The world is perhaps on tenterhooks about the safety and security of Pak’s nukes under the looming threat of Pak military/ISI raised/supported terrorist groups stealing or getting control of them. But James P Farwell in his new book The Pakistan Cauldron: Conspiracy, Assassination and Instability argues that while Pakistan may be a dysfunctional country, its military is disciplined and ruthless in its efforts to protect its nuclear arsenal.
Set in four parts, the book in part one examines A Q Khan’s activity and Musharraf’s calisthenics to silence Khan and to protect Pakistan’s nuclear secrets as well as his ‘communications strategy and tactics’ attempted for Pakistan’s interests. It must also be noted that during Musharraf’s tenure, when Pakistan received substantial arms and monetary aid from the US for fighting against the same terrorists which Pak army/ISI has been covertly supporting, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal grew significantly with Chinese assistance.
The second part of the book dwells on careers of and conflicts between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf as well as events related to her assassination. Part three looks at factors, fallouts and the mystery of Benazir’s assassination and the fourth part titled A Nation on the Brink deals with the aftermath.
Assessing the historical legacy and influence of Bhutto, the book brings out that Pakistani intelligence did not hesitate to lie and even plotted to assassinate its own prime minister and it uncovers the truth about the attitude of Pakistan’s intelligence community to her return to Pakistan in 2007 and what they most feared. In fact, what the book explains about Pakistani power players’ use of communication to compete for power and consolidate their grip on power, is nothing but the rampant and frequent use of lies, half-truths and repeated denials.
Depicting the dynamics that are in play in Pakistan’s current constitutional controversy that has led to former Prime Minister Y R Gilani’s indictment [charge-sheet], which are blowbacks from Pak army’s anger at President Zardari for being too pro-American, it may be the only book so far that [a] shows how the culture of conspiracy operates, using the Raymond Davis controversy and the attack on bin Laden to illustrate the odd-ball dynamics of this political culture; [b] examines US-Pakistani relations strategically and explains what makes Pakistani politics tick, including how the nation’s weak identity and culture that breeds conspiracy theory, assassination, and a sense of betrayal functions.
Farwell’s background as a national security expert and a political consultant enables him to explain and assess the impact of the bin Laden raid and how that has affected Pakistani politics.
Observing that what is transpiring currently is the outgrowth of over five decades of Pakistani politics, the book provides insights into why Pakistan -US cooperation has become so difficult.
With the author also being an experienced litigator, the book evaluates how President Pervez Musharraf mishandled the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. It does this by using an entertaining approach: creating a ‘Dictator’s playbook’ for damage control and cover-up.
Raising the issue of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attack, the author comments that Pakistan’s ‘India-phobia’ is self-defeating and that the exposure of ISI training and sponsoring Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba for the 26 November 2008 attack was a signal event affecting the strategic communication mentioned earlier. It is this strong connection between the ISI and Lashkar that Pakistan simply cannot afford to acknowledge and may remain a pending bane in India-Pakistan relations, even if the integrated border check-post linking both Punjabs has begun functioning. A recommended read for those studying Pakistan.