An eyewitness account by an acclaimed New Yorker reporter
Wedged between India and Afghanistan, Pakistan is the second-largest nation in the Islamic world, and is situated in what is currently one of the most volatile regions on earth. It has assumed a commanding role in militant Islam, a frightening portent being its creation of Afghanistan's bizarre fundamentalist student militia, the Taliban; and with some fifteen private Islamist armies and at least twenty nuclear weapons, it is considered to be one of the most terrifying places in the world. Its disintegration would pose an unthinkable threat to the United States and the West, and the man who will determine Pakistan's future course is the little-known, enigmatic General Pervez Musharraf.
Mary Anne Weaver presents her personal journey through a country in turmoil, reconstructing, largely in the voices of the key participants themselves--Generals Musharraf and Zia, and Benazir Bhutto--the legacies now haunting Pakistan in the aftermath of the U.S.-sponsored jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan. Fusing geopolitical choices with a vivid portrait of a land--of its people, its mystery, and its clans--Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, provides an essential background for those seeking to understand the problems the international community now faces, and poses some deeply disturbing questions about the future of conflict in South Asia.
Mary Anne Weaver, a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, is also the author of A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam. An Alicia Patterson Fellow for 2001, she and her husband divide their time between New York City and Santa Monica.
Few nations are more critical to United States foreign policy than Pakistan. Wedged between India and Afghanistan, it is the second-largest country in the Islamic world, and is situated in one of the world's most volatile regions. It has also assumed a commanding role in militant Islam—a frightening portent being its embrace of Afghanistan's bizarre fundamentalist student militia, the Taliban. With a dozen or so private Islamist armies and some thirty to fifty nuclear weapons, its disintegration would pose an unthinkable threat to the United States and the 'West, but the man who will determine Pakistan's future course is the little-known and enigmatic General Pervez Musharraf.
In Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, Mary Anne Weaver elucidates a country in turmoil through two decades of eyewitness reporting and unparalleled access to Pakistan's presidents, prime ministers, generals, and politicians. Here are rare and revealing portraits of General Musharraf, who rose through the ranks to become Benazir Bhutto's Chief of Military Operations and then assumed control in a historic military coup; of General Zia, who launched Pakistan on its present militant Islamist course while at the same time transforming it into the hub of U.S. policy on the Indian subcontinent; and of Benazir Bhutto herself—charismatic, imperious, conflicted, commanding, and the first woman prime minister of an Islamic country.
Weaver provides an essential background for those seeking to understand Pakistan and the problems confronting the international community, and poses some deeply disturbing questions about the future of conflict in South Asia. Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan stands as a testament to an enormously complex nation.
"Clear-eyed reporting and graceful prose in a highly readable—and sobering—work of political geography for policymakers and anyone concerned by the risks of an uncertain future . . . Weaver talks to fundamentalists and secularists alike, exploring the rifts that obtain among progressives and those who have nearly succeeded in turning Pakistan into a theocracy along the lines of Iran or Taliban-era Afghanistan, stymied only by a military dictatorship as corrupt as any in the world."—Kirkus Reviews
"A reporter for The New Yorker, Ms. Weaver has spent much of the last two decades roaming the Islamic world, and her book shows the fruits of those journeys. Pakistan is a valuable and information-rich [portrait] of a poor and deeply divided country that, she says, could very well become the next of the world's failed states . . . Ms. Weaver's book is full of acute observation, telling detail, and clear insight. Given that Pakistan, as it faces its uncertain future, is going to become more important, not less, we can be thankful that Ms. Weaver has been paying attention."—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
