Read The Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Philip Cohen Online


Stephen Cohen updates his critically acclaimed book with a discerning view of significant recent events in the region, particularly the devastating earthquake in Kashmir and its after affects. The quake killed over 70,000 people and left another 3 million homeless in one of the most remote, inhospitable parts of the world. Cohen observes how the catastrophic event has affeStephen Cohen updates his critically acclaimed book with a discerning view of significant recent events in the region, particularly the devastating earthquake in Kashmir and its after affects. The quake killed over 70,000 people and left another 3 million homeless in one of the most remote, inhospitable parts of the world. Cohen observes how the catastrophic event has affected Pakistan's political, military, and economic structures, as well as its relationships with other countries. Praise for the previous edition: "A lucid, penetrating and brilliantly constructed book on the state and nation of Pakistan. Cohen, an old South Asia hand, brings to the fore all his knowledge and expertise of one of America's most important allies in the war against terror."—Choice "Cohen's facts are indisputable, his logic cold and clear, and his omissions deliberate and meaningful."—Foreign Affairs "A singularly successful effort to explain Pakistan.... The intellectual power and rare insight with which the book breaks through the complexity of the subject rivals that of classics that have explained other societies posing a comparable challenge to understanding."—Middle East Journal "Cohen knows Pakistan well and his analysis is very perceptive."—Newsline (Karachi, Pakistan) "A personal, perceptive, and policy-oriented study of Pakistan. This is an important work, by a leading expert of South Asia."—Economic and Political Weekly (India) Book Review "[Cohen's] survey of how the country has developed and why it is at the crossroads it is now is most insightful and useful. A first class primer and more as I commence my work."—David B. Collins, high commissioner of Canada, Islamabad...

Title : The Idea of Pakistan
Author :
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ISBN : 9780815715030
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 382 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Idea of Pakistan Reviews

  • Neeraj Bali
    2018-10-17 08:19

    I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Cohen when I briefly visited Brookings at Washington, back in 2003. I needed some advice on a career in academia and I had sought audience with a few people in the US - he was one of them. In the half an hour I was with him, I heard in rapt attention as this pleasant man held forth on Kashmir and other topics - precise, knowledgeable and humorous in an understated manner. Several years later, I met him again at the Staff College where he was a visitor and I a 'teacher'.This is a work of great scholarship. Stephen Cohen has looked at contemporary Pakistan through a microscope - and a telescope! His analysis of how the original idea of Pakistan casts a shadow on its present, the central role of the Army, the reach of Islamists, the apparent failure of the political class, the growing wave of anti-Americanism, the influence of madaris, a faltering economy that appears to be driving towards a precipice and the overall and growing lack of confidence among its people in the correctness of the direction their country is taking.Cohen builds several scenarios and evaluated them for likelihood and desirability - status quo, Army/ authoritarian rule, full-fledged democracy, Islamist rule, break-up of the nation et al. It also discusses options that America has in dealing with its now-ally-now-headache 'friend'.Cohen's work is extremely well researched and rings with authority. He argues that, contrary to the opinion of some, Pakistan is not about to become a failed state anytime in the near future. He is, however, not optimistic about a radical turnaround in its current (the book was written in 2004 or so but things have steadily got worse since then) status. I was also struck by the fact that of all the future scenarios he built, 'liberal democracy' in Pakistan is considered the best for improving the India-Pakistan relations; and yet, that is among the scenarios that Cohen finds less likely to come to life. As in everything else, the Army's role casts a long and unwavering shadow on this scenario.I strongly recommend this book to anyone having interest in contemporary Pakistan. Even if you end up only validating many of the beliefs that you have held all along, the book certainly illuminates many dark corners with great clarity and force.

  • Jonathan
    2018-10-28 06:54

    When the British partitioned their India, the Muslims purported to believe in what was known as the "Two-nation theory:" the idea that the Muslims of the subcontinent, because of the sharp differences between them and the majority Hindu communities, constituted a separate nation, which would be founded in the Muslim-majority regions of India. Hence today, we have Pakistan: a country which barely functions on the civil or political level, somewhat riven by ethnic and regional divides, but supported by a very capable military, which is indeed the only really competent component of the Pakistani state. A veritable army with a country. Professor Cohen closely examines the historical background of this weak yet powerful nuclear-armed entity, with emphasis on the roles of the army, politics (highly corrupt and basically inept), Islam and how demographics (the country already has a population of 200 million), education (weak and almost non-functional, except for the religious schools) and the economy (flat-lining, except for the textile sector) impinge on Pakistan's future. As America's foremost expert on South Asian security affairs, Cohen's assessment is not optimistic, and it is obvious as to why not. While slightly dated, this book will fill in any gaps you might have on the importance and weaknesses of this strategic country.

