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Pakistan's Internal and External Dissonances

C. Uday Bhaskar

By Abdul Sattar
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, pp. 329, Rs. 595.00


Pakistan has often been referred to as a paradox and one of its more perceptive commentators, Shafqat Ali Shah, a former Federal Minister observed that ‘Pakistan and Pakistanis generally defy logic’. This  abiding characteristic can be interpreted in many ways but it does come to mind when reflecting over Abdul Sattar’s recall of  Pakistan’s foreign policy.  In a book of 329 pages,  various aspects of Pakistan’s history and the foreign policy challenges that the leadership has had to contend with are detailed. The author earnestly introduces this as ‘a plain narrative, faithfully recalling the facts’.  Yet, the Clinton visit of March 2000 which was a major punctuation in the turbulent trajectory of US-Pakistan relations gets one passing line and more intriguingly, despite the overbearing influence that the Pak military has wielded over national policies,  not once is the acronym  ISI (Inter Service Intelligence) even  mentioned. Surely this must count as one more instance of  ’faith’ and fidelity to facts defying logic!   Greater the pity for the author is a veteran Pakistani diplomat who rose to be Foreign Minister of his country on two occasions—for a brief three months in mid-1993 and subsequently for three years under General Musharraf. Few Pakistanis have had the kind of ring-side seat that Sattar has been accorded for over four decades—to observe, implement and later as a Minister shape the evolution of his country’s foreign policy—and to that extent it is logical (dare one use that word?) that  his personal account of Pakistan’s foreign policy over the first 58 years of the country’s troubled  existence would arouse  considerable expectations. Alas, the eager reader will be disappointed for this book is selective in the facts and events that have been chosen and  clearly Sattar has  his own list of  favourites which dominates his version of the concise history of Pakistan’s foreign policy (PFP).  As far as US Presidents are concerned—and few will disagree that the inhabitant of the White House has been a major actor in  PFP—Richard Nixon is high on the Sattar list and is portrayed in a very favourable light as opposed to Bill Clinton  who gets short shrift. But then the more objective historical record shows that Clinton dared to tell the Pakistani leadership some home truths during his brief five hour stop-over in early 2000 which marked a low point in US-Pak relations. Intriguingly ...

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