Ex-Pakistani official Abbas calls for soft-power along the Afghan-Pakistani border

Program News | Posted Nov 14, 2006

Ex-Pakistani official Abbas calls for soft-power along the Afghan-Pakistani border

by: Pranai Cheroo

Issue date: 11/14/06 Section: News

"You cannot bomb an idea, and there are some ideas that are too well-entrenched," Fletcher School doctoral candidate and ex-Pakistani official Hassan Abbas said in his lecture on Instability in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Areas last night.

Abbas, whose book "Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror" is a best-seller in both India and Pakistan, called for the use of soft-power to counter the instability around the Pakistani-Afghani border.

His lecture was the first event sponsored by the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES) this year and focused on the seven agencies, or regions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan.

The FATA is on the Pakistani-Afghani border, which, according to Abbas, "is not well-defined and is drawn through tribal lines."

It is likely that Osama Bin Laden and his company are operating in that border area, Abbas said.

Based on the content of the tapes Bin Laden has released, Abbas posited that he must have access to the internet and therefore currently occupies an urban area.

Abbas also discussed the extent of the instability in the area, citing a sharp rise in the number of suicide bombings that have occurred.

There have been 86 suicide bombings in 2006, to date. There were 21 in 2005, two in 2003 and only one in 2001.

According to Abbas, the border area between both Pakistan and Afghanistan will become more chaotic because the central issues are not being targeted by the many different organizations involved in the area.

"Lots of people are disappointed with the lack of investment in the area," he said.

According to Abbas, The U.S. spends eight billion dollars per month in Iraq but has only spent four billion dollars in five years in Afghanistan, when it promised 13 billion.

He added that UN aid thus far to the region has been only 57 dollars per capita, compared to over 200 dollars per capita in areas like Iraq, East Timor and Bosnia.

Abbas also discussed the historical underpinnings of the region, citing them as a partial cause of the strife it is currently facing.

Both the U.S. and Pakistani governments gathered Islamic radicals from different nations to fight the Soviet Union during the Soviet-Afghani war, "but the U.S. can't just turn [the same radicals] off like a light," he said.

According to Abbas, these extremist implants have now been integrated into the local Pashtun culture which pervades the FATA region.

Understanding the Pashtun people is very important to Abbas who said, "We can only change [the situation] if we understand the politics of the people on the ground."

Abbas also has a blog called Watandost, meaning "friend of the country" in Urdu, where he discusses news about Pakistan and "Islam and the west."

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