Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State

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Ambassador Husain Haqqani's new book "Reimagining Pakistan" was released April 20th, 2018. Ambassador Haqqani was in New Delhi for the book's launch, and was interviewed by Ashlin Mathew of the National Herald. Below are some excerpts of the interview:

Why have you decided to reimagine Pakistan?

The idea of this book was born in a conversation many years ago, when Salman Rushdie said, “If nations are imagined communities, Pakistan is poorly imagined.” There were some valid criticisms about how Pakistan was created in a hurry. The generation before us had to suddenly stop being Indian and start being Pakistani; they needed an ideology. I am a Pakistani by birth, so I don’t need it.

So, I thought how I could contribute to the process of reimagining Pakistan. The good thing about imagination is, that what is poorly imagined can be reimagined. That is why I wrote this book. As a kind of thought-provoking, idea-generating exercise. One thing is certain that the next 70 years of Pakistan have to be different from the last 70 years of Pakistan for the people of Pakistan to be genuinely prosperous and happy.

Do you think that is feasible?

I think nations can change very quickly; quite often entrenched attitudes do not change easily. But when they change, they change quickly; we saw that in the case of Soviet Union, Japan after the Second World War and China under Deng Xiaoping. China is run by the Communist Party, but it is run like a capitalist country. At the end of it, it is all about political vision.

In my experience, not many people in Pakistan spend time developing vision. A lot of Pakistani politics is about day-to-day outmanoeuvring of each other. And it goes back to the earliest period of Pakistan. Very few people who took part in the Pakistan struggle wrote books before the Partition. Somebody should have. Nehru wrote, Gandhi wrote; in case of Pakistan, there was nothing – no vision. If no vision existed then, can we have some vision now? I think the time is ripe right now.

You say the problem was in the conception of Pakistan? How do you hope to change that narrative?

Basically, it is important for people of the country to hear the real history and not the contrived history. The fact is that it is time to recognise that a lot of things were left unsaid before partition. I’m not the only one who says this. Ayesha Jalal, the historian, points out that in the 1945-46 period, the Muslim League deliberately kept its programme vague so as to appeal to all kinds of people; the more religious ones and the secular ones. But, we can try to clear things up. There are other countries which have clarified things, re-envisioned themselves and moved forward. So, why can’t Pakistan?

The way for a nation to move forward is to hear alternative courses open to the country. Unless and until multiple ideas are put forward, you will never have genuine, democratic choice. If you go on saying there is only one view, then you are actually trapping your people into moving in one direction.

The whole interview by Ashlin Mathew was published by the National Herald on April 22nd, 2018, read it here.