Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


The Washington Diary

Published Jan 02, 2012 01:43pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Deaths and departures had a greater impact on US-Pakistan relations in 2011 than any other development. One death that turned this relationship upside down was that of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who died in a US military raid on his compound in Abbottabad.

His discovery in a Pakistani garrison town was noted by all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Surveys conducted after the raid showed that most Americans no longer consider Pakistan an ally.

The US military action deep inside Pakistan, without informing Islamabad, hurt Pakistanis too. It enhanced anti-American feelings and made it difficult for Pakistani leaders to openly proclaim their alliance with Washington.

Other deaths that had an equally negative impact on US-Pakistan relations were those of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed in a Nato air raid last month. Their deaths further strained already tense relations between the two countries. Since the Nato raid, Pakistan has closed a US airbase in Balochistan and also has blocked Nato supply routes to Afghanistan.

The situation deteriorated so rapidly that, according to the US media, the Obama administration has given up the hope of rebuilding its ties with Pakistan and is ready to look for new alliances in the region.

And this entire process started with deaths too, of two Pakistanis killed by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore on Jan. 27, 2011. A third Pakistani citizen was also killed “in a hit and run” incident when a US security car sped down the wrong side of the road on its way to aid Davis. Later, the wife of one of the victims also committed suicide.

Then there are the deaths of drone victims that have continued to bedevil US-Pakistan ties ever since the air strikes began in 2004. Pakistanis acknowledge that the drones have killed dozens of dangerous terrorists but complain that they also have killed hundreds of civilians and want the Americans to stop the raids.

The Americans say that the Pakistanis exaggerate civilian deaths. They also say that Pakistani officials privately praise the raids and have never seriously asked them to stop the drones.

Another death that had a major impact on US-Pakistan relations is that of the fromer US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Although he died on Dec. 13, 2010, his successor Marc Grossman took charge of the office on Feb. 22, 2011. So it was only in 2011 that those who closely watch US diplomacy in Afghanistan and Pakistan were able to observe the difference between the two diplomats.

Mr Holbrooke was tall and heavy and had a high-pitched voice. As an envoy of the world’s only superpower, he was unusually powerful and he knew that. Mr Holbrooke also knew how to use his powers. He was not media shy and knew how to use briefings and news conferences to promote his views.

Mr Grossman is slim, quiet and media shy. Unlike, Mr Holbrooke, Mr Grossman maintains a low-profile.

Watching power players up-close is a sobering experience. They look menacingly powerful from a distance. But a closer look gives a different picture. They too have fears and vulnerabilities. Their strongest fear, which ordinary people do not have to suffer, is that of losing their powers.

A more sobering experience, however, is to see them exit the stage. They appear weak, fearful and ordinary, perhaps more than others. But Mr Holbrooke escaped this fate. Known for his ability to produce last minute surprises, he died as he lived.

On an overcast winter morning, Mr Holbrooke went to a State Department meeting. Walked out after complaining of chest pains for what many thought would be a routine check-up. And died. This saved him from suffering the ordinariness that all powerful people have to suffer once their powers are taken away.

“You’ve got to end this war in Afghanistan,” were his last words. But Afghanistan is still simmering, forcing President Barack Obama to assure his nation that he would end this war too, as he ended the war in Iraq.

“We ended one war and began to wind down another,” he told his nation in a message he recorded on Dec. 31, 2011, more than a year after Mr Holbrooke’s death.

Another person who left Washington in 2011— although very much alive and more in the news than he was as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US — is Husain Haqqani.

Mr Haqqani — may he have a long and successful life — was perhaps the most controversial Pakistani ambassador in Washington. Those who liked him — and this included some powerful US officials and lawmakers — believed that he was the best ever Pakistani envoy in the US. Those who disliked him — and they were mostly Pakistani-Americans but also included some US officials — never tired of criticising him.

People often joked that although Mr Haqqani was a good ambassador, it’s not clear whether he was the US ambassador to Pakistan or the Pakistani ambassador to the US.

*And what Mr Haqqani used to say in public gatherings — such as comparing Pakistan to a call girl which takes money but refuses to oblige — also contributed to his unpopularity. But this never worried Mr Haqqani who often said that he knew more US lawmakers than the entire Pakistani-American community does.

And when he was leaving, he too was upset. He was angry. He shouted and tried to charm too, to hide his fears. But he looked weak and vulnerable. And he looked ordinary, a comment he would probably dislike the most.


