Customer Reviews: Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military
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on March 9, 2006
When I began this book, my knowledge of Pakistan was the sum total of various sound bites, short conversations with Pakistani co-workers and articles I had read. This resulted in a vague and conflicted perception. Such is no longer the case. The time spent reading Haqqani's book has acquainted me well with the personalities, issues, history and indeed the phenomenon which is Pakistan.

This outstanding work provides the kind historical analysis only available from someone who was there to live the history of which he speaks. As an advisor to three of Pakistan's prime ministers, an acquaintance or personal friend of several influential generals, and as Pakistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka, the author writes with authority from first hand knowledge. He provides a close-in view of the personalities, relationships and complicated intrigue behind many of the events which comprise the story which is the history of Pakistan.

Concerning political intrigue: I think it's fair to say that since its inception, Pakistan has taken that phenomenon to a new level. The interplay and opposition between the military (whose aim is always to control the government), the civilian government (who at times dares pursue ends unsanctioned by the former entity) and the islamist extremists (whom the former seeks to manipulate to help them control the latter) results in a pervasive and ongoing tension. The media is correct to speak of Pakistani politics as "shadow games". Indeed, much goes on in the shadows, behind the scenes where none are supposed to see. The military - and intelligence service (the ISI) exercise an amazing ability to manipulate events, perceptions and ultimately the sentiments of the masses in order to further their own agenda. While reading the book, I expected the level of shenanigans to eventually subside into a fairly smooth running government... Although on the surface, Pakistan has had such periods, the background intrigue never ceases.

The author is amazing in the level of detail he is able to provide. His long personal involvement with the players and institutions of which he speaks, as well as his learning, enable him to present a cogent and engaging account of a complicated subject which - in other hands - could easily be cumbersome and a burden to read. Instead, I found my interest never at a wane. The book reads like a good novel - except it's true. Once again my personal perspective is vindicated: why read fiction when so much of human history is "stranger yet"..!! For those who wish to understand the phenomenon which is Pakistan, I heartily recommend this book.
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on June 5, 2006
This is a well researched book and offers a new perspective on Pakistan's history and politics. Haqqani's main thesis is that the Islamists and the military in Pakistan have always found it beneficial to cooperate with each other. The main reason for this relationships dates back to the creation of Pakistan when the circumstances forced the early leaders of Pakistan to adopt a tripod strategy. The pillars of that strategy were Islam, hatred against India and reliance on American aid. Haqqani argues that this strategy has not changed over time. In conclusion, he asks the American policy makers to stop assisting the military in Pakistan and help Pakistan move from an ideological state run by the mullah-military alliance to a functional one run by the people of Pakistan.

The major weakness of the book lies in its conclusion. It appeals to the American policy makers to do some thing to solve Pakistan's problems. It is the same mistake that Pakistan's military dictators have always made and that the two exiled Pakistani leaders (Mr Nawaz Sharif and Ms Benazir Bhutto) are making now. Rather than appealing to the people of Pakistan to rise up to the occasion and to understand that if Pakistan becomes a democratic, liberal and progressive state they are the ones to directly benefit, Haqqani seeks the solution in the Capitol Hill and the White House.

The problem is that a majority of Pakistanis is still not fully convinced that a truly democratic Pakistan will serve their interests better than the one run by mullah-military alliance. However, it is for this very reason that scholars like Haqqani should come forward and tell the people of Pakistan what is good and what is harmful for them. The scholars should educate ordinary Pakistanis and show them what the propaganda machinery in Pakistan is not letting them see. In the same vein, it will be a good idea to publish an Urdu translation of this book and make it available at a low price in Pakistan so that more Pakistanis can read and benefit from Haqqani's research.
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on July 14, 2005
As a Pakistani with active interest in the poltics and history of the country, I realize that Pakistan is a difficult country. Its politics is topsy-turvy. It is an American ally but its people hate America. Recently it has been at the forefront of the War Against terrorism but continues to be criticized in U.S. media for being a breeding ground for terrorism.