  • Nouman Ghumman
    2018-10-26 11:59

    Cohen is America’s leading expert on South Asia. What he says in this book, which came out in 2004, is still relevant to the quandary facing Pakistan today.Stating that early on Pakistan fell into the grip of an oligarchy comprising the army, the civil service, and the feudal lords, Cohen reminds us that Aristotle regarded oligarchy as the evil twin of aristocracy.While Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was that of a secular state, Iqbal’s vision was suffused with religious overtones. Over time, the tension between these two visions was exploited by various groups to push their own agenda.Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad, a former civil servant, deposed the democratically-elected prime minister in 1953, striking the first of many mortal blows on democracy. He acted in connivance with the army chief General Ayub Khan. The US looked the other way, anxious to enlist Pakistan into the Cold War.In 1954, the US provided Pakistan hardware and munitions to raise five-and-a-half army divisions and ten air force squadrons. This strengthened the position of the army-dominated military in the political establishment, and led to Ayub’s coup in 1958. Three more coups would occur as history unfolded.Cohen presents three conflicting visions for the future of Pakistan: a state for the Muslims of South Asia, an Islamic state, and a democratic state.The first vision fell apart in 1971 with the secession of East Pakistan. At partition in 1947, Pakistan accounted for two-thirds of the Muslims in South Asia. Now it accounts for only one-thirds, negating the main tenet of the two-nation theory.Of course, this has not bothered the ideologues from calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir. Cohen rightfully says that the relentless pursuit of Kashmir has done more damage to Pakistan than any other single issue. Elsewhere, he has argued that Kashmir is just a symptom of a bigger problem between the two siblings.Recognising the disparity in conventional forces, Pakistan has adopted the strategy of waging a covert war in Kashmir, in addition to building nuclear weapons. It has armed, trained and funded guerillas that operate in Kashmir as ‘freedom fighters.’Since the Afghan-Soviet war ended in 1989, these groups have embraced the use of terror for political gains and have even attacked targets in India. Cohen traces their terrorist ideology to Maudoodi’s writings, but this appears to be a weak inference since the latter never supported terrorism.The second vision is that of an Islamic state. There is no unique interpretation of an Islamic state, since there are numerous sects and sub-sects within the Islamic faith. The pursuit of this vision is fraught with danger since any brand of Islam that comes into power would seek to impose itself over the others.The third vision is that of a democratic state. Such a state would provide civil and human rights to the citizens. A democratically-elected government would determine national security strategy and defense policy. The army would not determine who would be elected to public office. That would appear to be the ideal end-state. But it is doubtful whether the Pakistani military with its oversized political agenda will ever let this vision come to pass.Cohen rightfully critiques militarism and describes how it has harmed national security. The army, at 600,000, is 50 percent greater in size than it was during the 1971 war, when half of the country was lost. By diverting resources from social, political and economic development, it has compromised national security, a fact acknowledged by the Abbottabad Commission.Ironically, the West has often supported militarism in Pakistan. Samuel Huntington of Harvard called Field Marshal Ayub Khan a Solon after the great Athenian lawgiver. Nixon praised General Yahya for giving him the opening to China. Reagan and Thatcher praised General Zia for being a bulwark of freedom against the USSR. Bush praised General Musharraf for his role in the war on terror.Over time, “Pakistan has adapted to changing strategic circumstances,” Cohen observes, “by ‘renting’ itself out to powerful states,” such as the US, Saudi Arabia and now China. This strategy has not yielded any clear benefits to Pakistan.Cohen presents six scenarios of the future: (1) continuation of the status quo, which involves rule by the oligarchy, now known as the Establishment, (2) liberal, secular democracy, (3) soft authoritarianism, (4) an Islamist state, (5) divided Pakistan and (6) postwar Pakistan.These scenarios, while intuitively plausible, represent Cohen’s personal opinions. They lack the rigor that would have come from using cross-impact matrices of driving factors or a Delphi process involving multiple experts. He also seems to assign probabilities to the scenarios but the methodology is unclear.He notes that American policy toward Pakistan has always given short-term gains priority over long-term concerns. This is no longer feasible, since ignoring the long term could have grave consequences.While discussing the ebb and flow of the tide in American-Pakistani ties, Cohen does not explore the reasons why the tide has always been at a flood when a Republican administration has been in power in the White House and a military dictatorship in Islamabad and at ebb otherwise.Currently, terrorism has zoomed to the top of the American agenda but it needs to be given a long- term preventive quality, not just a short-term military quality. He says the US should incent the government of Pakistan to increase the share of its expenditures that go for education, especially primary education, by reducing military aid if a minimum amount is not spent on education.In Cohen’s view, the army remains the biggest threat to democracy in Pakistan, not corrupt politicians. Elsewhere, he has called it the largest political party. Even when it is not in power, it has unlimited access to the government’s budgetary and foreign exchange resources and dominates the nation’s foreign policy. These points are amplified in Aqil Shah’s book, Army and Democracy, which is also a great read.The Idea of Pakistan covers a lot of ground. However, by the time one gets to the end, many questions remain unanswered. For example, Cohen says the Pakistani army is long on memory and short on foresight, but he does not discuss why that is the case or whether it will ever change. In addition, by presenting a scenario where the oligarchy continues to rule as the most probable scenario, he seems to be endorsing Pakistan’s recidivist militarism. He says it is improbable that liberal democracy will take hold in Pakistan. Just a couple of decades ago, the same had been said of Latin American and Eastern Europe where democracy is now widespread.The book’s implicit hypothesis is that Pakistan’s insecurities have led to military rule. But why is that not true of India, since it has security problems with Pakistan and China, and has to contend with numerous separatist movements?Source

