16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A must read, 11 July 2011
This is an excellent book - well researched, authoritative, dense but readable. The "hard" in the title is multifaceted. It refers to the facts that Pakistan is hard to understand, hard to live in, hard to deal with, hard to be optimistic about its future......
I was left with the image of a square, slightly tipped so that the corners are at different heights.
On top, and most significant, is social conservatism through patronage, kinship, nepotism, corruption and something akin to "feudalism" (the inverted commas indicate its difference from the European model. In Pakistan it is not all land based or ancestral). Next in terms of significance is the army, possibly the only coherent and reasonably well run organisation in the country. It stands apart from most of the "feudal" and other problems but from time to time steps in and takes the reins of power. Forms of Islam are the third corner but these are fragmented and despite the problems they present this means that there is little threat of an Islamic takeover. At the bottom comes Government, ineffectually coloured by the kinship and Islamic corners.
Pakistan is an artificial concept, inadvisably created as West Pakistan (now Pakistan) was combined with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to solve the Muslims in India problem. Following Muslim migrations out of India the misadventure continued with war between the two halves of Pakistan which split into separate countries. Hostility between Pakistan and India remains unabated. There are probable Pakistan Army links with the Afghanistan Taleban fostered as a strategic lever against India. An interesting point made almost as an aside is that there is little sense of nationality in Pakistan and that this is common in "countries" without a national education system. He compares this to the systems set up in Europe in previous times, in part for this purpose.
Pakistan exists as a negotiated state between the four corners. It is fragmented - amongst cultures, languages, tribes, political parties and religions. Even Islam is riven between conflicting and sometimes mixed versions of Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Bohra, inherited saints.... ..Language itself is problematic. The official language is Urdu though it is not spoken universally. Urdu that is unless you are high in society or a senior army officer when English takes over. Significantly, the news of Bib Laden's death was announced in the Pakistan Parliament in English !
Fear comes across strongly in the narrative. Fear of India, fear of "Islam in danger", rampant conspiracy theories and ethnic tensions.
Lieven sees Pakistan as a major threat to Asia and the rest of the world with little prospect of improvement. Regardless of the above, ecological (water shortage) problems will create their own crisis as the population grows, the local climate continues to change and water mismanagement continues. He offers little in the way of recommendations besides saying that India, China and the West need to take a collective lead.
One small but irritating omission from the book is a map of the area!