A Call for Acceptance
of Global Realities
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Journalist, scholar, writer,
diplomat and Pakistani political figure Husain Haqqani,
who certainly wears many hats, was recently on an
author’s tour on the San Francisco Bay Area
when he took the opportunity to talk with Pakistan
Link at the offices of Pakistan Weekly Editor Dr.
Khawaja Ashraf in Berkeley.
Haqqani had just completed his speech at a leading
area Policy Institute and had also been received
quite well at the prestigious World Affairs Council
of San Francisco, where he spoke the day before.
He was in the area to promote his new book “Pakistan:
Between Mosque and Military” which reflects
his passionate interest in the country’s history
and, more importantly, its future.
I had started to prepare myself for a standard question
and answer session with the visiting scholar at
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and
Associate Professor at Boston University who has
served as advisor to the civilian governments of
Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Ghulam Mustafa
Jatoi in Pakistan. But it was not to be, because
informality set in and he was more comfortable having
an open one-on-one discussion. This article will
highlight just some of our verbal interaction, one
which was dominated by his sharp intellect and grasp
of facts from the point of view of an insider. In
other words it was difficult to corner him on anything
even though I thought that I was well prepared.
“Pakistanis must start taking a less defensive
and more introspective view of Pakistan and current
developments. What I mean is that we tend to gloss
over or totally deny facts. For example we have
not come to terms with what happened in 1971. It
is important to recognize that mistakes have been
committed. Instead of blaming individuals, parties
or groups, we should at least start analyzing the
mistakes honestly. It is time to deal with that
and Inshallah we will have a good future,”
“No other country has gone through some of
the traumas that we have gone through but refuse
to acknowledge them. And the moment that somebody
starts to acknowledge or analyze these things people
turn around and say kay ji our image is going to
be destroyed. I think that we need to stop worrying
about image and start worrying about substance.
“Second, I think that Pakistan is a very important
country in the world. But we have to get over things
that we are emotionally driven by. A sense of proportion
is required. For example we tend to stick together.
We want to create a glass bowl and in that we want
to become the big fish. There is a great big world
out there in which we need to keep things in perspective.
There is no denying Pakistan’s significance
in the global order. But that significance should
neither be exaggerated nor underestimated,”
“And last but not least Pakistanis must understand
as a nation, we all must face the critical issues
of global systems,” he said.
Haqqani was very critical of the “glibness”
of Pakistanis and their immediate denial of problems
associated with them. He called for a national self-criticism
to balance the criticism that (unfairly?) comes
from outside, especially around the topic of extremism.
He stressed the need for Pakistanis to join the
global mainstream of ideas.
“Our contribution to the global mainstream
of ideas is very limited,” he said. He pointed
out that it was unfortunate that criticism emanating
from Pakistan is often not well thought out and
that blaming others limits other healthy exchanges.
He pointed out that one Pakistani newspaper’s
calling the New York Times the “Jew York Times”
does not help matters. “That is not the way
to become a part of the global mainstream. We need
to go beyond these fantasies of Zionist-Hindu conspiracies
in everything,” he added.
“The global mainstream of ideas is ideas about
politics, it is ideas about society, it is ideas
about economics, it is ideas about religious tolerance,”
The author of “Pakistan: Between Mosque and
Military” commended the work of Dr. Akbar
S. Ahmed here in the US for his efforts. “He
is trying to connect with the other Abrahamic faiths,”
he said. Haqqani suggested that such an effort by
a Pakistani-Muslim scholar like Dr. Ahmed was the
need of the times in the global mainstream of ideas.
“It is time to stop being inward looking,”
he said. “The problems of Muslims and Pakistanis
are not problems that we can blame on the rest of
the world,” said Haqqani. Pointing out that
America had not abandoned Pakistan, he gave examples
such as 1971 when America had tried to help but
Pakistani rulers themselves created the crisis.
“Why are Pakistan’s literacy rates so
low?” he asked. He said that outsiders could
not be blamed for that. He compared statistics on
literacy rates in Pakistan with its neighbors before
revisiting his main point. “It is time to
face global realities,” he said. That is the
theme of my book.”