"Weaver's beautifully written reportage goes a long way toward explaining how Pakistan has emerged as the epicenter of terrorism and how Kashmir has become, as Clinton said in 2000, the 'most dangerous place in the world.' Pakistan is a brilliant portrait of a troubled country, vivid and frightening . . . Weaver brings to life the fragile and dangerous contradiction that is Pakistan, from the sandy vastness of Balochistan to the stark hills and dusty bazaars of the Northwest frontier. 'You're a Sindhi, a Baloch, a Punjabi, a Pathan. Pakistan's binding force has always been Islam,' Pakistan's late president Zia ul-Haq told her. 'Without it Pakistan would fall.'"—Nayan Chandha, director of publications at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, and former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, in The Washington Post
"Weaver tacks anecdotes from her travels to Pakistan together with her post-September 11 reflections on Osama bin Laden, his crowd, and American policy, so as to lightly sketch a country over-shadowed by 'jihad and Afghanistan.' Her book asks the big questions but it does not really try to address them; instead it contains stories based on her dispatches for The New Yorker of 'irascible chiefs' and Arab falconry, old news of Benazir Bhutto, and much conversation with retired generals and 'top' advisers."—Mahnaz Ispahani, The New Republic
"Weaver focuses on the interplay between Pakistani politics and society . . . The debility of Pakistan's institutions and its failure to modernize politically is vividly portrayed . . . Her portrait of Pakistan provides carefully crafted glimpses of its many pathologies."—Sumit Ganguly, University of Texas at Austin, Foreign Affairs
"Perceptive . . . Weaver has drawn on her superb skills as an evocative journalist to write a book that, by telling stories and describing scenes, gives a sense of Pakistani life that no amount of dry analysis could convey. She is literally a fireside storyteller . . . Those who are even remotely interested in Pakistan's coming crisis should read [this book]."—Ahmed Rashid, The New York Review of Books
"Drawing on 20 years of reporting excursions in Pakistan and Afghanistan for The New Yorker and other publications, Weaver leads us on an illuminating journey that spans lawless tribal territory and presidential palaces alike. What we see when we look through her lens is a Pakistan more deeply troubled, more closely tied to the Taliban, and more rife with anti-American sentiment than anyone would like to admit . . . Some of the information Weaver chooses in forming her narrative is perhaps common knowledge among people familiar with the region, but she fits the pieces together in a way that makes the greater puzzle far more thought-provoking and comprehensive."—Ilene R. Prusher, The Christian Science Monitor
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About the Author
Mary Anne Weaver is a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, and is the author of A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam (FSG, 1999). An Alicia Patterson Fellow for 2001, she and her husband divide their time between New York City and Santa Monica
Read an Excerpt
GENERAL ON A TIGHTROPE
ON OCTOBER 12, 1999, at precisely twelve o'clock, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's powerful Chief of the Army Staff, settled into the first seat of the first row of a Pakistan International Airlines plane for the six-hour flight from the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, to Karachi, Pakistan. He was a man of exactitude, having spent his entire adult life in the Armed Forces, where little was left to chance. He was a brilliant tactician, if not an overarching strategist. He was in an ebullient mood that afternoon, he later recalled to me, having just performed better than he had expected in a golf game. He was traveling with only a small entourage (which he liked): his wife, Sehba; his military secretary, Brigadier Nadeem Taj; and an aide-de-camp. A thunderstorm had just passed over, but as the plane, an Airbus 300, began its climb in a light drizzle, everything about PK 805 seemed normal, at least at first.
There was a bit more confusion than usual in tourist class, as some fifty children from Karachi's American School dashed up and down the aisles. The general smiled, thinking of his newly born first grandchild. The following morning, he was to meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The relationship between the two men had grown tense over recent months, following Sharif's agreement to withdraw Pakistani troops from India's side of the Line of Control in the former princely state of Kashmir — a state that both India and Pakistan claimed in a dispute born with their independence, and that had been divided between them for more than half a century. The retreat had humiliated General Musharraf and the Army command, which had considered their infiltration across the Line of Control to be a major tactical coup. It had also provoked history's first direct combat between two nuclear states and brought them to the brink of all-out war.