Most books on Pakistan either question the country's rationale or are apologetic about its circumstances. This book does neither. Mr. Haqqani acknowledges the difficulties Pakistan faced at the time of its creation and then proceeds to analyze how its leadership made choices that have led the country through many crises. Instead of backing Pakistani nationalism with a constitutional government, its mainly military leaders tried to base Pakistan on a somewhat contrived ideology. That, more then anything else, explains why Pakistan was divided in 1971 and became a supporter of the Taliban in the 1990s.

This book is not about blame. It explains, analyzes and clarifies. It would help Americans and Pakistanis alike in understanding why Pakistan has become so complicated and how it can become stable in the future.
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on March 24, 2008
Given Haqqani's close relationship with several recent Pakistan governments, I had been looking forward to reading his text.

On the pluses, the book is well researched, with several interesting insights and facts which maintained my curiosity. For instance, it was surprising to learn of the ISI's active interest in Afghanistan which began in 1973 (6 years before the USSR's invasion). Then there were the specifics about Benazir's foreign policy options during her first prime ministerial office being largely curtailed by the army.

On the minuses, Haqqani failed on the book's higher conceptual thinking - specifically he failed to adequately relate the interesting facts with enough of a meaningful conceptual framework. The book feels like a laundry list of events, a boring chronology book (not even a history book, let alone a European IR text) when it really needed to explore the core concepts more powerfully. The book is after all supposed to be focused on the relationship between Pakistan's 'Mosque and Military'.

My guess is that the author rushed the book. Students who have had to write a thesis may appreciate my next comment more easily than others. This book gave me the impression that the author had written the first draft, proofed for typos and run to the printers. I would have thought that if he had allowed a gestation period, even a few weeks, he would have been able to self-reflect that little bit more and push the conceptual dimension.
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on August 5, 2005
In the present war against terrorism, the Muslim societies in general have been defensive, in providing an explanation. Regarding the rise of militancy, various apologetic arguments are presented by the analysts of these societies in general and Pakistan in particular. This book has a different approach.

The author, Husain Haqqani was closely associated with an Islamic party, when he was a student at Karachi University and therefore is better equipped to understand the psyche of such groups. Nevertheless, a distinction has to be made within these Islamic groups. On the one hand, there are those that have remained a part of the political process in Pakistan, while others rely purely on sabotage, killings, hate and bigotry. The latter does not believe in a peaceful participation of country's political process and therefore can be categorized as extremists or even terrorists.

Husain Haqqani is correct in saying that the main problem is the military, with their record of ruling Pakistan for more than half of its history. In the "democratic phase" between 1988 and 1999, the military generals continued to indirectly rule Pakistan, as the Afghan policy; Kashmir policy and the Nuclear policy were strictly under the preview of the army.

One would agree with the author that it were the army generals that encouraged militant groups to operate as an instrument of Pakistan's foreign policy. Even after 9/11, Pakistan army generals followed the same trends, while showing another face to the western world. These generals are part of the problem, when it comes to militancy in the country, with its serious ramification, elsewhere in the world.

'Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military' is a book that can provide an insight to the reader, about the Pakistani power groups and their interaction with each other.

Prof. Dr. Syed Farooq Hasnat

Columbia, Maryland
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on February 25, 2006
Haqqani has written a provocative book on the structural relationship between the military, the bureaucratic-technical elite and the Islamists in Pakistan. He traces this linkage right back to the pre-Partition era. Haqqani's policy tripod - religious nationalism or use of Islam as an ideology to bind the nation, anti-India rhetoric and need for external allies - is a very useful concept for both scholars as well as lay people to understand the dynamics of this country's history for the last 58 years.

Haqqani's book has received rave reviews in various journals and newspapers, including Foreign Affairs, Journal of Democracy, Middle East Journal, Wall Street Journal and Far Eastern Economic Review. It was on the best-seller list in India for a number of weeks and has done very good business in both India and Pakistan. It has also done extremely well within the States.