  • Samrat Sen
    2018-10-19 09:21

    A must read for many many reasons.... for Pakistani/Indian citizens of today who get fed on daily dosage of jingoism; for someone interested in South-East Asian Politics & why USA finds it strategically important; to understand how & why terrorism in Islamic world shapes up; what was India’s contribution in creation of Pakistan; which communities did / did not want a separate state; security risks of current occupants of both India & Pakistan; how Pakistan has progressed/regressed over time; shaping up of Bangladesh; the relevance & dominance of Army & Punjabis in Pakistan’s daily life; ethnic break ups and their complex role in Pakistani society; threat from India & Afghanistan and support of China & Saudi Arabia in its existence and growth; why & how USA has an on-off relation with it...It’s fascinating to know that the occupants of what is geographically Pakistan today didn’t want a separate Pakistan, but the idea & movement for a separate state was pushed mainly by Punjabis, North Indian Muslims (Mohajirs), and Bengalis & Biharis residing in East Bengal (now Bangladesh)!! That probably explains why Punjabis (and to some extent, Mohajirs) continue to dominate till date commerce, trade, bureaucracy and army recruitments, over the other native tribes from Sindh, Baluch & NWFP. It’s strange but politically interesting that Urdu, mother tongue of less than 20% of its population, is the national language. It's more of an import from India.Mr. Cohen is probably correct in his assessment that Kashmir is more of an excuse for Pakistan to harass India internationally and keep their hatred towards India alive internally. The Kashmiris, whether occupied by India or Pakistan, do not seem to support either.The country is a time bomb. And probably its Army is best suited to run it.Am glad I was not born there!

  • Eugene Novikov
    2018-10-27 12:09

    Similar to Lieven's "A Hard Country," except several years older and more focused on institutions than social dynamics. Readable and smart, more analytical than informative (Cohen crams his historical recap into 5 pages in the introduction); the last couple of chapters are a bit useless since we're now past the time horizon for his predictions and policy prescriptions, though it's interesting to see what people were saying in 2005 about where the country was heading. (Cohen totally whiffs it on Imran Khan, for the record.) Worthwhile but at this point pretty much supplanted by Lieven's book as the go-to 5,000-foot Pakistan primer, I think.

  • Mitul Choksi
    2018-10-19 07:00

    An interesting (and in my opinion - Spot On) analysis on the state and idea of Pakistan. A lucidly written, well organized discussion on Pakistan, its history, culture, politics and the various challenges it faces in context of Islam, its rivalry with India and its no love lost relationship with America. For people interested in knowing Pakistan intimately, this book is for you.

  • Bubba
    2018-11-01 04:05

    Pakistan has some serious problems. Jinnah regularly rolls over in his grave.

  • Mohd Sufian
    2018-11-13 08:08

    Quite informative for a reader who wants to understand the inner working, ideology and dynamism of Pakistani state from an American perspective. Understandably, the materials that the author is presenting are formulated in a way to inform American policy makers on its future dealings with Pakistan and how to safe guard American interest in that region. A bit biased I would say in that regard. Nevertheless, what would you expect from a book written for American interest?

