Title: Sleepwalking to Surrender: Dealing with Terrorism in Pakistan
Author: Khaled Ahmed
REVIEW By Sarah Khan in The Express Tribune, Sept 4, 2016
If you are looking to delve deep into the reason why Pakistan is where it is, then you must pick up a copy of Khaled Ahmed’s Sleepwalking to Surrender: Dealing with Terrorism in Pakistan.
Ahmed is a political analyst and well-known columnist. Aptly titled, his book breaks down the various factors that have led to Pakistan being in the conundrum it is in today.
Each chapter is dedicated to a different issue, from the Taliban, to the Nawaz-Modi meeting and the Hazaras. In each of these chapters, Ahmed succinctly gives the reader a bit of the history of the matter, followed by what the current situation holds. He paints a picture so vividly, that even a person who is not well informed about politics and the state of affairs can quickly catch up.
The reason this book was a revelation for me was because in our day-to-day news feeds we are informed about where Pakistan is, but in his book, Ahmed tells us where Pakistan was, and where it is probably headed.
Ahmed mentions Pakistan’s “obsessive India strategy”. He quotes Anatol Lieven when he states, “Pakistani politicians share responsibility for encouraging ordinary Pakistanis to see jihad in Kashmir as legitimate.”
In this chapter, he discusses Pakistan’s preference of “heroic isolation” to “slavery”. He compares Pakistan to Iran, a country that isolated itself. He writes, “Pakistan’s military strategy must embrace this heroic flexibility and come out of its own isolation to save the state from self-destructing.”
Ahmed discusses Pakistan’s internal war at length, as well as the external and internal factors contributing to it. He also gives background on the various military generals that have come and gone in the past few years as he analyses their strategic stance and the decisions they made.
It was interesting to see Ahmed dissect political events that have become an important part of Pakistan’s history. One such event was the protests against the alleged electoral rigging, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, (PTI), Chairperson, Imran Khan, and Pakistan Awami Tehreek supremo Tahirul Qadri.
Ahmed first chronicles the events that led to the sit-in and the end result. He writes, “Both leaders boasted about themselves like amateur politicians, pushed on to a stage they hardly deserved.” To me, this aptly describes the events and their subsequent end.
Ahmed examines the shaky law and order situation of Pakistan’s biggest metropolis in the chapter titled Ground Zero Karachi. He writes, “Today Karachi is a battlefield where al-Qaeda and its affiliated terrorists must wage a successful war if they have to survive as a global movement.”
He also traces, via Karachi’s history, the various ethnic groups that moved to Karachi and are still in the process of doing so. He quotes architect Arif Hasan, “Almost 75% of the city’s population lives in settlements or neighbourhoods segregated on the basis of ethnicity. Crossing from one ethnically defined neighbourhood to the other is, in many cases, no longer possible.”
In this book, Ahmed frequently discusses the tumultuous relationship of the Pakistani military with the Taliban. He writes, “It [relationship of the state with terrorists] is worrisome because it pointed to possible internal contradictions of the Pakistani state and conversion of state employees to the world view of those whom it calls terrorists.”
Ahmed has taken into consideration all areas that are leading to Pakistan’s self-destruction. He writes about the law being changed frequently and usually working against women.
For example, in 2013 the Council of Islamic Ideology’s rejection of DNA tests to convict a rapist. Or the fact that they allowed underage marriages. How can a country function efficiently when its women are suppressed and find no protection under the law?
He then moves on to discuss the struggles being faced by the Hazaras. He highlights the various wrongful reasons for which they are being oppressed. Ahmed states, “The community was comparatively prosperous and inward looking, thus arousing envy and hatred.”
Ahmed’s book is dense with information, facts, history and beautifully crafted chronologies. For the average person, like myself, this book served as a means of catching up on years of Pakistan’s struggle with terrorism and understanding the reasons behind it. I truly enjoyed Ahmed’s level-headed analysis and his frank opinions about what needs to be done to prevent Pakistan’s further descent into chaos.
The reviewer is a short story writer and blogger, with a background in advertising. She tweets @sufipanda