cover image The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Precarious State

The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Precarious State

Declan Walsh. Norton, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-24991-0

Journalist Walsh debuts with an immersive and splendidly written portrait of Pakistan based on the nine years he spent in the country reporting for the Guardian and the New York Times. He begins with his 2013 arrest and expulsion from the country for “undesirable activities” (Walsh later came to believe that his reporting on an insurgent movement in Balochistan province got him kicked out), then profiles nine people whose stories provide valuable perspective on Pakistan’s volatile politics and “endearing absurdities,” as well as its cultural traditions and modern aspirations. Walsh’s profile subjects include the “most famous cop in Karachi,” Chaudhry Aslam Khan, whose office “had the gleam of a mortuary and the furtive bustle of a mobster’s den,” and human rights activist Asma Jahangir, a “cast-iron idealist” who “embraced the untouchable and advocated the unthinkable, leading indefatigable campaigns to reform Pakistan’s bigoted laws or to protect its most vulnerable minorities.” Walsh also probes the history of ISI, Pakistan’s fearsome intelligence agency, and interviews one of its best known spies, Colonel Imam, who trained mujahideen fighters in the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2010. Rich with incisive historical context, astute cultural analysis, and evocative language, Walsh’s account brings Pakistan’s contradictions to fascinating life. This masterfully reported account deserves a wide readership. (Nov.)