Khaled Ahmed on Hussain Haqqani

I love this review – but it’s the first of a three-part series and I haven’t found any of the rest online. (got this one from the comments section of another blog)

Haqqani’s testament to personal ‘transformation’

Khaled Ahmed’s Analysis

A number of personalities known to Pakistani politics have undergone transformation as the dreaded jihad-dominated decade of the 1990s unfolded in Pakistan. Husain Haqqani is one of them. He began to change and move away from the state-supported, nationalism-linked, worldview some time during the years when Pakistan’s establishment was marching blithely to the end of its fatal romance with jihad. In the years when he was not linked to one political party or the other, dragging the steel ball of state ideology around its ankle, he reached down to his long kept-on-hold intellect – with good results, it appears. A process of transformation began which may be his last ‘adjustment’ to the changing circumstance. Even as a ‘fixer’ for politicians, he was set apart by his mind. If in the end he said goodbye to the job of a hired PR handyman, it was because of his mind. Finally, his transformation may be based on intellect, not opportunity. However, if opportunity beckons again within the parameters of the intellectual commitment manifested in his book, he would be a curmudgeon not to take it by the forelock.

Haqqani’s book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Carnegie Endowment/Vanguard Books, Lahore 2005) has pleasantly surprised his readers. He had begun his journalist’s career definitely on the side of ‘the mosque’ under the shadow of General Ziaul Haq and his informal condominium with Jamaat-e-Islami. (Haqqani writes about this.) He was a brilliant rightwing youth among a group discovered first by the army, then passed on to the Muslim League under Nawaz Sharif. The advantage he had over his fellow-fixer Mushahid Hussain was his more refined intellect and his attractive bilingualism. (It is endlessly tempting to make a comparative study of the constantly metamorphosing careers of the two Hussains, Mushahid and Haqqani.) Where he eclipsed late Siraj Munir was Munir’s insufficient grasp of English even though he beat Haqqani in Urdu. Shafqat Mehmood, another attractively ‘transformed’ intellectual of our times, was never in the running as a ‘fixer’ for the political elite, but he was found to be promising. Haqqani was the fixer for caretaker Jatoi, was then loaned out to Nawaz Sharif, while Benazir Bhutto eyed him greedily with outspoken recognition of his brilliance. Serving Bhutto, he hit big times and probably doesn’t need to slog for Pakistan’s intellectually flatfooted rulers any more. But who knows?

Mosque versus India: The substance we have in the book after the lucky ‘personal sloughing’ of Husain Haqqani is not bad at all. Even though a backward look might persuade you to think that he was ‘putting it on’ when doing PR for dishonourable causes, you cannot deny the quality of the peeling off Haqqani has achieved. The biggest milestone of his metamorphosis is his new understanding of ideology and the way it has applied to Pakistan, coupling a national brainwash against India with religion that clearly helped those who wanted to delay the democratic process pledged by the founders of the state and the constitutions it periodically framed. The ideology took Pakistan away from democracy and human rights, but it also took the state to its endgame by producing a kind of irredentism out of it named deceptively and deniably: jihad. But Haqqani doesn’t ignore the interstices of his argument: he tells us how Jinnah used Islam to tame the Muslim-majority provinces allergic to his Muslim League while the clerics were mostly allied with the Hindu-dominated secular Congress.

Jinnah’s successors leaned on anti-Indianism in their quest for legitimacy: the new nationhood itself was predicated on the threat Pakistan was supposed to feel from India. Problems of unity took the rulers to the facile instrumentality of Islam. The state learned its use to keep the nation together as it went around shaping minds against India: Islam became the central tenet in the rule book of the military establishment, civilian bureaucracy and the intelligence community. It was used not only against India, but also to link up with the Islamic world as a device of the nation’s identity-formation. In the process, shady Islamic organisations like the Ikhwan were courted, allowing the local religious oppositionists to link up with them and become more muscular inside Pakistan. Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was not a religious man but he swallowed the reductionist wisdom that Pakistan could be held together only with Islam and a state that promised a legally Islamic state.

Mosque wins over mind: Jamaat-e-Islami, because it had not sided with the Congress, became a kind of unspoken arbiter of the Islamic state in Pakistan even though its founder Maududi had abused Jinnah. Maududi had contacts with Muslim League’s secretariat in New Delhi through Zafar Ahmad Ansari; in Punjab there were Muslim League politicians like Mamdot who leaned to the Islamic-totalitarian thought of Maududi. In Karachi the administrative secretary general, and later prime minister and writer of Pakistan’s first constitution, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, was more convinced of Maududi’s vision than Jinnah’s and let Maududi come on the radio to explain the nature of the Islamic state. (Maududi was everybody’s philosopher of the state despite much lip-service paid to Iqbal: when in 1975 the PPP government issued its Rights of the Woman charter it quoted within its text almost the entire content of Maududi’s book Huquq al-Zaujain – KA.)

