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Pakistan’s Dueling Military Cultures

Ccristine fair

C. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Aqil Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Pakistan’s military has been in the global spotlight for several decades. Within the country, it has shaped both state and society, including arbitrating key decisions — from foreign policy to economic management. A large number of Pakistanis view it as a “guardian” of the state. Yet, scant scholarship exists on the institution itself and the roles it has played. Instead, hagiographical accounts from Pakistani authors (mostly retired military officers) and media commentary that often overlook the important questions dominate the discussion.

Two new books published in quick succession have expanded the debate and provide new insights into the workings of the Pakistani military. The first is a provocative assessment by Dr. C. Christine Fair entitled Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and second is Aqil Shah’s in-depth study, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Both books extend the scope of research by relying on the military’s own literature, and by bringing to light lesser-known dimensions of the internal norms and processes that determine its organizational culture and outlook. […]

Magnificent Delusions: The Ebb and Flow of Pak-US Relations

Raza Rumi

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with President Barack Obama during his October visit to US Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with President Barack Obama during his October visit to US

Husain Haqqani’s new book Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding comes at a critical juncture of Pakistan-US relations as the two nations aim to work together during 2014 to facilitate a transition in Afghanistan.  The book offers us a historical view of a deeply troubled yet interdependent relationship and why the year 2014 is likely to be far from smooth. ‘Magnificent Delusions’ has Haqqani’s signature style: Sharply worded, accessible and at times ironical. The book right at the start gives us a flavor of what follows:

The willingness of my countrymen to believe the worst about their ambassador [Haqqani himself] reflects a deeper pathology. Instead of basing international relations on facts, Pakistanis have become accustomed to seeing the world through the prism of an Islamo-nationalist ideology…these self-defeating ideas makes little impact on the rest of the world; the gap is widening between how Pakistanis and the rest of the world view Pakistan.


The first chapter of ‘Magnificent Delusions’ is an eye-opener for it provides the historic basis of a Pakistani worldview. In a tersely worded narrative, the chapter tells us how Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam in an interview given to Life magazine says: “America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America” and that “Pakistan is the pivot of the world.” The country’s founder thus lays the framework for Pakistan’s foreign policy. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan’s sense of indispensability to the US strategic aims in South-West Asia continues as a delusion that has become a domestic reality. Pakistan’s geostrategic location since Cold War has been vital for West’s policies and perhaps this is why our ruling elites-  civil and military- have been able to extract favours and concessions for promises that Haqqani says “..we did not keep”. […]

February 24th, 2014|books|0 Comments