The storm generated by Husain Haqqani’s article really belongs to a tea-cup. But then again, not quite. It is true that what he wrote only added more detail to what had been known, and also proven through judicial inquiries: that he worked as the long arm of American ingress into Pakistan and represented in more ways than one the interests of Washington in Islamabad.
Now it could well be that he did this out of the naïve belief that Washington’s so-called ‘war on terrorism’ was a way to help Pakistan get rid of much of the baggage of the militant groups that the state had accumulated over a long period of time. Or perhaps he was just being himself – pompous and arrogant without any regard for the consequences of his actions.
His stance that he carried back and forth messages between Washington and Islamabad and that the final decision to allow CIA to expand its network in Pakistan was that of his civilian bosses is also something that cannot be doubted. On his own, he could not have pulled off a single dubious arrival in the country. It required the compliance and collaboration of pretty much every institution in the country for this to happen.
Beyond these realities lie logical deductions and Husain Haqqani’s own boasts and claims (or statements that come close to being called claims) that he was such a sharp tool in the kit of Pak-US relations that neither Islamabad nor Washington could do without his able guidance and help. His suggestion that his hand-created network of relationships eventually allowed the Americans to lay the snare for Osama bin Laden looks embellished. Knowing how much the CIA would know about his history, they would rather trust North Korean leaders than make any bets on people like him. But since Husain Haqqani has himself said that he was the keystone in building CIA assets in Pakistan this has to be taken at face value and considered a serious confession.
However, to reduce this latest episode of the old saga of Husain Haqqani mischiefs in the era of Asif Zardari to the issue of who issued the visas and who didn’t and how many CIA men and women landed in Pakistan and how many were kept out is to miss the real point in all of this. The real point is not about what characters like Husain Haqqani did or claim to have done but how these characters come up, are nurtured and groomed and then unleashed on the hapless country before they exhaust their negative energies and are picked up by other masters.
Pakistan has to be one of those very rare places where a veritable nursery of self-grown trouble-makers operates at a breathtaking scale. Over and over again these nursery-produced products prove most inimical to Pakistan’s interests. They poison people’s lives and generate immense headache. And yet the nursery never shuts down and continues to flourish without let or hindrance.
From the Jamaat-e-Islami to Ziaul Haq to Nawaz Sharif to Ghulam Ishaq Khan to the Lords of Intelligence to Musharraf (well almost) to Asif Zardari to the Americans, Husain Haqqani’s growth has been fed by the nursery at home. His services have been used by all and sundry and he was anointed as the best thing that had happened to the country. He held important posts, represented the country at important fora, advised the military and political leadership and remained a key figure in many important national episode even though everyone knew what he was all about and what he was capable of doing – essentially doing everything for anyone who was interested in hiring.
In that sense, he is not at fault: in fact he won’t even be able to relate to all the criticism coming his way at present because not long ago he was cherished by the state and political parties who valued the very traits in him that he is being taken to the cleaners for. The fault is with the nursery that churns out those like him.
And he is not the only one: look around and you will find an endless gallery of rogues who all once worked for some institution or the other and ended up giving this country so much pain, torture and embarrassment.
The nation’s recent memory is full of such individuals who posed (or were positioned) as absolute musts for the country but who actually undermined it at every step of the way either through their stupidities or through their dangerous self-serving deeds.
Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf is a living example of this category. That he came through a coup is one thing but his nexus with Washington and his open-door policy to the CIA and US Army via bases was a deliberate decision. The implications of his rule over Pakistan have been wide-ranging and are still felt across the land. We do remember clearly that the CIA had the largest presence in Pakistan – out of all the countries in the world.
His domestic exploits were no less dangerous. The mess that Karachi is in is a direct result of his Love-Altaf policy. Even after retirement he continues to spill embarrassing beans such as admitting getting money from the Saudi king – as if the country’s former army chief requires royal donations to make it through post-retirement hardships. Yet no one questions him about his systematic undermining of the state and country. Nor is anyone interested in finding out how the infrastructure of terror came up on our own land, necessitating one military operation after the other for decades on end. He continues to be protected property, enjoying a great life and media publicity.
Admittedly, Musharraf and Haqqani aren’t the only two examples of state- and government-produced trouble the country has been made to suffer. Draw up a list of this country’s most pressing challenges and then put a face on it. The result will be surprising: from ethnic strife to nuclear proliferation to deans of political manipulation – every single trouble will have its origins in the same nursery that refuses to shut down.
Even now in the media you have poison-spewing, character-assassinating hired guns tearing apart reputations and proudly claiming to have the backing and support of the powers that be. It seems there is nothing anyone can do about them. The judiciary, Pemra, the government – everyone silently ignores the filth and lies they produce in the name of freedom of speech. Those who have sponsored them see great strategic value in their assets. They are happy that they have instruments of mass reputation destruction, not realising how past products of theirs have boomeranged on them; and more than that on this country.
If we see it from this standpoint, Husain Haqqani or Musharraf or the Taliban or Altaf Hussain or all such thorns in our side are really not the issue. The issue is that they come out of a process that makes them so strong and lasting that long after their ‘strategic utility’ is exhausted they continue to exist with all their perniciousness and destructiveness. They are not the cause of our trouble but a consequence of the actions taken in the name of national interest.
There was a time when Husain Haqqani was an asset. Now he is a liability. Ditto for Altaf and the Taliban. Even as we grapple with these products, there may be more on the shelf ready to be launched. So the show goes on and on without any sense of larger purpose or direction. It is Husain Haqqani today. It will be some fake doctor tomorrow. It is only a matter of time before another tragic figure will go abroad and start to throw darts at his past masters.
The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.