ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A bill is headed to President Obama's desk, which provides $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years. The House approved it today, the Senate last week.
The measure is aimed at fighting extremism by providing funds for development projects, such as schools, roads and hospitals. But it comes with conditions, and for that reason, it's drawn a lot of criticism in Pakistan.
Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, says the aid package sends a positive message to his country.
Mr. HUSAIN HAQQANI (Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States): I think that $7.5 billion over five years shows American commitment to the Pakistani people, that the United States is not going to cut and run from Pakistan as Pakistanis believe it did in the past.
SIEGEL: This package requires the U.S. secretary of State to certify every six months that Pakistan is continuing its efforts to try to defeat and dismantle al-Qaida, the Taliban, other similar groups; that it closes terrorist camps, that it prevents attacks into neighboring countries by extremist or terrorist groups.
Is it fair, in light of recent history, for the U.S. to insist on those conditions and such frequent recertification?
Mr. HAQQANI: Well, I think that frequent recertification and too much conditionality is never good because it reflects suspicion. But I understand the concerns of Congress, but at the same time, I also understand the concerns of my countrymen and why they are so upset about the conditions.
In effect, once we have built the relationship of trust that we are seeking to build between the United States and Pakistan, many of these concerns on both sides, it'll go away. It's a bit like nurturing a relationship, which in the past has been transactional and has never been nurtured in this manner.
SIEGEL: The New York Times has a lead story today on its front page about the network that launched the notorious attack on Mumbai 10 months ago. In the words of The Times story, that network is, and I quote, "largely intact and determined to strike India again." If the conditions in Kerry-Lugar are completely in keeping with Pakistan's interest, why is that still intact? Why is the (unintelligible)?
Mr. HAQQANI: Well, first of all, Pakistan is a nation of 175 million people. We do have a lot of people who are angry and unhappy. In the past, unfortunately, there was a tendency of our past leaders and rulers to think that the regional situation needed for the government to tread lightly in dealing with such groups.
Now, the government of Pakistan is determined to make sure that no militant or terrorist group that has been identified as such by the United Nations, by our allies such as the United States, can operate out of Pakistan. But rooting them out will take time. We will eliminate them; it's just that it won't happen overnight.
SIEGEL: For whatever reasons - historic and contemporary - there are a lot of Americans and certainly a lot of people around Washington now who will say that in the fight today against al-Qaida and the Taliban, they're puzzled by Pakistan's role. Vocally, formally, you're more on the fight than we are. You've lost more of your leaders to these people than Americans have.
When it comes down to it, people are puzzled - how could groups thrive on Pakistani soil without the Pakistani government going after them, pushing them out and defeating them?
Mr. HAQQANI: Well, Pakistan over the years, of course, has not been able to maintain good police capacity. Our intelligence capacities have been overstretched. Our military has been overstretched. It's only a question of rebuilding the state apparatus. The most important thing is that in the last 14 months we have apprehended and killed more terrorists in Pakistan than was done in the preceding seven years.
SIEGEL: But do you believe that at its root it's a struggle that can be won by an army and by good police work? Or is there a more basic challenge somehow to head off this rather substantial movement in your country?
Mr. HAQQANI: It's a multidimensional challenge. Of course there's a military component. Of course there's a police component and there's an intelligence component. But it's also a question of making sure that young people in Pakistan do not become recruits to extremist ideology.
Look, a young man who's looking forward to a college education and a good job is less likely to become a suicide bomber, especially if he does not have just the simple choice of falling for extremist ideology. There has to be an alternative and the alternative in Pakistan is democracy and opportunity.
SIEGEL: Yeah. Although, actually, in the case of al-Qaida and the case of the World Trade Center attacks, Americans were rather surprised to find people who were educated, who were (unintelligible).
Mr. HAQQANI: Absolutely, and that does happen. It's not a silver bullet, so that's why I always say it's one part of the equation. Another is fighting the terrorist and extremist ideology.
SIEGEL: Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan, thank you very much for talking with us today.
Mr. HAQQANI: Pleasure talking to you.