Husain Haqqani is back in Pakistan as well as on our television screens. Contrary to common perception, that he is here to become an advisor to the next government, he likes to be introduced as an academic. “I’m much happier being a Professor at Boston University,” he clarifies at the outset. Director of Center for International Relations at Boston University and a senior fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington DC, Haqqani has worked as a journalist, diplomat and former advisor to Pakistani prime ministers. He has maintained close connections with the Bhutto family for the last ten years; Benazir Bhutto in her recent book ‘Reconciliation’ acknowledges him as a ‘loyal friend.’ So will he be speaking as a PPP spokesperson in this interview? “No, I am not in the PPP formally. I don’t have any official position within the party,” he states categorically.
Excerpts of an interview with analyst Haqqani follow:
The News on Sunday: In one of your recent articles, you’ve explained the term ‘Pakistani establishment’ in which apart from military and intelligence agencies, you have included civil servants, executives of multinational corporations, bankers, beneficiaries of World Bank etc. Do you think the establishment in Pakistan is ready to create space for political forces?
Husain Haqqani: An over-extended and domineering establishment never yields space. Space has to be taken from it. I think the political forces in Pakistan have now created circumstances in which they are ready to get more space. Furthermore, there are cracks within the Pakistani establishment. The military as an institution has realised that its primary responsibility of national security simply cannot be fulfilled by just having the establishment on its side. They need the people behind them. That is why the military’s decision to back away from politics is going to weaken the establishment which has always fired its political shots from the shoulders of the military. The civilian segment of the establishment has always framed its interests in terms of national security.
Pakistan is the only country in the world where alleged corruption of politicians has been treated as a national security problem. Elsewhere the problem of civilian corruption is dealt with within the legal and political framework of the country. Only in Pakistan do international bankers like Shaukat Aziz come into power afterx military coup claiming “I’m going to clean up corruption and strengthen the economy etc,” without any political mandate and popular support. I think that the army’s decision to focus only on its professional tasks will diminish this pattern of manipulation, expanding political space.
TNS: Considering its huge influence and vested interest in this system, how much power is the military going to relinquish and how?
HH: The military has a significant role in helping determine national security policy. In any country, the professional military makes inputs and helps the civilians decide the priorities for national security. But the military is never trained to do big picture political analysis. They are trained in tactical matters and in military strategy. I think the military will gradually move in that direction. Of course given Pakistan’s recent history and the residual impact of the military’s deep involvement in politics, there will still be some people in uniform who will continue to think politically. But the global environment — in which Myanmar and Pakistan are the only two countries run by men in uniform until a few weeks ago — is making the Pakistani military rethink its role. Continue reading