In the cockpit, Captain Sarwat Hussein, a senior pilot and twenty-six-year veteran of PIA, checked his instruments, gauges, and fuel. His estimated time of arrival in Karachi was 6:55 p.m. He knew that General Musharraf was on board. The two men had never met; only later would they discover how much they shared. Both were in their mid-fifties, both had spent considerable time abroad, and both had chosen their career paths — from which neither had ever deviated — more than a quarter of a century earlier. General Musharraf had entered the Army in 1964 and had just celebrated his first anniversary as the Chief of the Army Staff. His appointment had surprised many in Washington and many more in Pakistan, for unlike most Pakistani generals, Musharraf has no ethnic or tribal base. As a mohajir, he was an outsider among the Army's traditional general-officer corps: the Pathans and the Punjabis who, since the days of British rule, have comprised the country's martial class.
Now as the general sifted through his files and began taking notes, pondering his meeting with the prime minister, the pilot made his routine walk through the cabin and welcomed General Musharraf aboard. Then he continued on to tourist class, where he was mobbed by the schoolchildren, whom he had flown to Sri Lanka a few days before to participate in a sports competition among South Asia's American Schools. The children from Karachi had done well. "The sky had now cleared and it was a beautiful day, with a magnificent view of the sea, so I invited the kids to the cockpit in groups of three and four," Captain Sarwat told me afterward. "They were coming and going through first class for an hour or so. The general didn't seem to mind. He appeared deep in thought."
The flight passed uneventfully, until two or three minutes before Captain Sarwat was scheduled to begin his descent, then he noticed that the tone of the air-traffic controller at Karachi Airport had become tense. "He began to ask me questions," Captain Sarwat said. "'What is your fuel position? What endurance do you have? What is your alternate airfield?'" He paused for a moment, and then he said, "You don't ask these questions when a plane is about to land!"
Over the next twenty minutes or so, Sarwat realized that something was very wrong on the ground. He was told, without explanation, that Karachi Airport had been closed. The runways had been blocked and the lights at the international airfield had been switched off. But three other aircraft had already been permitted to land at nearby fields; he knew this from monitoring their radio contact. None of them had a VVIP aboard, and he would ordinarily have received priority clearance to land. Yet he remained in a holding pattern at ten thousand feet.
"How many people do you have on board?" the control tower asked.
"One hundred and ninety-eight," the captain responded, "including the Chief of the Army Staff."
"And your endurance?"
"One hour and twenty minutes of fuel."
"And your alternate airfield?"
"Nawabshah," Captain Sarwat replied, referring to a tiny desert airstrip in the interior of the Pakistani province of Sindh. It had never accommodated an Airbus 300 before. But, according to airtraffic controllers, it had the capability.
Unknown to the captain or the general, a series of conversations were taking place on the ground between the offices of the directorgeneral of the Civil Aviation Authority, PIA, and the prime minister's residence. Transcripts of these conversations later revealed the increasingly urgent directives of Director-General Aminullah Chaudhry shouting to the tower on the line: "Divert that plane! Get it out of Pakistan! Close all the airports! Block the runways! Turn out all the landing lights!"
"PK 805, what is your remaining fuel?" Captain Sarwat was asked again. It was now 6:40 p.m.
"One hour," he replied.
The air-traffic controller went on. "If your alternate is Nawabshah, then Nawabshah airfield is also closed."
Captain Sarwat now grasped what was happening on the ground. The tower wasn't interested in safely bringing the plane down. It also occurred to him that whatever was happening had something to do with the general.
"Okay, sir," he told the tower. "We understand the situation very, very clearly now."
"I was totally unaware of what was happening in the cockpit or on the ground," General Musharraf told me later, as we sat in his drawing room at Army House in the Rawalpindi cantonment, a colonial legacy of the British Raj. "We were very close to Karachi, perhaps thirty minutes or so away, and the plane had begun to descend when Brigadier Nadeem, who had been in the cockpit, came to me and said that the pilot wanted to have a word with me. When I entered the cockpit, he told me that we were not permitted to land anywhere in Pakistan."
The general asked the pilot what their options were.
