Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islamism

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Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islamism

By Zahid Hussain
Columbia University Press, 2007
232 pp. $24.95

This book, by a veteran Pakistani journalist, offers a detailed and persuasive account of the received wisdom on Pakistan since 9/11: that General Pervez Musharraf's government, responding to a virtual ultimatum from Washington, agreed to join the U.S.-led campaign against "international terror." This volte-face was not popular with elements in the army, especially the intelligence services, or with the many varieties of Pakistani Islamists, from moderate to radical, or, for that matter, with the many Pakistanis who oppose the coup-created and authoritarian government of Musharraf. In the ongoing war on terrorism at home and abroad, his government has done less than Washington has wanted but more than most Pakistanis wished. Even a sharp economic upturn, in part because of the volte-face, has not sufficed to strengthen Musharraf's hand at home. Islamists, increasingly better organized, have gained in recent elections, and Pakistani areas bordering on Afghanistan have been turned over to tribal chiefs, making them a safe haven for the Taliban. Musharraf, the author concludes, is "living on borrowed time." This bleak conclusion, which does not seem to be part of Washington's received wisdom, cries out for consideration.

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