Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani knocked media coverage of U.S.-Pakistani relations Wednesday and said his country seeks to become independent of American aid.
“Pakistan does not want to remain dependent on American assistance,” Haqqani told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
“A couple of billion dollars a year in aid is not what we really seek. What we seek is a level playing field in trade as we want to be at a point where we can have a self-sustaining economy.”
Haqqani made clear, however, that he was not calling for an end to U.S. aid, which he argued provided the U.S. an opportunity to improve its image among Pakistanis. The act of cutting off aid, or even threatening to cut off aid, he said, would have an “adverse impact that our relationship could do without.”
Throughout the hour-long breakfast, Haqqani took several shots at the media’s coverage of Pakistan and American-Pakistani relations.
“A part of a quote, however accurate it might be, is not always the story — the context is,” he said. “Or at least that is what my first editor told me when I started out at age 24 in journalism. He said, ‘Remember, the story is not what somebody says or the specific action.’ But then those were better days for journalism.”
Asked about the American raid to get Osama bin Laden, Haqqani chided the media for obsessing over an issue that U.S. and Pakistani officials had moved on from.
“That incident is now behind us. We have moved several months forward,” he said. “The thing I learned from the transition from journalist to political animal to diplomat is that there are things which are a question only for journalists. Everybody else has moved on.”
In September, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen accused the Haqqani terrorist network — which is based in Pakistan and is not related to the ambassador of the same name — of being a “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service which uses it for “exporting violence” to Afghanistan. Mullen even charged Pakistan’s intelligence service — the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI — of aiding the Haqqani network in its September attack on the American Embassy in Kabul. The Pakistani government strenuously denied the accusation. When asked why Mullen would make such an accusation or whether he believed Mullen was lying, Haqqani effusively praised the now-retired admiral while calling the issue complex.
“In complex situations, it is not that people lie. It is just that they are stating what is one part of a more complex reality,”he said.
“Admiral Mullen is a man of tremendous integrity, respected immensely in Pakistan. He has served his country very, very well. In fact, one of the most admirable chairmen [of the] Joint Chiefs that the United States has had and that remark of mine is not as ambassador but as a scholar of American history and recent political history.”
Haqqani said that he would leave it to Mullen in his memoirs to explain what compelled him to make the accusation.
“Now, what were the compulsions of his remarks and his choice of words? I would let him explain that in his memoirs,” he said.
The overarching message Haqqani attempted to convey to reporters was that despite the negative view Pakistanis hold of America and the negative view Americans hold of Pakistan, “there is no choice but for both of us to work together.”
“What we are trying to do is that we are swimming against our respective national types,” he said.