WMU News

History of Pakistan published as nation dominates news

Jan. 7, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Keeping up with history is tough.

Just ask Dr. Lawrence Ziring, a Western Michigan University professor whose new history of Pakistan is hitting bookstores at the same time the young nation is experiencing the kind of turbulence most countries rarely see in a century of existence.

In the past month alone, there have been two assassination attempts against Pakistan's president Pervez Mursharraf; the nation has been at the heart of an international nuclear proliferation scandal; and the leaders of Pakistan's arch enemy, India, have come to call as an offshoot of a South Asian Summit being held in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. All of that has happened as the nation 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.

"Pakistan: At the Crosscurrent of History," published by Oneworld Publications in Oxford, England, is the latest of Ziring's more than 20 books and is proving an aptly named work. Hailed by one Pakistan scholar as "a concise, perceptive and lucid political history of Pakistan, with an eye on the future," the work is one intended to give the public a clearer picture of the historical groundwork and tremendous forces at work in the 57-year-old nation.

"Pakistan has been precariously balanced between past and present, between tradition and modernity between Islamism and secularism throughout its brief history," Ziring says of the country he has studied since his days as a graduate student.

Ziring's new book, which reflects two years of work and more than four decades of focus on Pakistan, comes at a time when Ziring says the young nuclear power "can no longer be taken for granted or denied access to the inner sanctum of world powers.

"If Pakistan was ever judged as remote or on the margins of history," Ziring says, "9/11 altered attitudes and perceptions and for a great many, brought an end to such thoughts."

Ziring's previous comprehensive work on Pakistan was published in 1997 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the nation's founding. At the close of that work, the nation was dealing with the growing power of the fundamentalist Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan and a corresponding pressure to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state. Since then, Pakistan has undergone a military coup that brought Musharraf to power, been brought to the verge of war with neighboring nuclear power India and been immersed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. A full third of the new book focuses on those new developments and the impact Ziring believe they will have on the future.

"Pakistan: At the Crosscurrents of History" traces Pakistan's history, from its roots as a product of British colonialism to events that occurred as recently as the first half of 2003. Ziring says he wrote the piece less as a scholarly tract and more as a "quick read" that can be read, uninterrupted, as a story. Besides the essential historical details, the book includes the author's interpretation of the significance of the events and their import for the future.

"It is impossible to spend so much of your life chronicling a nation and not to be left with impressions and some very strong points of view," he confesses. The volume, he says, is an interpretive essay meant to broaden understanding and explore consequences.

Ziring, the Arnold E. Schneider Professor of Political Science at WMU, specializes in Asian studies and Pakistan as well as U.S. foreign relations and NATO. Ziring was the first American student to enter the Pakistan Programme at Columbia University and he has been visiting Pakistan regularly since 1957. He is the former president of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and he currently prepares the updates and end of the year review on Pakistan for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The book is currently available from Amazon.com and in selected bookstores.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400