Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador the United States, says he uses Twitter to reach out to compatriots who are hostile to him because of his role trying to improve Pakistan’s relations with the US.
Only 12 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the US, according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey, Ambassador Haqqani notes. "The average American does not look upon Pakistan as a reliable ally. The average Pakistani does not look upon the United States as a friend," he said at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Wednesday.
With his fellow citizens upset with the United States, the result is that "they personally become hostile" to the individual charged with having a close relationship with the US, Haqqani said. "So social media for me is a means of explaining to them that I am a human being, that I am somebody who is devoted to Pakistan. That I am as patriotic as they are."
The day before the breakfast, Haqqani tweeted 15 times – the last tweet coming close to midnight. Among the topics of his tweets: news that he was being recalled to Islamabad to discuss the challenging state of US-Pakistan relations.
Tweeting "humanizes me" to critics who, he argues, are "constantly being bombarded in Pakistan by hostile messages about me in the mainstream media in Pakistan, which basically projects its hostility to close relations with the United States to the messenger of that relationship, which is the Pakistani ambassador to the United States."
Relations between the US and Pakistan have been especially bad in recent months. Osama bin Laden was found hiding in Pakistan near that country’s top military academy. The outgoing chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, accused Pakistan's government – especially its army and intelligence service – of "choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy." And there is continuing resentment in Pakistan about the US use of missile-equipped drones to kill suspected terrorists in the country. The 63rd such drone attack of the year took place Wednesday, according to Agence France Presse.
The ambassador said he replies to those who tweet to offer support and to most of those who are critical. In the case of abuse, "either I come up with a polite response [or] I make a judgment call and if I find them irreconcilable, then they get blocked. So in the process I am able to explain my position to a lot of people."
Thanks to social media, he says, "you have several thousand people who follow you and therefore feel connected to you, which you wouldn’t have without social media."