The Cleanup

July 29, 2010

Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

“30 years of this whole business that started with the jihad against the Soviet Union is what we are trying to deal with the aftermath of. Its 30 years of these groups, supporting them, funding them, the opening of radical madrassahs in various parts of the country. Now I think we’ve done a decent job in the last two years of beginning the cleanup”

Pakistan is serious about cleaning up terrorism, but the mess runs deep. And If you want to share in an insightful discussion on the Wikileaks reports, I recommend watching Charlie Rose from last night. Because Pakistan pulled out the big guns in responding to the reports that suggested their Interservices Intelligence Agency is “aiding” the enemies in Afghanistan. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani was Rose’s guest and spoke directly to American anxieties that Pakistan is not entirely interested in ousting terrorists from the region. Specifically responding to the question of ISI links to the Taliban, Haqqani said:

It goes back to the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA and ISI both worked with the Mujahedeen who morphed into Taliban. But now the Pakistani military and ISI are conducting successful military operations in SWAT and South Waziristan.

He elaborated:

We’ve Taken out extremists and 74 ISI personnel have been killed in the past two years. With as many as 233 injured. That alone should be sufficient to convince people that was then and now is now and Pakistan is standing firmly on the side of those who want to eliminate the Taliban and extremists”

The statistics were particularly hard hitting. They brought a human element to our somewhat sterilized discussion about Pakistan here in the states. Being geographically removed, and with a vastly distinct culture, we are mostly informed of how the government in Islamabad deals with our administration in D.C., resorting to diplomatic sound bites and news for our information. But Haqqanis statistics provoke us to realize that just as we have struggled in Afghanistan, Pakistan too has sacrificed greatly as an ally in our war and continues to be deeply invested in combating terror.

Haqqani reminds us that the Wikileaks story is just that; a whistleblower. Without subtracting from the value of revealing what governments might otherwise keep classified, the Ambassador offered facts that quell sensationalized reception of the reports.

Rose asked weighty questions in trademark straightforwardness allowing us a chance to get answers to that the Wikileaks story leaves us lingering with. For instance, “what keeps Pakistan from doing more”; a question even those with ample knowledge and understanding of history and ground realities who can put the Wikileaks story into context sometimes wonder. Rose speculated it was a concern with India, and a fear of U.S. withdrawal. The Ambassador responded:

“There is a concern that India is not yet reconciled to our nationhood and statehood. Those are concerns reflected in public opinion and government has to deal with view that the US has not been a consistent friend of Pakistan and if we do too much at the behest of US they could leave us in the lurch and walk away again. The Biggest concern is the US can actually leave projects incomplete it has happened in the past US assistance and economic aid suspended arbitrarily and at short notice. Things have been left incomplete. They have had a very difficult relationship in the past 6 decades. We are trying tot address the totality of these issues”

It is no secret that India Pakistan relations are a primary driver of action in South Asian politics so the real nugget in the Ambassador’s above response is the talk of Pakistani Public opinion.

One of the first rules we learn in politics is that perceptions matter and what our pundits and political speechwriters have left out of the conversation is how Pakistani opinions factor into Islamabad’s policymaking.

The Obama administration made clear by way of allocating funding in the Kerry Lugar bill that America would no longer support military regimes at the expense of democracy in Pakistan, yet we still tend to leave consideration of Pakistani public opinion out of our own expectations. Apprehensions of U.S. foreign policy are increasingly common as Pakistan deteriorated economically, politically in overall security post 9/11.

Ambassador Haqqani did an eloquent job of explaining this tremendous sensitivity with which Islamabad must balance its interest in continuing bilateral cooperation with D.C. while alleviating a rampant fear amongst Pakistani citizens that the United States might not be trustworthy, or as the Ambassador put it “ungrateful” for all their country does.

And although Ambassador Haqqani concluded on a positive note , citing increased military cooperation in fighting terrorism and tripartite agreements on trade, he gave viewers a clear view of the “totality” and complexity of issues from the Pakistan side.

To tally Islamabad’s task list thus far: in addition to 30 years of deep cleaning, speedy recovery from loss of life, toil, treasure and time, one must add mending 60 years of mistrust with the worlds superpower to Pakistan’s list of things everyone wants done yesterday.

