also given the Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur because of land access to Kashmir. Basically if one accepts the two-nation theory (I’m not saying that I do) then Muslim-majority regions were supposed to go to Pakistan. Yes, there was the issue of Kashmir being a princely state and the Maharaja having the right to decide to accede to whichever country. Anyway, the issue has to be settled one way or the other if our countries are going to have peace. How it will be settled, I don’t know, whether the LOC will be made the permanent border or Kashmir will be independent. The point is, there is one specific conflict which has two sides to it. But I don’t expect rabid Pakistan-haters to understand that.

  33. 33bowman

    That there is a conflict is understood. What is not understood, or what does not gather any sympathy, is the *MEANS* used to resolve that conflict.

    In 1947, Pakistan violated the standstill agreement and invaded Hari Singhs Kashmir (incidentally, the marauding pillaging force that Jinnah sent across were the fathers of the present Pathan Taliban, who were also quite distracted by raping and plunder), forcing him to accede to India, and triggering the first Kashmir war. Means used: Violence.

    Then, after the UN-brokered ceasefire was achieved, Pakistan, instead of fullfilling the conditions needed for a plebiscite, did not vacate its troops, and has instead changed the demographics of the area completely (following the tarrel-than-mountain friends Chinese example from Tibet etc). Means used: reneging on promise, ethnic flooding.

    It then again initiated a war in Kashmir in 1965. Means used: violence.

    Again in Kargil in 1999. Violence

    Terrorism from 1989-present. Violence.

    You see, this is not the way to resolve conflicts. Especially against a power that is 10x bigger than you, and is only getting stronger every decade.

    And then whine that the world isn’t helping you improve the abyssmal literacy rate.

    Here’s a suggestion: why not give up violence, be reasonable, develop the country, and then work towards a solution where borders become irrelevant, as India has proposed many a time?

    The thing is, it’s foolhardy to think that India will hand over territory, especially at the point of a gun. And much ice has melted in ‘dem Himalyan glaciers and flowed down the Indus to be trotting out TNT and 1947 now. Bangladesh happened (end of TNT). Gurdaspur did have a slim Muslim majority in 1947, but guess what: they were all *mostly* Ahmediyyas! They were officially declared heretics and “NOT MUSLIM” in 1973 in Pakistan. So yet again we see the contradiction of wanting it both ways!

    Acceptance that conflicts should be resolved PEACEFULLY, without use of violence, will enable Pakistan to focus on its internal developments. But that’s a choice Pakistan, and Pakistanis have to make. Blaming the west or India or Isreal is ridiculous.

  34. 34Kabir

    I agree with you that conflicts should be resolved peacefully. However, the conflict is many sided and involves India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiri people. You may be surprised to find that there are many blogs written by people in Kashmir who want independence from India. They don’t necessarily want to be part of Pakistan, but they don’t want to be part of India either.

    The Ahmedi issue is irrelevant. In 1947, when Radcliffe drew that map, he had no way of knowing that ZA Bhutto would declare Ahmedis non-muslim (an action which I don’t support by the way).

    Anyway, the point is that this is an international conflict with a long history. India as well as Pakistan will have to negotiate. There are many young Indians now who feel that holding on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris is only dragging India down. Just as Isreal and Palestine will have to agree on a two-state solution, Pakistan and India will have to agree on some solution to Kashmir.

    I don’t want to fight with you, though I do feel you are a rabid Pakistan-hater. I have nothing against India, but I will defend my country against unfair charges.

  35. 35Hurricane

    Do you think there maybe a possibility that India may one day attack Pakistan and try to annex it?

  36. 36Kabir

    No, I don’t think that’s a possibility. Where did you get that idea from anything I wrote?

  37. 37Hurricane

    That’s the justification I’ve been given in the past for Pakistan’s investment in the Army and it’s nuclear arsenal, while simultaneously ignoring some of it’s more urgent needs with regards to education and lack of infrastructure.

  38. 38Kabir

    Well, I’m not an expert on military affairs or geopolitics, but from what I understand the Pakistan army is really powerful and one of the biggest institutions in the country. What is the justification for having such a large army? It’s the belief that India is the “enemy”. If the Pakistani establishment admitted that India is not really the enemy, then they would be forced to have a critical debate on the army and would be forced to justify its power. Thus, peace is clearly not in the interests of the Army/ISI. Also, unfortunately, a lot of the self definition of the Pakistani state comes from being the “anti-India”. This didn’t necessarily have to be the case, but maybe the circumstances of partition and the rhetroric of the two-nation theory led to this happening. Pakistan is also made up of different ethnic groups, and maybe nothing other than Islam and being “anti-India” brings them together. I don’t really know for sure, but this is a case that’s posible to make.

