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On the Edge of an Abyss?

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

By Francesco Marino and Beniamino Natale
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 180, Rs. 395.00


Pakistan’s imminent failure as a nation state has spawned many books. Pakistan’s principal attraction for writers and experts is the country’s central role in sustaining and promoting regional and international terrorism. Numerous terrorist incidents in recent times, anywhere in the world, seem to have a Pakistani connection or signature. This has engendered a morbid fascination to examine the anatomy of this nation that was born as a homeland for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent and is today the epicentre of terrorism with nuclear weapons capability. A nation that has adopted terrorism as a tool of state policy combined with nuclear weapons is certainly an international headache. From the dawn of cautious optimism at its birth, Pakistan has travelled a long 66 years to its current perilous position in a twilight zone, wracked by domestic terrorism, plagued by a power crisis and an economy in free fall. Pakistan seems poised on the edge of an abyss. It is a mystery that Pakistan teeters on the edge but does not fall over. This is what attracts journalists—breaking news, mostly bad which the media finds exciting.   The authors, both senior Italian journalists, have considerable experience of reporting on South Asia, having lived in India and Pakistan in their professional capacities. Their book seeks to narrate the Pakistan story and unravel the enigma of its polity. Ayesha Siddiqa’s concise and crisp foreword is an excellent introductory diagnosis of Pakistan’s polity, though no remedies have been suggested by her because no remedy, perhaps, can cure Pakistan’s self-inflicted wounds that have degenerated into festering tumours.   The authors claim that this book is about ‘history and politics’ but far from tedious as similar books of this genre tend to be. The principal political actors who guided or misguided Pakistan’s destiny since the 1970s are the focus in the first five chapters of the book. The Bhuttos, General Zia-ul-Huq, Nawaz Sharif, General Pervez Musharraf, Asif Zardari, the MQM supremo Altaf Hussain and his ally Imran Farooq, the latter slain in mysterious circumstances in London, the Baluch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, murdered at the behest of General Musharraf, the jihadist general, General Hamid Gul, the Lashkar-e-Toiba leader Hafiz Saeed who spew venom against Hindu India, Christian USA and Jewish Israel, all flit through the pages of the book, with the authors not mincing their words about the roles played by all ...

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