In This Review

Pakistan: A Hard Country
Pakistan: A Hard Country
By Anatol Lieven
PublicAffairs, 2011, 592 pp

Challenging the notion that Pakistan is fragile, Lieven presents in exquisite detail how things actually work, for better or worse, in that "hard country." Pakistan's political parties, he says, are best understood in terms of their different provincial roots, and each of the four major provinces offers a different culture. Islam in Pakistan, meanwhile, is about more than the Sunni-Shiite split, involving a complexity of contending movements. Lieven devotes an entire chapter to the Pakistani military, whose roots in the British Raj (1858-1947) he delineates. All this makes for a state that offers both limited services to and limited rule over society. In many areas, tribal or feudal customs provide the substance of governance, and along the 1,600-mile Durand Line, separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, the pretense of Pakistani sovereignty veils a de facto regional autonomy. In this system, the Pakistani Taliban will be resisted only as they thrust out from beyond their thinly populated border area. The Pakistani Taliban jihad, provoked by the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, will subside only after a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan. Thereafter, Lieven warns, there should be "no more wars against Muslim states under any circumstances whatsoever."