Defence IQ Library: "The Pakistan Cauldron" by James Farwell

Joel Harding

James Farwell's "The Pakistan Cauldron" is an insightful look into one of the most complex, highly nuanced and complex countries in the world, Pakistan.

The three major characters discussed in this book worked within this high pressure environment and played major roles in influencing, directly and indirectly, movements within their country. They also played a direct role in how Pakistan is perceived by the rest of the world. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Kahn, General Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto are analyzed and discussed in a way unique to this author.

Farwell first does a deep dive into the "curious case of A.Q. Khan", who realizes and exploits the inherent drive within the core belief of many in Pakistan to advance itself before all others. He acquired sensitive dual-use items and used them in a program designed to make nuclear weapons for Pakistan. Expensive funding was assisted by illegally and deliberately redirecting billions of dollars in aid from the United States. A.Q. Khan became an inconvenient hero to the Pakistani people after his success and then President Zia and others sought to lessen his impact within a highly fractured Pakistan. They succeeded in marginalizing Khan. The book then discusses a number of theories how Khan and Musharraf were perceived within a myriad of major issues and how players schemed and reacted.

The rise and prominence of Benazir Bhutto was preceded by a story of struggle and coping with adversity by her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zulfiqar Bhutto took on the entrenched political powers and the Pakistani Intelligence Service amidst threats, kidnappings, false public accusations, deep corruption and a tragically flawed society. In the end the elder Bhutto was railroaded for murder and hung. These tragic events chiseled the personality of Benazir Bhutto. Fired as Pakistani Prime Minister during the United States distraction during Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Benazir sought to offset blatant attempts by the military to topple her when she regained office. She regained power again only to lose in another election, followed by nine years of self-imposed exile. Benazir sought to return to her beloved Pakistan, only to meet a tragic ending.

General Pervez Musharraf rose to become the Pakistan Army's Chief of Army Staff and was then deemed a threat to the political leadership. Upon returning from a trip outside the country, his plane was denied permission to land, causing Musharraf to arrange a coup while still in the air. Through deceit, sabotage, deception, and political insurgency, Musharraf successfully used strategic communication to gain the support of the people and remains in power today, despite an incredibly complicated and consistently toxic atmosphere in enigmatic Pakistan.

Farwell does an excellent job analyzing how information and communications directly impact the outcome of a wide variety of situations. He analyses different options and outcomes to powerful and widely different situations encountered within Pakistan, with the Taliban, with neighboring countries, as well as the United States. Strategies and tactics used to communicate intentions and ideas are judged, rated and gamed.

James Farwell's expertise in strategic communication and politics provides a unique perspective, his lens focuses the reader to see these three main characters within Pakistan's constant cultural struggles while coping with a strong religious underpinning, where information and influence are used as weapons. I strongly recommend this book to anyone working on issues regarding Pakistan, strategic communication, politics or influence.

By Joel Harding, Owner and Principal of Information Operations Holistic Operations