'Magnificent Delusions' of US-Pakistan relations

Published: October 31, 2013
Former Pakistan ambassador to US Husain Haqqani.  PHOTO: AFP

Former Pakistan ambassador to US Husain Haqqani. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Even as an ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani was one of the most eloquent critics of Pakistan’s military, the country’s most powerful institution.

Haqqani, once derided at home as Washington’s ambassador to Pakistan for his pro-Western views, has taken a step further, accusing the government of directly supporting militant groups in his latest book “Magnificent Delusions”.

Now a professor of international relations at Boston University, he was ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011, a turbulent time in US-Pakistan relations that culminated in a raid by US special forces in May 2011 that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Haqqani resigned in November 2011 and left Pakistan after becoming involved in a scandal surrounding a secret memo that accused the army of plotting a coup and sought help from the United States to rein in the military.

Haqqani, who has denied any connection to the memo, spoke to Reuters by telephone from the United States about his book and his views on US-Pakistan relations.

Q: Why do you believe Pakistan supports militant groups?

A: As far as terrorism is concerned, Pakistan was the conduit of weapons and training for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets. After that, Pakistan switched it to India, especially in Kashmir. And that is the point at which the United States said “You are engaging in terrorism”. The Pakistani response was “But we started it together”.

The problem is that the “pro-jihadi” narrative has become so mainstream that it is very difficult for any government to … put all fighters out of business. But Pakistan would not find peace without putting all of them out of business.

Q: Why is this happening now?

A: The whole idea of building a nation around religious nationalism has backfired. What has happened is that religious nationalism has only produced extremism. If Pakistan were to be an Islamic state, the question arises “What kind of Islamic state?” We are now in a virtual civil war between various sects and militias attached to these sects who don’t tolerate each other.

Q: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif just concluded talks with US President Barack Obama during his visit to the United States. What do you think they really talked about behind closed doors?

A: There is a Groundhog Day quality to Pakistan-American discussions, especially since the end of the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan. Each time there is a change in government in Pakistan or in the United States there is a build-up of hope that maybe this time we will resolve it.

That is why I titled my book “Magnificent Delusions”. Everybody is just deluding himself. The big American delusion is that America gets leverage with Pakistan by giving it military and economic aid. It doesn’t.

It just improves its access but it does not give it leverage because the Pakistani establishment does what it thinks is in Pakistani interests. They do not allow an honest debate about what is in Pakistan’s national interest. They do not allow people like me to argue that our policies are not in our national interest.

On the other hand, the Pakistani delusion is that Pakistan is going to succeed with the kind of policy it pursues. In fact, what America needs to do is prove to Pakistan that its policies will fail instead of buying time with a little bit of aid.

Q: What do you expect to happen now that US forces are leaving Afghanistan and Washington’s focus shifts to other parts of the world such as Syria?

A: Pakistan needs to think and plan for the day when America will lose interest in Pakistan and the region. Pakistan’s best options … are to find peace with its neighbours and have ambitions that are realistic, not delusional.

If Pakistan is able to switch this focus from fighting to economic development … then perhaps even an American abandonment will not be such a big problem for Pakistan.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Mamu
    Oct 31, 2013 - 11:21AM

    hummm…….don’t really know the actual story behind this guy. Can anyone else explain me except et. thanks.Recommend

  • MSS
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:06PM

    I am with Husain Haqqani on this 100%.


  • Sohaib Irshad
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:08PM

    For once I agree with you Mr. Haqqani.


  • Pradhan
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:09PM

    Hmmm so he got the courage to speak after he left pakistan. That does tell something about the country. anyways..


  • Gaurav
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:14PM

    Some one in Pakistan’s sensible minority.


  • Asif Butt
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:17PM

    When in the US , say as the Americans want to hear.

    Attaboy Mr Haqqani…


  • dollar shah
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:18PM

    Your guess is as good as anyone else’s!


  • nononsense
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:34PM

    Is he really a a pakistani..


  • reader
    Oct 31, 2013 - 1:00PM

    i think the real magnificent delusion is that he thinks he can get away with his highly treasonous crimes


  • Fareed
    Oct 31, 2013 - 1:13PM

    Hearing or reading the name Hussain Haqqani i always associated it with something “bad” for the country. But as far these excerpts here are concerned i must say he is right especially:

    — And that is the point at which the United States said “You are engaging in terrorism”. The Pakistani response was “But we started it together”. —

    But still there is the allegation of sanctioning the 4000 visas in a day or so? Can he answer that? To build any trust he must answer such allegations first – writing a mere common sense book is good but does not clear him of the allegations.


  • ashish
    Oct 31, 2013 - 1:31PM


    yes he is. he is the ‘real’ pakistani. not deluded like most pakistanis are.


  • ashish
    Oct 31, 2013 - 1:32PM


    were you living in cave for like last …..10 yrs??


  • nadeem
    Oct 31, 2013 - 1:34PM

    Agree with what he is saying. The Establishment has ruined Pakistan by refusing to change the policy it adopted on 5th July 1977. Whereas the 180 million need jobs, schools, hospitals, services, justice, commerce and peace – the khakis are living in a world of their own and refusing to let Pakistan transform from a security state to a welfare state.


  • Mr. Khan
    Oct 31, 2013 - 3:48PM

    Mr. Haqqani has already chosen sides and it ain’t Pakistan. In any case, he is serving his masters well.


  • Last Word
    Oct 31, 2013 - 3:56PM

    There are few wise and brave personalities like Kamran Shafi, Husain Haqqani who have the courage and conviction to take on the mighty establishment and tell them that they are following a wrong path and have ruined the country. The military dictators who had woven the web of terrorism, hatred and fundamentalism to entrap its neighbours as well as extend their military rule resulted in Pakistan getting caught in the same web trap. The two giant spiders of terrorism and fundamentalism created by the establishment are now eating the country, but it refuses to eliminate both and instead asking the hapless political class to hold talks with them. No wonder, US, India and Afghanistan are living in a delusion that wisdom would one day dawn upon the establishment to leave this path of destruction to bring peace and prosperity not only in Pakistan itself but the entire region.


  • Oct 31, 2013 - 4:05PM

    Pakistan is not on in state of war but also under sever media threats and under the threat of such people who enjoy power and luxury by defaming Pakistan.


  • unbelievable
    Oct 31, 2013 - 4:37PM

    Your one Ambassador who knew how to influence American’s – last man in Pakistan govt who wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. Both qualities that eventually got him labeled as one of the most despised persons in Pakistan.


  • Anjaan
    Oct 31, 2013 - 6:36PM

    Pakistan’s forex reserves stands at just over $4.0 billions at present. And if one considers the $4.0 billion Pakistan still owes the IMF, after abandonment of the earlier deal with the IMF in 2011, then the net is either zero or negative …… it is absolutely mind blowing, that the majority population of Pakistan can still live in total denial in seeking parity with India …… !!Recommend

  • x
    Oct 31, 2013 - 7:39PM

    It’s easy to write books but what did he do when he was actually in power? Same as the rest of the two faced looters.


  • ModiFied
    Oct 31, 2013 - 8:48PM

    “The problem is that the “pro-jihadi” narrative has become so mainstream that it is very difficult for any government to … put all fighters out of business”

    No doubt about this after hearing Orya maqbool Jan, Ansar Abassi and many others like them. Husain Haqqani is certainly a sane Pakistani vice. Unfortunately these sane voices get suppressed by loud mouths like Orya, Zaid Hamid and Ansar Abbasi. All I can say is that good book, good thoughts…but zero effect on Pakistani policies.


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