Pakistan Democracy: An Interview with Husain Haqqani
Pakistan’s new democracy tackles complex domestic and foreign policy problems, sharing goals with the US and India
YaleGlobal, 15 October 2008
Nayan Chanda: Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan to the United States, Welcome to Yale. Husain Haqqani has been a very, very well known figure in Pakistan. He has worked for three prime ministers, and he has been at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and at Boston University, and now he's the ambassador.
Let me ask you first, having served three prime ministers, and with all the experience you have, how do you see the sixth experiment with democracy in Pakistan? How has it started off? How do you see the prospect – is the sixth time lucky?
Husain Haqqani: Well, Nayan, I think that the reason why Pakistan has not been able to build a democracy in the past is because of the invasions of its civil military elites. And I think this time around the international factors, the local factors, and even the perception of the elites in Pakistan is very different. If you go back in history, you will notice that Pakistan's first military coup was within 10 years of independence, primarily because the civil military elite felt that the complications of working out a democracy were not worth it, that nation-building could be more easily done under an authoritarian regime. That delusion lasted for quite a while, but it ended and we had our first elected civilian government in the 70's. After that, General [Mohammad] Zia ul-Haq entered the process, and his argument was that Pakistan needed to be an ideological state.
Now both of those arguments, that nation-building is better under authoritarianism, and that Pakistan is better off as an ideological state defined by a small group of theocrats or theocratically inclined elites, have both been proven to be mistakes. The third attempt at military intervention – serious attempt – was under General Musharraf, and he represented the notion that Pakistan can be better run by a technocratic elite. And we have seen that dream in tatters as well now. I see no argument in favor of authoritarianism left in Pakistan. Yes, there are some people who still say that we have to be an ideological state, that we can be much better accomplished under a benevolent dictator, yes, there are a few people who still say that maybe the government should be run by technocrats and not by politicians. But there is great consensus in Pakistan that to forge a Pakistani national identity, all Pakistani provinces, all Pakistani ethnic groups, need to feel that they are part of Pakistan, and the only way they will feel a part of Pakistan is through an elected democratic process. Second, the technocrats also sometimes get purely technocratic decisions right, but they are unable to bring the nation together. And lastly, when it comes to the external factors, when General Zia ul-Haq became Pakistan's president in a military uniform, many countries in the world had military governments. When Musharraf became Pakistan's ruler, he was one of two or three.
So now the international momentum is also against military dominated governments. I think all those factors have come together, but most important is the fact that this time the restoration of democracy has come at a very high price. We lost Benazir Bhutto who was much beloved, and in her assassination – it's very interesting,that Gallup did polling after that and showed that there has never been such unanimity in Pakistan in public opinion on grief. When her father was assassinated, some people didn't mind it. When General Zia-ul-Haq died, Pakistani society was divided between those who were fond of him and those who hated him. In Benazir Bhutto's assassination, it was as if a national dream had been killed. And most political leaders in Pakistan are reconciled to the fact that, yes, we will disagree with one another, but we will never help another military coup. So I think this time, there are many factors that will strengthen Pakistan's evolution as a democracy.
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