Review Essay

Praying for Pakistan

Extremism and Corruption in a Troubled State

In This Review

Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State
Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State
By Madiha Afzal
Brookings Institution Press, 2018, 208 pp. Purchase

Around a dozen years ago, during a visit to my ancestral village in Pakistan, I joined my brother for Friday prayers at the local mosque. At the time, the country’s military dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, was busy explaining to Pakistanis that they were in the middle of a do-or-die battle against militants—although it seemed that, for ordinary people, this mostly involved dying. People all over the country were wary of prayer leaders preaching about jihad or creating pretexts for others to wage it. 

My brother, who runs a business in a fruit and vegetable market, served on a committee of mosque leaders that had recently hired a new imam. Before offering him the job, the committee had checked him out to make sure he was not a radical. “The new imam is not a troublemaker,” my brother assured me. “Times are bad, and what goes on in the

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