Renowned foreign affairs expert Lawrence Ziring dies at 86

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of Dr. Lawrence Ziring.

Lawrence Ziring

Dr. Lawrence Ziring, a Western Michigan University political scientist who was internationally known as a leading expert on Pakistan, died July 17 in Kalamazoo. He was 86.

Lawrence Ziring

Ziring was also one of the world's leading authorities on South Asia geopolitics, U.S. foreign policy for that region and NATO. He retired from WMU in 2004 as professor emeritus of political science and the Arnold E. Schneider professor emeritus of international relations.

During his more than 37 years at WMU, Ziring helped expand the University's international activity, serving as director of the Institute of Government and Politics. In 1982, his research and outreach activities were recognized when he was named a WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar, the University's highest honor for a faculty member.

Ziring was the author or coauthor of dozens of books and articles on geopolitical issues, including the 2004 work "Pakistan: At the Crosscurrent of History." That book was hailed by those in and outside of that nation as a concise, perceptive and lucid history of the young nation that walks a historical tightrope between the fundamentalist Islamic forces that hold great internal power and the demands of a Western world determined to stamp out the roots of terrorism.

Even after retiring from the University, he continued his work exploring Pakistan's role in the modern world. As recently as May, a Pakistani news publication, Pakistan Today, lauded Ziring as one of just a handful of "widely known writers who have written copiously on issues related to Pakistan's history," especially post-1947 developments.

Within days of 9/11, Ziring correctly predicted that Pakistan would be the key to finding Osama bin Laden, as the Taliban was driven from Afghanistan. He also was a frequent and early commenter on the war in Iraq, predicting that the conflict would galvanize Islamic fundamentalists worldwide and lead to years of instability.

Ziring served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, the Peace Corps and the U.S. Information Agency. He was a visiting fellow at Oxford University and a fellow of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In 1990, the Atlantic Council of the United States selected him to participate in a NATO discussion series at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Ziring, who entered college on the GI Bill after serving during the Korean War, was the first American student to enter the Pakistan Programme at Columbia University, and he visited Pakistan regularly starting in 1957. He earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia. In addition to his WMU faculty position, he held teaching positions at Columbia, Lafayette College, Syracuse University; and Dhaka University in Bangladesh.

He was a founding member and the former president of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and for years, he prepared regular updates and end-of-year reviews on Pakistan for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Ziring served on the editorial boards of seven professional journals and was a frequent contributor or lecturer for a number of research centers and institutes around the globe. 


A funeral service is scheduled for Monday, July 20. The family will greet friends from 10 to 11 a.m. at Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Westside Chapel, 3926 S. 9th St. A funeral service will begin there at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Mountain Home Cemetery.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, Loaves and Fishes or the charity of one's choice.