Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", "Newsweek and Newsline draws on interviews with President Musharraf, and unique access to some jihadist organizations for his book that looks candidly at a nations culpability in fostering and harboring a radical culture.

Devoid of sentiments, ‘Frontline Pakistan’ is a grave commentary on the incendiary nature of a nascent Jihadist culture that ‘shares a common culture and anti western world view’ , threatens the integrity of a nation and aims to hold the world hostage. As one of the leading expose of recent times, this sharply critical piece uncovers the emergence of the jihadist trend responsible for sectarian divide in some cases with a rare insight into the origins, dogmatic ideologies, and modus operandi of known jihadist outfits.

In hindsight, the war on terror is the progeny of that war on communism as “The Afghan resistance was projected as global jihad against communism” ( Chp 1 P-17 Para 4); Clearly It was fanaticism employed as an accessory in that battle that soon came to be wielded by the paragons of myopic vision. Admittedly, the noble concept of jihad has become warped; it has continued to lure in the poor, the illiterate and above all, the misguided nonetheless, in a bid to deliver a death blow to the moderates.

Extraordinary details emerge about the Islamic seminaries that “became a transit point for foreign militants aspiring to join al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan” with a probing look at the military links which gave them sustenance and the effectiveness of the present administrations policies. Furthermore, the politicization of religion, Al-Qaeda links of better known militant organizations, pieced together by the capture of elusive agents and ISI‘s alleged complicity make this particular book a riveting piece of investigative journalism.

Now that yet another dimension has been added to the war on terror with this book, it puts this governments’ position in perspective. The tone of the book remains reproachful towards an administration whose actions against militants seem more driven by international pressure than national interest.

Passages like “very little was done to rein in the militant madrassas despite their continuing involvement in jihadist politics” reflect the writers unsympathetic outlook but the formidable nature of the undertaking better known as the war on terror, given the hostility of terrain and society that dwells within the tribal belt and provides safe havens to likes of Taliban and Al-Qaeda is portrayed in vivid detail in the chapter on tribal warriors; a place where “ Bin Ladens men distributed millions of dollars amongst tribal elders in return for shelter” and the ‘intensity of fighting shocked the Pakistani army commanders’ (P-148, Para 2) and this illustrates what the government is up against in the lawless wild west of Pakistan.

Having said that, allegations of simultaneous condemnation and reluctant but nevertheless imprudent patronage and administrations ineffective counteractions of such groups has now reshaped a fearsome foe, as responsible for sponsoring anarchy within as terror without.

In brief, ‘Frontline Pakistan’ is a wakeup call. The book, confirms our worst fears regarding the current state of affairs. Then again, the world will comprehend the complexity of unraveling the network of terror spread to the lawless frontiers of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, this rather unflattering portrait of an administration unable to restrain the monster it created will fuel rather than curb the mounting Western paranoia against the madrassa and jihad.

‘Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam’ reads more like an extended article than a book, and while it may not qualify as a literary masterpiece, it still remains a well researched, provocative and intriguing piece of work.

The authors’ assessments make one thing abundantly clear; this movement is not in remission; the pervasiveness of radical teachings, its broadening reach and ominous intent bodes ill for the future.


Hardcover: 220 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press (March 15, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0231142242
ISBN-13: 978-0231142243

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…

BOOK REVIEW: Quiet Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador of Pakistan / Author: Jamsheed Marker

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times /February 06, 2010

REVIEWED BY: Afrah Jamal

Jamsheed Marker belongs to an exceptional cadre of Foreign Service officers entrusted to keep things on an even keel on the diplomatic stage. Providence chose him to fill the void brought on by a sudden influx of newly independent nations and the subsequent need to expand diplomatic service during the 1960s. A stellar career in fostering global diplomacy as the longest serving ambassador has earned him a special place in history.

