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

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Pakistan, the Landed State

Politics, Landlords and Islam in Pakistan by Nicolas Martin; Routledge: London & New York, 2016; pp 192, ₹795.

Pakistan has tended to register on the pages of the Western media, and concomitantly in the minds of its average viewers, along two inter-related grooves. It is seen either as a country irrevocably embroiled in so-called Islamic violence of one form or another—be the orchestrators “honour-killers,” Taliban-linked groups, or sectarian outfits. Or as a country enmeshed in violence, to be sure, but with a saving grace: its liberal elites, who are celebrated for challenging the supposed dominance of religious conservatism with their unrivalled tolerance of diversity, their capitalist development and, at times, their support for the Pakistani state’s military offensives and the broader “War on Terror.” So often does reportage reproduce these twin narratives of Islamic violence and its liberal rectification, that they can now be said to constitute tropes in the popular representation of the country.

Unsurprisingly, these tropes have not remained within the ambit of journalism. Recent mainstream scholarly work on Pakistan has also been complicit in their reproduction. For instance, Anatol Lieven (2012: 66), in his widely-read Pakistan: A Hard Country, declares Pakistan to be “a highly conservative, archaic, even sometimes quite inert and somnolent mass of different societies.” Stephen Cohen’s (2004) The Idea of Pakistan conjoins similar assessments, with explicit recommendations for the US, in collusion with Pakistan’s pro-Western elites, to heighten its political and economic interventions in the country, no doubt to awaken the rest of this slumbering nation. Invariably, much of this analysis, whether scholarly or journalistic, tends to represent the country as overrun by “mad” fundamentalists and militant Islamists (or more sombrely, by “archaic” and “highly conservative” masses) while prescribing capitalist development, militarism and/or liberal democracy as the antidote.

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