A rare lucid take on the turmoil in Pakistan by a former State Department official.
A longtime Foreign Service diplomat, Schmidt (International Affairs/George Washington Univ.) served in Pakistan in the late ’90s. Here he offers a cogent analysis of the havoc caused by a nettlesome concoction of feudal lords, strong military, American pressure and radical Islamist factions all vying for dominance. Essentially, he writes, the nation was created as a Muslim entity in opposition to India, and that all its subsequent policies, especially in relation to Kashmir and Afghanistan, reflect that essential insecurity and resentment. With India in mind, the Pakistanis supported the Afghani mujahideen against Soviet aggression, and later modeled its own insurgent elements (enlisted to foment rebellion against India in Kashmir) on the success of that highly selective, motivated group of insurgents. However, these radical Islamist groups, once tolerated because of their ability to execute overseas plans, quickly grew out of control and began to destabilize Pakistani society and government—e.g., through terrorist threats by Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure”), responsible for the Mumbai bombing and numerous others. Moreover, Pakistan’s eager acceptance of American financial support and capitulation to American interests have come under deep suspicion by both the Pakistani people (only a small percentage of whom consider themselves fundamental Islamist) and American government—especially underscored by the revelations of Osama bin Laden’s sheltering for years in a compound near Islamabad. Schmidt’s various scenarios sound rather naïve now, with Pakistan exploding in anger after the assassination of bin Laden, but the author makes a sound case in presenting the complex ramifications resulting from the instability introduced into the country after 9/11, when the United States forced Pakistan to choose between supporting the Taliban or U.S. interests, and subsequently drove al-Qaeda onto Pakistani soil.
A deeply thoughtful study geared for the lay reader.