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The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan [Hardcover]

Abubakar Siddique
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2014 1849042926 978-1849042925
Most contemporary journalistic and scholarly accounts of the instability gripping Afghanistan and Pakistan have argued that violent Islamic extremism, including support for the Taliban and related groups, is either rooted in Pashtun history and culture, or finds willing hosts among their communities on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Abubakar Siddique sets out to demonstrate that the failure, or even unwillingness, of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to absorb the Pashtuns into their state structures and to incorporate them into the economic and political fabric is central to these dynamics, and a critical failure of nation- and state-building in both states. In his book he argues that religious extremism is the product of these critical failures and that responsibility for the situation lies to some degree with the elites of both countries. Partly an eye-witness account and partly meticulously researched scholarship, The Pashtun Question describes a people whose destiny will shape the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (2 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849042926
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849042925
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 2.5 x 14.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Westerners misunderstand Pashtun society in part because they are often fixated on romantic ideas about Pashtunwali the tribal code that is said to prize honour, revenge and hospitality above all other virtues. Understandably irritated that British imperialists and today's foreign correspondents have reduced his culture to an Orientalist fantasy, Siddique points out that, far from relishing the chance to murder one another, most Pashtuns, just like everyone else, would be very happy to live in peace.' --London Review of Books

'The Pashtun Question informs readers of the complex political landscape of the Pashtun regions and explores the various hues of political players in an objective and insightful manner. ... Siddique provides an insider's perspective to a body of literature otherwise dominated by a handful of British colonial accounts.' --Business Standard

'Well-written and comprehensive.' --Foreign Policy

About the Author

Abubakar Siddique is a journalist with Radio Free Europe in Prague, specialising in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has spent the past fifteen years researching and writing about security, political, humanitarian and cultural issues in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Pashtun heartland where he was born. In addition to his reporting, Siddique has spoken at Western thinktanks and has contributed articles, chapters and research papers to a range of publications.

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2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The Pashtun Question the unresolved key to the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan by Abubakar Siddique

This book contributes very little to the literature on the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan other than that it is written by a Waziri tribesman. The author works for the Radio Free Europe which was formerly funded by the CIA until 1972 and so his perspective on the region certainly has an ideological position reflecting that of his employers and arguably their former funder. The book deals with both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the authors writing style is readable. The author highlights the failure "to incorporate the Pashtuns into state structures and the economic and political fabric has compromised the security of both countries...the often extraordinary great power interventions in the Pashtun borderlands - and their focus on the Taliban as primarily a military threat- have only prolonged the crisis. I have tried to show that main factor behind the rise of Islamic radicals such as the Taliban is the lack of development and stability in the Pashtun homeland." The author further seeks to explain the rise of the Taliban and their vision for the future. The author details the role of the Taliban on both sides of the Durand line.
The history of the conflict between Pashtun Muslim nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists is an old one. The Roshnya movement struggling against the Mughals advocated "a patriotic, moderate sufism inclined towards rationalism". The Roshnya sought to unite all Pashtuns under a single national ideology combining religion and politics. The ideological opponents of the Roshanya the " Derweza promulgated the primacy of a rigid Sunni mullah.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pashtun Question??? 30 May 2014
Format:Hardcover
This is the work of a Pashtun nationalist revisionist author who seeks to distance the Pashtun from supporting the Taliban. The Pashtuns were the backbone of the Taliban movement, yet if the author is to be believed the Pashtun came to "detest" the Taliban. If you believe that you will believe that pigs can fly.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Pushtun Question is a thoroughly researched and well written book that provides a valuable treasury of information, insight and reference on the history and the current plight of the Pushtun people. For anyone wishing to get a greater knoweldge and insight into the realities of this troubled region this will be an excellent starting point. The author writes with a nice style that makes reading easy and a delight. He writes from intimate first-hand knowledge ranging from his childhood memories in Waziristan, his studies at Edwardes College in Peshawar and at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, through to many subsequent visits to both Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The scope of the work is ambitious - Covering, among other things, the current cultural, geographical, and anthropological situation, an outline history of the last 500 years, Pakistan, the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the involvement of the West an dother powers. I recommend this book to any serious student of this enigmatic and fascinating people and region.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pashtun Question, and Answer 4 Sep 2014
By Daniel P. Serwer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've been anxious not to let the summer go by without reading Abubakar Siddique's The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Abubakar is a journalist at Radio Free Europe born in Waziristan, the heart of the "Afpak" border area.