So let’s think twice, maybe even thrice before sponging the Wikileaks reports without an understanding of context and implicating Pakistan for not doing enough.  Prime Minister Cameron, that’ means you.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ the Foreign Policy Association



  1. Living in Pakistan and going through different news reports, all I can easily say is that the Pakistan Army has been doing its job in terms of military operations. BUT, Mr Haqqani’s Government is totally not giving its own best in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of civilians getting affected by these operations, which is actually the core thing (the Army can not and should not do that at all, what are civilians for?).

    Uptil now the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are hard-hit by losing out on their incomes. Then Swat is also not getting the attention of civilian administration as it should be, because it may happen one fine day that all the piled up anger comes back again from the public to hit every government authority in Swat.

    Our civilian government is simply not ready to deliver. They even have not made the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) effective since 2009. With all the frustration, Pakistan’s roughly only counter-terrorism expert had to resign due to Government of Pakistan’s acts of not giving this body the freedom to work under the Prime Minister and rather the GoP caved in to putting the organization under the Interior Ministry (a heap of red-tapism and bureaucracy).


  2. Awesome post Zainab, even though I don’t like Mr Ambassador.


    • Thanks Umer!


  3. i’d briefly expressed views on the subject, we the Pakistan, are to be blamed for all the embarrassment that comes our way. however, highlighting only one dimension of the problem doesn’t absolve the other players of their wrongdoings and misdeeds.
    An important point to be kept in mind is the timing of the leak. As most of us are aware of the fact that whatever Pakistan has done during the last two years plus, was a clear indication of a major shift in its policy viz a viz war on terror. Whatever happened during Musharraf regime, is history now. those policies of “double game” caused colossal loss for Pakistan in general, and to the morale of Pakistan Army in particular. Now that the Taliban suffered lethal blows in Swat and Tribal areas, and are on the run, wikileaks have done no service to the global cause. How unfortunate that when a democratically elected govt comes to power, the pressure on Pakistan increases, all sorts of conspiracies start hatching within and outside.
    We, the Pakistanis, would squarely blame Britain if the region today is sitting on a fireball ! ! Had they resolved all controversies between newly created states of India and Pakistan, the things would’ve been altogether different for the world at large. The people of the sub-continent would have had been living in peace, rather than being at loggers head with each other. The British had been here for over a century, then what was the hurry towards the end ?? To my mind it was done intentionally, to support the mighty industry producing war materiel in the West. The end of World War would’ve otherwise sounded death knell for the largest of all industries.
    I strongly believe that each country n nation should guard its own interests rather than later blaming others for its sufferings. We also relied too much on the West and forgot the historical truth that the Western powers had their own interests to guard, no matter what does it cost others ! !
    Whatever the British prime minister said in the aftermath of wikileaks is also condemnable. We are no more British subjects, we are an independent nation who have their own goals to achieve. The British should review their own policies, they’ve been towing the American policies for quite sometime now. Their govt supported the war on Iraq despite the largest ever protest march by the people of UK. They are a part of 150,000 strong force present in Afghanistan, what are their achievements on ground ? The Pakistani forces are fighting in conditions worse than faced by allied forces, yet our gains are far more significant than theirs.
    I’ll like to conclude on a positive note that not many around the globe have appreciated the materiel unfolded by wikileaks nor the sane elements in Britain have liked the comments made by their PM, and quite a few have condemned them outrightly. If we carefully look at the time n space of the wikileaks and British prime minister’s statement, it becomes easier to understand that on whose behest n prompting this was done. the quarters who want to deny every opportunity to acknowledge Pakistan’s role in containing terrorism, are behind this sad incident as well.


  4. […] disheartening news from Pakistan, be it about floods, match fixing in cricket, and mostly terrorism plaguing the country since 9/11, Pakistani’s have captured the American state of mind in a less than appealing way. Once […]


  5. […] disheartening news from Pakistan, be it about floods, match fixing in cricket, and mostly terrorism plaguing the country since 9/11, Pakistani’s have captured the American state of mind in a less than appealing way. Once […]


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