Haqqani quotes from Margaret Bourke-White (p.30-31), a Life magazine reporter-photographer, who heard Jinnah saying in 1947 that America would need Pakistan as it was strategically placed as ‘the pivot of the world’. He told her that ‘Russia is not far away’ as he elaborated on his rather well-understood exposition on the nature of the Cold War then in its infancy. Bourke-White wondered why Jinnah liked to define Pakistan as ‘an armoured buffer between opposing major powers’. Talking to others in Karachi, she soon came to the conclusion that Pakistan suffered from a ‘bankruptcy of ideas’ and was ready to adopt the strategy of ‘profiting from the disputes of the others’. One can accept one part of the strategy: realpolitik justified the policy of ‘profiting from the disputes of others’; but a bankruptcy of ideas was unforgivable because, after the ‘disputes’ of the Cold War ended, Pakistan was found living on its brainless pavlovian reflexes.

Mosque and the Generals: In 1953, General Ayub as commander-in-chief of the army emerged as the physical manifestation of Pakistan’s early formulations of ideology. His supremacy in the Pakistani hierarchy was so complete that he visited the US ahead of the political leadership to offer America a Cold War deal: Pakistan as the West’s eastern anchor in an Asia Alliance structure. Haqqani quotes Shirin Tahir-Kheli to show how Ayub bargained hard for a ‘price’ as he refused to give America a full-fledged military base. And the price included not only money but also a security guarantee against India. After 1979, General Zia too drove a hard bargain for Pakistan’s use against the Soviet Union. Haqqani in fact theorises on the basis of this pattern of behaviour (later confirmed by General Musharraf) to conclude that the state in Pakistan has behaved consistently without really changing after promising to change.

Yet there was a difference between what General Zia sought inside Pakistan and what General Musharraf seeks now. Haqqani says the umbilical joining all courtiers of the US was hatred of India, perhaps including Musharraf, who should then stand with first president of Pakistan Iskander Mirza and second president Ayub Khan in his fear and loathing of religion. Later in the book Haqqani dwells on the theme of Musharraf’s ‘ambivalence’ about switching off the Kashmir proxy war, sheltering religious militias against a global wrath only because of the India-centric worldview he shares with the earlier ‘secular’ military rulers of Pakistan. He also tackles the immensely tortured conundrum of Musharraf surreptitiously propping up the religious parties against the mainstream political parties in the 2002 general election. Such is the slippery nature of the evidence available for proving this, that the mainstream parties now in the ARD have finally (disgustedly) accepted aligning their anti-Musharraf strategy with thatof the MMA (religious parties) said to have been ‘facilitated’ by Musharraf.

Goodbye to Mosque? The book carries adequate material to prove that Pakistani nationalism was shaped in an anti-India mould to favour the military during the early years and during interregnums when the political parties ruled Pakistan under the tutelage of the military. By the time the politicians realised that nationalism was actually helping the military to 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. The truth is that the supremacy of the military in Pakistan cannot be removed without changing Pakistan’s textbook nationalism. On the one hand, the PML may have covered the distance from ‘compulsion to embrace ideology’ to ‘actual internalisation of it’; on the other, the PPP may not have done so, but may find it difficult to wean its following from it without losing votes. The truth is that it is Pakistani nationalism which has first to be modified if the military is to be pushed down in the hierarchy of power in the country.

Husain Haqqani has written a good book and has given final proof in it of his capacity that no ruler was interested in utilising. He always had the mental suppleness required in politics. He would communicate with the powerful mullahs of the Zia era and speak Urdu matching theirs. He would hold his own in English in public speaking, shifting competently from an Islamic to a secular-pluralist view. At times he was pushed too far. For instance, he was made to confront the CNN, together with Mushahid Hussain, to prove that the TV channel was biased against the Muslims. This was one battle of wits he did not win as clearly as he did most others. Now his book nails his definitive colours to the mast. This has to be the final transformation. We suppose that what he did in his Zia-Jatoi-Nawaz-Benazir days represented a light hidden behind the bushel, a natural intellectual progression held in abeyance till the times got better.

(First of a three-part review article on Husain Haqqani’s book ‘Pakistan between Mosque and Military’.)


3 responses to “Khaled Ahmed on Hussain Haqqani

  1. humza ikram

    we all know who he is and how much effort he made to become part of Benazir Bhutto camp . that a bollywood movie in itself .:D
    to be fair with him i think he has done well as ambassador in US .he is a damn good speaker , i wish someone hired him to counter zaid hamid monster .

  2. Rabia

    yeah… he’s a genius.

    btw it’s interesting how these types (HH, Mushahid Hussain) seem to know exactly what the reality is. Like i remember reading this article by Mushahid Hussain in which he basically admitted that The Muslim newspaper was set up by the military regime in 1979 as a way to project a ‘soft’ or ‘liberal’ image of the military. I mean, what he was saying was that he knew that he was planted by the ISI to project a certain liberal image of army and then later on he was not even ashamed to describe the paper or his journalism in that way. completely shameless :/

    btw it’s sad isn’t it. sometimes it seems like we’re just rearranging a bunch of despicable people around, sometimes supporting some, sometimes the others.

  3. humza ikram

    the kind of treatment he got from pakistani media from the day of his announcement as Pakistan’s ambassador in US in a way helped him . because now when I see him first thought about him which comes to my mind about him is not his evil past 😀 .

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