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A BOOK REVIEW BY DAVID WATERMAN: Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ by Ambassador Dr.Maleeha Lodhi

Pakistaniaat : A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 3, No. 3 (2011)

Unknown-3Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’

Reviewed by David Waterman

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State.’ Maleeha Lodhi, ed. London: Hurst and

Company, 2011. 391 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-84904-135-5.

Maleeha Lodhi, as the editor of Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State,’ has managed

to assemble some of Pakistan’s most influential academics, writers, economists

and policymakers in one volume, designed to give an insider’s perspective on

Pakistan’s “crisis” from diverse angles, and more importantly, to suggest

solutions regarding Pakistan’s obvious potential for a better future. The book is

not a collection of conference proceedings, but rather the product of a virtual

conference in cyberspace, discussing themes of “governance, security, economic

and human development and foreign policy […] what binds all the distinguished

contributors is their belief that Pakistan’s challenges are surmountable and the

impetus for change and renewal can only come from within, through bold reforms

that are identified in the chapters that follow” (3).

The first few chapters concentrate on Pakistan’s history and the sense of a

Pakistani identity, now that the country has existed in very concrete terms for

sixty-five years or so. Ayesha Jalal suggests that Pakistan’s path toward a

national identity for its heterogeneous people has been interrupted, as its history

has been co-opted for “political and ideological reasons” (11). Pakistan’s position

vis-à-vis India, militant Islam and 9/11 are all important factors in the equation as

well. Akbar Ahmed recalls Jinnah’s role not only in the founding of the nation,

but his continuing legacy in terms of an equilibrium between Islam and the State;

Jinnah’s thoughts are in large part gleaned from his speeches and letters, as he left

no monograph before his death (23). Mohsin Hamid, author of Moth Smoke and

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (filming for the movie has apparently begun),

assumes his mantle of engaged journalist in an essay entitled “Why Pakistan will

Survive.” His argument is best summed up as follows: “we are not as poor as we

like to think” (41), highlighting Pakistan’s strength in diversity, and in economic

terms, Hamid suggests that something as simple as a coherent, fair tax code could

allow the nation to concentrate on schools and healthcare, while cutting the

strings of American aid and its corresponding intervention in Pakistan’s affairs.

Maleeha Lodhi’s own chapter is a detailed overview of contemporary history,

calling attention to political asymmetry, clientelist politics and borrowed growth

David Waterman

as well as security concerns and regional pressures on national unity; ultimately

she calls for a “new politics that connects governance to public purpose” (78).

The essays then move into more political themes, and the first among them

discusses the army as a central element of Pakistani political, and indeed

corporate, life. Shuja Nawaz argues that while the army has historically been a

significant power broker, the generation of commanders from the Zia and

Musharraf eras is about to retire, thus promising the possibility of change,

including the realization that “counterinsurgency operations are 90 per cent

political and economic and only 10 per cent military” (93). Saeed Shafqat also

discusses the political role of the military, saying that while elections are of

course essential to democracy, more attention needs to be paid to the rule of law

and the incorporation of cultural pluralism (95), never forgetting the role of

various elites within the process; he suggests that the emergence of coalition

politics is a hopeful sign. Islam’s role in politics is the focus of Ziad Haider’s

essay, tracing its evolution from Jinnah’s comments through the Munir report,

Islamization under Zia and Talibanization to the “This is Not Us” movement

(129) and the hope that moderate Islam represents the future of Pakistan. A

chapter entitled “Battling Militancy,” by Zahid Hussain, continues the discussion,

tracing the development of jihadist politics given the situation in Afghanistan.

The focus then shifts to economic policy, beginning with Ishrat Husain’s

insistence that economic policies cannot remain sound without solid institutions

behind them; he cites the long-term nature of economic progress, while successive

governments seem interested only in short-term horizons (149-150). Meekal

Ahmed follows the Pakistani economy from the early sixties and periods of

relative health, through Ayub Khan’s era, also a time of economic stability, which

changes under Bhutto and his nationalization programs, and since then has gone

from crisis to crisis, both the government and poor IMF oversight bearing a share

of the blame. Competitiveness is the key concept for Muddassar Mazhar Malik,

who reminds us that Pakistan is “open for business” despite many challenges to

overcome, citing economic potential, natural resources and strategic location as

strong points (201). Ziad Alahdad then shifts the focus to energy, a sector in

crisis which then has an enormous impact on Pakistan’s economy, all of this in a

country with abundant natural energy resources; a more coherent exploitation of

Integrated Energy Planning would be part of an overall solution (240).

Strategic issues then occupy several chapters, beginning interestingly with

education as part of the formula, as advanced by Shanza Khan and Moeed Yusuf,

who suggest that politically-neutral education is the foundation not only of

Pakistaniaat : A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 3, No. 3 (2011)

economic development but also the means to resist violent extremism by building

expectations and supplying hope, especially for the young. Pakistan of course

possesses nuclear weapons, and Feroz Hassan Khan asks the question, wondering

if its nuclear capability has allowed Pakistan to focus itself on other priorities, in

other words averting wars rather than fighting them, to paraphrase Bernard

Brodie, cited in Khan’s essay (268). Munir Akram’s essay, “Reversing Strategic

‘Shrinkage,’ highlights Pakistan’s current challenges: the Pakistani Taliban’s

attacks in KP and large cities; Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan; Balochi

alienation; economic stagnation; energy crises; growing poverty, all of which

have contributed to “a dangerous mood of national pessimism,” according to

Akram (284). Afghanistan occupies Ahmed Rashid’s attention, as it has for over

thirty years now; he critiques strategic claims that have become worn with time,

such as the need for strategic depth for Pakistan (although the notion of ‘strategic

depth’ changes when a country becomes a nuclear power), or India’s desire

(among other countries) to gain influence in Kabul (314-315). The final essay,

“The India Factor,” culminates the volume by tracing the tumultuous relations

between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, the bumpy road to peace, the effect of

the 2008 Mumbai attacks, all within the context of peoples who have not

forgotten the trauma of Partition and the secession of East Pakistan. In spite of

the obstacles, Syed Rifaat Hussain lists many of the promising agreements that

have been reached or are in progress, an encouraging sign and a reminder that

good relations are beneficial to both nations.

