Never forgive, never forget

Published Nov 24, 2011 08:54pm

NOW that they've got the scalp they wanted, a question: why did they want his scalp so bad?

A trip down memory lane may help. Husain Haqqani's last known flirtation with the army came in the early Musharraf years. Weaselling his way into the circle of Gen Rashid Qureshi, the principal military spokesperson at the time, Haqqani seemed to have his eye on the information minister slot.

For whatever reason, Qureshi didn't bite. Maybe he didn't believe Haqqani could deliver BB to Musharraf. Maybe he just used Haqqani and dumped him once his utility was over. Whatever the case, Haqqani was left a spurned man and soon took to reinventing himself as a democrat.

Suddenly, Haqqani was the go-to guy for all the anti-military, anti-mullah rhetoric and analysis you could possibly want. The capstone was his book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military . His transformation complete, he was picked as the ambassador to the US by a PPP government.

At this stage, now back to having to deal with the army, Haqqani tried to play down his most recent past. Like Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, the former chief minister of what was then NWFP, who banned his own book after coming to power, Haqqani tried to whistle past some of the more hard-hitting stuff he had written and said.

But if the army and AZ share a trait, it is this: they never forgive or forget. Haqqani was a former insider who had turned on the institution whose patronage he had sought. He was a marked man.

Worse, there were suspicions he was using his time in DC to convince the Americans to abandon their old policy of dealing with Pakistan through the military and to strengthen the civilians instead.

When the Kerry-Lugar crisis erupted, they tried to oust Haqqani. He survived. This time he got trapped and they weren't going to let go. Exit Haqqani.

It couldn't have come at a worse time in Pak-US relations. The mood in DC is growing more and more belligerent and more and more policymakers and legislators are wondering aloud if the time has come to declare Pakistan the enemy instead of an uneasy ally.

Had the army high command been smarter, they would have used the wily Haqqani's skills to their advantage. Cut a deal with him, use his contacts in DC to get tempers to cool down and figure out some kind of arrangement on the Pak-US front that better suits all sides.

A cornered man can be a useful man. Club him over the head and he's of use to no one. Tempt him to your side and his survival instinct will kick in. Alas, if smartness were a Pakistani trait, this would be a very different country.

When never-forgive-never-forget is your guiding principle in dealing with erstwhile allies, Haqqani's fate was always going to be the same: kicked to the kerb eventually.

Enter Sherry Rehman. The new ambassador brings with her the advantage of knowing many of the players in DC and is willing to listen to both the boys and the civilians on major policy issues. That's a good thing under the circumstances.

But in terms of hard work and smarts, Haqqani will be a tough act to follow. Obviously, Haqqani wasn't able to prevent Pak-US relations from nose-diving, but he is a relentless and intense political animal. Whether Sherry has the stamina and deftness necessary for navigating the treacherous waters of DC will be revealed soon enough.

Which leaves us with the matter of AZ and the boys. By appointing Sherry, did Zardari score an equaliser deep into stoppage time?

It's hard to tell so soon after the event, but it seems that the boys were so focused on getting rid of Haqqani that, while they would have liked one of their own to be installed in DC, they hadn't prepared a strong enough game plan on that front.

On the other side, it helped that Gilani has always liked Sherry and she had made her peace with Zardari after walking out as the Sharif-led long march was inching its way towards Islamabad. Perhaps because the PPP simply doesn't have the bench strength to pick solid replacements, Sherry walked away with the prize.

So, masterstroke or grand compromise with the boys, hard to say at this point.

With Haqqani down, who's next? Rehman Malik seems like a potential target, being the other 'security threat' that is frequently cited. But more sacrifices aren't Zardari's biggest problem. Lose a Haqqani or Malik and life still goes on.

Zardari's real focus has been on securing his government's re-election. The Haqqani ouster per se won't have any immediate impact on the domestic scenario, but the incident may help clarify some positions.

The Americans, who helped shove Haqqani out, weren't going to be Zardari's fervent supporters come election time and Zardari already had an inkling about that. Now, with his more effective lobbyist in the US sidelined, will American support for Zardari erode further?

Domestically, the army has pushed against the civilians and the civilians have taken another hit quietly. With Imran Khan still more of a dark horse than a frontrunner, Zardari will reasonably assume that the Haqqani blow isn't the beginning of the screws being turned against the government across the board.

But if Khan's politics become smarter and his appeal widens, Zardari will know it could be him in the cross-hairs eventually. So Zardari will be eager for a deal quickly, but he'll just have to wait and see if he gets one.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com


Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

More From This Section

Signs of flexibility

Diehard believers have been too immersed in the PTI protest to let the ending go without expresing their disappointment

Confronting fear

The element of fear intensifies when society lives haphazardly.

