Pakistani Ambassador to the United States to Speak at U.Va. on Sept. 3

August 28, 2009 — Sharing a long, untamed border with Afghanistan, Pakistan remains a locus of America's global fight against Al Qaeda almost eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Osama Bin Laden and other senior Al Qaeda leaders are still hiding among the rugged terrain and Taliban-dominated population of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, according to U.S. intelligence reports. Airstrikes on Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan by unmanned American drones have left a number of civilian casualties and inflamed anti-American sentiments among Pakistanis.

These are some of the friction points in U.S.-Pakistani relations that may be addressed by Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, when he kicks off the University of Virginia's Ambassador Forum Lecture Series for the 2009-10 school year.

Haqqani will speak on "The Changing Direction of Pakistan." His talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place Sept. 3 from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. His remarks will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

"The idea behind the Ambassador Forum Lecture Series is to bring the world to Grounds, giving students direct exposure to global affairs," said Gowher Rizvi, U.Va.'s vice provost for international programs, whose office sponsors the talks.

"Ambassador Haqqani is an extremely important addition to the series, because he is both a practitioner and a scholar of foreign policy. He has written extensively on Pakistan's foreign policy as well as having held senior positions in three Pakistani governments.

"Pakistan is now considered a front line in the global fight against Al Qaeda," Rizvi said. "Pakistani casualties of Al Qaeda attacks outnumber Americans killed on 9/11. I hope the ambassador will discuss how Pakistan is fighting Al Qaeda, and how U.S. policy in the region is helping or hurting the fight."

Haqqani was named ambassador in April 2008, succeeding Mahmud Ali Durrani, who spoke at U.Va in 2007 as part of the Ambassador Forum Lecture Series.

In a recent New York Times profile, Haqqani was called "one of the most skilled ambassadors I have ever seen," by longtime diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, currently serving as the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Haqqani learned Pakistani politics firsthand, as an adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers – Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. From 1992 to 1993 he was Pakistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka.

Before rising in Pakistani politics, Haqqani worked as a full-time journalist from 1980 to 1988, including covering the war in Afghanistan for Voice of America radio. Both he and his wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, have straddled the worlds of journalism and Pakistani politics. She was a news producer at CNN, MSNBC and Voice of America before taking a seat in the Pakistani parliament and a role as a spokesperson for Pakistan's current president, Asif Ali Zardari.

Haqqani's unique background has made him a leading analyst of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Islamic politics, in both the popular media and in academia. He appears regularly on the BBC, CNN and other major networks. He has published hundreds of op-eds in the newspapers around the world, including the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, and dozens of articles in journals such as Foreign Policy. He is editor of the Washington-based journal "Current Trends in Islamist Thought."

Haqqani's 2005 book, "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military," has been praised for its provocative insider's view of political developments since the country's independence in 1947, especially the interplay of military and Islamist forces.

Haqqani was a professor of international relations at Boston University from 2004 to 2008, and has been a scholar at Washington think tanks, including the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Hudson Institute. Further details and article examples at

The U.Va. Ambassador Series will continue with Friis Arne Petersen, Danish Ambassador to the U.S., on Oct. 20; and Meera Shankar, Indian Ambassador to the U.S., on Oct. 27. Visits by other ambassadors in November and December will be announced as details are finalized.

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Mr. Haqqani will be available for interviews at 3:30 p.m. Broadcast media, please contact Carolyn Dillard at 434-996-6279 (cell) or for arrangements.