Did Pakistan’s Envoy In Washington Leak Official Communication To Embarrass His Country?

September 21, 2009

Ahmed Quraishi

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington Mr. Hussain Haqqani made a classified communication on July 28 with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and the ISI chief.  Six weeks later, on Sept. 12, as Pakistani President Asif Zardari prepared to leave for the United States for meetings with US officials, an Indian news affiliate with CNN broke the story that Ambassador Haqqani has complained about a secret blacklist of US journalists and NGO-types and strongly protested denying them visas to enter Pakistan.  Mr. Haqqani warned his government in the letter that this could hurt military hardware transfers and US aid pledges.  The stunning part of the story is that a classified internal communication to the Pakistani government found its way to CNN-IBN, an Indian television news network in New Delhi.

The leak is timed for maximum damage to Pakistan’s interests. A Pakistani source that has worked closely with the US government, and does not want to be named, described this ‘leak’ in this way:  “I feel so bad to read the CNN-IBN claim that, and I quote—‘Dated July 28, 2009, the letter [is] in CNN-IBN’s possession’.  What are we, a banana republic?” That is not all.  The unnamed analyst adds: “Also keep in mind that this (most likely a) “classified” letter (which also “bears the seal of the Pakistan Ambassador“) was written by our Ambassador to the Foreign Secretary (classified), Interior Secretary (classified) and DG, ISI (double classified!).”

So, the big question is: Who leaked the letter and its detailed contents?

All fingers point to Ambassador Husain Haqqani, a smooth political operator who used his Washington contacts to position himself as late Benazir Bhutto’s mediator with the Bush-Cheney administration.

The leaked letter puts Mr. Haqqani in a positive light before his friends inside the Washington establishment and refocuses the American policy debate on Pakistan’s military and intelligence, both until recently a regular target for the mainstream US media and think tanks.  Mr. Haqqani worked for both before he was appointed ambassador last year by the ruling party.

President Zardari should be seething with anger because the leak could damage his most prized foreign policy goal: the US aid pledge of US $ 7.5 billion, which is yet to pass Congress.  Efforts to scuttle it were informally launched on Aug. 30 when the New York Times ran a report quoting unnamed US sources accusing Pakistan of modifying old-tech Harpoon missiles, and implicitly warned this could delay the aid package.

There is little likelihood the letter leaked from the office of the Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, or DG ISI Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha.  The content of the letter is critical of both the government the spy agency.  The stunning accuracy of the quotes from the letter, made public by CNN-IBN, strengthens suspicions this could not have leaked without Ambasador Haqqani knowing something about it.

CNN-IBN’s letter attributed precise quotes to Mr. Haqqani.  Example: “In the case of Kate Brooks, we were informed that her visa should be revoked because she was on the Black List.  The embassy has not seen this list.  I would request a copy of the same.”

“Yes, the ‘diplomatic circles’, either in DC or Islamabad, can give you a strong hint [about the content],” said the analyst who worked with the US government, “or a highly reliable clue about a story, but not exact quotes from an internal, classified and official communication between two sensitive organizations of the country.”

Mr. Haqqani, US Media

In his ‘classified’ letter that is no longer classified, Ambassador Haqqani fails to recognize the prerogative of any government, including the government of Pakistan, to decide whom to grant entry permits.

The US government follows a similar policy.  The US embassy in Islamabad routinely denies visas to Pakistanis, including journalists and political activists.  In September 2008, US revoked the visa of a Pakistani human rights defender Amina Janjua because she is critical of US policies.  This drew criticism from Amnesty International.  Early 2009, the US embassy refused to grant entry to a single Pakistani mother whose son is in detention in the US for the past three years on terrorism charges without evidence and without conviction.  Pakistani visitors, including senior government officials, are put through excessive checking procedures on arrival in the US, in what could easily be described as harassment.  But this is a US government prerogative.  No US ambassador to Islamabad has written back to the US government warning of dire consequences for following such a policy, as Amb. Haqqani has done in his case.

Exercising discretion in granting entry visas to US journalists falls within the prerogative of the government of Pakistan.  The ISI, whom Mr. Haqqani tried to vilify to please a certain lobby in Washington, D.C., follows this policy as part of its prescribed duty according to the law to protect Pakistan’s national interest.

More importantly, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington must keep the following points in mind, which are legitimate reasons for Pakistan to pick and choose when granting visas to any US journalist:

1.       Did not the mainstream US media and think tanks run a campaign over the past two years to demonize Pakistan worldwide, create a false alarm about the country, its integrity and its nuclear assets, leading many Pakistanis to question why the media of our ally was spearheading this worldwide anti-Pakistanism?

2.      Was not much of this campaign an exclusive exercise by some parts of the US media?  No other country’s media engaged in such vilification of Pakistan at such a scale.  Considering how such organized demonization preceded the US invasion of Iraq, it is not difficult to conclude that this anti-Pakistan vilification campaign was not entirely innocent.

3.      Is he not aware of several instances where some US ‘researchers’ and ‘journalists’ violated the terms of their entry visas and ventured into sensitive parts of Pakistan in complete violation of visa guidelines and violation of their own given reasons for visiting Pakistan?  In one case, a US citizen who introduced himself as a researcher ended up entering a sensitive part of the country, spent time there, and then published what amounts to a news report in a news publication, in essence misleading Pakistani authorities about his real identity and intentions.

Despite the unprecedented access given to the US media by all levels of the Pakistani government, parts of the US media continue a determined campaign of vilification against Pakistan, publishing unsubstantiated, derogatory, and often politically-motivated propaganda pieces that undermine Pakistan’s regional and international interest and sow confusion within the country.

As the custodian of Pakistan’s interests in Washington, why does Ambassador Haqqani insist that Islamabad should not have the right to choose who should enjoy the hospitality of the Pakistani people, especially when the number of visas denied to US applicants is insignificant compared to the number granted?

And should Ambassador Haqqani not defend this legitimate Pakistani position instead of putting his own government under pressure on behalf of Washington’s interest where it is undue?

The original version of this column was published by The Nation of Lahore



  1. this guy haqani is a traitor and should be removed immediately !!

  2. thanks for providing informative news

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