Comments (26) Closed




Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Asi
Nov 25, 2011 08:31am
Can one think of Ms. Nirupama Rao being replaced by say Ms. Mayavati or Ms. Jayalalitha please?
Farhan
Nov 25, 2011 09:47am
Does any of them wear a wig?
Fawad
Nov 25, 2011 10:43am
Oh! Its good to know that Generals on both sides of the border are so much rank conscious (but devoid of rational approach towards political matters). The Indian General Sahib needs to understand who the Mayavati and JayLalita are "politically" in India. Then he must understand who Sherry Rehman has been in Pakistan. Then understand the difference in ranks of Indian Ambassador to the US viz a viz her being former foreign secretary of India. Then General Sahib should further relax his mind with a cup of coffee or tea. After all this, he should start comparison "exercise" again and favour us with his fresh comparison results.
vijay, chennai, Indi
Nov 25, 2011 10:49am
@Farhan Ha,Ha, Ha, Made my day
Irfan Mehr
Nov 25, 2011 10:53am
Would anyone with some self respect and little bit of integrity even think of serving Zardari league's government? So, after Haqqani who else so shameless left to be appointed by Mr.Z as the ambassador in USA.
Mujtaba Haider
Nov 25, 2011 11:03am
This further strengthens the fact that if the dream of civilian control is ever to be realised in Pakistan, the civilian leadership will have to work for the strengthening of the parliament. Once that is done, personalities wont matter and 'the boys' will have no leverage. They will be just like any other government institution, say like Railways.....
Ali Shah
Nov 25, 2011 01:06pm
A very well written piece. Cyril seems to be growing as a writer with the passage of time.
zafars
Nov 25, 2011 01:31pm
Could it be that the PPP did not want Ms Rahman jumping on the IK bandwagon?
Jawed Reza Sheikh
Nov 25, 2011 02:06pm
Very well written piece. Have to say Haqqani was aqlways saying funny things like when he joined the PPP after dumping Nawaz league in the 90's that he used to attend Zulfiqar bhutto's rallies after jumping over walls. Now he says he has relatives buried in military graveyards no body has asked him where and why is he saying silly things. Why is it that all our leaders, military men, diplomats, bureaucrats are so shallow and petty, childish mined. Good he is gone. Lets see what Sherry can do. Miltary about time should leave things to the civilians.
Raj
Nov 25, 2011 02:43pm
No, but they are no better than wigs.
Hamid
Nov 25, 2011 02:46pm
What is the comparison Gen?
Mo
Nov 25, 2011 02:59pm
Perhaps it's simple you can't have a traitor as ambassador . U Also have to dismiss Somone whilst the investigation is peding
Nabil Saleh
Nov 25, 2011 03:53pm
Perhaps the best thing I like about Cyril's works is the fact that it leaves the viewer to ponder ....in a good or bad way depends on the person reading it...I usually ending up thinking in a positive manner...same case with this article
VINOD
Nov 25, 2011 04:15pm
Thanks for such an informative and well knit article. It has cleared many doubts and makes the picture clear.There is long way to go before there is any light in the tunnel of democracy.
Mustafa Razavi
Nov 25, 2011 04:21pm
We have traitors in positions much higher than an ambassador.
Mustafa Razavi
Nov 25, 2011 04:29pm
The simple truth is that the reason the army can subvert democracy in Pakistan is that our democracy is without demo (people). Our People's party only had 10.5 million people vote for it. Nearly half of this vote comes from imprisoned harees in Sindh. The Sharif brothers could only muster 5.5 million votes in a country of 170 million people (at the time of elections).
shobhna
Nov 25, 2011 06:51pm
Fawad, our Generals in India havent given too much reason yet for us to be irked by them! obviously u feel differently about fauj :)
hamza khan
Nov 25, 2011 06:58pm
worry about your own country.
SYED
Nov 25, 2011 11:11pm
Why is the author so condescending toward the military, calling them 'Boys "? Even Americans who are so informal talk respectfully to their military and veterans.
jawad
Nov 26, 2011 12:58am
he does it on purpose, you may not realise..its a skill subconscious propaganda. selective amnesia and distorted history and allegiance foreigners
jalaluddin S. Hussai
Nov 26, 2011 07:08am
Simply put,the Pakistan army needs a drastic cut. The army establishment is a almost a state within a state. They do not seem to have learned any lesson from their humiliating surrender in 1971!
gfellow
Nov 26, 2011 07:16am
I am still amazed at the reasons for this letter to be sent by Haqqani. Can anybody please see the underlying reasons for this letter? Why was Mr. Haqqani so compelled to write this letter. All he was asking in the letter was help from USA to implement policies which in a normal democracy the parliament should be able do implement. The problem in Pakistan is that it is not a normal democracy. Pakistani Parliament is subservient to Pakistani Army. As long as that equation is not fixed by Pakistani people, memos like Haqqanis will keep showing up.
Umer Islam
Nov 26, 2011 04:09pm
well written
Umer Islam
Nov 26, 2011 04:12pm
very well written
KAKAR
Nov 28, 2011 01:32am
Politics is no different than the game of transitions.
Ismael K (usa)
Dec 02, 2011 02:55am
Why would Haqqani send a memo to US defence official without the approval of his boss - Zardari? If the claim by Mansoor Ijaz is bogus, why doesn't Haqqani sue him in US court for defamation ?