    Regarding the nuclear aresnal. With the Pak-India rhetoric and history, I can see why the army and security establishment felt it was necessary for Pak to have nukes if India had nukes. Again, I personally wish neither Pakistan or India felt the need to have nukes, but I also don’t think focusing on which countries have nukes is really the issue.

    This is a long response and I’m not an expert on these matters at all, but this is my effort to convince you and everyone on this thread that I’m a sensible, thinking South Asian and not some rabid Pakistani nationalist or “apologists” (names I’m often called on South Asian sites)

  39. 39Present-Indicative

    This is a long response and I’m not an expert on these matters at all,

    Kabir, I was going to let it go the first time you said it, but now you’ve repeated it. Perhaps you are unknowingly repeating it, but that is worse than being an apologist, who at least might know the truth. The Pakistani nuclear program was started by Zulfiqar Bhutto in earnest on January 20, 1972, within a month of the Indo-Pak ceasefire of December 16, 1971. But it had actually been in progress in a less organized way for at least the previous decade and a half (see below). India did not conduct its first nuclear test till May 1974, and proceeded to actual weaponization only in the late 1980s, several years after Pakistan had already weaponized. Bhutto gave his famous ‘we shall eat grass’ interview in 1965,and even that was before the Indo-Pak War of the same year. It was his feeling that India might go nuclear in response to the Chinese test of October 1964.

    This stuff has been known for years, but in 2007, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, actually put together a dossier. Here’s a brief excerpt from a press release about the dossier:

    According to Mark Fitzpatrick, one of the authors of the IISS dossier, Bhutto as his country’s Minister for Mineral Resources in the late 1950s and early 1960s, set up the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Technology (PINST) in 1960 and sent hundreds of students abroad to obtain degrees in physics and other nuclear-related science disciplines. The dossier further goes on to say that “The first civilian research reactor PARP in Rawalpindi became operational when Bhutto was Pakistan’s Foreign Minister (1963-66). Bhutto, Fitzpatrick says, was at the forefront of a lobbying drive to harness nuclear technology for weapons purposes. After China’s nuclear test in 1964, Bhutto concluded that if India would go nuclear, Pakistan would have to follow suit. He famously declared in a newspaper interview in 1965 that “Pakistan will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry in order to develop a programme of its own.


  40. 40Kabir

    Present-Indictive, I did not know the exact date that Pakistan’s nuclear program started. As I’ve stated many times, I am not an expert on or particularly interested in military matters. I am an English literature graduate, so stuff like this is really not what I focus on. However, the quote you have given states that Pakistan’s nuclear program started in response to the establishment and military’s belief that India would probably go nuclear and if it did than Pakistan would have to do so as well. I may not personally agree with this, but does it not make sense that some people in the establishment would think like this?

    Anyway, I think that the real issue is not nuclear weapons. After all, Pakistan and India are hardly the only countries in the world that have nukes.

  41. 41Present-Indicative

    However, the quote you have given states that Pakistan’s nuclear program started in response to the establishment and military’s belief that India would probably go nuclear and if it did than Pakistan would have to do so as well.

    Not if you read it fully. Bhutto fully intended an n-program, regardless of the Indian intention - the Chinese test gave him a way of rationalizing it with a double hypothetical. It is important to get the chronology right. The Pakistan n-program was in place before even the 1965 War had begun. So it was not in response to any existential threat perception (arising, say, from the near-advance to Lahore of Indian forces in 1965), or a desire to achieve parity with India, or out of a desire to ’seek vengeance’ for 1971. Each of these has been advanced as propagandistic rationales for the Pakistan nuclear program. Understanding the false premises of the Pakistani nuclear program is important inasmuch as it also exposes the false premises underlying much of Pakistani strategic thought vis-a-vis India.

  42. 42Kabir

    Ok, I’ll concede you are right, but I still feel that the nuclear thing is not the main issue now. Anyway, I would rather focus on postive aspects of our common South Asian identity, rather than get into an India vs. Pakistan type of thing:)

  43. 43Present-Indicative

    Anyway, I would rather focus on postive aspects of our common South Asian identity, rather than get into an India vs. Pakistan type of thing:)

    Kabir, YES! Welcome, and I look forward to your continued contribution to this blog, in this spirit :)

  44. 44Kabir

    I always try to write from a South Asian and not a Pakistani viewpoint, but it’s hard as on blogs (as in real life) people hear that I’m from Lahore and start frothing at the mouth….. This is why I focus more on topics like art, culture, and music rather than politics. Sometimes I do feel like I have to jump in and put Pakistan in context for people who have really warped ideas about the country.