Husain Haqqani or Hussain Haqqani (Urdu: حسین حقّانی) (born July 1, 1956) is the former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, appointed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in April 2008, marking a return to government service after being exiled in 1999 following criticisms against the government of then-President Pervez Musharraf. Haqqani resigned on November 22, 2011. Prior to serving as Ambassador to the US, Haqqani held several high-ranking positions including as adviser to three former Pakistani prime ministers and as envoy to Sri Lanka. In the private sector, Haqqani has been a prominent journalist, scholar and educator. He is currently a Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and co-editor of Hudson’s signature journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. Haqqani is also the Director of the Center of International Relations and a Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University.
Early life, personal and family
Haqqani was born in Karachi where he was raised in a conservative but educated middle-class family in Malir outside Karachi.
He began his interest in journalism while in high school. In 1973 he joined Karachi University. He would frequently visit the library at the U.S. consulate, reading volumes of American history. Later, when students wanted to attack the consulate as part of a protest against the United States, Haqqani refused. He received a B.A. degree with distinction in 1977 and an M.A. degree with distinction in international relations in 1980 from the University of Karachi. In March 2000, he married Farahnaz Ispahani, a former producer at CNN and MSNBC, member of the National Assembly (Pakistan), and the granddaughter of Mirza Abol Hassan Ispahani, Pakistan’s first ambassador to Washington. The Pakistan Ambassador’s residence in Washington was purchased and donated by her grandfather. He has lived in the United States since 2002, and is a fan of Thomas Jefferson and the Boston Red Sox.
Government and political career
Interest in Political Islam
Husain Haqqani started his political career at the University of Karachi, where he became President of Karachi University Students Union  which was dominated by the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. In the era of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, he worked as a journalist, including for the state broadcaster Pakistan Television during the general elections of 1985.
In an article in the Asian Wall Street Journal Haqqani explained his association with Islamists as a student in an article in the Asian Wall Street Journal. “Over the last three decades, I have alternated between being attracted to and repulsed by political Islam. Growing up in Pakistan, I could not fail to notice poverty and injustice in the world around me. In the manner of human beings everywhere, I judged my universe and sought answers through the values imparted by the religion in which my parents raised me.” He wrote that the 1979 attack by students on the US embassy in Islamabad soon after the Iranian revolution, the violence of the Iranian revolution itself and his travels abroad resulted in his questioning his basic assumptions. “There were nice people all over the world. They followed different religions than mine, and some were even without religion. But it was clear that no community could be said to have a monopoly over greed or, for that matter, over morality. Charity had always been described to me as a Muslim virtue. But I met many non-Muslims who were just as devoted to charity. While there were decadent individuals in the West, there were also many God-fearing ones. Obviously, the world was a little more complex than I had been brought up to believe”, he explained.
Haqqani further wrote: “Looking back today, I realize that I have been uncomfortable with political Islam since the days of my exposure to the Afghan war. Initially, it was the fights among resistance leaders. After the simple innocence of ordinary Afghans willing to die for God and country, the spectacle of their leaders squabbling over money and power was a disturbing sight. Men truly seeking redemption in the hereafter don’t fight each other over the distribution of weapons and worldly wealth”. According to him, “Islamic political movements seem less concerned with reviving religious values and morality, and the emphasis on social service as a means of redemption has disappeared. Political Islam is more about politics than anything else. Instead of making better Muslims, it is teaching young men to become more violent, less tolerant. I am not able to demonize the West, or to accept violence and harshness as justifiable means of settling historical scores.”
Referring to his humble beginnings and how he had been brought into the Islamist fold as a child while trying to get his neighborhood sewers fixed, Haqqani concluded: “I have learnt through my own journey that there are many innocent people who start along the road of political Islam while trying to clear clogged drains or fixing broken sewers. My older Islamist friend, the accountant, to do just that. Both of us are still committed to our faith and practice it to the best of our ability. I don’t know what he thinks now. But I feel I can work on the neighborhood drains and sewers — and even more significant tasks — without killing anyone or getting anyone killed. In all these years, I have not picked up a weapon, nor will I. My faith tells me that Allah’s mercy will definitely still be with me.”
At the time of his appointment as ambassador on April 3, 2008, Haqqani was viewed as a respected figure on the world stage, coming to the post well versed in the ways of diplomacy and Washington. He succeeded Mahmud Ali Durrani, who became national security adviser to the Gillani government.
