Book Review: Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State

Book Review: Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State

Edited by Maleeha Lodhi. 

Published by Columbia University Press, New York.  328 pages, 2011.

Reviewed by Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein


Maleeha Lodhi was Pakistan’s Ambassador from 1993 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2002, she also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Court of Saint James from 2003 to 2008.  She has combined a career of public service to Pakistan and education of not only Pakistanis but Americans studying Pakistan and the region.  Her latest book collects seventeen Pakistani intellectuals, economists, political thinkers, and military affairs experts to discuss the future of their country.  The book is opportune, as relations between the United States and Pakistan remains tense after the killing of Usama Bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan.  Ayeha Jalal, who teaches at Tufts University, opens with a chapter on how Pakistan’s past influences the present, she begins by quoting a Washington Times article that referred to Pakistan and Paranoidistan, she then unpackages the perceptions of distrust and merges them with history and context.  She argues that Pakistanis cannot develop a historical consciousness without a credible history.  Jalal also discusses the devaluing of history for ideological reasons. 

Dr. Akbar Ahmed who teaches at American University in Washington D.C. wrote a thoughtful piece entitled, “Why Jinnah Matters,” it is time for more Americans to appreciate that there were two visions of Pakistan upon its founding in 1947, that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, a secular nation that accommodates diverse Islamic and non-Islamic beliefs by not holding any religion above the state and those like Abu al-Al’a Al-Mawdudi who envision a Pakistan that lives up to Islamic values, and attempts to impose an interpretation of Islamic values on other Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  Ahmed distills Jinnah’s speeches and reminds readers of the course Pakistan may have taken if Jinnah had not died a year into Pakistan’s independence. 

Amb. Lodhi, who edited the book, has a chapter that is highly critical of Pakistan’s civil service and the need for reform as it is currently incapable of delivering governance.  She discusses how Pakistan’s different political parties represent dynastic families, such as the Pakistan’s People’s Party being the purview of the Bhutto dynasty, and Nawaz Sherief dominating the Muslim League.  You have politics of feudalism and clientelist politics in which tribes expect rewards for political support, and religious leaders expect to be compensated for their backing.  The book continues with chapters on the Pakistani Army by Shuja Nawaz and Saeed Shafqat, it is an army attempting to shift from conventional tactics to counter-insurgency, and the 2009 decision to confront the Talibinization of Pakistan as the country’s chief threat.  Chapters explore nuclear policy, economic reform to include the absolute need for balanced tax policies, and the challenge of education spending as a percentage of Gross National Product.  This is a thought provoking book for those interested in Pakistan specifically, and region generally.  It is the voice of experienced Pakistanis and those of Pakistani origin who have thought deeply of the national policies of Pakistan.  

Commander Aboul-Enein wishes to thank the Blackwell Library at Salisbury University for providing a quiet place to write this review.


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