Ambassador Haqqani Quits

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan’s envoy to U.S. quits in coup memo controversy

By Chris Allbritton

Husain_Haqqani
Husain Haqqani

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States resigned on Tuesday, days after a Pakistani-American businessman said the envoy was behind a controversial memo that accused the Pakistani military of plotting a coup in May.

Envoy Husain Haqqani said in a Twitter message that he had sent his resignation to the prime minister. State television said his resignation had been accepted.

“I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance,” Haqqani said on Twitter. “Will focus energies on that.”

Haqqani became entangled in controversy after the appearance of a column in the Financial Times on Oct 10.

In the column, businessman Mansoor Ijaz said a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for U.S. help to stave off a military coup in the days after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Haqqani.

No evidence has emerged that the military was plotting a coup and Haqqani denies involvement in the memo.

“I still maintain that I did not conceive, write or distribute the memo,” Haqqani told Reuters shortly after he resigned. “This is not about the memo,” he continued. “This is about bigger things.”

He declined to comment further.

Haqqani’s resignation follows a meeting with Pakistan President Asif Zardari, the nation’s powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and its intelligence head Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said Haqqani was asked to resign and there would be an investigation into the memo.

Haqqani is close to Zardari but estranged from Pakistan’s military.

Tensions between Pakistan’s civilian government and military have bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for almost its entire existence, with the military ruling the country for more than half of its 64-year history in a series of coups.

Haqqani’s resignation was seen by many analysts as further weakening the civilian government, which is already beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence.

“They (the military) may expect much more from the government, much more beyond the resignation of Husain Haqqani, because they see that everybody perceived to be involved in this affair will be seen as anti-military and by implication anti-state,” said Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst in Islamabad.

Haqqani’s successor might include a diplomat with a less complicated relationship with the military, perhaps Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir or Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Hussain Haroon.

“Whether Pakistan’s people or its military will be represented in DC will become evident when Husain Haqqani’s replacement is announced,” Ali Dayan Hasan, representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said on Twitter.

It is unclear how far beyond Haqqani “memogate,” as it is called in the Pakistani press, goes.

Ijaz initially said that Haqqani was acting under the authority of Zardari, which has opened up the president to public criticism in Pakistan that he was plotting against his own military.
But Ijaz retreated from that claim and later said he wasn’t sure how involved Zardari was in the memo controversy.

“I don’t know if Haqqani had a blanket power of attorney with Zardari, whether he ever discussed this with Zardari or whether he was acting on his own,” Ijaz told Reuters on Nov 18.
Mark Siegel, a lobbyist who represents the Pakistani government in Washington, said Zardari called him when the Financial Times story appeared, asking his law firm to initiate libel proceedings against the paper and against Ijaz.

Siegel advised Zardari against filing a case because he judged it difficult for a public figure to win a libel case in a U.S. court.

“He was irate and said the memo was a total fabrication,” Siegel said. Siegel, who has known Zardari for 25 years, said he was absolutely certain that Zardari had known nothing about the memo.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, Qasim Nauman and Augustine Anthony in Islamabad and Missy Ryan in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar: 1805

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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Thomas Jefferson’s Qur`an

“Ramadan,” said President Obama at a White House iftar dinner in 2010, “is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.”

The dinner to which the president referred took place on December 9, 1805, and Jefferson’s guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis who spent six months in Washington. The context of Mellimelli’s visit to the United States was a tense dispute over piracy on American merchant vessels by the Barbary states and the capture of Tunisian vessels trying to run an American blockade of Tripoli.

Mellimelli arrived during Ramadan, and Jefferson, when he invited the envoy to the president’s house, changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.

Jefferson’s knowledge of Islam likely came from his legal studies of natural law. In 1765, Jefferson purchased a two-volume English translation of the Quran for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html

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Tony Blair Reads Qur`an

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The envoy and former prime minister, 58, says he reads Qur’an every day

By Tim Adams

2352TonyBlairSometimes it feels strange not to be prime minister – if you are at an occasion like the Obama speech, for example. But then you also have to remember what it was really like: the enormous responsibility, the huge daily pressure. I had 10 years of that, and I am not at all into looking backwards.

I’ve met Michael Sheen, and I watched the Brian Clough film, which I thought was brilliant. But I haven’t seen him playing me. I know I’d just be screaming at the TV: “It wasn’t like that at all!”

I have always been very certain about my ethical values, but I have always tried to have the appropriate level of self-doubt about the solutions they suggest.

I was in Brazil working at the time of the royal wedding. They have their protocols and it didn’t trouble me in the least that I wasn’t there. I was absolutely fine about it. Really. And that’s the honest truth.

People still ask me if military decisions in Iraq or Afghanistan were based on some kind of divine instruction. It’s rubbish. Of course not. Just as I couldn’t go into a corner and pray to ask God what the minimum wage should be.

