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Book Review: Pakistan On The Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan by Ahmed Rashid

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I will be the first to admit that I am more ignorant about world politics than I should be. As a middle-aged man capable of voting this year for the next duly elected leader of the “free world” it would behoove me to know more about the “rest” of the perhaps “not so free” world. What’s brought me to this conclusion is my reading of Ahmed Rashid’s Pakistan On The Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

This is the first book in a long while to make me feel deeply uninformed (or misinformed, perhaps) about something as essential as what my own country is doing in another part of the world — as well as what we are doing “to” another part of the world.

Seemingly right on the brink of truly being classified as a “failed state,” Rashid paints a painful picture of a country run by an irresponsible elite that pays little (to no) taxes as its citizens grow ever poorer. Pakistan is a country ruled by its army that it gives an amazing (and amazingly unaccounted for) share of its budget that seems more concerned with an overriding hatred of neighboring India than dealing with the fantatical terrorist organization which calls Pakistan home, the Taliban.

… I’m from Louisiana. I thought I knew about bad politics.

President Obama, when he first took office, seemed like he actually meant to seriously attempt to “fix” things in this area, but that simply hasn’t happened. I think our actions in the region have simply bolstered the Taliban’s confidence and resulted in a fracturing of the group which has led to a separate “Taliban” that has made it a goal to destabilize Pakistan itself.

All in all Rashid seemingly paints a glum picture. At the conclusion of the book he does offer some advice that, on the surface, seems way too logical and reasonable to ever actually happen. Too many people have to come to their senses. Too many governments have to put their people first above themselves.

Maybe this is why I have allowed myself to remain ignorant of the rest of the world. Maybe this hopeless feeling of “what will happen will always happen and has always happened” is my way of putting my fingers in my ears and telling the world that I cannot HEAR its problems.

Unfortunately, Ahmed Rashid’s amazingly clear and expertly written account of what can only be described as a disaster on a country-wide scale, has woken me up to the fact that the world is a place that cannot afford to be populated by ostriches with their heads in the sand.

We must wake up… and we must have more books like Pakistan on the Brink to shake the sand and our fingers out of our ears from time to time.

Though it may depress you it will certainly make you think, which is why I heartily recommend this book and the two preceding it in what, ultimately, is a trilogy of Ahmed Rashid books (the previous two being Descent Into Chaos and Taliban) that show the downfall of my own a country and our (my) blissful ignorance.

About Michael Jones

  • Aasim

    Interesting review of an interesting book – recommend this confidently. I would also recommend another book ‘people places and pickles’ by Dr Aamer Sarfraz (Mavra Publishers) which came out recently.