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Rex Tillerson with Pakistani PM Abbasi and army chief Bajwa in Islamabad
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Brandon

'US will no longer ignore Pakistan's militant support'

Atif Tauqeer Interview
October 25, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged Pakistan to up the fight against militant groups. Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, told DW that Pakistan could face dire consequence for non-compliance.


DW: What was the aim of Rex Tillerson's Pakistan visit on Tuesday? Will the Trump administration be able to achieve its objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Husain Haqqani: US Secretary of State Tillerson was in Islamabad to convey what President Donald Trump had already announced. The US now recognizes that its interests no longer converge with those of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the US to accept its primacy in Afghanistan and continue to receive economic and military aid from Washington while the US wants Pakistan to change its policies in relation to terrorism. I doubt one visit by the secretary of state will end a problem that has evolved over several years.

Read more: Rex Tillerson visits Afghanistan to discuss peace and the Taliban

Pakistan insists it has "sacrificed" a lot in the war against terror and yet the international community doesn't appreciate its role. Is it not true?

Husain Haqqani is the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States
Husain Haqqani: 'Pakistan has a credibility problem in Washington'Image: dapd

It is unfortunate that Pakistan has lost many soldiers and civilians since 9/11, but that does not change the fact that it is a result of Pakistan's wrong policy of supporting some terrorists while fighting others.

What impact will President Trump's Afghanistan policy have on Pakistan?

As Secretary of Defense General James Mattis has said, the Trump administration is giving Pakistan "one last chance" to align its policy on Afghanistan with that of Washington's. If Pakistan's support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network continues, it will result in consequences Pakistan has not faced before.

- Donald Trump's Afghanistan strategy raises the stakes

- Afghanistan talks without Taliban: What can they achieve?

How do you see the future of Pakistan-US relations?

The two countries are drifting further and further apart. To change that, Pakistan would need to act on its oft-stated policy of eliminating all jihadist groups inside Pakistan, even those that attack India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan is currently facing diplomatic isolation amid allegations about militant safe havens along the Afghan border. What does Pakistan need to do to end this isolation?

It is true that Pakistan is getting more and more isolated. Growing ties with Russia and China will not end that isolation. Pakistan must shut down jihadist safe havens not only to avoid isolation but also for the sake of its existence.

Read more: 'Greater SAARC' and Pakistan's regional isolation

Trump announces new Afghan strategy

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif recently said Islamabad was willing to work with the Trump administration. Does his statement indicate a policy shift?

Pakistan has a credibility problem in Washington. Similar promises have been made for years without result. Washington will no longer ignore Pakistan's support for groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network or Lashkar-e-Taiba. The policy of cherry-picking in relation to terrorist groups will no longer work.

Khawaja Asif recently said in a Twitter message that President Trump's harsh words against Pakistan were a result of your lobbying work in Washington. How would you respond to this allegation?

I guess he [Khawaja Asif] needs a scapegoat. Conspiracy theories and hatred for the US are a major part of Pakistan's political discourse. The Pakistani expectation that Washington would indefinitely provide economic and military assistance in return for partial support of US objectives is delusional.

Some analysts say the powerful Pakistani military played a key role in ousting former PM Nawaz Sharif. Do you agree with this assessment?

Sharif's removal from office reaffirms what I call the "iron law" of Pakistani politics: a politician can amass wealth and engage in corruption only as long as he does not challenge the ascendance of the country's powerful national security establishment. The military does not want civilians to assert their views in the conduct of foreign and national security policies. Sharif's desire to reshape policies on Afghanistan and India led to his clash with the security establishment.

- Pakistan's internal tensions run high despite Nawaz Sharif's removal

- Pakistan by-election: A 'referendum' against army's role in politics

Will Pakistan border fence stop militants?

How do you view the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?

Pakistan is moving from economic dependence on the US to economic dependence on China. China sees Pakistan as a secondary deterrent against India as it helps keep India tied down within South Asia.

CPEC will not resolve Pakistan's economic problems but will soon become an economic burden when Pakistan has to repay the high interest loans.

The Pakistani security establishment has also clamped down on any protests against CPEC in Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and other areas, with the arrest, disappearance and torture of activists.

Read more: Economic corridor - CPEC could turn Pakistan into China's 'client state'

Why has the Pakistani government not acted against US-designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed?

Because Pakistan's military establishment still considers terrorist groups that share its foreign policy goals in Afghanistan or against India as its "assets." They would rather mainstream Hafiz Saeed and pretend that he is just a politician with extreme views than acknowledge that terrorists deserve punishment.

Read more: Ignoring US pressure, Pakistan mainstreams jihadi groups

Husain Haqqani is the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States. He is currently a director at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

The interview was conducted by Atif Tauqeer.

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