Pakistan may not be a failed state yet, but it’s still in danger of becoming one, according to Anatol Lieven, author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’.
A study of power in Pakistan, Lieven’s book has become popular across the world, and is a bestseller in the country, according to Oxford University Press (OUP).
Lieven elaborated on his work at the OUP head office, saying: “My book is essentially a portrait of power in Pakistan, what it consists of, how it is exercised and where it finds its roots culturally, socially and religiously.”
The author also discussed the barriers present in trying to publish a nuanced view of the country’s problems and politics. Lieven recalled how the Penguin publishers told him that they thought the book would be about the Taliban, to which he’d retorted: “It’s about Pakistan”. He received the response, “But isn’t that the same thing?” Lieven was subsequently rejected by Penguin.
Although the book has received praise in Pakistan, its detractors believe it has a pro-army or anti-democracy bias.
He did say that democratic evolution was healthy for Pakistan, but followed this with a controversial statement likely to confirm the suspicions of his critics: “If the army breaks, Pakistan will break.”
When asked about former dictator Ziaul Haq’s role in what one audience member termed “the rise of the religious right in Pakistan,” Lieven said, “It would be an error to attribute all responsibility to Zia for that. In fact, Zia directly achieved very little.”
On the subject of Afghanistan, Lieven had some blunt assessments to make about the British and the Americans.
While he clarified that Pakistan’s internal role should not be forgotten, Lieven emphasised that America’s actions in Afghanistan had increased extremism in Pakistan. He further highlighted that Pakistan was a more important country to the US as well as the world at large, warning, “There is no sense in risking the destruction of Pakistan to save Afghanistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.