Tilak Devasher. 2018. Pakistan: At the Helm

Published date01 April 2020
Date01 April 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
AIA_7(1)_Issue.indb 132
Book Reviews 7(1)
Overall, this is an important book that presents the right balance of theory and
empirical analysis and should become a valuable contribution to the understanding
of security dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. It deserves to serve as
essential reading for a wide readership, ranging from security experts, policymakers
and international relations scholars to students in courses related to international
security and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Alexander Korolev
Alexander Korolev
School of Social Sciences,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia
E-mail: a.korolev@unsw.edu.au
Tilak Devasher. 2018. Pakistan: At the Helm. Noida, India: Harper
Collins Publishers. 309 pp. ISBN: 9789352779338 (Paperback).

DOI: 10.1177/2347797020908145
The causal explanations for the dominance of military over the civilian institutions
in Pakistan have been thoroughly explored in the literature. Scholars attribute it to
the ensuing insecurity created by the presence of a conventionally superior India
(Ganguly & Pardesi, 2009) and the resulting strategic imperatives (Mehdi, 2017),
and the continuity of an unstable domestic political order that feeds into the
legitimacy of civilian leadership (Rizvi, 2000, pp. 3–8).
Tilak Devasher’s book Pakistan: At the Helm adds a refreshing account to the
already crowded field on civil–military relations in Pakistan. In contrast to the
existing literature, this book emphasizes the role of elites and their web of
entrenched interests in the state institutions that are vital for Pakistani decision-
making at all levels. Devasher looks at the role of the personality of such elites in
state building process in Pakistan and argues that ‘ad hocism’ in the highest levels
of policymaking is rooted in the nature and personalities of these elites.
This book is divided into nine chapters describing the trends and patterns in the
political history of Pakistan, by focusing the role of seven major Pakistani leaders
from Muhammad Ali Jinnah to General Parvez Musharraf. Using a collection of
anecdotes, vignettes and particular incidents selected from Pakistan’s history, the
author identifies the different patterns of behaviour and attitudes of the state elites
that inform the nature of political trajectory...

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