The Nine Lives of Pakistan by Declan Walsh

the nine lives of pakistan book cover

In The Nine Lives of Pakistan, Declan Walsh paints an arresting, up-close portrait of a fractured country. The book is rich with incisive historical context, astute cultural analysis, and evocative language, Walsh’s account brings Pakistan’s contradictions to life. Published by Bloomsbury, the book hit the shelves in September 2020.

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Declan Walsh is one of the New York Times‘s most distinguished international correspondents. His electrifying portrait of Pakistan over a tumultuous decade captures the sweep of this strange, wondrous, and benighted country through the dramatic lives of nine fascinating individuals.

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The demise of Pakistan – a country with a reputation for volatility, brutality and radical Islam – is regularly predicted. But things rarely turn out as expected, as renowned journalist Declan Walsh knows well. Over a decade covering the country, his travels took him from the raucous port of Karachi to the gilded salons of Lahore to the lawless frontier of Waziristan, encountering Pakistanis whose lives offer a compelling portrait of this land of contradictions. He meets a crusading lawyer who risks her life to fight for society's most marginalised, taking on everyone including the powerful military establishment; an imperious chieftain spouting poetry at his desert fort; a roguish politician waging a mini-war against the Taliban; and a charismatic business tycoon who moves into politics and seems to be riding high – till he takes up the wrong cause. Lastly, Walsh meets a spy whose orders once involved following him, and who might finally be able to answer the question that haunts him: why the Pakistanis suddenly expelled him from their country. Intimate and complex, unravelling the many mysteries of state and religion, this formidable book offers an arresting account of life in a country that, often as not, seems to be at war with itself. #NineLivesOfPakistan by @declanjwalsh

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On assignment as the country careened between crises, Walsh traveled from the raucous port of Karachi to the salons of Lahore, and from Baluchistan to the mountains of Waziristan. He met a diverse cast of extraordinary Pakistanis — a chieftain readying for war at his desert fort, a retired spy skulking through the borderlands, and a crusading lawyer risking death for his beliefs, among others. Through these “nine lives” he describes a country on the brink — a place of creeping extremism and political chaos, but also personal bravery and dogged idealism that defy easy stereotypes.

Unbeknownst to Walsh, however, an intelligence agent was tracking him. Written in the aftermath of Walsh’s abrupt deportation, The Nine Lives of Pakistan concludes with an astonishing encounter with that agent, and his revelations about Pakistan’s powerful security state. Intimate and complex, attuned to the centrifugal forces of history, identity, and faith, The Nine Lives of Pakistan offers an unflinching account of life in a precarious, vital country.

About the Author

Declan Walsh, formerly the New York Times Pakistan bureau chief, is based in Cairo. He was educated in Dublin and has also reported from sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, the United States, and across the Middle East.

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