Understanding Pakistan

Pakistan is a puzzle. The country sells nuclear secrets to dubious personalities, is a close ally of the US and has a larger population than Russia. And most crucially: it is a Muslim country at the frontline of the fight against terrorism.

In an effort to understand Pakistan a bit better I picked up two books. Both of the books have received very good reviews. And, indeed, both of them were good reads.

Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is fanstastic collection of short stories. For the purpose of understanding Pakistan it has one key message: Pakistan is still a feudal society. Democracy and modernity are a long way away.

The other book is a documentary of a man who began to build schools in Pakistan. The book is called Three Cups of Tea. The name derives from an old Balti proverb: The first time you share a tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honoured guest. The third time you became family.

It is what the American call an inspirational story about a mountain claimed called Greg Mortenson. Saved by his sherpa during an expedition to the K2 he vows to help the sherpa’s village. After a lot of effort he manages to build a school – and then many more.

For the purpose of understanding Pakistan, the message of the book is the same as the one of the previous book: democracy and modernity are a long way away.

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