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Mr. James A. Benton (London)

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Pakistan: A Hard Country
Pakistan: A Hard Country
by Anatol Lieven
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poses interesting question and a good overview, but the final word on Pakistan, it ain't., 12 May 2012
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I'd seen several positive reviews of this book in the Guardian last year and had made a mental note to get myself a copy once it came out in paperback. Firstly, it's worth noting that this paperback edition features two maps of Pakistan, the first shows it and the countries it borders, the second is a more detailed zoomed in map detailing the various provinces of Punjab, Sindh etc. The lack of a map was a chief criticism of many of the preceding reviews on this page and one that almost convinced me to not buy the book, so I can only assume this has been changed since the release of the paperback.

Onto the book itself, having lived with a friend from Lahore at University, we found ourselves always drawn back to discussing his home nation and it's myriad of problems, the control the ISI wields, the paradox of Jinnah and the Taliban. Having both read it, we agreed that its an interesting piece of work but it does fall short in some respects. Several parts of the book are dedicated to discussing a certain province, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. My friend's chief criticism here was the lack of discussion of the other peoples who make up the nation of Pakistan. Whilst, as Mr Lieven duly notes that Pakistan could not function without the hegemony that the multitudinous Punjabis enjoy,it's a shame to see the Parsi, Irani, and Pashtun people living outside of Balochistan not given much, if any column inches.

My second criticism would be how in the latter half of the book, it begins to tail off. Prophetically the last chapter is called 'Defeating the Taliban?' a problem so complex that a generation of statesman have failed to come close. Anyone who knows Pakistan knows that its leaders have always had one major concern, having safe borders with Iran, China and most importantly Afghanistan. Those following recent developments in Tehran and Kandahar will know this is not so, and until Pakistan loses its paranoia over war with India, any government in its various incarnations will continue to pay lip-service to the Taliban and the US, knowing that keeping one of the two onside is simply not viable.

In all, it probably sounds like I'm bashing the book but I'm not. It's a great piece of work on a country that still in its infancy in terms of books on the subject and well worth a read, just don't expect this to be the final word on Pakistan.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2012 10:20 AM BST


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