The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad

John R Schmidt, Author
John R. Schmidt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-28043-7
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-6907-9
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-1-250-01391-0
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Schmidt, a career foreign officer and political analyst, ominously chronicles how a country conceived with great hopes as a homeland for South Asian Muslims has become "the most dangerous place on Earth." In a clear and systematic analysis of Pakistan's history, he examines the country's beginnings in the partition of India in 1947, exploring the rise of the feudal civilian politicians and the Pakistani army that now dominate Pakistan's politics, and who, united in their enmity toward India, nurtured jihadist groups as "low-cost weapons of war" to defend their contested territory in Kashmir—and fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Indeed, as Schmidt explains, the ruling classes' slavishness to the patronage system leaves them unable to address Pakistan's systemic problems, which include rampant illiteracy and the mushrooming of madrassas that serve as feeder institutions for many of Pakistan's radical Islamic groups. As radical Islamists continue to attack civilian targets, Pakistan's leaders waver between pursuing them and seeing if they can still be used to advance Pakistani interests; Pakistan still fears India more than the Taliban. Covering Pakistan's hostile relationship with India and uneasy alliance with the U.S., this thought-provoking, evenhanded, and sobering history is a "cautionary tale" about the choices Pakistan ‘s ruling classes have made that threaten to bring it to the brink of destruction. (Sept.)
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