ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Democracy at Gunpoint

The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan by Aqil Shah, London: Harvard University Press, 2014; pp 416, $35.

Former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, once described Pakistan as “an international migraine” and India’s western neighbour has since attracted labels of “terror central” or “jihad central.” The country is seen globally through the prism of chronic instability, along with imminent dangers of terrorism and nuclear black-marketeering. Much of the blame for this lies at the doors of Pakistani military, which has directly ruled the country for more than three decades in its 67 years of independent existence.

For an Indian reader, the vastly different political trajectories of the two neighbours are a subterranean theme running through Aqil Shah’s The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Others have also written about Pakistan’s army and politics, but this book differs from them substantively in its approach. It is an academic study of institutional underpinnings of Pakistani military’s power in the making and execution of state policy. Unlike works focused solely on periods of military rule, Shah’s thesis also explains the periods when the military was not in direct control of the government, although even then it maintained a firm grip on Pakistan’s politics.

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