The Washington Times spoke to Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani last week in downtown D.C. about talks the United States is having with not only Afghanistan but also the Taliban. Amb. Haqqani shed light on Pakistan’s role in these talks as well as how the United States is currently perceived in his country.
TWT: There are reports that the United States is meeting with Afghanistan and the Taliban. What role is Pakistan playing in those talks?
AMB. HAQQANI: The U.S. side and the Afghans have shared their reconciliation efforts. Pakistan has always been supportive of the Afghan led reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We would like to see a stable Afghanistan and anything that the United States and Afghanistan do to make it possible for Afghanistan to attain peace without, we war will be supportive.
TWT: How involved are you in those talks right now?
AMB. HAQQANI: Pakistan has heard from the Afghan side and from the American side as to what is going on. I wouldn’t say we are fully in the process, but we are certainly aware of the process.
TWT: Other than financial support, what value does the relationship with the United States have for Pakistan?
AMB. HAQQANI:Pakistan and the United States are the largest trading partners. The U.S. is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. The United States, of course, is a major supplier of sophisticated conventional weapons for Pakistan. There are almost a million people of Pakistan living in the United States and above all we are both democracies committed to strengthening democracy around the world.
TWT: New Al Qaeda leader Al Zawahiri has been reported to have been in your country several times. In light of Bin laden being found in the country, what can you tell us about him being in your country?
AMB. HAQQANI: If I had any knowledge on the subject, that would be part of the public domain.
TWT: How is the Obama administration and the United States perceived in your part of the world?
AMB. HAQQANI: The United States, of course, is currently not very popular in Pakistan and it is something that the U.S. has to work on to change public opinion and to ensure that the Pakistani people feel the benefits of the U.S. Pakistani partnership. It is a consistent phenomenon for several years that Pakistanis have not looked upon the United States as a reliable friend ever since the United States walked away from Pakistan in the aftermath of the war with the Soviets.
TWT: The relationship is frayed. What can be done to mend the relationship?
AMB. HAQQANI:I think the U.S. Pakistan relationship has some strengths and many challenges. We are working on the challenges. I think what is needed is for the Americans to show patience to the emerging democratic process in Pakistan and understand that all the concerns you have about public opinion attendance to the rule of law…etc. in the context of the United States should also be applied to Pakistan. You cannot have the attitude that Pakistan should just do anything on demand whereas the American side while delivering anything for Pakistan has to go through a process. Both countries have their respected processes. We need to show respect for each other’s processes. We need to show respect for each other’s people and then develop a partnership that is long term.
According to reports, since the 9/11 attacks, more than $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer money has been given to Pakistan and Capitol Hill lawmakers may very well take a second look at that number, if they believe the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is not on steady or acceptable ground.