My Return to Blogging & plan to focus on broader issues in South West Asia

I am returning to active blogging after a few years in response to requests from some loyal followers. The purpose remains educational in focus and I hope to use this medium to alert my students and other followers about informative and insightful publications on South and South West Asia besides occasional updates about my own writings, travel reports and events.

The Amman Message: A Great Initiative that deserves global support


‘[T]he best resource for those who wish to travel along the straight path in their words and their actions, and in their spiritual and religious life’ — The Grand Shaykh of the Azhar, Shaykh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi (may God have mercy on him), 2006.

The Amman Message started as a detailed statement released the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 CE by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. It sought to declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.

In order to give this statement more religious authority, H.M. King Abdullah II then sent the following three questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam: (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an a…

How to build an effective counter-narrative to extremism in Pakistan?

Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative
This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.

While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.

The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…

Fall & Rise of Taliban: A Lecture in Islamabad

SIPR Lecture Series: "Are Taliban History?" @ Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan - November 27, 2015
Sponsored by American Institute of Pakistan Studies:

A lecture was organized under the SPIR Lecture Series on November 26, 2015 at School of Politics and International Relations. Dr. Hassan Habbas from National Defense University, Washington D.C. gave a lecture on “Are Taliban History: How and why they survived for over two decades in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Director SPIR, Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal formally started the session by the welcome address.

Dr. Hassan Abbas is a Pakistani-American academic in the field of South Asian and Middle Eastern studies. His research focuses on security issues pertaining to governance, law enforcement and counterterrorism in these regions. Dr. Abbas was a civil servant in Pakistan.

Dr. Abbas raised a major concern about the reasons of terrorism and the inability of Pakistan and Afghanistan to curb it…

ISIS & The Future of Iraq: A Talk at the Habib University, Karachi

The Future of Iraq: YCSD holds Public Lecture with Dr. Hassan Abbas
Habib University website, November 24, 2015
Sponsored by American Institute of Pakistan Studies:

KARACHI, November 24, 2015: Habib University’s Yohsin Center for Social Development (YCSD) and Office for Global Engagement (OGE) hosted a Public Lecture with Dr. Hassan Abbas – Professor and Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University in Washington, DC. on November 24th. Bringing with him great insight into the examination of geopolitical roots of the expanding chaos in the Middle East as well as Saddam Hussein’s legacy, he led a riveting discussion at the Tariq Rafi Hall, this being the third and final lecture of the current semester at Habib University.

Led by the moderator of the Public Lecture, Dr. Hafeez Jamali, the event started off with an introduction of Dr. Hasan Abbas. Listing out his career trajectory, the moderator spoke of his profes…

Iraq vs ISIS: How can the U.S. Help?

Iraqis hate our policy of containing ISIS
Tom Ricks Blog, Foreign Policy, November 18, 2015
By Hassan Abbas
Best Defense guest columnist

In June 2014 I witnessed thousands of Iraqis throng the offices of top Shia clerics in Najaf, including Grand Ayatollah Ali-al Sistani, asking for a religious injunction to proceed towards Mosul and fight the Islamic State. It was not a choreographed exercise. People were genuinely moved to make a difference.

A Jihad fatwa was indeed issued as a result encouraging Iraqis to join military for the purpose but the fervor — even though it mobilized thousands — was not a substitute for a coherent Iraqi policy to defeat the Islamic State.

As a result, Iraq now is bleeding to death at the hands of this vicious and fanatical group that is empowered by conflict in Syria, poor governance, and sectarian bigotry. It is difficult to deny that the US occupation inadvertently set it in motion. Since that day in Iraq, over ten thousand people have been brutally killed, ov…

The Fight Against the Pakistani Taliban: Consequences

The Fight Against the Pakistani Taliban: What Are the Costs?


In December of 2014, the Pakistani Taliban waged a brutal assault against an army-run school in Peshawar, leaving 145 people dead — 132 of them uniformed school children.

It was the deadliest single attack in the history of the Pakistani Taliban — known also as the TTP — prompting the government to bolster military efforts to beat the group back.

These military campaigns, however, have brought unintended consequences, as some militants have been driven from strongholds in North Waziristan, South Waziristan and the Swat valley, and taken refuge in the slums of Karachi, a city of more than 20 million people.

