Very few journalists writing about the world’s hot spots can claim to have personally taken up arms against a military dictatorship. Ahmed Rashid is one of them. After graduating from Cambridge in the early 1970s, he fought with the nationalist guerrillas in the hills of Pakistan’s Balochistan region before turning his hand to writing when the rebellion failed to gain traction.
Given his extraordinary background, it is no surprise that Rashid displays such a complex understanding of his region’s problems in this highly readable and informative book.
The leading Af-Pak expert paints a deeply disturbing picture of his homeland: “Pakistan is now considered the most fragile place in the world. It is the most unstable country and the most vulnerable to terrorist violence, political change or economic collapse.”
If that isn’t worrisome enough, the conflict-riven, corruption-plagued, military coup-prone country possesses an arsenal of more than 100 nuclear weapons and is on very hostile terms with India, which is also bristling with atomic firepower.
Although Pakistan is still a long way from being a failed state, Rashid believes its myriad problems appear to be “insurmountable by the present military and civilian leadership”.