*Pakistan: A Hard Country*

That is the new and excellent book by Anatol Lieven, and there is now more reason than ever to read it.  Here are a few things I learned from the book:

1. For most of the years since 1947, Pakistan has had higher economic growth rates than did India.  Pakistan does not have the same pockets of extreme poverty, or for that matter the extreme wealth.  The level of economic equality in Pakistan is relatively high.

2. Charitable donations run almost five percent of gdp, one of the highest percentages in the world and this reflects the emphasis on alms-giving in Islam.

3. A good quotation from a businessmen: “One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats.”

4. Agriculture pays virtually no tax and the government lends lots of money to businesses and doesn’t seriously ask for it back.  As a result Pakistan collects far less revenue than does India, even comparing areas of comparable per capita income.  If Pakistan were a state of India, it still would be considerably richer per capita than India’s poorest regions, such as Bihar.

5. The Pakistani state is nonetheless a lot more stable than most people think.  In part this is because of the conservative structure of kinship and landholder power in the country.

6. The main threats to the future of Pakistan have to do with ecology and water, not politics.

7. The end of the book has a very interesting discussion about how U.S. actions in Pakistan affect different coalitions, feelings of humiliation, relative status relationships, etc.

Definitely recommended, as are Lieven’s books on the Baltics and Ukraine.


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