A Conversation on US-Pakistani Relations
Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan
Karen DeYoung (Moderator), The Washington Post
Photos | Transcript | Video


Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan
with Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post

Washington, DC—On June 29, 2011, WFPG held a conversation with Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan and Washington Post Senior National Security Correspondent Karen DeYoung on the importance and future of US-Pakistani relations.

Ambassador Haqqani believes that many of the tensions in the US-Pakistani relationship stem from how differently the two countries perceive and approach their relationship. Pakistan prizes consistency in their bilateral relationships, while the United States favors a more functional and problem-solving approach. As a result, Pakistan has felt repeatedly abandoned by the US over the course of its relationship, especially following the Cold War. Haqqani emphasized the need for the two nations to invest in a long-term strategic relationship, stressing that, "The world is not a problem for America to solve; the world is a reality for America to understand and live with." He added that China has done a much better job than the US has of maintaining a consistent relationship with Pakistan over the last half century.

That said, the Ambassador admitted that there is a "complicated reality" in Pakistan. Already high anti-American sentiment was further increased after the May 2 Abbottabad raid to extract Osama bin Ladan. Many Pakistanis feel that the raid impinged on their nation's sovereignty because the operation was conducted within their borders without notice. Haqqani stressed that there has been no evidence that his government knew where bin Laden was hiding, but conceded that of the 118 million people in Pakistan, it is possible for small groups of extremists to provide networks and safe havens for terrorists.

Haqqani went on to try to explain the discrepancy between the extensive amount of US aid to Pakistan (over $20 billion in the last eight years) and the low approval ratings of the US amongst Pakistanis. He emphasized that the US cannot buy approval. He asserted that the US needs to do a better job of explaining its policies to the Muslim world, a task impeded by the lack of long-term diplomats and the closing of USIA cultural centers. Ambassador Haqqani added that threatening to cut off aid to sway a foreign country's policy decisionsa strategy Congress is considering using for Pakistanhas not proved effective in the past. Aid, he believes, should not be seen as a reward for good behavior or high approval numbers, but as a well thought out and consistent international effort to help stabilize a country for the long term.

Another cause of anti-Americanism is the media's influence over Pakistani youth. Over half of all Pakistanis are under the age of 18, and 48% of them do not have any formal education. Haqqani asserts that these factors have made youth more susceptible to the conspiracy stories involving the US that are regularly broadcasted on Pakistan's 38 uncensored news channels. Haqqani suggested that the US follow Israel's example and have an Arabic-speaking spokesperson appear regularly on Al Jazeera to help influence the debate.

Throughout his remarks, Ambassador Haqqani emphasized the need for quiet diplomacy over strong-worded political rhetoric, cautioned against oversimplifying the situation, and expressed hope that Americans will adopt a more patient and historically cognizant view of Pakistan. He said confidently, "[We should] bring the decibels and the anger on both sides down, and move forward. I think we can, and I am quite certain we will."


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Ambassador Husain Haqqani

  WFPG President Patricia Ellis, Ambassador
Haqqani and Karen DeYoung

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Deborah McCarthy, State Department; Board Member
Theresa Loar, CH2M HILL; Judith McHale, Under Secretary for
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; Iffat Imran
Gardezi, DCM of Pakistan; and Board member Dawn Calabia

  Patricia Ellis opens the program

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Corporate Advisory Council Member
Heather Pederson of Boeing with
Under Secretary Judith McHale and Board Members
Theresa Loar and Donna Constantinople

  Kimberly Dozier of AP asks a question

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Iffat Imran Gardezi, Patricia Ellis, and Board
Vice Chair Gail Leftwich Kitch

  Under Secretary Judith McHale with Ambassador Haqqani