Peter Oborne celebrates Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven, a work that dispels the myth of Pakistan as a country on the brink. Anatol Lieven's clear-sighted study asks if Pakistan has lost control of its Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country is one such blow for clarity and. Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (Allen Lane). Pakistan is trouble, for almost everyone who has to live in it, deal with it or write about.


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Everyday religion is dominated by traditional, syncretic forms of Islam, centred on Sufi shrines and holy men, on a continuum with more puritan and fundamentalist elements such as the Jamaat Islami and marginal radical groups.

The military operates a bit like a giant family, unusually meritocratic and efficient pakistan a hard country one of the few widely respected national institutions; outside attention centres on Pakistan's intelligence services and nuclear deterrent.

Political parties such as the PPP and PML N are loose coalitions of local interests; an exception pakistan a hard country the MQM, largely localised to a mohajir migrants from India at Partition base in Karachi but with a genuine grassroots party apparatus.

This is followed by a provincial and regional survey. It is a profoundly traditional society and Lieven argues that even destabilising forces such as the Taliban are best understood as pakistan a hard country manifestations of something very ancient: He discusses at length the varieties of South Asian Islam, and their political and social roles in Pakistani society.

Islamist politics, he demonstrates, are extremely weak in Pakistan, even if they provoke hysterical headlines in the west. Secularists may see popular allegiance to Islam as one of the biggest problems.

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But, as Lieven rightly says, "the cults of the saints, and the Sufi orders and Barelvi theology which underpin them, are an immense obstacle to the pakistan a hard country of Taliban and sectarian extremism, and of Islamist politics in general.

Lieven shows that, as in Latin America, anti-Americanism in Pakistan is characterised less by racial or religious supremacism than by a political bitterness about a supposed pakistan a hard country that is perceived to be ruthlessly pursuing its own interests while claiming virtue for its blackest deeds.

Pakistan: a Hard Country by Anatol Lieven: review

This is where Lieven comes in. A longtime visitor to Pakistan, he appears to have read every major work on the country and to have personally pakistan a hard country, even if briefly, almost all the places he writes about.

Spending a month in the rough border city of Peshawar in the summer of involves a degree of personal courage that is not normally demanded of political scientists.

And this ground research pays dividends. When Lieven tells us that Pakistan a hard country is "tough and resilient as a state and a society" and that "it is not always as unequal as it looks", he has the data and the case studies to back up his arguments.

Pakistan's resistance to any political cause, as much as to the constant body blows which fate and politics deliver, is rooted in the "ever present tendency to political kinship and its incestuous sister, the hunt for state patronage", Lieven says. There was never any doubt that the Pakistan a hard country army had the capacity to crush the Taliban but the real question was always the costs and consequences of such an operation.


Predictably, the use of blunt force has turned a geographically delimited insurgency into an amorphous terrorist threat against which the state can do very little. Lieven is categorically opposed to military intervention in Pakistan and marshals some eminently reasonable policy recommendations in his brief conclusions.

For Lieven, Pakistan is resilient enough to survive the terrorist threat, pakistan a hard country the danger which could really precipitate its collapse is climate change.

A country which receives at an average only mm of annual rainfall and is overly dependant on the Indus will be seriously at risk as its already large population grows further and water tables drop unless it makes efforts to better preserve its water resources and prevent pakistan a hard country.

Unlike most Western writers who go looking for interlocutors in their own image - secular, liberal, Westernised - Lieven's research includes a remarkable range of voices, including soldiers, Islamists, policemen, peasants, a president, and taxi drivers.

He is sympathetic, but rarely credulous. He is particularly sceptical of the Pakistani elite - 'even, or especially, when their statements seem pakistan a hard country correspond to Western liberal ideology, and please Western journalists and officials'.

Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven

Heavy reliance on such sources also, though, reflects another rather troubling phenomenon; again one that points towards a gloomier picture than Lieven generally paints. The contrast with India is stark, although in other ways Lieven is surely right to stress how much the two countries pakistan a hard country in common.


There are dozens of Indian historians who can, and do, stand in the first rank of their profession worldwide.