Book Review: Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’

By: Muhammad Hammad Ahmed

This book offers a wide angle of understanding of the contemporary challenges which are confronted by Pakistan and the ways of tackling them for a prosperous future. This book is written by Dr. Maleeha Lodhi who has twice served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and the United States. She has also been the first-ever permanent woman representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. Due to these designations and experiences, she carries a thorough knowledge and strong influence over Pakistan’s polity and people. She is the author of two books; Pakistan’s Encounter with Democracy and the External Challenge being the first one and Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State being the second one. In this book, she has managed to assemble Pakistan’s renowned scholars, academicians, policymakers, journalists, analysts, and economists in one volume to give an insider view of Pakistan’s crises from multiple perspectives and to suggest solutions for a better future. This book does not contain the collection of different conferences proceedings, but it is a product of a virtual conference on cyberspace, discussing and highlighting the themes of governance, security, foreign policy, economic and human development, and the reforms to cater to the issues within them. This book is an interesting and instructive read for those people and audiences who seek to understand that how Pakistan became what it is, and how it can be much more than just a crisis state in the world.    

The book has seventeen articles/ chapters which can also be divided into five major parts based on their nature; the first part discusses the history, the second relates to foreign policy, the third part deals with the role of the army, fourth part suggests ways to enhance country’s competitiveness and the last part depicts the problems mainly faced by Pakistan at large in the shape of economic challenges, education, bad governance, militancy and energy crisis.

The book starts with the article of renowned writer Ayesha Jalal titled ‘The Past as Present’ in which she highlights the importance of history in creating the current problems and issues in the country. She further emphasizes that the understanding of different historical points i.e. Pakistan’s position in relation to India, separation of East Pakistan, 9/11 and militancy etc. is of immense importance for the people of Pakistan for a better outlook. Followed by the chapter ‘Why Jinnah Matters’ by Dr. Akhbar Ahmed in which he focuses the role of Jinnah not only in the creation of Pakistan but also by following the legacy of ideas given by him in different speeches which can offer practical solutions to solve contemporary issues faced by Pakistan today. Further onwards, Mohsin Hamid offers an optimistic view under the chapter ‘Why Pakistan will Survive’ by highlighting the strength of Pakistan in diversity and economic terms and it can be best summed as ‘we are not as poor as we like to think’. He suggests that a better tax collection system can serve as a vital factor in the development. Maleeha Lodhi’s own chapter, ‘Beyond the Crisis State’ is a detailed overview of Pakistan’s internal and external factors that are responsible for the current instability in the state. She has given five fault lines which are needed to be resolved for a better and new course through laying a strong foundation and governance to adhere the changes. 

The book then focuses on the role of the army in politics in the next two chapters under the articles ‘Army and the Politics’ by Shuja Nawaz and ‘Praetorian and the People’ by Saeed Shafqat. Both the writers highlight that for the betterment of Pakistan, it is mandatory that the Army does not intervene in the matters of Government with the goal of building civil institutions and the more civil-military relationship improves, the less army would intervene in the politics. Moreover, the further chapters, ‘Ideologically Adrift’ by Ziad Haider and ‘Battling Militancy’ by Zahid Hussain hold the view that Islam has been used for different purposes that have created multifaceted challenges for Pakistan and to deal such issues of militancy and extremism number of strategies and measures are required. The next few chapters deal with the economic policy of Pakistan. Dr Ishrat Hussain in his chapter, ‘Retooling Institutions’ and Dr. Makeel Ahmed in his chapter, An Economic Crisis State?’ hold the view that economic reforms and civil services cannot remain strong without solid institutions and the focus should be on the implementation of key economic reforms to make the economic sector strong. On the same footing, Mudassar Mazhar Malik in his chapter, ‘Boosting Competitiveness’ and Ziad Alahdad in his chapter, ‘Turning Energy Around’ suggest numerous strategies to make Pakistan a strong economic state and also assert the role of the energy sector in the recovery of economic issues.       

The last chapters of the book deal with strategic issues such as education under the chapter, ‘Education as a Strategic Imperative’ by Moeed and Shanza in which they focus on the right of education and the ways to improve the educational system of Pakistan. Followed by the chapter, ‘Pakistan as a Nuclear State’ written by Feroz Hassan Khan in which he explains that how the nuclear capabilities of Pakistan balanced the hegemonic power of India in the South Asian region and how it helped Pakistan to focus on other areas. Munir Akram in his chapter, ‘Reversing Strategic Shrinking’ highlights and focuses on the current multifaceted issues confronted by Pakistan i.e. energy crisis, involvement in Afghanistan’s peace process, and economic stagnation. In the last two chapters, ‘The Afghan Conundrum’ by Ahmed Rashid and ‘The Indian Factor’ by Dr. Syed Riffat focus on the relation of Pakistan with Afghanistan and India. In the former chapter, he focuses on the critical role of Pakistan in Afghanistan and the impact of NATO’s exit on it whereas in the later chapter, the authors assert the disturbing relationship between Pakistan and India and the ways of improving that relationship which would be beneficial for both the countries.

The book highlights and focuses on one of the key current issues which are still confronted by Pakistan in the education, economic and energy sector and also through in-depth analysis by different scholars and analysts provide viable solutions to solve issues in these sectors. Moreover, the book also suggests ways of setting a bureaucratic setup through different structural reforms. Furthermore, this book also pinpoints the role of the army in politics and also suggests that the army should allow civilian institutions to run the matters of the government through free and fair elections.

On the contrary, there are two to three aspects that are not highlighted in this book. The first is the role of judiciary and media which have become important pillars of the state in the 21st century as they both have an important role in policymaking and in shaping the country’s future. The second aspect which this book did not mention, is the national integration issue faced by Pakistan especially in the region of FATA and Baluchistan. This challenge was the main reason behind the separation of East Pakistan and this is the current issue in these areas which needs to be resolved through numerous reforms. Lastly, it also did not focus on Pakistan and USA relationship.

In the concluding remarks, Maleeha Lodhi has suggested different reforms for human development and policies to overcome the issues currently faced by Pakistan. According to her, ‘Pakistani People deserve no less’ means electoral and political reforms would foster greater and active participation by the people which would eventually open up possibilities for the transformation of the dysfunctional, dominated polity into one and strong system which would be able to meet the demands and needs of the people. Apart from these aspects, the book is well crafted and fine piece of work crafted by different specialists from various fields and expertise who have provided viable solutions and policy choices to solve the contemporary issues of Pakistan.  

The writer is an Mphil Scholar based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]