Hussain, Zahid 1949–

views updated

Hussain, Zahid 1949–


Born August 15, 1949.




Pakistan correspondent for the London Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek; also political correspondent for Newsline, Karachi, Pakistan.


Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2007.


Journalist Zahid Hussain is considered one of the foremost experts on Afghanistan; he is the author of numerous articles and books about the region. "Zahid Hussain is the personification of what a good journalist should be," asserted Joanne J. Myers on the Carnegie Council's Web site. "If you have followed his reporting in The Times of London, Newsweek, or The Wall Street Journal, you know that he is informed, he is objective, and he is astute."

In his first book, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, the author looks at Pakistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He specifically examines the vow Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, made to fight extremism in his country, and which, at the same time, established Musharraf as a key ally with the United States in its war on terror. Hussain discusses the nearly impossible position Musharraf found himself faced with because of numerous problems brought about by his vow, including the fact that the Pakistani army and intelligence services were thoroughly penetrated by jihadists. Not only that, but Musharraf came into power partly through the support of radical Islamist groups.

"The main argument [in my book] is that when President Musharraf decided to join the US war on terror it also meant taking Pakistan to war with itself, and that war has hardly been discussed in depth anywhere," the author told Nermeen Shaikh on the Asia Source Web site. "What it means is that Pakistani society is now confronted with all those forces which have been in the past sponsored or patronized by the state. The militant organizations which had been working over the last two or three decades under the patronage of the military establishment have come back to haunt Pakistani society as well as the government."

Using interviews with key players and grassroots radicals in Pakistan, Hussain explores Pakistan's complex political power web and the consequences of its president's decision to support the United States and its fight against terrorists and jihadists in general. "The U.S.-Pakistan partnership, which came into being on 12 September 2001, could well be described as a shotgun marriage, and has remained an uneasy relationship throughout," the author noted in an article on the Carnegie Council Web site. In the book's preface, the author writes: "The dramatic turns of events in the aftermath of 9/11 pushed Pakistan into a new spotlight. From being an international outcast for its longstanding support of the Taliban and militant cross-border insurgents in Kashmir, Pakistan became the key strategic partner of America's war on terror. The same military leaders who had facilitated jihadist networks to fight their proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and who may well have turned a blind eye to the illegal sale of nuclear materials, are now being touted as the U.S.'s regional standard bearers."

In Frontline Pakistan, Hussain also discusses the origins of the jihadist movement in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the overall nature of the movement. He describes in detail the links between Pakistani government officials and militants. A contributor to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Web site noted: "Zahid Hussain, an insider's insider, distinguishes fact from fiction and reveals unnerving realities never exposed before."

The author goes on to write about the weak, successively elected governments of Pakistan and challenges to Musharraf's authority, which come from many groups. He examines many of these groups, which include politico-religious, sectarian, and civil society elements within Pakistan. Hussain, furthermore, writes of the opportunity that America's war on terror, as proposed by President George W. Bush, provided to both Musharraf and Pakistan. Noting that the terrorist attacks "provided Musharraf with an opportunity to end Pakistan's and his own isolation," the author goes on to write in the book's prologue: "By joining the U.S. ‘war on terror,’ Pakistan once again took center-stage in the international limelight, much as it had after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Formerly ostracized as a military dictator, Musharraf became a valued friend to the West. He promised to steer Pakistan away from its long and troubled drift towards Islamic fundamentalism and extremism."

Commenting on the author's portrayal of Musharraf, World Policy Journal contributor Robert M. Hathaway commented that "Hussain emphasizes … [that] Musharraf seems all too ready to talk the talk, but unwilling to walk the walk." Hathaway added: "Notwithstanding the president's promise to eradicate extremism, that issue has never been among his priorities. He has backtracked again and again. He has allowed leaders of the most extreme religious organizations virtual immunity from the law. He has ignored existing legislation against the incitement of sectarian violence. He has failed to disarm the jihadist private armies that he has publicly denounced." L. Carl Brown, writing in Foreign Affairs, noted that the book's "bleak conclusion [that Musharraf will not last as leader of Pakistan], which does not seem to be part of Washington's received wisdom, cries out for consideration."



Hussain, Zahid, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2007.


Choice, August, 2007, A. Mazumdar, review of Frontline Pakistan, p. 2173.

Far Eastern Economic Review, September, 2007, Sadanand Dhume, review of Frontline Pakistan, p. 60.

Foreign Affairs, May-June, 2007, L. Carl Brown, review of Frontline Pakistan, p. 154.

Times Literary Supplement, April 20, 2007, Charles Glass, "Stuck in the Middle," review of Frontline Pakistan, p. 26.

World Policy Journal, spring, 2007, Robert M. Hathaway, "The Devil's Brew in Pakistan," review of Frontline Pakistan, p. 89.


Asia Source Online, (April 15, 2008), Nermeen Shaikh, author interview.

Carnegie Council Web site, (March 12, 2007), Joanne J. Myers, review of Frontline Pakistan.

International Institute for Strategic Studies Web site, (April 15, 2008), "25 Jan 07—Book Launch—Zahid Hussain."