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Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam [Paperback]

by Zahid Hussain
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 2008 0231142250 978-0231142250

After September 11, 2001, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, vowed to fight extremism in his country and has since established himself as a key ally in America's "global war on terror." But as veteran Pakistani journalist and commentator Zahid Hussain reveals in this book, Musharraf is in an impossible position. The Pakistani army and intelligence services are thoroughly penetrated by jihadists. In fact, the current government came into power through its support of radical Islamist groups, such as those fighting in Kashmir.

Based on exclusive interviews with key players and grassroots radicals, Hussain exposes the threads of Pakistan's complex political power web and the consequences of Musharraf's decision to support the U.S.'s drive against jihadism, which essentially took Pakistan to war with itself. He recounts the origins and nature of the jihadi movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the long-standing and often denied links between militants and Pakistani authorities, the weaknesses of successive elected governments, and the challenges to Musharraf's authority posed by politico-religious, sectarian, and civil society elements within the country.

The jihadi madrassas of Pakistan are incubators of the most feared terrorists in the world. Osama bin Laden himself is believed to be hiding close to the Pakistani border. Although the country's "war on terror" has so far been a stage show, a very real battle is looming, the outcome of which will have grave implications for the future security of the world.

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Editorial Reviews


This book continues the excellent Pakistani journalistic tradition of writing contemporary history.

(Manvendra Singh India Today)

[Hussain] offers a detailed and persuasive account of the received wisdom on Pakistan since 9/11.

(Carl Brown Foreign Affairs)

A wonderful read that deserves to be read. Written in a dramatic narrative style, the book combines the virtues of being a compulsive page-turner with being informative.

(Vivek Balaraman

Hussain lucidly articulates the challenges and limitations faced by Musharraf... Highly Recommended.

(Choice 1900-01-00)

[A] nuanced view of the political forces at work... It's a cautionary tale with lessons for other Asian countries.

(Mary Kissel and Hugo Restall Wall Street Journal Asia)


Zahid Hussain has produced an important and informed inside look at the military and religious politics of Pakistan and the inevitably fatal inconsistencies of its President. Frontline Pakistan is also a history of our times, as seen through the eyes of George W. Bush's Washington and Pervez Musharraf's Islamabad. The future is now, and it is very worrisome.

(Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231142250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231142250
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,693,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Zahid Hussain was born in Hyderabad in Pakistan's Sindh province in 1949. His parents migrated from India in 1948. He did his BSC (Hons) in Chemistry from University of Karachi and joined Herald magazine as senior reporter in 1983. He is now a senior editor with Newsline, and a correspondent for The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. He has also covered Pakistan and Afghanistan for several other international publications, including the Associated Press and The Economist. He has won several national and international award for his reporting

Zahid Hussain has authored two books- Frontline Pakistan: "The struggle with militant Islam"(I. B Tauris, London and Columbia University, New York. 2007) and " The scorpion's tail: the relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan".(Simon& Schuster, New York. 2010). The books have won widespread acclaim as seminal texts on the subject. He has also contributed a chapter " Deliberate nuclea ambiguity" in the book Pakistan and the Bomb_ published by Notr Dam University press( 1999). He lives in Islamabad Pakistan.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative Summary of Militant Islam in Pakistan July 21, 2008
By Doug
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a fact-packed but highly accessible must-read for those who wish to get a better understanding of the political turmoil throughout the history of modern Pakistan. In particular, this book emphasizes the current struggle with militant Islam and provides plenty of historical context to help Westerners better understand the struggle. A few things you can expect to learn from reading this book include the following:

* The ideological differences between several of the recent Pakistani leadership including General Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

* The history of the struggle with India for the Kashmir region.

* How General Zia radicalized the previously secular Pakistani military.

* The various major Islamic terrorist groups in Pakistan (e.g., LeT, HuT and JeM) and their ideological differences.

* The infamous General Hamid Gul, his role in training the Muhadijeen to combat the Soviets in the recent Soviet-Afghan war, his heading of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence and his support of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

* Pakistan's role in the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

* Abdul Qadeer Khan, the unscrupulous Pakistani scientist and his role in global nuclear proliferation to rogue nations such as Iran, Libya and North Korea.

This is a must read for anyone wanting to read about another significant facet of the war against Islamic terrorism.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book; well researched, well written, and a compelling read!

Author Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", and "Newsweek" exposes Pakistan's close ties with the Taleban and al Qaeda. Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is literally the founder of the modern-day Taleban.

