Haqqani Appears in US Comedy Show
Washington, DC: Appearing in a popular American TV comedy program, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani interspersed humor with facts as he underscored his country’s high-stake fight against terror.
“The important thing is Pakistan is in control of most of Pakistan. The Taliban are a nuisance, just as some of your guests are,” Haqqani told Jon Stewart, the host of the top-rated Daily Show, who asked him about the “tough time” for his country.
The Pakistani government is fighting a real battle in Swat and as a result several hundred thousand people have been displaced, he said.
“What we are dealing with is a lot of debris from the past. Former president Ronald Reagan thought that the mujahideen (who aided in the fight against the Soviet Union) in Afghanistan were going to be the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.
“The Taliban are the children of those moral equivalents, which are creating problems not only for Pakistan and Afghanistan but the whole world, including the United States.”
Asked whether the United States and Pakistan had learnt the lesson that militants had come back to bite them, Haqqani replied, “For the sake of my children and yours, I hope, that we all have.”
Haqqani reminded the amused audience there was a time when some people in the CIA thought of sending exploding cigars to Cuban leader Fiedel Castro to protect America (draws laughter from host). And there was a time when some people in Pakistan thought the militants would help Pakistan defend against India, he stated.
“(But now) more than 3000 civilians have been killed in Pakistan in the last few years in the terrorist attacks, 1,200 Pakistani soldiers have also been killed. We lost Benazir Bhutto, our most popular leader to terrorism. The Pakistanis have reached the conclusion that this cannot endure and we have to fight them and win.”
At the same time, Haqqani pointed out the flawed US policy under the previous administration that relied heavily on the military muscle and ignored the socio-economic development of the Pakistani people.
“What is the turning point? Because when former president Parvez Musharraf was there, the United States, I guess, had given him about $15 billion for this purpose, and he ended up, I guess, buying a car,” Stewart asked to resonating laughter.
“He (Musharraf) did not end up fighting the Taliban. And did not even President Asif Ali Zardari do a truce with them, just, I think, last week?” Stewart questioned.
Haqqani’s response was, “About Musharraf and that period, the attitude in the United States over the last several years was also all you need is military muscle and then basically you invest in military. But then half of Pakistan’s school-going children don’t go to school. And when you have several million kids between 5 and 15 who don’t go to school and don’t have any hope for their future, they are canon fodder for the Taliban, so that was the real mistake. What was needed was investment in Pakistan’s people.”
President Zardari tried negotiating a peace deal with these people and proved that “you cannot negotiate with them because they will break the deal.” “And as soon as they broke the deal, the army is back in, the fighting is going on and you can see the results,” he explained.
“So you pulled a little (bit) of reverse psychology on the Taliban!” Stewart quipped. “I think he did,” Haqqani replied. “I have done it with my son,” Stewart added abruptly. “I hope he doesn’t wear a turban,” Haqqani asked instantly.
“Sometimes, it depends on the game he is playing, quite frankly,” Stewart added tersely to tumultuous applause from the audience. The Pakistani envoy said, Islamabad “no longer considers that there are Taliban or any militants that Pakistan needs to cultivate. They are all a problem.”
“After that, there will always be a distinction made between those that you can actually bring on board. You can tell ordinary villagers don’t support the Taliban. Instead, we will provide for you.
“Then there are al-Qaeda and hardcore Taliban, who have to be fought.”