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Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven

Pakistan: A Hard Country

by Anatol Lieven

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A very comprehensive and illuminating study of Pakistan, focusing less on its conflicts than on the things that bind it together. In his introduction Lieven states that he was originally going to call the book "Why Pakistan works"; I think he should have done as too often all we hear is of Islamic extremism and its imminent failure. In fact, as Lieven points out, Pakistan is very unlikely to fail apart whilst the glue that holds it together is in place. This is not to brush the many problems Pakistan faces aside - from its unsustainable birthrate to ecological challenges as well as the strategic problems of the Pakistan Taliban, Afghanistan, India and US interference in the region - but to place them into a meaningful context.

Lieven has several main themes. 1. Pakistan is bound together by clan and family structures especially in its powerful "feudal" landowning families that are far more influential than those of religion - this is problematic in itself but makes the prospect of increased influence of the Pakistan Taliban beyond the tribal agencies unlikely. 2. Most Pakistani's support the Afghan Taliban as freedom fighters defending their country from invasion, but that doesnt mean they support the Pakistan Taliban 3. The army is what holds the whole country together 4. Central government is weak so local power holds sway and 5. Allegiance to ethnic culture identity (eg being a Pashtun) overides everything

I found the book erudite, readable, exhaustive and occasionally exhausting. Should be read by anyone with an interest in this most strategically vital of countries ( )
  Opinionated | Jul 20, 2013 |
Excellent and profoundly revealing book about Pakistan. Investigates the country very thoroughly from many angles (ethnic/regional, religious, military, political, economic, environmental, and the relationship with the Taliban).

Analyzes the diverse ethnic groups and demystifies them - their concerns are only too familiar. Many deep-seated problems are shown here, but also the peerless endurance and strength of will of the people itself. Required reading for anybody who has an interest in current events. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
This book is a truly illuminating study of modern Pakistan, a very large country about which far too little seems to be generally understood by U.S. analysts and policymakers. Pakistan is too often dismissed as a "failed state", and/or analyzed purely in terms of its value (or lack of value) to the U.S. as an ally in the "War on Terror". Instead, it is a highly complex amalgam of many different societies, where strong divisive pressures strain against powerful unifying forces. One of those is a broad anti-Americanism among the Pakistani people, due in large part to U.S. policies since 2001. In regard to Pakistan, Lieven argues, those policies should be reconsidered, given the long-term risks of increasing Pakistani instability.

Anatol Lieven is admirably qualified to deal with the topic: he is both a journalist (reporting on Pakistan and Afghanistan for the London Times) and an academic/thinktank scholar. His book combines the readability and color of good journalism with the thorough research of scholarly work. It is also based on extensive interviews with many Pakistanis from all walks of life, and all regions of the country, which gives it an engrossing human dimension.

The book starts off with an overview of the Pakistani system, which he describes as "weak state, stong societies". He examines the critical role of kinship and patronage relationships, from an anthropological as well as a political view. And he briefly reviews Pakistan's history since Partition. Here, I found myself turning to Wikipedia etc. to fill in missing links, since the author's review assumed more knowledge than I had -- possibly because I'm an American, a British reader would probably be more familiar with this material.

Next, he turns to the basic structures of modern Pakistan -- justice, religion, politics, and above all the military -- devoting a chapter to each. Then, in a section which I found most useful, he devotes a chapter to each of Pakistan's provinces -- the Punjab, Sindh (and Karachi), Balochistan, and the Pathans (that is, the North West Frontier and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas). In each, he looks at the social and ethnic differences within and between regions, and at how that is reflected politically.
The final section is on the Taleban -- the Afghani Taleban, the Pakistani Taleban, and the attitude of Pakistan's people and government to both.

In his conclusion, Lieven says that "it has been above all the US-led campaign in Afghanistan which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan since 2001". Earlier, he has established that insurgency as perhaps the most critical problem facing Pakistan's government. U.S. policy with affect the way in which this plays out.

All in all, I found this a very informative, interesting, and readable book, which I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in South Asia, or, indeed, in US policy. ( )
  annbury | Jan 9, 2012 |
A good book. discusses structures of the pak state, justice (by tribal dictate in Balochistan and pathans, and bribery and contacts in the rest of the country), religion ( shia, sunni ,jamaat islamia(moderate-middle class),extremism- northern parts of Punjab around Multan, karchi (more clashes between sindhi,pathan and MQM(indian muslims), pathans around peshwar were the taliban influence is max)-however the arguement is that extreme muslim religion will not catch on because of network of kinship and different beliefs within Islam), The Military- only funcioning efficient body, treated as a world different, will step in if required and run the country eg Ayub Khan, Zia ul haq (punjabi), Muzzaraf (Indian), Politics dominated by the PPP (Set up by Bhutto), pakistan muslim league (PML(N)- Nawaz Sharif (Punjabi), MQM (Indian settlers- sind &parts of punjab) and other smaller parties(ANP-Pathan).
Regions- Punjab 56% pop, lahore to layallpur to multan, business class, manu sports goods, cotton etc. linked with powerful families(kinship)), Sindh except for Karchi powerful rural landowners, bhutto family very big, whole areas vote as the powerful landowners say, karachi tension from different settlers, sindi, pathan, Indian migrants,punjabi, Hindu, christian.,
Balochistan Quetta tribal headship heridaerty, head has power to wantonly kill subject, poorest areas of pak new port planned at qawder may open up region being resisted, Pathan-peshawar, tribal but head not heridary and not absolute, even the Durand line (seperating Afganistan and Pakistan noted that the grazing lands cannot be sacroscant and grazing can be on both sides, therefore a lot of commonality between afganistan and pathans, so a lot a sympathy for the taliban.
The author believes the strength of kinship and ethnic differences will ensure pakistan is not broken . The only thing that unites them is hatred for The US (as anti muslim) and even more hatred for INDIA. ( )
  prak | Jul 26, 2011 |
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In this profound and sophisticated analysis of Pakistan's history and its social, religious and political structures, Lieven argues strongly against U.S. actions that would risk destroying that state in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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