Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan
Faisal Cheema ·       

The book comprising of seven chapters covering the entire gamut of contemporary issues including the rising trends of ?Jihad? and extremism is a fascinating and informative work, which is based on Mary Weaver?s extensive personal interviews with important military, tribal, religious and political leaders. On Musharraf she writes: ?a man who will determine Pakistan?s future course? and ?a chameleon: a man who can be anything.?

The book begins with the narration of September 11 terrorist attacks and its implications for Pakistan. The first chapter entitled ?General on the Tightrope? is narrative and describes the story of 12 October 1999. The chapter also refers to the ?Kargil Crisis? and highlights the controversy between Prime Minister and Army Chief over the Kargil Crisis. She quotes General Musharraf on July 4 Washington agreement: ?we had not even decided about ceasefire at that time! We had debated at this at defence committee of the cabinet, which lasted all day Friday and no agreement was reached. We decided to meet on Monday morning. On Saturday I went off to Murree for the weekend. At about eleven o? clock that night I was contacted by Prime Minister, who told me to come to the airport immediately to see him off. He had decided to go to Washington. He took his sudden decision without consulting anyone! And I might add, the decisions taken in Washington were totally his.?

There is another interesting interview with Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, head of Madrassa-al-Haqqania on Osama bin Laden and Jihad. Maulana Sami-ul-Haq on being asked ?what does he think about Osama Bin laden he quipped, what do you people think of Abraham Lincoln.?

The second chapter titled ?This was Pakistan? analyses contemporary Pakistan and explains Afghanistan war inter alia Pakistan?s role. She explains the story of first Afghan Jihad against communism in 1980s, role of the Central intelligence Agency (CIA) and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). She condemns General Zia for his role in strengthening religious parties and appreciates General Musharraf?s role in weakening these groups in Pakistan.

The third chapter ?In the Tribal Land of Balochistan? is based on her interviews with the tribal lords in Balochistan from Quetta to Dara Bugti. In one of her interviews with Mahmood Achakzai, nationalist leader in Balochistan, replied, ?Afghanistan is our homeland, Pakistan is our country?the boundaries of countries change. A homeland remains one?. Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo wants ?greater autonomy within Pakistan. Why can?t we have the right to keep our traditions, history, language and culture alive? All we are demanding is what you have in America - its called state?s rights. We have been demanding this for forty years but it falls on deaf ears?.

The fourth chapter covers the interesting stories about the Sheikhs from the Gulf; their lavish life styles and their keen interest in ?Houbara? hunting in the deserts of Pakistan. However, she has also distorted some of the basic facts about Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations. When she writes that, ?the kingdom had poured billions of dollars into Pakistan over the years: in aid and debt relief, for military purchases, and for Pakistan?s program to construct what became known as the world?s first nuclear Islamic bomb?. There is no doubt that there have been cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the defence and other fields but to say that Saudi Arabia has sponsored Pakistan ?Islamic bomb? seems to be over exaggeration of the facts. It is quite surprising that how the author has described Pakistani nuclear bomb as Islami bomb as the latter has time and again assured the world of its strict export control measures.

The fifth chapter titled ?Daughter of Pakistan? looks into Pakistani politics. While depicting the political scenario in 1992, she writes ?Pakistan?s even turbulent politics were in even greater confusion than usual that night?and they so continued to be for the next six week, until the army intervened and ended a paralyzing power struggle between the prime minister and president by securing the resignation of both, appointing a caretaker prime minister, and calling new elections about the fall?.

The sixth chapter ?d�j� VU? starts with the story of referendum conducted by General Musharraf in 2002 in which he assumed the office as President of the county. The chapter also discusses the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan. The chapter also mentions how Osama Bin Laden has expanded his organization all over the world. According to the her, Osama started Al Quaida as essentially an Egyptian organization but now it has proliferated all over the world.

The last chapter ?Kashmir? is based on here numerous visits to Kashmir and her interviews with the Hurriyat leaders like Mir Waiz Omar Farooq. On referendum, when the author asked Farooq how would you vote in plebiscite, Mirwaiz replies ?certainly not for India?. She vividly describes the importance of Kashmir for India and Pakistan. She writes ?neither Pakistan nor India could afford to loose Kashmir: it was central to both their identities.? There is also some description of the conflict along the LOC between India and Pakistan.

She also looks into the issues of nuclear weapons and the chances of them going into extremist hands. General Zinni tells her ?I don?t think so this is imminent?I think the government has firm control over them, and that there is enough responsible leadership in the army to keep them out of the wrong hands?, while General Musharraf feels ?there is simply no threat to Pakistan from these so called fundamentalists. At most they comprised 10 percent of the population, these ?bearded ones?, and then we have another 10 percent of what I call ?liberal modernists?. These are the Pakistanis who are westernized, overly westernized in my view, and their ideas are as alien to our culture as those of the fundamentalist are. So you see, there is no cause for alarm. These two extreme poles balance each other out.?

The book is a good attempt to draw contours of Pakistani state and society. But at the same time there are exaggerations. For example, she mentions Pakistan?s nuclear bomb as ?Islamic bomb? without referring to any evidence that how it could be termed as Islamic bomb. She is absolutely correct about highlighting the rising trends of religious extremism in Pakistan society but has not appreciated the government efforts to curb these organizations. While acknowledging the role of CIA in strengthening religious organizations during the first Afghan Jihad, no remedy is suggested to control these groups in the present circumstances. It should have been pointed out that the organizations that were strengthened during ten years of war against communism, would take at least five to seven years for the government of Pakistan to control.

The book though is narrative and ends up without any conclusion, no doubt, is a major additional contribution to the existing literature on contemporary Pakistan. The language is simple and easy to understand for a common reader. The interviews with various important leaders of Pakistan make the book interesting.