The Idea of Pakistan Paperback – 22 Sep 2006
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
THREE CUPS OF TEA
WHERE THE INDUS IS YOUNG
ALIVE AND WELL IN PAKISTAN
THE GREAT GAME
In his work, Cohen describes the origins of the nation-state of Pakistan in 1947, with an emphasis on the initial expectations in the creation of the state, in order to contrast those expectations against the outcome and current prevailing conditions. The author also dissects the country’s historic trajectory in all political, social, religious, military, economic, and diplomatic aspects, in an effort to describe the past and present, and to point out its plausible futures, adding a final chapter with a discussion of different US courses of action to ensure its interests in the long and short term. The book is descriptive in nature, almost prescriptive when the author suggests different US approaches to deal with Pakistan’s challenges and to secure US national interests, and somewhat futuristic in terms of modestly predicting future outcomes from current conditions.
Although the author does not clearly state his thesis, I can identify Pakistan’s six future possible scenarios (which he summarizes on page 297 of his book) as the main question that he tries to answer. He is modest enough as to predict which one of these future scenarios is to emerge, but gives an educated estimate of the probability for each to occur and its strategic and political consequences to the state of Pakistan. Everything else in the book, except for the suggested US courses of action, is simply a scientific account of Pakistan’s history. Being this a very recent book (2004), it is difficult to test his thesis against time. However, the facts are fairly accurate, as compared to other references, like the CIA World Factbook , Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy , and others .
The book portrays the historic life of Pakistan as a nation building a state at the beginning, after loosing East Pakistan (half of its population), flirting with terrorism, nuclear weapons and even trying to become an Islamic state; Pakistan still finds itself in the reverted task of an already formed state, trying to build a nation. Cohen points out 5 basic failures of the state of Pakistan: Failure to live up to past expectations, failure of vision, economic failure, failure of leadership and catastrophic failure . In the account of Pakistan’s history, Cohen also identifies a strong social alliance that tied the military, the civil service, key members of the judiciary and other elites. This alliance was called the “Establishment” and resembled a classic oligarchy and he identifies it as responsible for all of the mentioned failures. However, in some instances, Cohen blames the military as the institution responsible for Pakistan’s poor reputation of failure, when he refers to it as “…the central feature of the state for forty years: a military establishment that wants the façade but not the substance of a democracy” . As a contrast, in other parts of the book, Cohen addressed the military as the obstacle against many of Pakistan’s evils, namely the separatists, radical Islamists and terrorist factions. The military has also been the only institution with a national security consciousness.
This description of the relationship between the military and the country’s social elite is studied by the author at a possibly shallow depth, falling short of rationalizing why it is that the Pakistani society has not been able to produce intellectuals and politicians (and leaders) that have taken the country in the proper direction. The history of the civilian governments that have ruled the country is plagued with corruption allegations, self-centered, populist and demagogic leadership. It could be that the country’s overall Political Culture has not yet achieved the desired level? Or that the deterioration in the educational system is so severe that there is no production of leadership? It seems a little simplistic to blame an oligarchy, or especially the military for all the ills the country faces.
The best part of the book is the identification of Pakistan’s six plausible futures, listing them in order of probability and explaining the conditions necessary for each to occur and the various strategic and political implications of each possibility. The other valuable contribution is the listing of American options that give US readers an idea of how to approach the issue at hand. This is especially important considering the historical link between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Idea of Pakistan is a valuable contribution of Stephen P. Cohen to today’s world, especially because he addresses issues of current events in a very dangerous and important region of the world, and his work is objective and accurate.
His central theme is contained in the title of the book: The Idea of Pakistan. He describes how the idea originated, how it developed and crystallised, and the challenges that Pakistan faces today. He ends the book with a presentation on the various possible scenarios / paths that Pakistan could take.
His approach is analytical and comprehensive. The book is well-referenced and is easy to read. His writing style is neither pedantic nor casual. By the time you end the book, you will probably know a lot about Pakistan, all delivered through a systematic framework.
However, it is also difficult to retain for long what you have read in this book. This may be due to the fact that the book reads like a project report commssioned by a Corporation or a Government. Cohen does not offer you any insights, as this would perhaps be considered a professorial misdemeanor for a work such as this! Another significant issue is that he treats Pakistan as a totally modern state, and analyses it from that perspective. As a result, he ignores the cultural, economic and political legacy of Islam and Moghuls which Pakistan inherited. This gives his book a very contemporary, current-affairish feel.
In my view, his analysis of Pakistan also suffers due to this omission. The past continues to affect the present and the future. Therefore, any cultue or nation that has such an ancient past can not be undertood effectively, unless that past is also considered.
Overall, a good book.