The Most Dangerous Place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 October, 2010, 12:00am

The Most Dangerous Place
by Imtiaz Gul
Penguin, HK$130

The title borrows from a 2009 speech made by US President Barack Obama that tells how Pakistan went from being a launch pad for the US-led anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s to a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. 'For the American people, this border region [between Pakistan and Afghanistan] has become the most dangerous place in the world,' Obama said. Imtiaz Gul's book, which explains how the area became such a radical hotbed, relies on the Pashtun-born author's 25-year experience in the area and his valuable contacts, particularly with the Pakistan military, as well as his knowledge of the Pashtun tribes who make up the Taliban. Readers unfamiliar with the topic or area might lose track of the names and acronyms littering the pages. But wading through it is worthwhile. Gul points out the role of history in this western Pakistani area formally called Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). Anarchy there owes much to the porous border drawn by Britain in 1893 that cut through the Pashtun region. Gul believes a solution to the problems includes integrating Fata properly into Pakistan, rather than just pointing the finger of blame at the US.