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By Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar

Relying on resilience

ith an impressive career in academia, journalism and diplomacy, Maleeha Lodhi renews her commitment to reform Pakistan through her editorial debut, Pakistan: Beyond The Crisis State, reflective in her selection of themes such as governance, foreign policy, security, economic and human development all of which require urgent public attention. Her excellent choice of contributors qualified to respond to the challenges facing Pakistan today allows this book to delve into historical context. Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State carries a wide range of theoretical contributions from distinguished professors (Ayesha Jalal, Saeed Shafqat, Ishrat Husain and Riffat Hussain), eminent journalists and writers (Ahmed Rashid, Shuja Nawaz and Zahid Hussain), entrepreneurs (Meekal Ahmed and Mudassar Malik) and diplomatscum-scholars (Akbar S Ahmed, Lodhi and Munir Akram) among others. Published at a time when Pakistan is suffering its worst crisis threatening its very existence as a sovereign state, this volume goes a long way in correcting the countrys image as a failing state. It lists and explores several reasons for optimism. For one, it argues that the militarys hegemony over politics and national life is waning. As expounded by Nawaz and Shafqat, increased social and economic mobility is leading to national consensus on civilian supremacy. Author Mohsin Hamid hinges his optimism for a shinning, rising Pakistan on a broad-based ownership of the state by tax-paying citizens. Other experts suggest there are solutions and methods to revert the country on the path of economic progress and national prosperity. For instance, Meekal Ahmed recommends a regime change in economic policy-making, Ishrat Husain insists on the retooling of institutions of economic governance, and Lodhi calls for analysing and addressing the politys fault lines. Akram, with his wide-ranging experience in diplomacy, explores the question of Pakistans increasing marginalisation within regional and global circuits of power. Together with Riffat Hussain and Rashid, he strongly believes that this marginalisation can only be countered by making peace with regional and international powers. Through its explorations into Pakistans potential for private sector investments and the policies that can address the energy deficit, the book inspires theoretical optimism that a turnaround is possible if there is strong political will for bold reforms. Some contributors, however, do not present a detailed argument in favour of corrective measures suggested even when their prognosis of the deepening crisis is incisive. Similarly, a cultural basis for societal resilience through these apocalyptic times has not been mentioned in the collection. Even those who offer extensive empirical information on the resilience of the business sector and the economy that shows positive outcomes regardless of its high-risk status omit a more nuanced analysis of how resilience can be studied, and strengthened through state-led public policy intervention. Pakistans resilience is found within its citizens and communities, not in institutions. Defined as the capacity to absorb societal disturbances, resilience finds its primary expression in cultural and economic practices that are critical for the normal functioning of society in the face of poverty, corruption, inequity, social turmoil, economic crisis and

The Herald, June 2011

Pakistan: Beyond The Crisis State Edited by Maleeha Lodhi Oxford University Press Karachi, 2011 Price: 895 rupees


terrorism. Traditional relationships that provide care and support in distress, both within and outside the family, form the social fabric of such resilience. Adherence to religious traditions that nurture peace and tolerance must be underscored as a social bulwark against rising militancy and religious aggression. Our knowledge of what makes a society resilient can empower us to better respond to the multi-faceted crisis facing Pakistan today. Culture, more specifically collective imaginaries, are one of the many factors that we should seek to investigate as a source or lack thereof. Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State is a timely wake up call for politicians and policymakers to transform our county into a stable modern democracy that is, before the resilience and optimism of most Pakistanis runs out. I