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Baitullah targeted on Pakistan’s request: Husain Haqqani

November 08, 2013

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Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. — File photo
Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. — File photo

WASHINGTON: Although publicly Pakistan condemns drone strikes, privately it has often asked the United States to use the weapons to eliminate Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders, says Islamabad’s former ambassador in the US capital, Husain Haqqani.

Baitullah Mehsud, former TTP chief who was killed in a drone strike in 2009, was among those targeted following such requests, he says.

In his latest book “Magnificent Delusions,” Mr Haqqani also claims that in 2009 US President Barack Obama secretly offered to nudge India towards negotiations on Kashmir if Pakistan stopped supporting Lashkar-i-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban.

Mr Haqqani describes General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as “personally always agreeable to civilians” but claims that the Pakistan army “still remained a long way from accepting the right of civilians to debate, let alone define, national interest.”

The 350-page book provides an informed definition of Pakistan’s relations with the United States since the very beginning but fails to give much information about events that happened during Mr Haqqani’s tenure as ambassador, such as the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the Raymond Davis affair and the so-called Memogate scandal.

While talking about America’s drone policy, Mr Haqqani recalls that in the summer of 2008, then chairman US Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, travelled to Pakistan to demand action against several specific groups, including the Haqqani network.

In one of the meetings, “the Pakistan army put in its own request for US drones to target Baitullah Mehsud, whose Pakistan Taliban group threatened the Pakistani military directly.”

Following the request, “US officials added Pakistani Taliban to their list of targets … and a hellfire missile fired from an American Predator subsequently killed Mehsud.”

The memogate affair

In a brief description of the so-called Memogate scandal, Mr Haqqani does not name Mansoor Ejaz who wrote an op-ed article in The Financial Times on October 10, 2011 that led to the controversy.

Mr Ejaz wrote that Ambassador Haqqani had asked him to deliver a memo to Admiral Mullen, seeking US help in thwarting a military coup against then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr Haqqani writes that to prove his “fidelity to Pakistan,” he returned to Islamabad and resigned from his position as ambassador.

Several months after he was allowed to leave Pakistan, a commission of inquiry set up to probe the affair alleged that “I had acted against Pakistan’s interests and had authorised the memo. Pakistani hard-liners claimed I was an American agent of influence, with access in Washington’s power corridors,” Mr Haqqani writes.

Refuting allegations that he had insider contacts in the US, Mr Haqqani adds, “Were that true, there would have been no reason for me to seek help — certainly not from a disreputable businessman — to deliver a message to the US government.”

The former ambassador fears that the commission’s report “could lead to charges of treason, a conviction that carries the death penalty.”

Obama’s Kashmir offer

Mr Haqqani says that since the 1950s Pakistan had wanted an American role in South Asia but was not prepared for it when Mr Obama offered to play a role in resolving the Kashmir dispute.

“At least now the American president was saying that he would nudge the Indians toward those negotiations," says the former Pakistani ambassador while writing about a secret letter President Obama sent to then president Zardari, hand delivered by his then National Security Advisor Gen (retd) James Jones.

Mr Haqqani writes that in November 2009, Mr Jones travelled to Islamabad to hand deliver a letter written by Obama to Zardari.

In this November 11, 2009 letter, Mr Obama offered Pakistan to become America's "long-term strategic" partner. The letter "even hinted at addressing Pakistan's oft-stated desire for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute", he writes.

"President Obama wrote that the United States would tell countries of the region that 'the old ways of doing business are no longer acceptable'. He acknowledged that some countries — a reference to India — had used 'unresolved disputes to leave open bilateral wounds for years or decades. They must find ways to come together'," Mr Haqqani writes.

"But in an allusion to Pakistan, he (Mr Obama) said, 'Some countries have turned to proxy groups to do their fighting instead of choosing a path of peace and security. The tolerance or support of such proxies cannot continue'”.

Mr Obama wrote that he was “committed to working with your government to ensure the security of the Pakistani state and to address threats to your security in a constructive way”.

Mr Obama also “asked for cooperation in defeating Al Qaeda, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban and the assorted other militant groups that threaten security”.

The American president then wrote of his 'vision for South Asia', which involved 'new patterns of cooperation between and among India, Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter those who seek to create permanent tension and conflict on the subcontinent'," Mr Haqqani says.