ISLAMABAD - Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Tunisia, Hedi Ben Abbes has observed that extremism cannot grow in Tunisia because of the culture of compromise and the unique blend of Muslim people of Arab and African origins.

He made these observations at a public talk titled "Tunisia and the Arab Spring" organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia on Thursday.

Hedi Ben Abbes spoke about the revolution in Tunisia and the dynamics behind the present transition and the challenges it faces in the coming days. He elaborated that the revolution in Tunisia was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations. The events began on 18 December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, leading to a thorough democratisation of the country and to free and democratic elections which saw the victory of a coalition of the Islamist Ennahda Movement with the centre-left Congress for the Republic and the left-leaning Ettakatol as junior partners.

Abbes went on to explain that prior to the events leading to the revolution, there was a dictatorship in Tunisia and despite the presence of political parties, there was no democratic culture prevalent in Tunisia. He further highlighted the position of religion in Tunisian constitution, which states in its preamble that Tunisia is a muslin country with Arabic as its national language. Prior to the revolution, the economic policies were a failure and there was widespread frustration in the absence of any welfare for the common man.

Apart from this, corruption was rampant, and therefore the situation was politically, socially and economically ripe for a showdown. Gradually the situation became explosive and the dictatorship had to surrender and a transition followed. 

The talk was followed by an enlightening question and answer session.

The distinguished speaker, while answering one of the questions regarding the role of the Tunisian armed forces during the revolution, stated that the armed forces of Tunisia have always remained neutral and have never participated in politics, but have only maintained law and order during such uprisings. The speaker was of the view that the Tunisians are a moderate people and a very homogenous society with no ethnic divisions; therefore they are always united in striking a balance in every sphere. However, in conclusion, he also said that many challenges also lie ahead as Tunisia struggles with the new democratic order. Abbes, who is well known for his academic contributions and lectures at various universities around the world, was in Pakistan for the 8th Session of the Pakistan-Tunisia Joint Ministerial Commission and Second Session of Pakistan-Tunisia Bilateral Political Consultations.