Inherent in any book about current events or current affairs is the problem of lag time, the time from experiencing the events to writing about them to the book actually ending up in stores. Some of that can be alleviated by selling stories of the events to magazines or newspaper as or shortly after they occur. That was an approach Nicholas Schmidle, author of To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan, used but it showed another hazard when you're writing about current foreign affairs. It may cause you to be forced from the country.
That's actually where Schmidle starts his tale of the two years he spent immersing himself in Pakistan. Beginning in February 2006, Schmidle traveled throughout the country, learning Urdu and working to meet and interview radical Islamists and Taliban members and supporters. In January 2008, though, the police came to his home three times one day, the last time telling him his and his wife's visas were revoked and they were to be taken to the airport immediately. A telephone call to a relatively well-placed acquaintance bought a brief delay but he also learned the government was upset about where he'd traveled, who he'd visited and some of his reporting. Schmidle bought the first two available seats on the next flight out.
To Live or to Perish Forever not only takes us with Schmidle into areas of internal strife and to meet the Taliban and its supporters, it gives a first hand recounting of the events that led to President Pervez Musharraf 's declaration of emergency rule in November 2007 and the protests and street battles that ultimately led to his impeachment and resignation in August 2008. (By coincidence, Schmidle briefly returned to Pakistan and was there when Musharraf resigned.) He became friends with Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the radical cleric who controlled the Red Mosque in Islamabad, and gives a firsthand account of the events leading to that and the military eventually storming the mosque. His efforts also pay some dividends in defeating the time lag element. Among the places he explored was the Swat area in northwestern Pakistan, the site of the Pakistani's government's recent offensive against Taliban control.