Why would anyone want to know more about a question whose predicate is an ethnic group few of us know the least thing about?

That's why. While we may not know anything about the Pashtuns, the territory they inhabit on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan has been an important stage for many of the protagonists Americans have had to worry about over the last twenty years. The predominantly Pashtun but explicitly anti-ethnic and Islamist Taliban, who governed in most of Afghanistan 1996-2001, originated in part there. It is there that Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have enjoyed safe haven and operational freedom, including recruitment among the Pashtuns. The Pakistani Taliban, who continue to wreck havoc in much of Pakistan, also originate there. If you want to make the world safe from terrorism, there are few more important parts of the world than Pashtunistan.

Abubakar's wide-ranging assessment of what is going on there is likely to be the definitive work on the subject for a long time to come. This is the book he was born to write. Who can match his knowledge of the territory, the people, their customs, their history and their ambitions? Plus, he has reported on the main events and interviewed the protagonists of the last two decades, with admirable allegiance to the best standards of contemporary international journalism. His Gandhara blog, named for an ancient kingdom that corresponded more or less to Pashtunistan, is must reading for those interested in what is going on there.

The picture Abubakar paints is up close and personal. He sees the Pashtuns in all their complexity: there are Islamists and nationalists, tribesmen and city dwellers, traditionalists and modernizers, extremists and moderates, democrats and authoritarians, Sunnis and some Shia. The one thing he claims they have in common is that the two countries whose border their homeland straddles--Afghanistan and Pakistan--have both marginalized them.

The rise of Islamist extremism among Pashtuns is a reaction to this marginalization. The consequences for Pashtuns have included horrendous atrocities, widespread physical destruction, displacement, social disruption and drastically lowered living and educational standards. Caught on a battlefield where the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan array their forces to fight one or another enemy, or in Pakistan's case to pretend to fight them while actually helping them, many ordinary Pashtuns find nowhere to run, nowhere to hide in their devastated homeland, where extremists now rule the roost. So they move, carrying their hopes and resentments to Karachi and beyond.

Given this gloomy assessment, it would not be surprising if Abubakar concluded with pessimism or a clarion call for Pashtuns to unite and throw off their chains, seceding from both Pakistan and Afghanistan. He doesn't. Instead he takes a cautious look at the ingredients for a peaceful Pashtun future. These include a stronger Afghan state able to reconcile with at least some Taliban, a democratic Pakistan that stops providing safe haven to Islamic extremists and trying to control the government in Kabul, and an America that sustains its nation-building engagement in Afghanistan "for many more years." Then he adds something as welcome as it is unanticipated:

Sooner or later, the two countries will have to come to terms over the question of the Durand Line, which has vexed relations for seventy years. A Pasto language proverb says: "You cannot separate water with a stick."

The Durand Line is the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Pashtun-populated areas. Pakistan recognizes it. Afghanistan does not. Abubakar's view is that it will have to be recognized, then opened to cross-border movement and trade, which have grown enormously since 2001 and have much greater potential, not least because of the youth bulge in both countries' populations.

So Abubakar not only asks the Pashtun question, he also answers it, not only for the Pashtuns but also for Kabul and Islamabad. The odds aren't good for the peaceful future he envisages, but he has more than earned the right to imagine it.

Daniel Serwer
www.peacefare.net
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