Top critical review
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climb every mountain
on 5 July 2011
This is a very long - indeed overlong book, at 500 pages, which not that many people, I suspect, will bother to plough through. It should have been edited down a lot. There's a lot of annoying repetition, and time and again the reader is told that you have to wait until a later chapter to understand a particular point. The absence of any maps is another annoying and glaring omission as other reviewers have pointed out. A map would have been far more instructive than the pictures of politicians etc that adorn the book, none of which are referred to in the text anyway.
That said, for those who do persevere the book does have some interesting and revealing things to say about Pakistan. I have no previous knowledge of the country, and the discussions of the social and political structure of the country, and relations with the USA/West were very instructive. In particular, the author offers a clear explanation of the way that most Pakistanis feel abandonned by the USA, which, from being a close ally and supporter in the Cold War period, no longer sees the same need to support Pakistan to the same degree, and has become much more pro-India, becasue India is seen as an ally against China...... The depth of anti-American feeling in Pakistan was a surprise to me, and goes some way to helping situate recent developments within the UK, where there is a large Pakistan population.
Apart from that, the book is well written, if a bit repetitive. It relies heavily on anecdote, and has some questionable assertions - that Pakistan is one of the most equal societies in the world. I find that difficult to believe. The gini coefficient as calculated may be low, indicating low inequality, but how good is the data used in the calculations?? The assertion that land reform has broken up the big 'feudal estates' isn't backed up by any evidence - indeed, the author notes that big estates, while formally registered in the names of different family members to comply with the law, are still operated as a single unit. So how effective was land reform? Suc h economic issues are not pursued very far at all.