I was a child of the 70s, not the 60s. It’s a very important difference. I came out of university in 1975. Life had got tougher. Idealism wasn’t enough; we were far more practically focused.
To be faith-literate is crucial in a globalised world, I believe. I read the Bible every day. I read the Qur’an every day. Partly to understand some of the things happening in the world, but mainly just because it is immensely instructive.

Reports of my wealth are greatly exaggerated.

The experiment that said “the bigger the state, the more just the society” clearly failed. There is no point pretending that it didn’t.

I would never have used Peter Mandelson’s phrase about being relaxed about people getting filthy rich. But should Lionel Messi – or an investment banker – earn more in a week than a nurse earns in five years? You can debate that, but I don’t know the answer. One thing I am sure of is that the way to make poor people better off is not just to target a wealthier group of people and take their money off them.

The most fascinating thing to me now is learning about the places where I work. In the Israeli-Palestinian situation, for example, my understanding is significant layers deeper and better than it was when I was prime minister.

People always used to say to me: listen to the people. That was a fine idea, of course, but unfortunately the people were all saying different things.
The social media, I know, is having an enormous impact in places like the West Bank and Gaza. But I’ve not tweeted. Wouldn’t know how.

I was a very different prime minister at the beginning to the one I was at the end. The irony is I was probably best at the job at the end, but least popular in doing it.

A Journey by Tony Blair (Arrow, £9.99) is out now in paperback and is also available as an ebook.

The Observer / Guardian UK

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Obama Fights ‘Otherization’

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

of Muslims, through Envoy Rashad Hussain

By Josh Gerstein, Politico

2010-05-05T172601Z_01_BTRE6441CFM00_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-USA-COURT
 

President Barack Obama’s aggressive outreach to the Muslim American community is reducing its sense of isolation, President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Muslim world told a conference in Washington Wednesday evening.

“We’ve really started to knock down that sense of otherization,” said Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer who also serves as liaison to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Hussain defined the rather esoteric term “otherization” as a sense that many Muslims had during the Bush years that their value or danger to society was viewed solely through the prism of terrorism.

“Muslims … sometimes feel like they don’t have as much of a stake or a role in the future of the country,” Hussain told the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy conference. “That’s something that all of the engagement that the United States has done on these issues both internationally and domestically has helped to counter.”

Hussain was the keynote speaker at the session, which marked one year since Obama’s historic speech in Cairo last April, where he attempted to reset America’s relationship with Muslims around the globe.

In many ways, the most remarkable thing about Hussain’s speech was the context in which it took place: a conference that featured explicitly “Islamist” political leaders from Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco, as well as a provocative Oxford scholar whom the Bush administration effectively banned from the U.S., Tariq Ramadan. Many Republicans, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, continue to use the term “Islamist” to describe enemies of the U.S. The GOP politicians also fault Obama for failing to recognize the threat such an ideology poses to the U.S.

Giuliani’s view is pretty much 180 degrees from the prevailing sentiment at Wednesday’s conference. “There doesn’t really seem to be much of a debate about whether engagement with Islamists should happen,” Professor Peter Mandeville of George Mason University declared. “There really is no other alternative. The question now is about the nature of that engagement … rather than the question of whether this is something the United States should do.”

In his 20-minute speech and a subsequent Q & A session, Hussain generally stuck to Obama’s rhetorical formulation of using the term “violent extremism” for what the Bush folks — and just about everyone else — used to call “terrorism.” However, Hussain did use the T-word a couple of times. He touted the U.S. commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to a diplomatic resolution of tensions with Iran, to avoiding religious- and nationality-based profiling in airport security screening and to freedom for Muslims around the world to wear Islamic garb.

In response to a question about the U.S. willingness to deal with Taliban members who are prepared to renounce violence, Hussain said, “The U.S. will engage those groups that are lawfully elected and are lawfully part of the political process and don’t engage in violence, and that is a commitment that is demonstrated over a set period of time.”

Pressed by a questioner urging U.S. action against Israel over its refusal to end settlement-building activity, Hussain didn’t offer much to satisfy the pro-Palestinian audience. “The best way to address that issue is to get negotiations between the parties back on track again. … It’s not something that you will see this administration walk away from,” he said.

Hussain did seem a tad exasperated by complaints that, despite the vaunted Muslim outreach campaign, Obama has failed to visit a mosque in the U.S. as president. “If there is this silver bullet people are looking for, that the president visit a religious center in the United States, I’m sure there will be an appropriate time for that as well,” Hussain said.

Shortly after his appointment as the OIC envoy earlier this year, Hussain grabbed some headlines for a flap over comments he made in 2004 describing the Bush administration’s actions against some terror suspects as “politically motivated persecutions.” He initially said he had no recollection of making the remarks, but after POLITICO obtained a recording of the presentation he conceded he’d made the comments and called them “ill-conceived or not well-formulated.”

