Yet, argues Anatol Lieven, it is actually a modern, viable and coherent country. With a massive population (one larger than Russia’s) that is two-thirds of the Arab world, a huge diaspora, its own resources and nuclear weapons strategically placed between Iran, Afghanistan and India, Pakistan is of vital significance to the UK.
In this extraordinary, original book, Lieven looks at all the structures, from political, ideological, social and religious, that make up Pakistan. Having interviewed hundreds of Pakistanis at every level of society, from leading politicians and soldiers to village mullahs and rickshaw drivers, Pakistan is a work of profound and sophisticated analysis. In the wake of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, Osama bin Laden’s presence in its unpoliceable border areas, its shelter of the Afghan Taliban, the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in the country and the UK’s own sizeable British-Pakistani population, there is a clear need to understand this remarkable and highly contradictory place. Indeed, Lieven argues that our current policies are not working – we should move away from the American idea of ‘solving’ Pakistan to a more British plan of ‘management’, through a mixture of aid and pressure. Otherwise, US actions risk destroying Pakistan in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.