"An Airbus 300 is not a car that you can park on the roadside," Captain Sarwat said to me later. "This is a three-hundred-mile-an-hour machine hurtling through the air. Time was literally flying. I looked to my right and could see the lights of the Indian city of Ahmadabad. To my left was the Iranian base of Bandar Abbas. I told the general that if we moved immediately, with no delay, we could make it to Ahmadabad."
I asked General Musharraf what his response had been.
"We're not going to India! Over my dead body will we land there!" The control tower came on the line. "PK 805, can you proceed to Muscat?" Captain Sarwat answered, with growing irritation, that he could not. His fuel situation by that time would permit him to land only somewhere in Pakistan.
Then, as the general looked on, the pilot pulled up the nose of his plane and began climbing to twenty thousand feet.
"What are you doing?" a voice shrieked on his radio line.
"I'm trying to save fuel!"
"It was as though I was in the cinema," General Musharraf said to me. "The pilot was shouting his head off: 'You stupid idiots! We can't go anywhere! If we don't land immediately, we're going to crash!'" (The pilot and the general had already agreed that if it became necessary, Captain Sarwat would declare an emergency and crash-land the Airbus at the Karachi field.)
As the pilot continued to gain altitude, Musharraf and Brigadier Nadeem asked if they could use their mobile phones. Captain Sarwat nodded his head. "Please, use any means you have. Just find me an airport in Pakistan!"
The general and the brigadier tried over and over again to reach their people on the ground with their mobile phones, but they could not get a connection: not with Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, not with the Karachi corps, not with the elite commando units, in which General Musharraf had served for a long time. Captain Sarwat then turned over his internal PIA channel to the two Army men, in an attempt to arrange a telephone patch. General Musharraf gave the operator the numbers of General Headquarters and of the Karachi corps. He was never connected. The chairman of PIA blocked the channel. The PIA operator hung up on the general.
Captain Sarwat checked his fuel again. It was 7:07 p.m., and he had forty-five minutes left.
At about the same time, Lieutenant General Muzafar Osmani, the corps commander of Karachi, was checking his watch and pacing back and forth in the VIP lounge of Karachi Airport. He had been there for nearly half an hour waiting to receive the Chief of the Army Staff and had made numerous inquiries about his flight. Each time he was told, perfunctorily, that PK 805 had been delayed. His irritation was considerably greater than his concern, and he dispatched one of his Karachi commanders, Major General Iftikhar, to the control tower, which was in a state of turmoil. Orders were being given, then withdrawn, then countermanded by the various voices crackling over wireless and mobile phones. (A year later, it was still unclear whether it was the director-general of Civil Aviation, or the chairman of PIA, or one of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's military aides who realized the folly of their plan. The reality was that PK 805 could soon crash.)
"Go to Nawabshah! Go to Nawabshah!" an air-traffic controller finally shouted across the line. "Can you make it?"
"Just," Captain Sarwat replied.
"Take on maximum fuel there. No one is to leave the plane," the air-traffic controller continued, as Captain Sarwat began his climb.
"We were about halfway to Nawabshah when General Iftikhar came on the line," General Musharraf said. "At that point, I still had no idea what was happening on the ground. I hadn't been able to make contact with anyone. But, obviously by now, I certainly could guess that whatever was happening had to do with me. Iftikhar told the pilot: 'Tell the chief to come back to Karachi immediately. Everything is under control.' Control? I mused over Iftikhar's message a bit, and I didn't accept it immediately. So, I went on the line."
The line was crackling. General Iftikhar's voice was unclear. And General Musharraf did not immediately recognize it.
Only Brigadier Nadeem knew the name of Iftikhar's pet dog. Iftikhar was asked the question. He passed the test.
"It was only then that Iftikhar told me that a few hours earlier I had been relieved of my command," General Musharraf said. The nation had been startled, but the generals had been prepared.
