November issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Books | News & Politics | Published 10 years ago

Can we win the war against Islamic militants? Why has the insurgency been so irrepressible? Can we expect a wave of attacks within the United States more sophisticated than the attempted bombing in Times Square?

Zahid Hussain, a senior editor at Newsline, answers all these questions plus more pertaining to the US-Pakistan war on terror, and examines the existence of the potent Pakistani Taliban in his new book, The Scorpion’s Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan — And How It Threatens America. Printed by Simon & Schuster, it is expected to hit book stands in the US on November 16, 2010, and will be available at Liberty Books shortly after.

Hussain questions superpower America’s tactics, more specifically the use of drone technology. He assesses the impact of predator drone attacks that have killed scores of civilians in Pakistan’s north, and subsequently drawn hundreds of young men — many from the educated middle classes — to the Taliban cause. This, in turn, threatens to destabilise nuclear-armed Pakistan, as terrorists have moved the battle to Pakistan as well, where they are striking with a vengeance. Hussain argues how US policies have brought independent non-state actors, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, together to defeat a common enemy: America.

The Scorpion’s Tail is both lucid and eye-opening in its hair-raising account of the tribal, militant-infested regions in Pakistan and their “lawlessness.” Hussain has been at the heart of it all — he has first-hand accounts of the ongoing war between the army and militants up north; he has talked at length to opinion-makers, politicians, high-level military and intelligence sources and militants. Hussain’s chronicles are a disturbing reminder of the volatile and porous Af-Pak border and the inadequate political strategy of the US government, which is helping extremists to gain ground.

All in all, it is an interesting study of how the war in Afghanistan has gone wrong. “A political solution is the only endgame,” says Hussain in his closing remarks.

A highly regarded political correspondent in Pakistan and a correspondent for Times of London, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek, Zahid Hussain has experience and insight that is imperative to understanding the complex dynamics of the state of Pakistan. The Scorpion’s Tail follows Hussain’s previous work, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, on Pakistan’s alignment with the US as a front-line state in the war on terror post September 11, which received critical acclaim.

This review was originally published in the November 2010 issue of Newsline under the headline “View from the Front Seat.”

Maheen Bashir Adamjee is an APNS award-winning journalist. She was an editorial assistant at Newsline from 2010-2011.