Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Call to Rediscover International Affairs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Call to Rediscover International Affairs

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

Pakistan, a hotbed of political activity and a harbor for terrorists, will be the subject of a forum at the University of North Florida next week.

Pakistani Ambassador H.E. Husain Haqqani will speak about managing transition in the nuclear-armed country. Haqqani was a adviser to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in late 2007 as the nation teetered on chaos.

Since then, he's been on the front line of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship amid a presidential changeover and as political winds blew power toward democracy in his home country.

Haqqani fielded several questions from the Times-Union this week.

U.S.-Pakistan relations were a large topic on the presidential campaign trail. How do you think President Obama has performed on this issue so far?

I'm an ambassador, not a pundit. I'm not going to grade an administration within 90 days of it coming into office. But President Obama understands the value of alliances and partnerships, without which terrorism cannot be defeated. The United States cannot defeat terrorism in a region without having the help of the international community.

The president made a recent statement about dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How are words like these seen by the Pakistani people?

The general mood in Pakistan has been quite negative toward the United States for quite some time. A lot of that had to do with the Bush administration's support of the dictator (Pervez Musharraf). At the moment, the views are mixed, but by and large the government is fully on board in understanding the need to eliminate terrorists and extremists. The most important thing is to have the people on your side. You don't just offer them missiles from the sky. You have to offer them a better future. Here are people who are very poor. They have very little hope. On top of that, you have a war going on. The people need hope. They need a future. The U.S. has the ability to provide that.

How do you think religious differences play a role in U.S.-Pakistan relations?

Those who try to present the conflict between terrorists and modern civilization that way do a disservice. …

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