Yunas Samad's trenchant analysis of contemporary Pakistan features five main players: the people, the army, the Islamists, the politicians and the Americans. His book explains how a series of alliances borne of political and strategic expediency between the US and the military, between these parties and the Afghan mujahidin, and between various Pakistani politicians and some or all of the above - have continually undermined the state to the extent that its very existence is w in jeopardy. Much of the country is w under the de facto control of an indigeus, 'Pakistani', Taliban, whose writ is extending to Swat, Punjab and Sind along with its traditional bastion in the North West Frontier. Yet even in this parlous situation Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus continue to be obsessed with waging a proxy war against India, whether in Kashmir or Afghanistan, at the expense of their own state's stability, while some elements w, paradoxically, see American influence in Afghanistan as a greater threat to Pakistan than the traditional foe across its eastern border. These high stakes contests for strategic and political power have also harmed Pakistan's ecomy, argues Samad, impoverishing many of its people while the military 'state within a state elite' benefits from American largesse and a tiny business elite enjoys the rich pickings of the of neo-liberal policies enacted at the behest of the World Bank and other international agencies. In conclusion Samad returns to his key themes: explaining how ordinary Pakistanis have been igred by the country's military and civilian rulers, how their material circumstances have steadily deteriorated over the last twenty or more years and how grand strategic designs fashioned in Islamabad and Washington continue to undermine political life and have ushered in forms of Islamist and sectarian politics that were largely unkwn in Pakistan.
Yunas Samad is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bradford. He is the author of Nation in Turmoil: Nationalism and Ethnicity in Pakistan 1937-58, and co-author, with Gyan Pandey, of Faultlines of Nationhood.