The Army moved swiftly to support its chief — the second Chief of the Army Staff to be fired in only a year by an increasingly unpopular civilian prime minister, who had amassed near dictatorial powers in his hands. As General Musharraf and Captain Sarwat circled Karachi at twenty thousand feet, armored personnel carriers and truckloads of commandos had careered through the streets below, taking control of key installations in and around the capital of Islamabad, including the prime minister's official residence. Now Karachi Airport was also under its command. It was Pakistan's fourth military coup in its fifty-two-year history.
"Can we make it back to Karachi?" the general asked his pilot now.
"We can go either way, but you've got to make an immediate decision."
General Musharraf answered, "Turn around."
"PK 805. This is the control tower in Karachi. Surface wind is variable and light. You are cleared to land on runway twenty-five."
Captain Sarwat began his final approach, but he still wasn't sure. "I didn't know General Iftikhar. I didn't know the situation on the ground — which side the Karachi corps commander was on. I looked down at the runway, and I thought: Musharraf is a dead man if I'm wrong."
As PK 805 came in to land, all of the Airbus 300's warning lights flashed on. Captain Sarwat maneuvered what he called his three-hundred-mile-an-hour machine to the VIP area of the airport and switched its engines off. He was still uncertain. General Musharraf returned to the cockpit and gave him a broad smile.
"I hope I've not put you in a difficult situation ..." Captain Sarwat began.
"Don't worry, Captain. They're my men."
The doors were opened, and General Musharraf left the aircraft, one hour and forty minutes after his pilot's ordeal began. He was followed by the children from the American School and the other one hundred and forty-five passengers aboard. None of them had any idea what had occurred.
Captain Sarwat put on his jacket and collected his briefcase. Before getting off the plane, he glanced at the gauges on his flight deck. He had about ten minutes of fuel left.
When I arrived in Pakistan late the following year, Nawaz Sharif had been convicted of hijacking by a special antiterrorist court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was now residing in a sixteenth-century Moghul prison fort. General Musharraf had just completed his first year at the helm of his country's newest military dynasty, but he had failed to resolve in any significant way the four most troublesome difficulties Pakistan faced: a deteriorating economy, tension with India, violence among warring Muslim sects, and the increasing power of Pakistan's Islamists. As for the man who, in a sense, changed the history of Pakistan, Captain Sarwat Hussein, his life was the only one that was little changed. He continued to fly his Airbus across South Asia and into the Middle East. But each time he approached Karachi, he could not help but remember that October night.
It had been a year since I was last in Pakistan, and the country's economic decline was unmistakable. Pakistan was also clearly drifting toward chaos. I was struck, more than ever before, by the impression of a country that was angry and out of control. People seemed to be living on the edge, as much of the nation's infrastructure, like its ancient monuments, was being reduced to dust — as deteriorating as the city built by Alexander the Great in memorial to his favorite horse, Bucephalus, who died in battle here, on the plains of the Punjab in 326 B.C. Corruption flourished and political stagnation ossified. Pakistan now suffered a bomb explosion or act of terrorism nearly every other day. The drugs and the arms dealers continued to be rife in the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, products of the ongoing warfare there, now between that country's Pakistani-spawned, black-turbaned student rulers, the Taliban, and their surviving mujahideen opponents.
When Musharraf and his generals seized control, tensions between Pakistan and India, particularly over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, were also at a high point. The dispute over who will control the Muslim-majority state — nearly two thirds of which has been ruled by India since Partition's aftermath, and the rest, excluding a small bit in China, by Pakistan — had already provoked two wars (in 1947–48, and then in 1965). And these were before Pakistan and India became the world's two newest nuclear powers. Their fractured and bloody history, encapsulated by Kashmir's low-level proxy war — which has raged for more than a dozen years and has claimed some forty thousand lives — is a large part of why their border is often seen as the world's most dangerous place.
