The Magnificent Delusions of Husain Haqqani

Published in The Express Tribune – cover art by Ralph Steadman

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a simple story: the animals rise up against their human masters, take over the farm, and cry liberation. But some beasts are bolder than others: slowly but surely, a new tyranny emerges under the pigs.

And in Animal Farm – a satire of the Soviet nightmare – we find Squealer the pig, a mouthpiece for leader (and fellow swine) Napoleon.

Squealer has ‘twinkling eyes’ and ‘nimble movements’. He’s ‘a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point, he would skip side to side… the others said of Squealer he could turn black into white.’ Yes, Squealer’s spin is vital to the porkers’ takeover.

None of this, of course, is to draw a comparison to the esteemed Mr. Husain Haqqani – after all, Squealer remained loyal to the pigs throughout. But the former ambassador’s scruples are his greatest strength: a selective amnesia that’s spun him 180 degrees; from a student at Karachi University, to a wiseman on world affairs at Boston University today.

Which is why the man from the IJT now sounds like he’s joining the BJP (stand warned Sanghis, he’ll break your saffron hearts too). In his latest media blitz last week, Mr. Haqqani advised Pakistan to stop ‘constantly competing’ with India – while addressing India over NDTV. Surely Bharat agrees already?

And earlier this month, it was again to the Press Trust of India Mr. Haqqani spoke to: that Pakistan had lost international support on Kashmir. Might we spot a pattern?

No, not that pattern. Whatever Mr. Haqqani’s critics say, he’s not trying for the Padma Bhushan. Turning chameleon again, the gentleman switched from Krishna Menon to John Bolton last April: ‘[…] American weapons will end up being used to fight or menace India and perceived domestic enemies,’ Mr. Haqqani wrote for the Wall Street Journal, ‘instead of being deployed against jihadists.’ The op-ed was titled, ‘Why Are We Sending This Attack Helicopter to Pakistan?

To which Pakistan may have asked, who’s ‘we’?  Of late, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US has become the US’s ambassador to Pakistan – if that ambassador were a nagging neocon with an axe to grind.

But to understand Brand HH and why he’s giving the republic a kicking, we need to go back. From day one, Mr. Haqqani has been Team Charhta Suraj: a hired hand for the biggest boys on the playground. At KU, those were quite literally the Jamiat.

Outside campus ‘I also developed a personal bond with [General Zia],’ Mr. Haqqani wrote. ‘General Zia was staunchly pro-Western, but had an Islamic vision of sorts that could be captivating. He saw himself as God’s instrument in getting rid of the communists in Afghanistan, which (he correctly foresaw) would mark the disintegration of the Soviet Union.’ This paper’s Aakar Patel even suspected HH ghostwrote Mr. Sharif’s tribute to General Zia in Shaheed-ul-Islam. Having lent himself to both general and Jamiat, it only followed that Mr. Haqqani would fall in love with Nawaz Sharif and the IJI.

But that’s when the mud starts piling up. As the late, great Cowasjee sahib put it, ‘During Nawaz I and Benazir II the most prominent weaver [of lies] and damage-doer was Husain Haqqani.’

The IJI hit where it hurts: from airdropping pamphlets of Begum Bhutto waltzing with Jerry Ford, to forging Benazir’s ‘letter’ to Peter Galbraith calling for American action. But the right’s resident Squealer was implicated more than once. ‘He came up with the nickname “Mr. 10 Percent” for my father,’ the PPP’s current chairman told Charlie Rose in 2012. ‘[…] Since then, [he’s] made a shift towards a belief in a democratic Pakistan.’

As to why belief in democracy was contrary to mocking Asif Zardari, the chairman didn’t say. Nor did his predecessor: Shaheed Mohtarma took Mr. Haqqani back in, a liberal reborn.

Enter Squealer 4.0: like a football forward constantly trading up teams, Mr. Haqqani hit the jackpot – Ambassadorship in 2008, courtesy President Zardari’s sense of humor. Embraced by America’s red-meat right, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg saluted the ambassador with a straight face: ‘a one-time Islamist turned pro-democracy Americaphile’.

The Iraq War’s leading cheerleader, Goldberg enjoys betting on the wrong horse. He even thought the Raymond Davis murders were Mr. Haqqani’s ‘finest moment’. ‘Haqqani helped engineer an elegant solution,’ gushed Goldberg. ‘He turned to…Muslim family law which allowed the dead men’s families to be compensated with blood money. This is the ploy that sprang Raymond Davis from jail.’

A ploy flawed in law: were the fisad fil-arz test applied, a thug like Davis would never be let off. But who cares? All hail His Excellency (in tandem with Generals Kayani and Pasha) for busting out a foreign national that murdered two of our own – a diplomatic first.

Yet it was too good to last. Like a fortune teller, Cowasjee had diagnosed the delusion in ‘99: ‘[Haqqani] considers himself capable, with the necessary help, of climbing up the greasy pole and leading the 140 millions to glory.’

After the Osama raid, the ambassador overshot; he may have thought the ‘necessary help’ would be American intervention, that it would fix the civ-mil imbalance (if with a new imbalance in favour of American civilians). Reads the memo to Mike Mullen,

Should you be willing to do so, Washington’s political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that […] replaces […] national security officials with trusted advisers […] favourably viewed by Washington.

His Excellency denies involvement. The Supreme Court disagrees, whereas Justice Qazi Faez Isa has held that the good ambassador not only authored the memo, he was disloyal to the country whose flag he wore.

Mr. Haqqani now occupies that rarest of spaces in American public life: an exile with an agenda. Other worthies include Iraq’s Chalabi and Iran’s Pahlavi Junior – gents the Department of Defence blows hot and cold on, given the season.

But like all spin gurus, the man’s solutions aren’t solid: they range from the West putting Islamabad in its place, to Pakistan preferably castrating itself first. A recent book, Magnificent Delusions, is a study in our ingratitude (even the front cover is a Stars-and-Stripes bonfire).

The trouble is, Husain Haqqani isn’t representative of Pakistan; he’s not even representative of Husain Haqqani five years ago. Pakistan too has moved on: the war has been taken to the militants, at tremendous risk. Confidence is up and terror is low, but it’s a long road ahead. It’s time HH move on as well, if in the direction of the next rising sun (the Chinese Communist Party, perhaps?).

On another, lighter note, Mr. Haqqani is famed for tweeting poetry on weekends. A gentleman of wide learning, it’s hoped His ex-Excellency stumbled across Aziz Nazan:

Ghaflat ki neend mai sonay walay dhoka khayega/
Chadhta suraj dheeray dheeray dhalta hai, dhal jayega.

%d bloggers like this: