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Surviving on Delusions (Magnificent Delusions)

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Feb 5, 2011
A interesting peek into Haqqani's book 'Magnificent Delusions' by Khaled Ahmed.

Husain Haqqani’s Magnificent Delusions tells you what Islamabad and Rawalpindi will not.

Despite the change of guards in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan is continuing to experience the consequences of its chronic misdiagnosis of terrorism.

...by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has blocked the NATO supply route through the province in a bid to force Washington into calling off its drone attacks—on Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists—which it says result in the loss of innocent lives as collateral damage.

Few can protest against PTI because the rationale of its disruption of the supply route is based on an all-parties consensus in Pakistan against drone attacks. This consensus is based on yet another all-parties consensus tasking the Pakistani government with holding “peace” talks with the Taliban. Given the fact that 80 percent of Pakistanis, according to a recent survey, hate the United States, it appears as if Pakistan is set to pursue a Taliban-dictated change in its foreign policy. Another unavoidable perception is that, given Pakistan’s international isolation, the state is in the process of shifting its allegiance to the Taliban as legitimate rulers. The state survives on its robust delusion-dependency.

The Taliban are issuing orders they believe will be carried out...

Some Pakistanis think it is wrong on the part of their leaders to succumb to populism aroused by terrorism and to embrace isolationism through an anti-America campaign. The Pakistan Army itself changed tack last August when its then-chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, declared from Abbottabad that Pakistan was threatened from within (meaning the Taliban), and not from without (meaning India and the U.S.). And yet the powerful clerical-jihadist Defense of Pakistan Council organization has been allowed by its alleged patrons within the Army to demonstrate its massive nonstate-actor strength in the big cities, supporting jihad against both India and the U.S., thus indirectly rejecting the Kayani doctrine. Why is Pakistan behaving the way it is on the eve of another war that will start in the region by the end of 2014?

Birth of a Frozen Paradigm

In Pakistan: between Mosque and Military, Haqqani’s thesis was that Pakistani nationalism was shaped in an anti-India mold to favor the military during the early years and during interregnums when political parties ruled Pakistan under the tutelage of the military. By the time politicians realized that nationalism was actually helping the military remain on top, they had also become alive to the already-formed public mind that would not accept any alteration in nationalism without a trauma.

Haqqani investigated the doctrine of “strategic depth” that continues to fashion the Pakistani military’s worldview. He traces it, not to the timeline of Pakistan Army’s decision to support the Taliban, but to Aslam Siddiqi’s 1960 book Pakistan Seeks Security. Siddiqi leans on British jurist Alexander Fraser Tytler’s suggestion that the areas which today form Afghanistan and Pakistan be fused into one. Siddiqi’s typically military addendum to the theory was that since it can’t be done by force— “fusion will lead to confusion”—Islamic ideology may be put to use. Today this very formulation is recoiling on Pakistan in the shape of the Taliban, whose allegiance is to Mullah Omar, not to Pakistan.

What came first, the Army-sponsored India policy or Islamic extremism?

The India-centrism of this thinking is backed by an almost universal resistance in Pakistan to any changes in the anti-India curriculum of textbooks which the provinces will not change despite orders from the central government. The resistance is not only from the bent mind of the state machinery but also from the mind within the Army, who will not remove their nexus with nonstate actors they used in the past and might use again after 2014 when civil war breaks out in Afghanistan.

Haqqani ends the book proving that it was the India-centrism of Pakistan that finally brought it to Islamic extremism. The myth of India not accepting and spoiling to attack Pakistan was concocted and survives the acquisition of nuclear deterrence by Pakistan. The Army used jihad in the asymmetric war the world calls cross-border terrorism; it used the mosque to muster the warriors it needed to sharpen its revisionist irredentism.

Prophetically, Haqqani thought normalization of relations with India was the only available solvent to what the soldier and cleric had done to Pakistan. He desired the survival of Pakistan through change of policy in light of the theory of gradual adjustment to circumstances. But the Army desired longevity through consensual stasis based on the refusal to adjust.

Delusions of Grandeur

In his latest book, Haqqani lays down his stance: “I have always been convinced that the United States remains a force for good in the world. Pakistan has benefited from its relations with the United States and would benefit even more if it could overcome erroneous assumptions about its own national security and role in the world. Instead of seeking close security ties based on false promises, Pakistan must face its history and diversity honestly, and it should be neither dependent on nor resentful of the world’s most powerful nation.”

But when he tried to reestablish Pakistan-U.S. relations on mutual trust as ambassador, the “major power centers in my own country resisted my vision,” he writes. The ISI was let loose on him; the anti-U.S. media in Pakistan was likewise unleashed with accusations against him of safeguarding U.S. interests and helping the CIA expand its network of spies in Pakistan.

Islam and nationalism were the passwords with which even the erudite Pakistani approached the Pakistan-America equation. There was grave moral doubt not unmixed with self-flagellation about the conduct of Pakistan in getting involved with the global hegemon. The pragmatism of foreign policy was booby-trapped with piety.

I.Q. Ambushed by Ideology

While serving in Sharif’s government in 1992, Haqqani saw the prime minister receive a letter of protest from the-then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker through Ambassador Nicholas Platt “which he left unread on his table.” He saw that during the meeting of the bigwigs of the state convened to discuss the letter—including the Army chief and ISI head—the letter was still lying unopened in front of him. Sharif asked Haqqani to summarize its contents while the prime minister himself “gave instructions to his staff regarding snacks he wanted served to all of us—Sharif often asked for specific food items during meetings, as if it helped him concentrate his mind.”

Haqqani noted that the letter contained the following plaints: “Your intelligence service, the [ISI], and elements of the Army, are supporting Kashmiri and Sikh militants who carry out acts of terrorism, providing weapons, training, and assistance in infiltration. We’re talking about direct covert government of Pakistan support.” There was no reaction from the various pillars of the national-security establishment except from ISI chief Javed Nasir—notorious for an I.Q. effectively ambushed by “high-church” Islam, complete with a flowing beard—who spoke first and wrongly accused Platt of being a Jew working for the alleged Indo-Zionist lobby.

In the case of Nasir, the prime minister had grievously erred in his selection of ISI chief. Take a sampling of the level of intellect of the Pakistani state as Nasir spoke: “The jihad in Kashmir is at a critical stage and cannot be disrupted. We have been covering our tracks so far and will cover them even better in the future. These are empty threats. The United States could not declare Pakistan a terrorist state because of our strategic importance. The Saudis and Pakistan are America’s only allies in the greater Middle East, so the United States needs Pakistan to deal with the changing situation in Muslim Central Asia after the Soviet collapse. All we need to do is to buy more time and improve our diplomatic effort. The focus should be on Indian atrocities in Kashmir, not on our support for the Kashmiri resistance.”

Will Kayani’s successor take Pakistan out of its delusional worldview based on deceit?

What was the effect of this patently idiotic strategic positioning? Prime Minister Sharif “agreed with Nasir’s assessment, which reflected the consensus of the meeting.” Only Haqqani and the foreign secretary argued that Pakistan needed to reconsider Pakistani support for Kashmiri militants as “it would undermine Pakistani diplomacy, get Pakistan labeled a terrorism sponsor, and was unlikely to result in a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.” The foreign secretary actually said that Pakistan would probably be more successful by focusing on diplomacy and political action in favor of the Kashmiris instead of “setting off bombs.” Nasir’s response, a cliché that echoes on cable TV even today when retired military officers fulminate against India, was that “the Hindus do not understand any language other than force.”

The meeting finally dismissed the concerns raised in Baker’s letter. Sharif said, “As long as Pakistan could be useful to the United States, the United States would remain favorably disposed toward Pakistan.” The ISI chief was sure he knew how to take care of the CIA: “We know what they need and we give it to them in bits and pieces to keep them happy.” On this, Sharif said, “It is important to talk to Americans nicely while doing whatever you have to,” and that “there are always enough disagreements among American policymakers that anyone can find someone who supports them.”

According to Sharif, Pakistan could deal with allegations of sponsoring terrorism by reaching out to the American media and Congress. He would allocate $2 million “as the first step” for that purpose and announced at the meeting that Haqqani “would be in charge of this expanded lobbying effort.” Haqqani adds: “He did not allow me to speak, and I had to wait until the next day to turn down the assignment.”

The Army chief, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, whom the prime minister was to get rid of later, made some sane remarks. He said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to get into a confrontation with the United States, but “we cannot shut down military operations against India either.” He suggested that Pakistan get off the hook with the United States by making some changes in its pattern of support for the Kashmiri militancy without shutting down the entire clandestine operation—and that is precisely the policy Pakistan adopted over the next few years until Gen. Pervez Musharraf switched off the jihad in 2003 after committing the blunder of Kargil and overthrowing the intellectually-unfocused prime minister.

Fear of a Liberated Intellect

The book is not introspective enough to take us through the process of Haqqani’s intellectual transformation—from the salad days of dragging the steel ball of state ideology around his ankle as a member of the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami to the realization of long kept-on-hold self-realization as he grew up to face the realities of state power—but it nevertheless points the way to how Pakistan can get out of the choppy waters of military-led ideology of war-making on borrowed money.

The military leaned on jihad to frontload its narrative. It had the scope of delusional innovation too, as Gen. Aslam Beg, made Army chief in 1988, once told Haqqani: “Pakistan needs to show its spine to the United States; a nuclear Pakistan would tie up with Iran and China in order to create a third pole in a multipolar world.” The general had no clue about the Chinese mind and was obviously not reading the carefully worded signals from Beijing, busy at that very moment to “normalizing” its relations with India.

The ISI briefed Bhutto about the Taliban’s rise as a local phenomenon. She worried about their reported misogyny and their propensity for violence and asked Haqqani for his views on the ISI position that “they could bring peace to Afghanistan and secure Pakistan’s interests”: “I said that the ISI had previously said the same thing about Pakhtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Bhutto agreed but laughed saying that we civilians could not stop the ISI even if we wanted to.”

Ijlal Zaidi, a senior bureaucrat serving Bhutto, was worried about the “Talban’s core beliefs,” wondering whether madrassah students with a narrow worldview and no modern education were equipped to run a country: “They will ruin whatever is left of Afghanistan. They will kill the Shia and then they will come after Pakistan.” Haqqani observes: “The ISI’s Maj. Gen. Aziz Khan said he could not understand why so many people in the Bhutto government were so averse to the spread of Islam.” This was a clear pointer to the crux of the crisis that now engulfs Pakistan: the ideology of the state of Pakistan is the same as that of the Taliban, whose “purity” stands as a living rebuke to politicians grappling with the pragmatism of living in the present world. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. recognized the Taliban government in 1996, but Pakistan was the only country to allow them an embassy on its soil.

Double-dealing Mind

Could Pakistan help all this? Sharif told the-then deputy secretary of the U.S. State Department Strobe Talbott that he was helpless in the face of military dominance combined with the coercive power of the fundamentalists: “If he wanted what the Americans wanted—to not test the bomb—Talbott would find himself dealing not with a clean-shaven moderate like himself but instead with an Islamic fundamentalist.”

In his 2004 book Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb, Talbott writes: “While [Indian foreign minister] Jaswant Singh’s team was highly disciplined, some of Shamshad Ahmad’s colleagues tended to be querulous, surly, and sometimes abusive. On one occasion, early in our dealings, a member of the Pakistani delegation exploded at our observation that his country seemed always to react in kneejerk fashion to Indian moves. He rose out of his chair and lunged at Bruce Riedel or me, depending on whose neck he could get his fingers around first. He had to be physically restrained.” The said Pakistani diplomat was later sent as ambassador to the U.S. by the Sharif government.

Haqqani discloses that the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which Pakistan refuses to own as linked to its covert war strategy against India, were carried out by Pakistanis and quotes ISI chief Shuja Pasha as admitting to CIA director Michael Hayden that “the planners of the Mumbai attacks included some retired Pakistan Army officers” and that “the attackers had ISI links, but this had not been an authorized ISI operation.” This remark is significant because it signals splits of strategic ideology within the Army. When in 1996, the warlord controlling Kabul, Ahmad Shah Massoud paraded on TV ISI officers arrested while fighting on the side of the Taliban, Islamabad’s response was the same: these were retired officers.

Split from Within


Read this chastening passage: “Soon after the Abbottabad raid, [U.S. special envoy Marc] Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell traveled to Islamabad to propose actions that Pakistan could take to build confidence in its commitment to fight terrorism. They shared intelligence about a bomb-making factory run by the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. According to the CIA, Al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups used improvised-explosive devices made at this factory. Kayani and Pasha promised that the Pakistan Army would send in troops to shut down the illicit factory. A few days later the CIA sent time-stamped photographs showing the facility being dismantled hours before the Army’s arrival. The dismantling began after a man on a motorcycle went into the factory, thus leading to speculation that he had come to tip off the terrorists about the impending Army operation.”

