Pakistan Confident Of Victory Over Taliban
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. A top Pakistani diplomat says his country is determined to win a war within its borders. Husain Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. The United States is closely following the fight against Pakistan's Taliban.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: Will we kill everyone who's associated with the Taliban? No. We would like those ordinary people who have been swept up in the Taliban movement in the villages to be able to resume a normal life. But all those who are engaged in terrorism will be fought and defeated.
MONTAGNE: Husain Haqqani has been a politician, a scholar and now is in his second tour as a diplomat.
INSKEEP: He came by our studios at a busy time. Pakistan's army is attacking militants north of the capital, and the ambassador insists the army has learned from past failures.
HAQQANI: We have an effective military strategy this time. We will not allow civilians to become human shields, so we have encouraged and asked the civilians to leave areas of fighting. It creates a problem of internally displaced persons. There are 1.4...
INSKEEP: More than a million.
HAQQANI: 1.4 million. We are looking for international support for their relief, and we can rehabilitate them in a Taliban-free Swat and a Taliban-free North-West Frontier Province.
INSKEEP: Oh, but think about the challenge here. Suppose that the military is successful, that they are able to claim victory over the vast majority of Taliban fighters. Then you have more than a million - 1.4 million people by your count now - on the move. Don't you create a lot of potential instability in many parts of the country?
HAQQANI: There is always potential for instability, but if the internally displaced persons are looked after - hopefully there will be a greater flow of resources from the international community. Many NGOs, they will come in. And when they come in, they will be able to help these people get tide over for the moment, and it's not very difficult for them to go back to their villages once the Taliban have been cleared out.
INSKEEP: Time Magazine is reporting on militant groups that see an opportunity here to reach out and aid people who are on the move - displaced people.
HAQQANI: The important thing is to make sure that the aid effort from the secular international community and from Pakistan's government outweighs the aid effort of Islamic groups. They're not going to disappear. Look, there will always be Islamic political movements in the Muslim world.
INSKEEP: As I'm sure you're well aware, the United States government is debating whether to give Pakistan $7.5 billion in civilian aid. Many members of the U.S. Senate, other lawmakers have asked the question: How could we possibly trust Pakistan's government, given the history of corruption with billions of additional dollars? And even Richard Lugar, who co-sponsors the measure, says it's a gamble to give the money.
HAQQANI: That said, let us look at what the difference is. In the past, money was given to dictatorial regimes which were not accountable to their own people. Second, it was primarily given for security. American assistance did not change the lives of people. If it had, every child who goes to a school built by the United States or with United States money is likely to be more favorably disposed to the United States.
INSKEEP: Here's another question that Americans were asking this week, and it might be phrased like this: If the United States were to give aid to Pakistan's government for any purpose, is that just going to free up money that Pakistan will use to expand its nuclear program?
HAQQANI: Certainly not, and I think the American government knows that Pakistan maintains a limited nuclear deterrence to deter a massive conventional attack from a much larger neighbor. The elected government in Pakistan right now is working very hard at improving relations with India. So Pakistan does not intend to use our nuclear weapons for any kind of influence in the region beyond saving ourselves and protecting ourselves.
INSKEEP: Pakistan's ambassador knows the nuclear program is a sensitive subject right now. Before sending more American money, some lawmakers in the U.S. want to know how Pakistan spends its own money. President Obama's top Military Advisor, Admiral Mike Mullen, confirmed that Pakistan is increasing its nuclear program. Ambassador Husain Haqqani phrases it differently.
HAQQANI: I think that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is being maintained. Pakistan is not expanding its nuclear arsenal in any way that can be construed as threatening to anyone else.
INSKEEP: Some qualifiers there: Are you willing just to say Pakistan is not expanding its nuclear arsenal, which is what Mike Wallace said?
HAQQANI: To tell you the absolute truth, there is no way for me to know the answer to such a technical question. What is expansion of the nuclear arsenal?
INSKEEP: More bombs than last year.
HAQQANI: I mean, have they put a new shell on a new bomb? I don't know if they did something yesterday because they were replenishing something. So I'm not going to be dishonest in answering the question. All I'm saying is our official position is that we are not expanding our nuclear arsenal beyond minimum nuclear deterrence.
INSKEEP: Ambassador Haqqani, I've got in my hands here a book that you wrote: "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." A fascinating...
HAQQANI: A good book, even if I say so myself.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: Well, we don't have to go much further than the subtitle, "Between Mosque and Military," to see a dilemma that Pakistan has faced. You name what had been seen the two strongest institutions, maybe the only two strong institutions in Pakistan throughout its history.
HAQQANI: I think that the solution is to build other institutions: parliament, media, academia, think tanks, civil society, judiciary. Most Pakistanis agree we need to build other institutions, and we are all struggling to do that. We saw that during the campaign to restore Pakistan's chief justice. Those are the kind of debates that will help Pakistan build other institutions, and we will get there.
INSKEEP: Is there some kind of clock ticking, though, for this civilian government? You've only got so much time. It might be a year. It might be five years before time runs out and either the mosque or the military comes in.
HAQQANI: So, I think that with all the flaws and the weaknesses - and I'm not one to deny that there will be weaknesses. Here are politicians who have come into power after years in prison or exile. They are not necessarily trained in the art of governance (unintelligible). They're learning on the job. But they will learn, and the system in itself will endure because democracy is definitely the best political system around. And even with its weaknesses, it is much better than dictatorship.
INSKEEP: Hussein Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. Thanks for coming by.
HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.