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US Special Representative Favors “Friendship” With Indian Muslims

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Farah Pandith, United States’ first Special Representative to Muslim Communities, was here on a four-day visit to apparently “win over” the Indian Muslims and improve President Barack Obama administration’s image among them. Farah has come and gone (Feb 16-19), leaving many questions unanswered about the role such visits can really play in improving United States’ image among the Indian Muslims. Asserting that her visit was “not a popularity contest,” Farah said that it was an “effort to engage with people and strike partnerships to find a common ground of interest for the common good of all.”

Farah, an American of Indian origin, was born in Kashmir. It was her first visit to India as an US Special Representative, a new position created by Obama administration to improve Washington’s image in the Muslim world and also to actively “listen and respond” to their concerns in Europe, Africa and Asia. Sworn to this position last year on September 15, Farah has visited 12 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iraq and Kuwait. Her visits are a part of Obama administrations to reach out to Muslims dominated by “propaganda, stereotypes and inaccurate generalizations” about Washington.  This is the message Farah conveyed during her addresses in New Delhi at Jamia Millia Islamia University and India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC).

Farah played her part in displaying her consciousness about her religious identity as a Muslim and also in fulfilling the responsibility assigned to her in reaching out to Muslims across the world. She kept her head bowed as a cleric recited from the holy Quran at the function held at IICC. Farah began her brief address with the traditional Muslim greeting: “Asalaam Alaikum.” It was President Obama’s “vision to build partnerships with Muslim communities across the globe on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect,” she said. “I repeat that it is based on mutual interest and respect and I extend my hand of friendship and partnership with you,” she asserted.

Highlighting the significance of her position, Farah said: “Never before America had an envoy for Muslim communities. This is the first time an envoy for the Muslims was appointed. My job is to work with our embassies worldwide to engage with the Muslim communities and focus strongly on the new generation.” “Secretary (Hillary) Clinton has asked me to engage with Muslim communities around the world at the grassroots level, and to build and extend partnerships through the US embassies in both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries. I have to look at out-of-the-box ways to engage, based on mutual respect. That is my job, my mandate,” she said.

“With one-fourth of the world’s population that is Muslim, of course our country (United States) wants to do as much as we can to build partnerships across the board,” Farah stated. “We can and we want to extend the partnership in a very strong way that will allow us to develop long-term relationship with Muslims all over the world,” she said.

Drawing attention to Islam being practiced in United States and the diversity there, Farah pointed to having learned reading holy Quran at a mosque there. She also tried convincing the audience that she was “this was not an effort to increase popularity of America by a few percentage points.” Nevertheless, while interacting with Indian Muslim leaders, she pointed to Obama administration being serious about working closely with Islamic world. This, she said, was marked by appointment of Indian born Rashid Hussain as envoy for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).  Obama’s advisory council for faith also includes Eboo Patel, an Indian-American Muslim from Chicago.

The US government can act as a “convener, facilitator and intellectual partner” and help forge partnerships on basis of common ideas and common goals, the benefits of which will be useful not only for Muslims, but everyone, Farah said. Elaborating on her mission to reach out to the young generation, she pointed out that 45 percent of the world population is under the age of 30. “I will focus more on the young generation in Muslim world and I want to understand the diversity of Islam in different countries and communities as well,” she said.

Though Farah expressed that she was “interested in talking to the Facebook generation, the youth,” she evaded questions posed at Jamia University on United States’ foreign policy on issues that have bothered Muslims across the world. To a question regarding Israel-Palestine, she said: “That is not my job. I am not George Mitchell (US Mideast envoy).” On Washington’s policy regarding West Asia and Pakistan, Farah replied: “I am not Richard Holbrooke (US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan). It’s not my job to work on Kashmir or Pakistan.”

Irrespective of whether Farah succeeds in improving image of Obama administration among the Muslims, her own identity has certainly played some part in compelling the world to revise the stereotyped image they have of Muslim women. The Obama administration is apparently hopeful that Farah’s image as a “modern Muslim” will help win over the young generation. Suggesting this, Farah said: “This generation is having to navigate through that and understand what it means to be modern and Muslim and also is really searching for a way to be connected.”

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President Obama Announces Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Conference

February 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release of February 13, 2010

WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama appointed Rashad Hussain to serve as his Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Comprised of over 50 member states, the OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world. As Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain will deepen and expand the partnerships that the United States has pursued with Muslims around the world since President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June.

President Obama said, “I’m proud to announce today that I am appointing my Special Envoy to the OIC—Rashad Hussain. As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Qur’an, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work.”

Rashad Hussain biography

Rashad Hussain is presently Deputy Associate Counsel to President Obama. His work at the White House focuses on national security, new media, and science and technology issues. Mr. Hussain has also worked with the National Security Staff in pursuing the New Beginning that President Obama outlined in his June 2009 address in Cairo, Egypt. Mr. Hussain previously served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hussain was a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he focused on national security-related issues. Mr. Hussain received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation, he served as a Law Clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mr. Hussain also earned his Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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