Top positive review
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AN OUTSTANDING AND PENETRATING HISTORY WRITTEN BY A WELL QUALIFIED INSIDER
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.