Established as a homeland for India’s Muslims in 1947, Pakistan has had a tumultuous history. Beset by assassinations, coups, ethnic strife, and the breakaway of Bangladesh in 1971, the country has found itself too often contending with religious extremism and military authoritarianism. Now, in a probing biography of her native land amid the throes of global change, Ayesha Jalal provides an insider’s assessment of how this nuclear-armed Muslim nation evolved as it did and explains why its dilemmas weigh so heavily on prospects for peace in the region.
“[An] important book…Ayesha Jalal has been one of the first and most reliable [Pakistani] political historians [on Pakistan]…The Struggle for Pakistan [is] her most accessible work to date…She is especially telling when she points to the lack of serious academic or political debate in Pakistan about the role of the military.”
—Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books
“[Jalal] shows that Pakistan never went off the rails; it was, moreover, never a democracy in any meaningful sense. For its entire history, a military caste and its supporters in the ruling class have formed an ‘establishment’ that defined their narrow interests as the nation’s.”
—Isaac Chotiner, Wall Street Journal
[An] important book… Ayesha Jalal has been one of the first and most reliable [Pakistani] political historians [on Pakistan]… The Struggle for Pakistan [is] her most accessible work to date… She is especially telling when she points to the lack of serious academic or political debate in Pakistan about the role of the military.
Perceptive and learned… [Jalal] shows that Pakistan never went off the rails; it was, moreover, never a democracy in any meaningful sense. For its entire history, a military caste and its supporters in the ruling class have formed an ‘establishment’ that defined their narrow interests as the nation’s… While it is tempting to blame the generals for everything that has gone wrong in Pakistan, Jalal makes it clear that the civilian leadership has been corrupt, petty and small-minded, putting politics above the principle of civilian supremacy, especially when opponents are in power… The Struggle for Pakistan traces Pakistan’s decline all the way up to the present.
Jalal offers a clear, chronological account of how the army, in competition with civilians, has misruled Pakistan.
Ayesha Jalal’s many-years-in-gestation magnum opus… She is more surgical than most Pakistanis in her diagnostic observations.
The book deserves to be translated into many languages… This a heartfelt account, as well as an erudite one.
There are few books that trace Pakistan’s contemporary history in a readable fashion. Jalal, therefore, has presented all the arguments and key developments from the imposition of martial law by President Iskander Mirza in 1958, the rise of Ayub Khan, the 1971 civil war and creation of Bangladesh, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s populism and the damaging decades of 1980s and 1990s that shape today’s Pakistan and its woes… Provide[s] a useful background to the global audience to Pakistan’s complex history… In a country where the discipline of history has vanished and replaced by state propaganda, Jalal’s book is a layered account that aims to undertake a much-needed correction of ‘national’ histories.
How to restore that collective sense of identity, and its commitment to Pakistan is a challenge, which needs further analysis. Additionally, how to create a similar South Asian identity, and a commitment towards that is another key challenge. This book, particularly its attempt to reflect on the interface of politics and history, provides some clue about striving towards such a goal. Scholars of South Asia will profit from reading The Struggle for Pakistan, which excels in the art of writing simultaneously about the politics and history of a country whose normal life is vital for global peace.
The Struggle for Pakistan will be the definitive history of Pakistan for decades to come. The author’s prose is clean, the book is thoughtfully structured, and the research is as close to exhaustive as one could imagine… Anyone attempting to see into Pakistan’s future or better understand its complex past should read The Struggle for Pakistan… Jalal has accomplished something remarkable in presenting the history of Pakistan in such an engaging, comprehensive, and readable manner.
Jalal offers a comprehensive history of Pakistan since its inception in 1947, with an eye toward its defining post-colonial element: military rule… Jinnah’s early death in 1948 left an unfortunate leadership vacuum and a perpetual internal debate over Pakistan’s national identity. Jalal delineates painstakingly how, in the decades that followed, Pakistan, unlike India, was unable to build institutions of participatory democracy and instead moved toward a centralization of power ‘under the auspices’ of military and bureaucracy… Tracing key events—the initial imposition of martial law by President Iskander Mirza in 1958, the 1971 civil war that created Bangladesh, the rise and fall of populist leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and one assassination after the other—Jalal brings us to the present day, where Pakistan, despite being called a failing or failed state, continues to hope for change.
For many in the West, Pakistan is an enigma, a Muslim homeland that seems to have lost its way into a wilderness of perpetual crisis, extremism, and nuclear standoff with India. The Struggle for Pakistan is a perceptive look at the idea and reality of Pakistan, its history and future in the context of the global order, by one of the most preeminent scholars of South Asia. Well written and brimming with fact and insight.
Written by the world’s most respected, prolific, and authoritative historian of Pakistan, The Struggle for Pakistan provides a thorough analysis of the country’s politics from its creation to the present. It is the most useful point of departure for anyone who seeks to better understand Pakistan’s military, religious, regional, and international politics today.
- 448 pages
- Belknap Press
From this author
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