Understanding Pakistan

The Book Review, Vol. XXXVII, No. 10, October 2013, pp. 51-52.

Arun Vishwanathan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Ian Talbot CoverAs a new civilian government  finds its feet following the historic transition of democratic power in Pakistan, it is important to carry out a holistic analysis of the multiple crises plaguing Pakistan. These range from a troubling internal security situation with rampant terrorist attacks to a crisis of governance to a slowing economy complicated by an energy crisis. In recent years, given the troubles plaguing Pakistan several scholars have outlined a pessimistic future for Pakistan that has ranged from implosion of the country, to its breaking up or ‘Lebanonisation’ to carving of an Islamic Emirate from within Pakistan’s territory. What makes Ian Talbot’s book a great read is the fact that it chronologically and in great detail analyses the historical developments in Pakistan and highlights the turning points—beginning with the failure of the first democratic experiment in 1958—which have led Pakistan down the path it currently finds itself in. The strength and quality of Talbot’s scholarship comes across given the fact that he engages with the spectrum of available scholarship on every issue whether it is the link between madrassa education and militancy or poor governance to uneven economic development. This coupled with Talbot’s assessment of the strength and weaknesses of the reading of the issue by various scholars provides the reader with a well rounded understanding.

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