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A Troubled Nation

Ashok Behuria

By James P. Farwell
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp.331, Rs.795.00


Rumour-mongering is a national pastime in Pakistan. This habit is perpetuated by the situation of extreme volatility, uncertainty and instability which has plagued Pakistan for the last three decades. Building on the late Benazir Bhutto's statement that there is always 'a story behind a story' in Pakistan, James Farwell, in the book under review, seeks to provide a critical analysis of some important events which shaped Pakistani politics in recent years. The three incidents that he isolates are the A.Q. Khan scandal, the Red Mosque episode and Benazir Bhutto's assassination. A strategic communications expert, Farwell seeks to analyse the communications attempted by General Musharraf in both the cases and assess where he was effective and where he went wrong and why. Out of the 23 sections in the book, the author devotes the most number of pages (pp.149-193) to the section on 'The Campaign for Influence', where he discusses key precepts for effective strategic communication. Other chapters provide detailed, well researched accounts of A.Q. Khan's role in the nuclear black market, the Red Mosque attack and the assassination of Benazir. This is not to deny that he does provide useful not-so-detailed accounts of other episodes like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's rise in Pakistani politics, Osama bin Laden's capture and killing, and the last phase of Musharraf's presidency. Farwell is unrelenting in his analysis of the A.Q. Khan issue. He appreciates Musharraf's effective strategic communication which made A.Q. Khan the scapegoat and saved the military establishment. However, he carefully stitches together evidences of Pakistan military enabling the nuclear black market with the support of Khan, by quoting from a wide range of writings on the subject. He does not spare Khan in the bargain. He exposes Musharraf's lies, effectively doled out in his multiple media appearances, and confirms that even smuggling of sensitive materials was going on right till 2002 under Musharraf's very nose and it could not have been done without his knowledge. Washington's overdependence on Musharraf created the context for legitimization of such blatant falsehoods, he would infer. Musharraf's defence of 'The Red Mosque' attack, is less effective, Farwell would argue. His coverage of the episode is too meager and less well-researched, for example he does not dwell enough on what compelled Musharraf to resort to force. Coming to Benazir, Farwell makes no pretence of his fascination with her as a leader with vision, despite her shortcomings ...

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