A Call for Acceptance of Global Realities
By Ras H. Siddiqui
CA


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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
“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,” Haqqani said.
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.”


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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