ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Contesting Notions of Pakistan

Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (London: Allen Lane), 2011; pp xvi + 560 (paper); GBP 16.99. 

The Future of Pakistan by Stephen P Cohen and Others (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2011; pp xvi +311 (cloth), Rs 695.
Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ edited by Maleeha Lodhi (Karachi: Oxford University Press), 2011;
pp xxvi + 391 (cloth), PRs 895.
Secularising Islamists? Jama’at-e-Islami and Jama’at-ud-Da’wa in Urban Pakistan by Humeira
Iqtidar (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 2011; pp xiii + 216 (cloth), price not stated.
The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan by Saadia Toor (London: Pluto Press), 2011; pp xii + 252 (paper), price not stated.
Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan by Naveeda Khan (Durham: Duke University
Press), 2012; pp xii + 261 (paper), price not stated.

Who Benefits from US Aid to Pakistan?

Given the nature and form of the aid relationship between the us and Pakistan, this paper argues that it is not so obvious what the objectives and purpose of us aid to Pakistan really are, who it actually benefits, and whether or not, in fact, this aid goes against the interests of both or either country, benefiting neither. us aid to Pakistan may, in effect, have made things far worse for all supposed beneficiaries.

Is Pakistan Collapsing?

From drone attacks to constant admonishing by the Obama administration, to a weak economy, an insurgency and target-killing of the non-Baloch in Balochistan, and a weekly dose of suicide attacks on common people, all support a perception that Pakistan is collapsing. However, this conventional understanding may not be accurate. What these events suggest is that there is a growing crisis and contradiction within and between the institutions of the state in Pakistan and these crises and contradictions, evaluated differently, might offer a completely divergent narrative. What may be collapsing is the political settlement that has existed for many decades and this may be a positive development. Democractic forces have an opportunity now to end the military's domination of Pakistan.

A Conspicuous Absence: Teaching and Research on India in Pakistan

A detailed survey in Pakistan of social science research and teaching on India shows that there is a conspicuous silence on India in Pakistan's research and teaching institutions. The little research that is done is skewed in favour of strategic and defence studies. Even books and research emanating from India are not part of the curricula. Among the reasons for this dismal state are constraints of ideology, politics, state paranoia and lack of infrastructure. This absence of research and teaching on India also reflects the generally poor state of social sciences in Pakistan. The article ends by questioning the lack of social science interest in India on Pakistan.

Growing Influence of the West Asian States on Pakistan

The nature and extent of political involvement and influence of the Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates governments in Pakistan seem far more direct and intrusive than ever before. There is no single explanation for this and there can be many possible answers. The west Asian advice to Pakistan is no different from that of the US, so are the Saudi and UAE governments speaking on behalf of the Americans?

Pakistan's Wars Within Islam

Pakistan's wars on both its western and eastern borders as well as the war with itself, have been created by the very same institution - the intelligence agencies within the security establishment. It is this institution, which needs to be neutered politically in order to end these wars. The choices are not between supporting or making one interpretation of Islam over another, but between a democratic position and a militaristic one.

The Ulema, Deoband and the (Many) Talibans

Historical scholarship tends to see a continuity in the ulema of south Asia - from the Deoband seminary in the 19th century down to the Taliban of Afghanistan and north Pakistan today. Such an assessment unfortunately ignores the discontinuities and breaks that have taken place in the traditions of Pakistani Islam. It also ignores the fact that Pakistan is increasingly influenced more by the religious influences to its west than by a south Asian identity.

South Asia? West Asia? Pakistan: Location, Identity

While Pakistan's geographical location has not shifted in the last 38 years, there has been a marked shift in terms of its identity and associations. In the past, what is now Pakistan was closer to, and more part of, the larger south Asian or "Indian subcontinental" identity, but it has now "corrected its direction" (apna qibla durust kar liya hai). In some ways, the Pakistani identities of the Muslim and the south Asian/Indian are competing identities, often mutually exclusive. A secular India with a Muslim minority would not wish for a stronger Muslim south Asian identity while a Muslim Pakistan may not want to belong to an idea or union, in which it would be marginalised and subservient to a power which it sees as its nemesis.

Criticising Democracy or Criticising Government?

Although the February 2008 elections were probably the fairest ever held in Pakistan the elected government has been repeatedly attacked in the media. Given the historical, political and institutional context, the problems of an elected government in Pakistan are unfortunately perceived to be the failure of the democratic system itself, blurring the distinction between government and the system under which it functions.

Pakistan: A Year of Moving On

27 December 2008, the first anniversary of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, was not only a day for paying tributes but also an occasion to reflect on the direction Pakistan has taken over the past year. The assassination set off a series of events that no one could have predicted. With so much popular support, with a weakened establishment and retreating military, real democracy was poised to take root in Pakistan after the elections of February 2008. Sadly, however, the Zardari government has done the greatest disservice by not taking the steps necessary to deepen democracy in the country.

An Incomplete Transition in Pakistan

The results of the recent elections of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan can be read as a vote by the lawyers against the Pakistan People's Party regime. The PPP government has been unable to carry out the essential reforms required to strengthen democracy in the country. The continued protests of the lawyers, manifest in the results of the SCBA elections, ought to remind the government that winning the popular electoral vote was merely the first step towards strengthening democracy.

Civilian Dictatorship and Praetorian Democracy

Asif Zardari's election to the presidency may seem to represent the triumph of democracy in Pakistan. The larger question, however, is what kind of democratic rule is this going to be with so much power vested in the presidency? Months after what seem to have been fair elections to the National Assembly, Pakistan is apparently steering towards civilian authoritarianism. To the middle class Pakistani elite, whose preferences are peppered with contradictions, military rule promising a liberal social lifestyle is perhaps more to its liking than democracy with its uncertainties.


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