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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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