This veteran Pakistani diplomat has a striking resume. With ten posts and nine accreditations, his name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only person to have served as ambassador to more countries than anyone. He took his curtain call when Pakistan declared him Ambassador at Large in 2004, and has been on the faculty at Eckerd College, St Petersburg — Florida as Diplomat-in-Residence. He ended his tenure with a wry observation, ‘the batting card on the scorecard to M…

OPED: The Great Exodus

Published, Global Affairs Feb 2017

The MIG 21 parked in the Pakistan Air Force Museum Karachi is not exactly a war trophy – it belongs to an Afghan defector who flew by one day and landed at Peshawar air base sometime in 1989 / 1990. He was seeking refuge in Pakistan. There had been others before him. Three decades later, young Afghans are still seeking greener pastures – and making headlines because among them is a trailblazing female pilot who had made her nation proud but preferred to stay behind in the United States while on a training tour.

Pakistan has been doubling as Afghan nationals’ second home for over three and a half decades – hosting some 1.5 registered and 1 million unregistered. It ranks amongst the top three largest refugee communities in the world. The stream of defectors, asylum seekers, migrants and refugees kept flowing while the Reds retreated, Taliban invaded and all through the American occupation.

That surge has been unexpectedly quelled.

There’s a migr…

BOOK REVIEW: Outclass Teams: Secrets of Building High-Performance, Result-Oriented Teams / Author: Qaiser Abbas

Thanks to Possibilities Publications for the review copy

Published by Daily Times / Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Runaway Teams beware. Qaiser Abbas is an organisational psychologist, author of books like the Tik Tok Dollar and the upcoming Leadership Insights — and one canny facilitator who introduced Pakistan to the concept of ‘Management by Adventure’, or as he likes to call it, MBA. His mission of rescuing wayward teams from doom makes him dash in and out of companies on a regular basis. Prompted by the success of such expeditions, he proceeds to refine these insights for a book on team-building and a lecture on group dynamics.

As someone who specialised in using experiential learning methodology in outdoor training, Abbas swears by well-structured one-day team-building programmes over time spent bonding over social activities. His recent book takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon to determine the value of team-building, show the expertise needed to ensure…

KARACHI DIARIES: MASTERCHEF Comes to Pakistan

Published in Economic Affairs / May 2014 P-20

Last year ‘MasterChef Australia’ S04 contestant came to town. Amina Elshafei, described as an ‘unassuming young lady from Sydney’, had been brought in by the Australian High Commissioner’s office and spread the joy of fusion cooking as part of her good-will mission. Around the same time unconfirmed rumors that MasterChef was headed to Pakistan were floating around. By April 2014, the rumors had officially been laid to rest.


‘MasterChef Pakistan’ is set to go on air by 3rd May 2014. The press conference in AVARI (Karachi) threw together an elegant presentation topped off by a divine hi-tea. The MasterChef franchise is already a household favorite, and makes everyone a judge of culinary prowess, and the lead authority on cuisine. Sidra Iqbal, the host for the evening, had also noted this amusing trend, listing Pakistani food as the ultimate source of drama.


His Excellency, the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Peter Heyworth while …

BOOK REVIEW: Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, February 26, 2011
Under the Title: A Play-book for Losers
Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal
Author: Rujuta Diwekar

Master: “You are free to eat.”

Po: “Am I?”

Master: “Are you?” —
Dialogue from Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Po, the Kung Fu Panda, doubted his mentor/master much like readers will doubt a nutritionist guru when she hands over an exclusive pass to eat and, yet, maintain a strategic advantage in the fight against fat.

They need not.

A thriving industry feeds off of ignorance about weight-related issues. And when health and happiness become collateral damage in the mad dash for the finish line, it is time to alter the game plan.

‘Nutritionist to the stars’ Rujuta makes this lonely trek to the promised land a joyful experience where food is not the enemy, and learning the art of making better judgment calls is on the menu. Since she labels the struggle with weight loss a tamasha (spectacle) at the very outset, r…