Wishful Journalism (part 3): The Firing of Hussain Haqqani

Mar 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

President Zardari may be the most popular person for the “Wishful Journalists” to try to pray out of office, but he is not the only one. In part 2 of the Wishful Journalism series, we looked at the case of Rehman Malik. Today, we consider Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, and the journalists who have been wishing for his removal for almost two years.

Sajjad Malik recently wrote in Daily Times, “Rumours rife about Haqqani’s removal”:

Rumours about the removal of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani are once again making rounds in the Foreign Office, with several top diplomats pulling strings to step into his shoes.

Senior diplomatic sources said the rumours about possible removal of Haqqani had gained momentum amid reports that the US may not oppose his replacement because of his widespread unpopularity among khakis.

Malik’s article goes on to not name anyone who actually says Haqqani is being removed. But this is an old line. Last November, Anjum Niaz wrote that the Army was going to “pull the plug on our leaders” in which she predicted the end of the Zardari government and the imminent firing of Haqqani from his post. Obviously, this never happened.

Anjum Niaz went on to suggest that Haqqani could not return to Pakistan because he would be in danger if he returned to his homeland.

“The [Pakistani] military clearly has decided that it would like to have him removed,” says The Boston Globe, citing a congressional aide not authorised to speak to the media. “If he returned home, friends say, his safety could be threatened,” reports the Globe. “Haqqani hasn’t returned to Islamabad for eight months.”

Actually, Haqqani was just in Pakistan where he met with the President and Gen. Kayani to discuss national security matters.

The president said the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory undermined national consensus on the war against terrorism.

Zardari expressed these views during a meeting with US National Security Adviser General James Jones – accompanied by US Ambassador to Islamabad Anne W Patterson and other US officials – who called on him at the Presidency.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani were also present at the meeting.

Anjum Niaz appears to have very unreliable sources, if they even exist.

As for the latest rumours of his imminent removal, these all appear to have started from the same source: an article in The Nation by Kaswar Klasra. Of course, this article also contains no sources, and appears to be based only on speculation and wishful thinking. What is missing from Klasra’s article, in fact, are statements from the Foreign Office or the Embassy. Any proper reporter worth his weight in salt would call the official offices to inquire about these rumours. I don’t know if Klasra took the time to call anyone, but he certainly did not report what answers he was given if he did.

I decided to check for myself to see if there is any truth to these rumours, so I called the Foreign Office and I called the Embassy in Washington. I was told by both offices that there was no plan to remove Mr. Haqqani, and that the rumours were just that — rumours.

But at this point, rumours of Haqqani being removed are a little bit ridiculous. After all, he has almost completed his entire appointment of two years, and has even served longer than other previous Ambassadors to the USA:

Ashraf Qazi served as Ambassador to the USA from 19 August 2002 to 6 August 2004. General (Retd) Jehangir Karamat served as Ambassador from 17 November 2004 to 3 June 2006. Maj. Gen (Retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani served from 5 June 2006 to 9 May 2008.

Hussain Haqqani began his term as Ambassador on 26 May 2008. He has been in this office for almost his entire two year appointment, despite the rather constant predictions of his removal.

Here, I will make some predictions of my own. Gen. Kayani is scheduled to retire in November. When he retires from his post, nobody will say that he was forced out. He will have served his appointment and that will be that. These same reporters,  even if Haqqani completes his appointment, will say that he is being forced out. There will likely be some unnamed ‘sources’ that say that he was not offered an extension because he is viewed unfavorably. But is there any evidence for this? Looking at history, as we did above, the answer is no.

It is not for this blog to take any position on Hussain Haqqani and whether he should be Ambassador, or if he should be offered an extension of his appointment. There are plenty of people who have their own opinions about his performance, and they are entitled to whatever opinion they want. But Haqqani has served as Ambassador for almost his entire term, and longer than previous Ambassadors. Please, leave the wishful thinking to drawing rooms and verandas and publish proper facts in the news.

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