The generals' problems — and their sense of isolation — had been compounded by a new rapprochement between India and the United States, which Zia ul-Haq and his generals had presumed would be Pakistan's long-term, non-censorious ally. With the Cold War over, however, Washington had felt free to join New Delhi in insisting that Pakistan end its dangerous obsession with Kashmir. The United States was also frustrated by Pakistan's refusal to assist in the extradition for trial to the United States of the Saudi multimillionaire Osama bin Laden — who had been indicted for allegedly masterminding the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Based in Afghanistan since 1996, bin Laden was America's most wanted terrorist. And if the United States ever hoped to bring him to trial, it would need the support of Pakistan to lure him out of his mountain lair and apprehend him. The United States, like all other nations in the world except for three, did not recognize the Taliban, and, except for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, whose powerful military intelligence organization — Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI — had assisted the Taliban in its rise, was the only benefactor of it.
Excerpted from "Pakistan"
Copyright © 2010 Mary Anne Weaver.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. GENERAL ON A TIGHTROPE,
2. "THIS WAS PAKISTAN",
3. IN THE TRIBAL LANDS: BALOCHISTAN,
4. HUNTING WITH THE SHEIKHS,
5. DAUGHTER OF PAKISTAN,
6. DÉJÀ VU,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The sparkling essays that comprise this book seem unrelated yet all are intimately connected. This eyewitness account does more to explain the hell that bred al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists than scholarly works by historians, theologians, and other outsiders. Beautifully written, Mary Anne Weaver's narrative is part Paul Theroux travelogue, part Truman Capote celebfest, and part Bernard Lewis study of the Middle East. Weaver enlightens and informs the reader on a human level that is sorely missing elsewhere. Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan is subtle and powerful at the same time. A territorial leader fears his isolated province may erupt into violence. "The price of a bullet is one rupee; the price of an egg is two rupees," he explains to Weaver. Newly elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto asks to join Pakistan's president at prayers. He declines because she is a woman. The relationship between the two soon-to-be-ex-leaders couldn't be better explained. Pakistani wildlife authorities assist wealthy Arab sheihks in the decimation of the local houbarb bustard population. In an essay ostensibly about billionaire falconers who roam the desert in Mercedes in search of their prey, it becomes apparent Saudi Arabia has gladly financed many unseemly aspects of Pakistani society. Kashmiris find themselves flooded with ISI-inspired Islamic nationalists although the people in that troubled province only want a multi-ethnic state, a native explains. The CIA supplies Osama bin Laden and the other mujahideen against the Soviets although there is a 30 to 50 percent "slippage" in arms. The word "slippage" seems more appropriate to clothing lost to shoplifters than to shoulder-held surface to air missiles that now menace commercial airlines. Weaver recounts the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and chronicles the present day war against al-Qaeda. Both conflicts originated in Pakistan, fueled by indigenous Islamist hatred and funded by Saudi money (which raises the question, "with friends like these...."). Along the way the author meets the territorial leaders, mullahs, prime ministers, and everyday citizens who transform Pakistan from a bastion of nationalistic fervor into a state sponsor of religious terrorism. How any American, let alone a woman, bagged as many interviews as Weaver did, and how she navigated some of the most dangerous territory in this misogynistic land, remains a mystery. Weaver acts as if her adventures in the darkest reaches of Pakistan were the most natural travels imaginable, and perhaps for her they were. Her journeys certainly serve the reader well.
PAKISTAN IN THE SHADOW OF JIHAD AND AFGHANISTAN is a frightening series of essays written by New Yorker foreign corespondent Mary Anne Weaver over a country that she has covered for the past two decades. Ms. Weaver makes a power case that the United States and the world need to pay attention to this nation that the author says could easily disintegrate into Yugoslavia with nuclear weapons. Though some of the writings seem to ramble, for the most part readers obtain an in-depth look at a potentially troubled country including the American role in building up the region¿s Jihad philosophy in the 1980s and now. The writings also provide a deep look at past leaders and the recently headlined president (that is the most interesting inclusions). Bottom line is that Ms. Weaver shouts the alarms as she concludes that if the Islamic extremists defeat General Musharraf, President Bush¿s war on terrorism turns nearly impossible to win. This easy to read pick up and put down glimpse of a nation that could push the world one step beyond the brink. Harriet Klausner