Prior to his appointment, Haqqani had been critical of the Musharraf regime and past U.S. support to Pakistan’s military. In 2007, he told the U.S. Congress that Musharraf’s decision to remove Pakistan’s chief justice was a grave mistake.
As ambassador, Haqqani charted a course of increasing predictability in U.S.-Pakistani relations. He links security issues to economic ones, and has commented that the lack of a strategic foundation has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations since Pakistan’s inception. “The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has gone up and down like a yoyo,” according to Haqqani, “and the reason why…is because U.S. strategic planners have never looked upon Pakistan in its own right”.
He terms the historical bilateral relationship as “erratic”, citing U.S. engagement from the early Cold War to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the U.S. government backed Afghan fighters by funneling support through the Pakistani channels. He is skeptical that completely stabilizing the relationship can be accomplished during the tenure of one ambassador, but seeks to “lay the foundations of a relationship that is multidimensional: political, military, cultural, economic and social”.
He believes that—in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—a consensus exists in Pakistan that, to forge a stronger national identity, Pakistani provinces and ethnic groups must continue to unify through democratic processes, but unfortunately democracy in its true sense does not exist at all.
Haqqani has been a campaign worker, senior adviser, ambassador, spokesperson and scholar. In 1988, he worked in the political campaign for an alliance led by Nawaz Sharif; In 1990, he was special assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; from 1990–92, he was special assistant and spokesman for Prime Minister Sharif; from 1992–93, he became one of Pakistan’s youngest ambassadors, serving in Sri Lanka; from 1993–95, he was spokesman to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; from 1995–96, he was chairman of the House Building Finance Corporation. From 2004-08, Haqqani was an associate professor for international relations at Boston University. In addition, he co-chaired the Project on Islam and Democracy at the Hudson Institute in Washington, and was co-editor of the international scholarly journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. Among his numerous writing credits are “Pakistan Between Mosque and Military” for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; “Islam’s Medieval Outposts” for the journal Foreign Policy, and “The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future” for Washington Quarterly.
Main article: Memogate (Pakistan)
On 17 November 2011, American businessman Mansoor Ijaz publicly accused Husain Haqqani of involvement with a secret memo to Admiral Michael Mullen asking for US intervention in changing Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. However, the Pakistani Government has denied any high treason charges against him. Ambassador Haqqani denied the accusation, and offered to resign saying, “I do not want this nonissue of an insignificant memo written by a private individual and not considered credible by its lone recipient to undermine democracy.”
On 22 November 2011, Ambassador Haqqani officially resigned saying that “Pakistan and Pakistan’s democracy are far more important than any artificially created crisis over an insignificant memo written by a self-centred businessman. I have served Pakistan and Pakistani democracy to the best of my ability and will continue to do so.” Haqqani’s wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, stated that she and her husband are exploring lawsuits against Mansoor Ijaz in US and Pakistani courts. In June 2012, a three-member judicial commission released a report concluding that the memo had been written on instruction by Haqqani, and that, in doing so, the Ambassador was not loyal to Pakistan and had sought to undermine the security of the country’s nuclear assets, the armed forces, the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Constitution. Haqqani criticized the judicial commission as one-sided and noted that the commission was not a court of law with the authority to establish guilt or innocence. The judicial commission had previously been criticized by lawyers and human rights advocates as acting under the influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.
Wall Street Journal described Haqqani as “a diplomat of distinction” and said after his resignation over Memogate that “Pakistan loses an able representative in Husain Haqqani.” In an editorial the paper also questioned the reasonableness of the claims that resulted in Haqqani’s resignation: “it seems preposterous that he would need a go-between to reach Adm. Mullen or anyone else in Washington. But it says something about Pakistani politics that its most capable diplomat has been cashiered for attempting to uphold civilian and constitutional rule against a military that has repeatedly subverted it. If the claims at the heart of what the Pakistani media call “Memogate” are false, Mr. Haqqani has been defamed. If they’re true, he’s a patriot.”
The Washington Post also expressed support for Haqqani in an editorial, expressing concerns for his safety and “hoping that Mr. Haqqani’s side wins — or at least survives.”
