On-the-ground look at how terrorism has come to shape the way ordinary middle-class Pakistani families navigate their daily lives.
Harvard-educated, Pakistani-American policy expert Ullah (Vying for Allah's Vote: Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan, 2013) chronicles the political and personal impact of a series of terror bombings in Lahore, focusing on the family of one of the perpetrators, Daniyal Reza, to illustrate the pressures on middle-class Pakistanis who do not support extremism. Daniyal was estranged from the members of his family, all of whom opposed his activities. Nonetheless, after he killed himself during a suicide bombing, his father, Awais, was jailed as an accomplice to his son's crime and only released after a public outcry against the injustice. Ullah attributes the arrest to American pressure on the corrupt Pakistani government to “root out its clandestine links to insurgent groups.” As a former member of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's Pakistan/Afghanistan policy team with family ties to Pakistan, the author was able to draw on his familiarity with the traditions and culture of the region. He spent eight years in the field researching the events surrounding a series of terrorist acts in Lahore. These included in-depth interviews with the Reza family and their associates, national and regional officials involved with the case, and former terrorist sympathizers. He describes the situation in which violence and bullying have become an everyday experience for ordinary people who do not embrace fundamentalism—e.g., women traveling alone and shopkeepers playing pop music. Ullah locates the roots of the problem in British imperial rule, with Pakistan divided into “two non-contiguous regions, West and East Pakistan [now Bangladesh].” The pressure on secular government only increased after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Ullah ends his engrossing book on a note of guarded optimism: “[F]amilies, like entire nations, must sometimes have to withstand the toughest trials and endure almost beyond endurance.”