Farzana Shaikh


On her book Making Sense of Pakistan

Cover Interview of July 26, 2009


There are few today who doubt that Pakistan has emerged as a pivotal state: what happens there will affect millions beyond its borders.  Yet there are risks in regarding Pakistan strictly through a strategic prism and treating it as no more than a security issue.  To do so is gravely to under-estimate the complexity of this diverse country.

For while today Pakistan is indelibly associated with terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, and nuclear proliferation, this is only half the story.  My book is an attempt to think about Pakistan on its own terms.

The country clearly stands at the crossroads.  Although deeply troubled by the lack of a clear identity, it is by no means certain that Pakistan has exhausted all its resources in terms of seeking to develop a future grounded in rules of political negotiation rather than in the questionable assumptions of a ready made Islamic consensus.  The time left to ensure its survival may be short but Pakistan has withstood many a bruising battle and survived.

The country is in the throes of change — changes that point to the determination of its people, if not of its governing elite, to be more receptive to new ways of imagining their country’s identity.  By recasting its enduring quest for consensus in the light of a heritage rooted in the more syncretistic traditions of Indian Islam, Pakistan may yet succeed in projecting an identity that reconciles Islam’s universalist message with respect for the rich diversity of its peoples.

© 2009 Farzana Shaikh