In the years that Declan Walsh was in Pakistan, 2004-2013, Pakistan may have used up more than the proverbial nine lives, but Pakistan is sui generis. It’s a failing state that never really fails. Those were perhaps the fascinating years in Pakistan’s recent history, one that would require many Shakespeares to cast. From the rise and fall of Pervez Musharraf, who actually came close to making peace with India, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, cut down on the verge of a successful return and the theatrical killing of Osama bin Laden, hiding in plain sight a stone’s throw from Pakistan premier military academy, Pakistan’s story had more twists and turns than a work of pulp fiction.
By 2003, Musharraf had got rid of his rough edges and was riding high. He declared a ceasefire along the Line of Control with India and negotiated a meaningful agreement with then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that saw India-Pakistan ties normalise after a long time. Indeed, he even entered into negotiations with India on Kashmir, but then his presidency imploded.
One of Pakistan’s nine lives certainly was at stake when Pakistan decided to switch sides to the US in the wake of 9/11. Not that it had much choice. Reportedly, the US envoy, Richard Armitage, built like a tank himself, told his Pakistani counterpart bluntly, “Either you are for us, or against us.”
Meanwhile, New Delhi stirred the pot furiously by offering the US air bases to operate from against the Taliban. That US aircraft would have to over-fly Pakistan from Indian bases was quite clear to both Islamabad and New Delhi. In event, Musharraf went with the Americans and then systematically betrayed them. He provided sanctuary to the Taliban, offering the Americans an occasional Al Qaeda leader. For his pains, he got billions of dollars from...