This migration has shifted a growing share of the burden of fighting the Taliban from the army, to local police units, often in conjunction with a paramilitary force known inside Pakistan as the Rangers. Police and the Rangers have helped drive down violence against citizens in Karachi, but…

What Pakistan needs to do for effective and sustainable counterterrorism - Herald (January 2015)

Measure for measure: What Pakistan needs to do for effective and sustainable counterterrorism
By Hassan Abbas,  Herald, January 2015 Annual edition

“Extremis malis extrema remedia,” is how a famous Latin saying goes, expressing the idea that “extreme situations require extreme remedies”. This sounds logical on the face of it but in reality it is a myth. Over the years, I have heard from so many Pakistani friends with various backgrounds that “Pakistan needs an Imam Khomeni”, implying that nothing short of a bloody revolution, which may take thousands of lives, is going to work for the country. Those who make this argument know little about the causes that led to the Islamic revolution in Iran – or for that matter the factors leading to the French or Russian revolutions.

The idea of military courts to tackle terrorism is a similar notion based on the fallacy that the use of hard power can deliver goods under all circumstances. Military means can indeed be – and, perhaps, must be – part o…

ISIS Eyes Influence in Pakistan ?

Policy Brief: ISIS Eyes Influence in Pakistan: Focus, Fears and Future Prospects
Jinnah Institute, December 21, 2014
By Hassan Abbas

The rapidly expanding militant force in Iraq and Syria known globally by its Arabic acronym Daesh (al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham) or in English ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is neither a myth nor does it appear to be a fleeting phenomenon. Tragically, it is real and has historical roots. The militant group has succeeded in rapidly taking control of a large tract of territory in Iraq, as well as erasing parts of the border between Iraq and Syria, conceptually establishing its writ in a way that is more than a sanctuary but insufficient to place it in the category of a state. At best it is a fluid state at the moment – with its foundations soaking in blood and its architecture being constructed on the pillars of brutality, fear, oppression and distortion of Islamic principles. Its genesis in the contemporary context is not organic in n…

India - Pakistan Relations After Modi

Indo-Pak Relations: A Window of Opportunity that has Almost Closed
Economic & Political Weekly, Vol - XLIX No. 51, December 20, 2014 By Neeti Nair

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government, with its massive majority, presents a real window of opportunity to interrogate and deepen processes already at play between India and Pakistan. However, the recent resurgence of Hindutva over governance amounts to letting go of this opportunity.
Neeti Nair ( is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, United States. She is the author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India, Harvard and Permanent Black, 2011.

Scholars, foreign policy analysts, and journalists focusing on Indo-Pak relations have long described these relations as “intractable”.[i] Even those analysts who have highlighted the recent “unprecedented initiatives taken by individual policymakers” have been guarded against such optimism; they have noted the “dictates o…

Yale Press Blog: 'Inside the World of ISIS — The Arab Taliban'

Inside the World of ISIS—The Arab Taliban
Yale University Press, December 11, 2014
By Hassan Abbas

During my recent travels to Iraq, I heard first hand stories about the genesis and rise of Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS), also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh (al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham). The rapid expansion of this deadly militant group over a significant chunk of Iraq materialized through sheer brutality, oppression, and tyranny. A large section of the Syria-Iraq border region has evaporated in the process enabling collaboration and synergy among battle hardened militants from the Syrian warzone—an incubator for the new generation of terrorists. These militants are made up of Salafi strategists; foot soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Jordan (financed largely by wealthy donors in Qatar, Kuwait & Saudi Arabia); and fighters belonging to Zarqawi inspired “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.” In the case of Iraq, old Baathists (who are careful to wear masks during ISIS …

Daish Expanding Tentacles in Pakistan

IS recruiting thousands in Pakistan, govt warned in 'secret' report
Mubashir Zaidi, Dawn, November 8, 2014
KARACHI: The provincial government of Balochistan has conveyed a confidential report to the federal government and law enforcement agencies warning of increased footprints of militant organisation Islamic State (IS), also known by the Arabic acronym Daish, in Pakistan.

The ‘secret information report', a copy of which is available with DawnNews, is dated October 31, and states that IS has claimed to have recruited a massive 10 to 12,000 followers from the Hangu and Kurram Agency tribal areas.

"It has been reliably learnt that Daish has offered some elements of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) to join hands in Pakistan. Daish has also formed a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing," the report from the Home and Tribal Affair Department of Balochistan says.

The report states that the IS plans to attack military installations and government bu…