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Monday, February 18, 2008

Do you want to understand Pakistan?

For those who want to develop a basic understanding about Pakistan in 45 minutes, the following is an excellent 2 part series recorded by Owen Bennett Jones of the BBC> I have the descriptions of the audios followed by the embedded audios themselves.

Pakistan has become the focus of intense global news coverage, since its former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed last year.

In this two part series Owen Bennett Jones, who lived in the country as a BBC correspondent, returns to look at the history of a nation where political crisis has become a way of life.

Nuclear armed Pakistan has been described as the most dangerous country on earth: what does its past tell us about its future?

Pakistan was created as a land where Muslims could live in safety.

But when the British split the sub continent in 1947 they left behind a nation that went on to suffer decades of political crises. Last year more than 750 Pakistanis died in suicide bomb attacks.

Why are Islamist radicals targeting fellow Muslims and why do they have any support in Pakistan?

Part One: The Dream Undone

Why have so many of the hopes and aspirations of Pakistan's founders remained unfulfilled?

Owen Bennett- jones discovers a nation split between powerful feudal families, the military elite, a religious establishment and tribal and regional forces.

The many crises that beset Pakistan from partition and independence in 1947 are explored, through the early military dictatorships, the wars with India over Kashmir, regional wars inside the country and the rise and fall of Benazir Bhutto's father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

He begins his story at the spot where Benazir was assassinated in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

In a bizarre twist of fate it was the same place where the country's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was killed 57 years earlier.

In Pakistan, history has tended to repeat itself in a cruel cycle.

Part two: Powers in the Land

Owen Bennett-Jones examines the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan, tracing its ascendancy under the devout dictator general Zia ul Haq, the man who overthrew and subsequently hanged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

General Zia had a great hatred for the Soviet Union and felt threatened by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

With the aid of billions of dollars of military aid from Washington, Zia helped to orchestrate the downfall of the Soviets.

But in doing so he unleashed a radical Islamist movement that his successors have been unable to quell.

Owen Bennett Jones follows the failure of successive civilian administrations and the decision of current ruler Pervez Musharraf to align himself with Washington.

Musharraf's siege of Islamabad's Red Mosque in August of last year triggered a wave of suicide attacks.

In the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and with elections slated for 18 February, the country risks being split apart.

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