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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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.

This language--of the military as a force for modernization of the society because civilian institutions are weak--is identical to the language of American military journals from the 50s and 60s, and contemporary language of many different armies today. No, really, think about it. Even within the American discourse.

I suspect members of the Bush administration and some so-called Coindinistas mirrored this thought process, and were as captured by it today as others were in the past, and, likely, unaware of its long term origins.

To be fair, neither American Right nor left is able to grasp this aspect of its attitudes toward the region.

The conception of the Army as the main modern force in society is an important motivator of action in addition to any regional fears.

As I wrote in another comments section:

"In the June 1969 volume of Military Review, there is an article that is fascinating to examine in both historical terms, and how it reflects on the steadiness of American attitudes toward the region.

The Pakistan Army and Nationbuilding, Raymond A. Moore, Jr. (page 35)

From the 1969 article from the American military journal, I find the following (the article views all of the Army programs as excellent, and the Pakistani Army as a model modernizing force):

Certainly, it is the largest and probably one of the three most important of the modernizing elite groups--the others are the civil service and the planning commission.

"

Aqil Shah makes the same point (and has the same referenced article in the footnotes) in the books The Pakistan Army and Democracy.

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674728936

Where I disagree with the some points made in the book is that I see outside attempts to modernize the country through civilian institutions to be similarly problematic.

But again, this is my eternal naiveté playing out, most of what happens intellectually within institutions is not true scholarly work but simply attempts to cherry pick information to fit pre-existing desires and wants.

I wonder if the American Army found this particularly pleasing because it views itself as a modernizing force abroad, and, so, each fed off the other.

PS: Above, I mean that the American left thinks in terms of outside aid as modernizers and so civilian and military modernizers are really all of a piece.

PPS: Oops, Aqil Shah's book is a true scholarly work, I was just thinking about think tank world in my comments above.

Why do we not do this for everything? Go through one major American military journal region by region and create an institutional narrative of how you have thought about things, how you have changed, and what seems to be the same?

Time and money, of course, so much is diverted to the contractor class and others looking for a quick buck or to make their careers, ideologues, etc.

I wonder, however, what the "Boston" zeitgeist was that contributed to Obama administration policy toward the region, all of the pet ideas of academics were attempted in South Asia, but, of course, hit the rocks because the real world is not some talk for the public at the Brattle.

You know your world, I know mine....