Posted by: Christian | May 30, 2007

Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection

May 30, 2007.

Have you ever been involved in a conversation or debate about the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan and not been able to add anything beyond agreeing that Pakistan is a continuing source for extremism? Do you wish you could throw around terms like Lashkar-i-Taiba and Lashkar-i-Jangvi? Have you ever wanted to tell someone the difference between Jami’at-i-Ulema-i-Islam and Jami’at-i-Ulema-i-Pakistan?

Probably not. But if you have any desire to do the above mentioned things then a book titled Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection is for you.

Olivier Roy

Written by Mariam Abou Zahab and Olivier Roy (Columbia University Press, 2004), the book comes in at 82 pages long in its English translation so it is straight and to the point. And although the book covers events only up until mid-2003, it is a great starting point for understanding the Islamist/Jihadi networks in Pakistan and their role in Afghanistan. There are other great books that go into more detail on Pakistan, but you will find that Pakistan is an entire specialty unto itself and you must commit a high level of effort to fully digest what those books offer.

From the back cover:

Mariam Abou Zahab and Olivier Roy argue that the Taliban in Afghanistan was part of a much wider radical Islamist network in the region, whose true center was Pakistan. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Pakistani Deobandis – all of these groups are based in Pakistan, which continues to serve as the regional hub for Islamist movements and their terrorist offshoots.

Well, everybody knows this by now. However, it is the detail and expertise that make this book a valuable resource. After reading this book you can be the cool guy in the political conversation who says something esoteric like “No, you don’t understand. Pakistan must reign in those aggressive elements in Muttahida Majlis-i Amal.”

You’ll become a pariah in no time at all.

PS: It should be noted that Tajikistan gets it’s own chapter and Kashmir gets numerous mentions. But I’m sure the publisher was not interested in having a book subtitled The Tajikistan – Afghan – Pakistan – Kashmir Connection. Also, I’m not in 100% agreement with everything written in this book. Though much of that comes with three years of hindsight.


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