The book has received a lot of praise and though everyone has the right to express his/her views on books I would suppose that those readers commenting on books would limit their comments to the book and not make personal attacks as those are in bad taste.
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on February 27, 2006
I think Indian intellectuals should read this book... There are some perspectives explained in length that are essential to understanding the Pakistani position...especially the times and events of the Paritition... of how Pakistan came into being - a very insecure and resource-starved young nation. Indians so often fail to appreciate this fact.

An able discussion of the topic by an Author who is obviously well versed in his subject.
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on January 25, 2006
Four-and-a-half stars, actually.

Husain Haqqani's book about the political and historical role of Pakistan is a comprehensive and insightful work. He outlines the alliance between the military and the Islamist movement that has effectively ruled the country through its democratic ups and downs, its ethnic divisions, and its many periods of turmoil, and he describes how this has affected the development of Pakistan. His analysis is clear and perceptive, and easy to follow.

What I found most interesting was how much Haqqani's observations and details provided an impression of the geopolitical situation surrounding Pakistan-and even the War on Terror-that was much in contradiction to present American policy. He shows how Pakistan has always played something of a game with the United States, needing the superpower's support while pursuing an agenda inimical to American interests-namely, the attempt to create a Pan-Islamic bloc in Central and South Asia. Time and time again, the Americans have been fooled by the Pakistani military's professions of alliance and allegiance, while at the same time American policy has sold out the truly democratic forces within Pakistan.

At the same time, I believe that Haqqani's book illustrated some of the reasons that Pakistan has struggled economically and socially. (There are many others, such as the legacy of colonialism and First-World trading practices.) The inability to develop a secular political society has, in my opinion, handicapped Pakistan. I believe that this also demonstrates how the Islamist ideology will often lead to failed states such as Taliban Afghanistan. (Note, that's Islamist, not Islamic.)

All in all, this is a book that is absorbing and informative, and a must read for those interested in the politics of South Asia and Pakistan in particular.
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on July 10, 2005
'Pakistan:Between Mosque and Military' is a Pakistani's analysis of what has happened in the 50 odd years since Independence. The fact that the person writing it was a part of the government for many years lends it an authenticity which is much needed in today's age.

As an Indian what I found 'different' about the book was that this was among the few books I have read, written by a Pakistani, which does not blame Indians for the mess that has been created. It also does not blame any particular leader or party for the present condition of Pakistan but instead tries to show the search for an identity - albeit different from 'Hindu India' - and the 'immense sense of insecurity' vis-a-vis India led to an appeal to Islam as an ideology and as an identity-definer and unifying force in Pakistan. In comparison to other books on Pakistan which trace the rise of Islamization to the policies of Gen Zia this book shows how this was something that had started long ago, soon after Independence.

Another reason to read the book is that though one can find books which talk about US-Pak relations yet none of them go into the detail to analyze the reason why each country needs the other and the widespread impact this relationship has had not just on Pakistan's relations with India but also on its domestic politics.

The last reason this book is a 'must-read' is that it is not too long and is reader friendly.
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on August 11, 2005
Pakistan, according to Husain Haqqani, is a land of paradoxes. Home to a majority of moderate Muslims, created by secular leaders, how did this South Asian country become such an important center of Islamist militancy and militarism? Mr. Haqqani poses the question and answers it with documented history and sound analysis.

Mr Haqqani also explains why despite being a US ally since the beginning, Pakistan continues to have anti-American sentiment. He also sheds light on India-Pakistan rivalry with a somewhat unique perspective.

After a long intellectual journey, Mr Haqqani has attained tremendous clarity in both his views and his writing. I enjoyed the book immensely. It helped me understand several contradictions relating to Pakistan and enabled me to connect the dots in Pakistan's domestic developments and its external policies.
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