The Nation Mischaracterises, Misquotes Ambassador’s Speech at NDU

May 26th, 2011 | By | Category: The Nation

The Nation logoOn 18 May, Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Husain Haqqani arrived at National Defence University Islamabad to speak to students about foreign policy and Pak-US relations. A few days later, on 21 May, The Nation published an article titled ‘NDU audiences response surprises Haqqani’. This article, based on “sources privy to this lecture” described the Ambassador’s speech as following:

According to them, during the questions and answers session in post lecture time, Ambassador Haqqani stopped to ask the audience, “How many of you think that India is Pakistan’s enemy number one?” Reportedly, less than half of the audience raised hands in response. The insiders quote Ambassador Haqqani as rephrasing this question with slight replacements. “How many of you think that Pakistan’s enemy number one comes from within?” This time, some of the audience raised hands.

Perhaps disappointed with these ‘unsatisfactory’ answers, the ‘curious’ envoy, made a hat-trick of his queries by repeating the same question in the same tone with a final ‘modification’. “How many of you think that the US is Pakistan’s enemy number one?” he asked.

The ambassador was shell-shocked to see the ‘overwhelming’ response coming from the audiences in a reflection of anti-US sentiment.

Majority of the audiences, this time, raised hands in response to what Haqqani has asked. Stunned for a few moments, the speechless envoy than gathered his nerve to make this brief utterance. “Then I’m afraid you have lost already. The US will do whatever it wants to and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said to wind up the lecture.

Pakistan Media Watch has obtained video footage of the lecture from National Defence University Islamabad that proves this report is false and possibly defamatory.

After viewing the video of the lecture, it is clear that The Nation report is a mischaracteristion not only of the Ambassador’s question his reaction to the response also, but also misquotes his statement following the audience answer.

Ambassador Haqqani never said, “The US will do whatever it wants to and there’s nothing you can do about it”. Rather he said clearly that “If [the biggest threat to Pakistan’s security] really comes from the United States then we’ve already lost, Ladies and Gentlemen, because you can’t beat the United States in a military confrontation and that is the reality which we have to accept whatever our emotions. Because, let us be honest, we do not have the means to take on the one military power in the world that spends more on defense technology than the next 20 nations in the world. So that is where I think we sometimes end up having what I call ’emotional discussion’. I see it on Pakistani television all the time”.

The Ambassador then went on to continue speaking for the next 7 or 8 more minutes about the need to embrace a logical, reality based foreign policy to advance Pakistan’s interests and to focus on education and growing Pakistan’s economy as a realistic way to secure Pakistan’s interests for the future. After continuing his speech for this time, he then turned over the microphone and took questions from the audience as part of a longer discussion.

Nowhere in the video does one see a “shell-shocked” or “speechless” Ambassador. Also, he does not wind up his lecture following this question. Rather, the video clearly shows that the exchange was part of a broader, friendly discussion with NDU students about how foreign policy and specifically Pak-US relations should be considered with logic and reason and not emotions driving the debate.

Now that the facts are public, will The Nation publish a correction?

UPDATE

Dear reader @shahpak78 correctly notes that the report by The Nation may have violated NDU’s non-attribution policy which is stated:

“Presentations by guest speakers, seminar leaders, and panelists constitute an important part of University curricula. So that these guests, as well as faculty and other University officials, may speak candidly, the University offers its assurance that their presentations at the Colleges, or before other NDU-sponsored audiences, will be held in strict confidence. This assurance derives from a policy of non-attribution that is morally binding on all who attend: without the express permission of the speaker, nothing he or she says will be attributed to that speaker directly or indirectly in the presence of anyone who was not authorized to attend the lecture or presentation.”

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