Husain Haqqani speaking at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)
Husain Haqqani speaking at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)

Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Husain Haqqani, Speaks on “Democratic Pakistan”

The MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia under its Pakistan Studies Programme organized a talk by Husain Haqqani, a former ambassador of Pakistan to the USA, on the topic “Democratic Pakistan: Vision and Reality” on Wednesday, February, 27 2013 at the Edward Said Hall. [Link to Audio]

Husain Haqqani speaking at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)
Husain Haqqani speaking at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)

Haqqani, who is also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke on a range of issues and suggested that India and Pakistan needed to understand each other and find ways to resolve their problems peacefully. He said that India and Pakistan had a great interest in each other, but also suffered from a serious paucity of information about each other.

Normally, the prism in India usually is a prism of looking at Pakistan from the historic context of Partition, he said. Adding, that “India needs to go beyond that. Pakistan on the other hand also needs to go beyond a narrative that has been built up over the last sixty years of India as an existing threat.”

Historically, nations that have been enemies in the past are working together in the present. Some underlying disputes unresolved can still have a working relationship, he said.

Pakistan will soon have a second consecutive democratic election and hopefully will result in a second consecutive democratic government for the first time in its history, he said.

India’s greatest achievement Haqqani said, has been its democracy. The democracy in India that has managed its way for pluralism.

People have forgotten during the 1960s, he said, that there was a perception that India is taking a socialist route whereas Pakistan has embraced a capitalist road. But we see that India has become a more successful capitalist democracy than its neighbor.

The great genius of democracy is that it enables nations to change course without necessarily having major confrontations. “We all have confrontations but do not necessarily have to resort to violence in different degrees,” he said.

India’s democracy has worked. It has enabled India to be pluralist and espouse different vision for India. Pakistan was not that lucky, we were not able to “create a democratic system” that lasted, said Haqqani, the former East Asian correspondent for Arabia: the Islamic World View

We have had a long period of struggle against the restoration of democracy against military dictatorship.

Audience for the Husain Haqqani talk at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)
Audience for the Husain Haqqani talk at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)

What is the problem with military dictatorship, asked Haqqani, and said that some newspapers even described him as a critic of Pakistan’s army. But the truth is, he said, I like anybody who loves his country, want the army of my country to succeed, but my concern is their area of responsibility. The armies of nations are raised primarily to defend their frontiers. They are not raised to tell their leaders what to do inside the country.

The battle of ideas in Pakistan is between those who do not consider military rule as a problem and those who do, he said.

Having an opinion and being able to express it is the essence of democracy, and I think Pakistan is moving towards that, he said.

I believe that only the elected leaders alone have the right to define Pakistan’s national interest. The political discourse has been made very narrow. The room for debate is much narrower. Who can say what? What represents a patriotic opinion, he asked.

What represents Pakistan’s national interest? The parameters of that are narrow and that is our next battle, said Haqqani who also served as Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and covered two wars in Afghanistan. My argument is that why people of Pakistan cannot decide what their national interest is. National debate should determine what is national interest, he said.

One of the biggest concerns in India as regards to Pakistan or any other country is terrorism but there are more terrorist attacks in Pakistan than in India. Thus we are the victims and we need to deal with it, he said.

Our problems are not anybody else’s and they have to be resolved by the Pakistanis. We will still have difficulties to resolve our problem. He however, did not rule out that terrorism affects neighbors and others.

He also talked about the poor role of Pakistani media and said, “Our media is young and immature”. So far as the issue of democracy, its vision and reality is concerned, Haqqani said, “The reality is that there is a Parliament and my vision should be why more students are not in school.” Why Pakistan Human Development Indicators are below than their neighboring countries, he said.

The diplomat also hinted towards strengthening trade relations between the two countries. Most successful nations are those whose larger trading partners are their neighbors because it’s easier. But it’s different in case of Pakistan which doesn’t make economic sense, he said.

While problem will persist and they should be resolved through dialogue and discussion but “political issues should not hold up the potential economic avenues of cooperation,” he said.

Haqqani, the author of “Pakistan Between Mosque and Military” showed optimism about Pakistan’s turning to democracy and democratic means to accommodate differences. People who articulate a vision which is different from the government’s, will come to us later, he said. He described it as an immaturity. Pluralism as a nation has also diminished over time which has resulted into a serious problem.

Mani Shankar Aiyar (front-right), and Wajahat Habibullah (front-left) in the audience for the Husain Haqqani talk at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)
Mani Shankar Aiyar (front-right), and Wajahat Habibullah (front-left) in the audience for the Husain Haqqani talk at Edward Said Hall, JMI; Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo: Khalid Jaleel)

He said that certain issues like the length of the beard and what to and what not to wear are not the 21st century issues and they impeded development. On the question of judiciary, Haqqani said that “Pakistan’s judiciary has disappointed the people of Pakistan” and has stepped out of what was under its purview like defining what should be the ideology of people and try to implement and impose it.

The journalist-turned diplomat-academician also made a tacit appeal to both India and Pakistan not to consider each other as enemies and said that India and Pakistan needed to recognize that their existential enemy was poverty, ignorance and disease.

Prof. Rashmi Doraiswamy coordinated the talk which was chaired by Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, chairperson of National Commission for Minorities Wajahat Habibullah, human rights activist and wife of Haqqani Farahnaz Ispahani were also present in the audience.

Audio Supplement:

Listen to Husain Haqqani’s talk on “Democratic Pakistan: Vision and Reality” on Wednesday, February, 27 2013 at the Edward Said Hall, JMI.

About Manzar Imam

Manzar Imam (class of 2014) is a staff writer for Jamia Journal, and an M.Phil student in the MMAJ Academy of International Studies. He can be reached via email at: manzarkhalil [at] gmail.com

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