The Wall Street Journal also described Haqqani as “a hostage” while he was in Pakistan and published an interview with him from the Prime Minister’s house in which he outlined why he was hated by Pakistan’s intelligence services and Jihadi groups. According to the Journal article: “There are forces in Pakistan that want us to live in fear—fear of external and internal enemies.” So warns Husain Haqqani, until November Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington and now a de facto prisoner of the Pakistani generals whose ire he has provoked. “But just as the KGB and the Stasi did not succeed in suppressing the spirit of the Soviet and East German people, these forces won’t succeed in Pakistan in the long run, either.
Former Newsweek Senior Editor Michel Hirsh, writing in The Atlantic, described Haqqani as “The Last Friendly Pakistani” towards the U.S. According to Hirsh, “Husain Haqqani was at once the benign face of Pakistan’s U.S.-friendly civilian government and one of his country’s most trenchant critics when it came to the enduring power of the Pakistani military…… Haqqani’s departure marks yet another sharp downturn in the badly deteriorating alliance between Washington and Islamabad, as well as the latest severe blow to the tottering government of Haqqani’s patron, the deeply unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari. But more than that, his resignation could signal the beginning of a new and far more distant relationship between two countries whose interests now only occasionally overlap, a relationship that resembles a kind of cold war.”
Jeffrey Goldberg, also of The Atlantic, who had earlier praised Haqqani as “The Hardest Working Man in Washington,” wrote on his resignation: “It comes as no surprise that the Pakistani army and its intelligence branch, the ISI, have forced Husain Haqqani to resign as ambassador to the U.S. Why would they want someone who effectively advocates for American aid to Pakistan to continue in his post? This is a self-destructive move by an army elite that specializes in self-destruction. In the short term, army leaders have solidified their image among the Pakistani elite as the untouchable decision-makers in every matter that counts. In the long run, their inability to brook dissent, or self-criticism, means that their institution — and therefore Pakistan itself — will continue to slowly rot.”
In another piece, Goldberg quoted Haqqani as saying, “I am a Pakistani. I will die a Pakistani.”
In a column for Bloomberg News, Goldberg wrote: “Haqqani (no relation to the Haqqanis of terrorism fame) has long been known as a pro-democracy activist and a critic of the army’s meddling in Pakistan’s civilian affairs. As a scholar (he was a professor at Boston University before taking his current post), he wrote the definitive book on the Pakistani military’s unholy alliance with jihadists, ‘Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military.’ Haqqani was appointed ambassador to the U.S. in 2008 over the objections of the ISI, which has been gunning for him ever since. This is an absurd campaign for the ISI to wage: Haqqani is one of the few Pakistani officials who have any credibility in Washington, and he has carried water for the ISI numerous times. Self-destructive behavior, however, is also an ISI specialty.”
British commentator Simon Tisdall observed in The Guardian, “Husain Haqqani was a fleet-footed, fast-talking diplomatic operator whose savvy style was well suited to Barack Obama’s Washington. His sudden downfall as Pakistan’s ambassador has little to do with the American establishment – despite severe bilateral tensions – and everything to do with the machiavellian machinations and internecine intrigues that are the abiding passion of Islamabad’s political and military elites. That Haqqani survived as long as he did was a tribute to his ability to bridge the divide between Pakistan’s several, often conflicted power centres.” Calling Haqqani “an instinctive ally of the west,” Tisdall attributed Memogate to the ambassador’s difficult relationship with Pakistan intelligence service. “Haqqani’s personal view of the murky and controversial links between the military and Islamists, both in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, made him an object of suspicion if not hostility for senior spooks in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the principal spy agency, and army officers involved in Pakistan’s endless covert double game with Taliban groups. This simmering vendetta forms the backdrop to his demise.”
Haqqani worked as a full-time journalist from 1980-88. He covered the war in Afghanistan for Voice of America radio; served as the Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review; and worked in Hong Kong as the East Asian correspondent for the London-based Arabia: the Islamic World Review.
Since that time, he has steadily contributed op-eds and articles to dozens of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Boston Globe, Financial Times in London, International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, Toronto Globe and Mail, Gulf News and Le Monde. He has also been a syndicated columnist for the Indian Express and Daily Star in Bangladesh; he has appeared regularly on television news shows for BBC, CNN, NBC, PBS, CBS and ABC, commenting on Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asian affairs, Islamic politics and radicalism.