Having lost control of both al Qaeda and the Taleban, Pakistan, which is under the control of President Pervez Musharraf (who has pledged his full support to the United States in the War on Terror) is running out of time.

"Despite the backing of the army and America, Musharraf is living on borrowed time,' writes Hussain. "He has spawned a system that is a hybrid of military and civilian rule. It is not a democracy."

And here lies the problem: "The war against militancy Islamic extremism can be best fought - and won - in a liberal democracy. Musharraf's authoritarian rule has blocked any hopes of a democratic process taking root."

Yet the restoration of democracy in Pakistan is not an American priority, because a leader in uniform is perceived as being capable of delivering far more than one who is democractically elected. "An army general ruling Pakistan does not trouble the West, so long as he happens to be an effective ally in the war against terror," observes the author.

Musharraf and Pakistan have been an effective ally, killing and capturing hundreds of key Taleban and al Qaeda leaders and fighters.

But Musharraf's support for the US-led war on terror, his tactical cooperation with various militant groups, and his refusal to embed a culture of democracy and accountability have intensified social, ethnic and religious differences in Pakistani society.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - in touch with ground reality June 14, 2007
This is a first serious effort by someone to expose the ground realities in Pakistan. I was expecting it to be a dry book but was pleasantly surprised at the content - it was hard to put it down! Zahid Hussain has done an excellent job at presenting the facts (a lot of it) and still maintain the readers interest. He provides an excellent insight on the state of affairs in Pakistan since it's creation in 1947 - the nexus of Government and terrorist organizations, and Pakistan's efforts to keep alive the Kashmir issue per its own personal agenda.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly detailed for such a short book April 22, 2012
Zahid Hussain's "Frontline Pakistan" charts the birth of Islamic extremist movements in Pakistan during the rule of Zia ul-Haq, and their manipulation by the secret services (ISI). This work is definitely not an in-depth study, but provides an excellent 200-page introduction to the subject. The author bases his research on a wide range of documentation, including: news articles, interviews, academic scholarship, TV bulletins, and reports issued by NGOs. Unfortunately the book contains no pictures or maps.

Events move quickly, and the rules of the game have already changed in Pakistan since this book was published. The country has witnessed the rise of a native Taliban movement, which has caused widespread factional fighting, and led to the imposition of martial law in several regions. To complicate matters, the Pakistani Taliban movement has already been linked to, and infiltrated by, the secret services (ISI). Husain predicts this current state of affairs in the final pages of his book:

"Pakistan may not be facing any imminent threat of an Islamist fundamentalist takeover, but there is a real danger of fragmentation with radical Islamists controlling part of the country."

"Frontline Pakistan" is useful to understand the relationship between religious extremism and the armed forces. When Zia embarked on his Islamist program in the late 1970s and 1980s, his real objective was not to uphold religion, but to weaken civilian government (he had his predecessor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, executed after a mock trial). One of the ways to do this was to sponsor the birth of organizations that would discredit traditional democratic institutions. This partly explains why Islamist political parties (Sipah-e-Sahaba) and the culture of Madrasahs were developed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Dense Detail, but Excellent Book
An excellent book. Hussain packs in quite a few historical, religious, and political details in this book on the history, pulse, politics, and Islamic culture of Pakistan. Read more
Published on December 21, 2009 by Will Jerom
4.0 out of 5 stars An important read
This book is a very good primer for anyone looking to learn more about this very pivotal nation in the "War on Terror". Read more
Published on October 12, 2009 by Matthew Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Four and a half
There's no option to choose four and a half stars. The missing half star comes from a lacking of a review of Pakistan's history around (before and little after 1947) and the... Read more
Published on April 14, 2009 by Ignacio Fernandez Mendez
4.0 out of 5 stars Vital for understanding Pakistan, and more importantly Afghanistan
While I would recommend this book to anyone with a desire to learn about the region, what keeps this good book from being a great book is its organization. Read more
Published on March 16, 2009 by Lee L.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for military readers
I'm a USMC infantry / civil affairs officer who is anticipating a possible tour to Afghanistan as Iraq becomes less all encompassing. Read more
Published on February 15, 2008 by William L. Driscoll
3.0 out of 5 stars Pakistan's impending war with its own self
Zahid Hussain touches on an important topic: Pakistan's ongoing and impending war with its own self and the tough choices ahead of President Musharraf. Read more
Published on March 27, 2007 by T. R. Santhanakrishnan
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