  • Zainab
    2018-11-13 08:57

    Tired, will write later

  • Jerrodm
    2018-10-21 03:55

    I wanted an overview of modern Pakistan that would help me understand the country, its relations with other countries, its demographics and social makeup, its politics and maybe something about its future. And this book did those things, but I must say the reading was a bit of a slog. This is the kind of book that I feel like I can only start to return to now that grad school is three or four years in my rearview mirror--prior to that point this would just have felt too much like school reading to bear. But I'm glad I put in the work, the information was worth the effort, even if it reads about ten years or so out of date.So, the first part of the book is particularly sloggy--it's a cut and dried historical rehash of the past 100 or so years of Pakistan's history, from British administration to partition with India to the loss of East Pakistan (contemporary Bangladesh) to the Zia and Islamization to Afghanistan I to the Benazir Bhutto/Nawaz Sharif decade to 9/11 to Afghanistan II to Pervez Musharraf. And if you think that sentence was boring and wordy, just imagine that for 70 or so pages. But once the author gets through the obligatory history section, the rest of the book is actually somewhat more readable. Particularly interesting are the chapters on the various power centers in society (the Army, the national parties, the Islamists, the breakaway groups, etc.), the social, economic and demographic pressures that are pushing the country in various directions, and especially the chapter on various future scenarios, including continued stagnation and Army dominance of society, renewed war/hostilities with India, state collapse and/or the rise of Islamists in political power, or even a push toward real democratization and/or socioeconomic development (hey, anything could happen!). On those points the book is actually both quite readable and fascinating, particularly for someone who previously knew at least a bit about several of Pakistan's neighbors but much at all about the country itself.There are several interesting moments in the book that foreshadow things that actually occurred since it was written around 2004, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the 2007 Pakistani military incursions into the Swat Valley, the unseating of Pervez Musharraf and the return of (nominally) civilian rule, the prolongation of the Afghanistan conflict and the eventual withdrawal of Coalition forces, etc. etc. It would be really interesting to read a thirty-or-so page note from the author on exactly what's changed within the last decade, and how that bears on his predictions for the country's future direction and his policy prescriptions. I'd say the book has aged rather well, but I still feel like there's a lot of relevant information from the most recent period that I'm not certain how to incorporate into my now somewhat-deeper understanding of the country. Suffice to say that reading one book on Pakistan does not a country expert one make; I suppose the only cure is more reading. But if you can get through the sometimes-dusty writing, the subject matter is both intensely interesting and crucially important.

  • Aditya Mookerjee
    2018-11-16 04:05

    A book that anybody who wants to read about Pakistan should have. It is written like a Brookings Institution report. One of the few books that I have read throughout. Dr. Cohen does give his opinion on what he feels is good or bad. I thought I didn't like people making my opinions for me, but I didn't mind a bit of that in this book. I don't think Dr. Cohen finds a lot right with Pakistan. At best, he describes what he does, just so. This is an academic book for people into foreign affairs. When this book was published, it was the only book of it's kind, perhaps. Pakistan for me is an exotic nation, just like it may be for any European or American or Australian, or Asian for that matter. The newspapers in India don't report a lot about Pakistan.

  • Nathan
    2018-10-24 10:01

    Cohen is a nuanced and levelheaded reporter and his judgments and hypotheses are marked by a sensible logicality derived from a close and careful reading of local history. Still, this is mostly a theoretical and conjectural work, at times tenuous. Much of his study seems obvious, immediately apparent to anyone who has visited the country or undertaken even the most cursory research. A book helpful for newcomers but not engaging enough to hold their interest, and useless for those familiar with the country, but appealing only to their more educated perspective.

  • Usman Chohan
    2018-11-16 11:58

    Best quote of this fantastic book: "Punjabis can best be described as a cross between Texans and New Yorkers. They exude a brashness and zest for life (reflected through their rich stock of “Punjabi” jokes) and also include some of Pakistan’s best-educated and cultured elites, all of which can be irritating to others."

  • Greg
    2018-10-17 07:21

    A well written, researched, comprehensive insight into the evolution of Pakistan and its impact on modern day history from one of the most formative, authorities on the region. Heavy reading, needs to be read in a few sittings

  • Sean
    2018-10-23 09:05

    Stephen Cohen provides a deep and insightful analysis of the origins of the Pakistani state, how it has come to be where it is today, and what the future may hold. A must-read for anyone wishing to understand the dilemmas the U.S. now faces in South Asia.

  • Anum Yunus
    2018-10-22 09:57

    Politicians, both american and pakistani, should read this book to understand what pakistan needs. Clearly they don't know it yet. Great for understanding history of pakistan and its concerns. Cohen comes up with wise strategies. Only problem is the book is a little repetitive.

  • Constance
    2018-11-01 12:04

    It's well written book and makes me understand the dilemma of Xinjiang in China.

  • Hasan
    2018-11-11 11:54

    Not particularly informative, unimaginative writing, disappointing.

  • Saurabh
    2018-11-10 05:08

    A must read if you need a clear understanding of the influences and circumstances that have shaped the State of Pakistan. Highly recommended read!

  • Umer
    2018-10-30 10:55

    i found it a handful book on the history of subcontinent. the good thing about it is that it unlike most of the stereotypical books of history gives an argumentative account of history.

  • Josh
    2018-10-28 06:57

    pretty dry, but very informative.

  • Hamza Khan
    2018-10-31 11:02

    Promises to defeat the notion that Pakistan deserves to exist.

  • Ashir
    2018-10-20 05:15

    Though writer spent a lot of time for this book but I don,t think so Pakistan is going any where in future,he gave a good insight that what people thinking about that region.