Haqqani gets the last word here. “Pakistan cannot pursue its dreams of being India’s military equal by seeking American aid,” he writes. “If $40 billion in U.S. aid has not won Pakistani hearts and minds, billions more will not do the trick. Unless Pakistanis define their national interest differently from how their leaders have for over six decades, the U.S.-Pakistan alliance is only a mirage. The relationship needs redefinition, based on recognition of divergent interests and an acknowledgement of mutual mistrust. Only then will Pakistan and the United States share the same reality.”​

Took some pieces out to keep it a bit short. Nonetheless, we can find a comparative view

Books Review

Read his book and you might think Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington from 2008 to 2011, is no friend of his homeland. Its leaders are liars, double-dealers and shakedown artists, he says. They have been this way for decades, and, as Haqqani ably documents, the United States often has served as Pakistan’s willing dupe. But for all its criticism of Pakistan, “Magnificent Delusions” is a necessary prescriptive: If there’s any hope of salvaging what seems like a doomed relationship, it helps to know how everything went so wrong. Haqqani is here to tell us.

“My detractors in Pakistan’s security services and among pro-Jihadi groups have long accused me of being pro-American,” he writes; “they failed to see that advocating a different vision for my troubled nation was actually pro-Pakistan.”

Most Americans have made up their minds about Pakistan, and vice versa. We don’t trust them; they don’t like us. You might, however, want some answers: Where’s the payoff for that $40 billion in aid (Haqqani’s figure) we’ve showered on the country since it was formed in 1947? Why does it remain an economic basket case and a snakes’ nest of Islamic terrorism?

“Since 1947,” Haqqani writes, “dependence, deception and defiance have characterized U.S.-Pakistan relations. We sought U.S. aid in return for promises we did not keep. Although even strong allies do not have 100 percent congruent interests, in the case of Pakistan and the United States, the divergence far exceeded the similarities.”

It’s fascinating to learn how little the fraught relationship has changed over the decades. “America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,” the father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, declared in 1947. Pakistani leaders were saying the same thing in 2012 after shutting down NATO supply routes through the country, forcing the U.S.-led Western powers to find expensive alternatives.

Jinnah cast Pakistan as “the pivot of the world,” in terms of geostrategy, and a bulwark against Soviet communism. But it has frequently overreached in its demands for aid because of an inflated sense of its own importance. “In 1947-48 Pakistan had yet to do anything for America, yet it still expected huge inflows of U.S. cash, commodities, and arms,” Haqqani notes. It requested a $2 billion loan; the United States responded with 0.5 percent of that — $10 million.

Richard Nixon was a true believer when it came to Pakistan’s strategic value against the communists. “Pakistan is a country I would like to do everything for,” he said after visiting the subcontinent as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president. “The people have fewer complexes than the Indians.”

As president, Nixon used Pakistan to launch secret U.S. overtures to China. The reward was unquestioned financial support. Pakistan similarly prospered during the Reagan years, enlisted in the battle against the Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan, as well as under George W. Bush, who launched what turned out to be a troubled counterterrorism partnership after Sept. 11, 2001. Over the years, in generously arming Pakistan, Haqqani shows, U.S. leaders enabled it to turn those guns against India, its existential enemy, and blunder into unwise military adventures.

A narrative of persecution also runs through the pysche of Pakistan as a whole. The public, whipped up by the military and mullahs, is led to believe that the nation’s problems are the work of “hidden hands.” I noticed how often leaders blamed conspiracies by India, Israel and America — that is to say, Hindus, Jews and Christians — for undermining the country, rather than owning up to social and economic ills of Pakistan’s own creation.

James M. Langley, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, is one of the prescient figures we meet in Haqqani’s book. Langley called it “wishful thinking” to consider the Pakistanis pro-American and warned of the danger of building up Pakistan’s military to fight the communist bloc: “In Pakistan we have an unruly horse by the tail and are confronted by the dilemma of trying to tame it before we can let go safely,” he said. And, he noted, this horse that “we assumed to be so friendly has actually grown wilder of late.” He wrote that in 1957. It is still true.

For many Americans, the fact that Osama bin Laden lived for nine years in Pakistan before he was killed by U.S. commandos was proof enough that Pakistan belongs in the “enemy” column, not “ally.” The shame is that Pakistanis are a pious, warm and hospitable people — at least the many I met during my year and a half there. Haqqani’s book would have greatly benefited from showing us some of them: Giving common people voice helps us know who they are, how they live and what they think.

They are not the enemy. Just like average Americans, they simply pay the price of their leaders’ magnificent mistakes.

Richard Leiby, a Washington Post staff writer, was the paper’s Pakistan bureau chief from 2012 to 2013.

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