Human development, Maleeha Lodhi remarks in a concluding note, must

be Pakistan’s priority, and is within reach, as all of the contributors to the volume

insist. Lodhi summarizes thus: “Electoral and political reforms that foster greater

and more active participation by Pakistan’s growing educated middle class will

open up possibilities for the transformation of an increasingly dysfunctional,

patronage-dominated polity into one that is able to tap the resilience of the people

and meet their needs” (350). Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a fine piece

of work, written by specialists for an audience of intelligent non-specialists, and

achieves its objective admirably. Maleeha Lodhi has succeeded remarkably in her

edition of this gathering of clear-sighted experts, who never lose sight of

Pakistan’s potential beyond its current challenges.

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BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Fifty Years Later

Pakistan: Fifty Years Later-Leslie Noyes Mass’s Back to Pakistan


Like yours truly, Leslie Noyes Mass was a Peace Corps Volunteer fifty years ago, recently returned to the country of her assignment: Pakistan.  But unlike what I observed during my recent return to Africa, Mass discovered a significantly different country: more education for young children, an exploding population, and a country not nearly as friendly to the United States as it was when she was there years ago.  I wouldn’t call any of these changes a great surprise, yet I found Back to Pakistan totally engaging for the contrasts I have already mentioned—plus the mirroring of some of the experiences I encountered as a volunteer in Nigeria.

Mass was dumped in Dhamke, twenty or so miles from Lahore, with few guidelines as to what she was expected to do.  Ostensibly, community development, but it was expected that she would generate her own project(s) unlike some of the other volunteers who as teachers had clearly defined tasks.  Her living facilities were basic, exacerbated by her gender as an unmarried
woman is a Muslim community.  Initially, she was frustrated and angry: “Now what?  I had no idea.  And I was mad at the Peace Corps for botching up my assignment.  But I was determined to figure out a way to work in this village.”

Drawing on her letters to friends back home, Mass is able to provide vivid details and feelings about her initial impressions of Pakistan (and her assignment) all those years ago.  Here’s a paragraph from a letter to her boyfriend (later to be her husband), dated October 19, 1962: “The Volunteers here seem to be living pretty well and though some are equally disgusted with the lack of job definition, I am the orphan of the group.  No other woman is alone in a village; everyone else has, at least, a place to live and a real job.  The teachers have already started teaching and the men assigned to agricultural extension and engineering projects all have co-workers.  But we Community Development workers are on our own.  No one really knows what we are supposed to do.”  She’s upset that her attempts to reach out to women in the community are largely unsuccessful.  This is no huge surprise, given the restrictions on women’s lives (and their mobility) at the time and the country’s literacy rate of 12%.  But when she is transferred to Sheikhupura months later, Mass realizes that she had made significant inroads into the lives of the Dhamke women.

Shift to 2009.  Mass returns to Pakistan with several others, including people who were in the Peace Corps all those years ago.  She’s been teaching for decades, earned a doctorate in early and middle school education, and retired from her job as director of an educational program at Ohio Wesleyan University.  She’s a pro, accustomed to training teachers, which she and her friends will do in Pakistan for several months.  They have been successful with making arrangements with The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a private organization that has set up several hundred schools across the country since the government-sponsored schools are sadly lacking.  TCF has had major successes in the country, largely because of its curriculum and the dedication of its teachers who are women only.

Mass, thus, in 2009 is part volunteer, part educational expert, part tourist, keenly attuned to all the differences in the country from the first time she worked there.  The activities with TCF are totally professional, and instantly rewarding.  But it is an incident related to her by Ateed Riaz, one of the organization’s founding directors, that is most revealing to Mass (and to this reader), providing the context for the country’s education and development: “A friend of mine went to the city of Medina and went to a woman squatting on the floor selling something.  He negotiated with her, but she would not sell to him.  She said, ‘If you like it, buy it from that other tradeswoman.  I will not sell it to you.’  So he got a local to come and talk to her in her own language.  She talked to the local and explained that she had already sold enough that day and that other woman had not yet sold any, so I should buy from her.  The message is clear: We need to help each other.”

The beauty of Back to Pakistan: A Fifty-Year Journey is Leslie Noyes Mass’s hindsight, combined with her insight.  The book intermixes the two times instead of following a linear narrative and abounds in Mass’s first-hand reports from all those years earlier, sent as missives to her friends.  Yes, I was predisposed to enjoy this book because of my own educational journey, and I confess that some of the passages describing her activities with TCF (administrators, teachers and pupils) may seem too pedantic to the average reader.  But there are wonderful moments throughout the entire book, such as this one, just as Mass and her friends are going to depart from Lahore: “The schoolmaster said, in a mish-mash of English, Urdu, and Punjabi that he and all the village were happy that I had come back because it shows that not all Americans view Pakistan as a dangerous place where everyone is a terrorist.”

Unknown-13Leslie Noyes Mass
Rowan & Littlefield, 212 pp., $32.95

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C.  Email: clarson@american.edu.

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