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A Battle of Ideas

Pakistan Senator Hussain P’11 Delivers President’s Forum Series Lecture

During his President’s Forum Series lecture, titled “Pakistan and Afghanistan: The Changing Regional Scenario,” Senator Mushahid Hussain P’11 gave the standing-room-only audience an important context for understanding each country’s place in the global political system. He also provided his analysis of how their socio-political histories relate to current conflicts and some suggestions on how Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States should move forward.

After providing an historic framework for Pakistan and Afghanistan and their relationship to U.S. Politics from 1979 to present, Hussain outlined mistakes he thinks were made by the United States government after 9/11. Hussain cited the United States leaving Afghanistan in a weakened and unstable state when it moved on to Iraq.

“The United States missed its opportunity to build a new Afghanistan and to take on a new role in the Middle East because of the obsession of the U.S. Government with accomplishing its mission in Iraq,” Hussain explained. “The unraveling of Afghanistan had a clear and negative impact on Pakistan. After all, the countries share a 2,600 kilometer border.”

Recognizing these difficulties and others, Hussain outlined many “reasons for hope” in the present political climate. “With the election of President Barack Hussein Obama, strained relationships are beginning to change course,” he said. “Certainly the tone, tenor and language of the current U.S. government are much more humble compared to the arrogance of leaders in recent history.”

Hussain added that the wide-spread democracy seen around the world, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Iraq, will allow these resilient cultures to overcome fundamentalists and extremists. “There’s a new regionalism forming in China, South Asia and Central Asia, a cooperation formed not because of politics, per se, but because of economics and energy. There are more and more pipelines crossing these areas that form a common interest across these diverse countries.”

“The key challenge now is how U.S. policy change under President Barack Hussein Obama will play into these newly founded relationships,” Hussain said.

Addressing the United States’ role in the regionalism of the area as well as the general political climate, Hussain emphasized that, “Military force alone will not solve the problems of the world. Terrorism is a battle of ideas, not just a battle of bombs and bullets. Terrorism has no religion, no boundaries. To combat this, we need media campaigns, public diplomacy and many other efforts to engage in an ideological battle.”

After the Senator’s lecture, Neeta Bhasin, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric, explained that, “It’s crucial for all of us to hear Senator Hussain’s perspective and those like it. Even if we don’t agree with everything he said, it’s so important for us to understand various points of view.”

“It’s important that someone of his status comes to campus to take on such a prominent issue like terrorism,” said Mustafah Sayed ’11, the Senator’s son. “In order to have a realistic picture of terrorism in the world, we need to differentiate between religious extremism and Pakistani culture and religion.”

“It was important for all of us to be reminded of how vital non-military solutions are to solving conflicts,” said Emma Daley ’10.

Hussain serves as the Vice President of the Centrist Democrat International Asia – Pacific Chapter. He recently was awarded the Congressional Medal of Achievement by the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines. He is a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Committee on Defense and Defense Production, Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, Joint Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan, Functional Committee on Government Assurances, Functional Committee on Human Rights, Finance Committee of Senate and is the Chairman of the Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas.

A specialist on international political and strategic issues, he has lectured widely and his articles have been published in various international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and Middle East International. He has authored three books and is chair of the Board of Governors of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a leading think-tank.

Hussain’s lecture was jointly sponsored by the President’s Forum Series, the International Student Association, the Office of Intercultural Affairs and the International Relations Program.

The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus-including politicians, intellectuals and social activists-to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.