*In response to Anwar Iqbal's comment, former Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani stated the following:

“Anwar Iqbal erroneously attributed a quote from a US Congressman to me. It is inconceivable that I would say something derogatory about my own country.

The Congressman, a critic of US aid to Pakistan, has made the point repeatedly that he finds Pakistan's attitude on aid, to put it politely, unsavoury.

I may have cited the Congressman's unpleasant remark to explain the difficult task I faced in the US Congress as ambassador. Attributing the words to me is the kind of mistake that makes some people question the integrity and loyalty of their representatives.

As ambassador to the United States I served Pakistan diligently in a hostile environment- a fact recognised widely by the US media.

I wish that the Pakistani media had helped me in conveying the toughening American attitudes to the Pakistani people instead of misrepresenting my mention of negative US views as mine.”


The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

Comments (16) Closed

khalid sabir Jan 02, 2012 03:25pm
nice report
furqan ali khan Jan 02, 2012 06:14pm
very good and comprrehensive report is that....
Syed Jan 02, 2012 06:15pm
I agree with you Mr. Haqqani never represented Pakistan. He was securing Personal Interests and getting Paid from Tax Payers of Pakistan.
ARSHAD CHAUDHRY(JOUR Jan 02, 2012 09:49pm
Mr. anwar iqbal is a serious minded competent professional journalist, describe reallity in his report WD undoubtedly hussan haqqani was controversial ambassador in some quarter , on the other hand he was very effective among bipartison us policy and strategy group , in spite of unstable civi- military dynamic haqqani try his best for pakistan,s us relation on basis of bilateral interest but get hunted from billet, for instance IMAGE; The fortress. high up on the hill, the citadel become a symbol of all that is hatefull in power and authority. the citizens of the town betray you to first enemy that comes. cut off from communication and intelligence, the citadel falls with ease.
Syed P.Farooq Jan 03, 2012 12:53am
Nice article.Mr.Haqqani is an extremely selfish person,below ordinary.
Godaveri Jan 03, 2012 01:58am
What else is new when you own ambassador defined Pakistan as a call girl who just want to take money but not deliver the services.
Ghazala Kazi Jan 03, 2012 02:07am
This photo is out of context. We were just asking Mr. Hussian Haqqani to stop interacting with the audience who were getting roudy. He was insisting that he would respond to them. I now support him against ISI/military in the fake memo-complex deal.
Tulani Jan 03, 2012 02:40am
I agree-these events in 2011 changed the course of relationship between US and Pakistan. If Haqqani was not a good ambassador as you have mentioned, why didn't you bring it up before?? As a journalist based in Washington DC, you already knew what's going on. You kept all those information from readers.
M.Israr Qureshi Jan 03, 2012 03:01am
Great report sir .
Vijay Jan 03, 2012 04:46am
Mr.Haqqani was the best Pakistani Ambassador that I have seen in my 23 years of US life. Eventhough, I am an Indian, I admired Mr.Haqqani who spoke eloquently about Pakistan and it was evident he loved Pakistan more than any thin else. Those who accuse him have contributed to Pakistan;s loss
Tariq K Sami Jan 03, 2012 07:12am
Mr Haqqani famously said that to be able to look eyeball to eyeball (with your opponent) you have to be of equal height. Sure we know that. Agree that he is right in one way,certainly being of equal height helps but then makes me think that perhaps as a child he never stood up to school yard bullies. Some thing you carry with you all your life and he learned to overcome his weakness perhaps by pitching one bully against another. In this regard he did succeed to a certain extent in his life and career. But now it seems the Big bully is not interested in this play yard and there is more fun else where in the neighborhood and the local bully has poked his elbow in his sides. Time to stand up Mr Huqqani and look eyeball to eyeball. Something you never did in your life. It will make you feel good. Just look at Asma how cool she looks.
Rizwan Mehboob Jan 03, 2012 08:20am
extremely good written.
col (R) Rao Abid Ali Jan 03, 2012 11:17pm
The article have well analysed and witeen in a sequential manner.You really deserve appreciation on this account.
ParvezM Jan 04, 2012 07:15am
Anybody interested in Haqani should see his CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer. He was sweating and could not respond properly. He ended up in hospital after that. He needs to quizzed about that. He is not strong enough personality to hold his own and now he hides in PM house.
Mansoor Jan 04, 2012 12:33pm
what a myopic view steeped in bias and hate
Syeda Umema Hani Jan 04, 2012 09:32pm
At last we have become serious in demanding peace in our home land. Thanks God ! Allah better knows who is right and who is wrong but yes Mr. haqani seems innocent victim. "Allah reham farmaay !"