the reluctant fundamentalist

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Page 1: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Contextual Background on the text

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Pakistan is situated in the western part of the Indian subcontinent, with Afghanistan and Iran on the west, India on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the south. The name Pakistan is derived from the Urdu words Pak (meaning pure) and stan (meaning country). It is nearly twice the size of California.

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Strategically it is located in a position between the important regions of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. With over 170 million people, it is the sixth most populous country in the world [2] and has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia.[12] It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country with a similar variation in its geography and wildlife. With a semi-industrialized economy, it is the 27th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power. Since gaining independence, Pakistan's history has been characterised by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with neighbouring India. The country faces challenging problems including poverty, illiteracy and corruption.

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Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations. Historically, its foreign policy has encompassed difficult relations with the Republic of India; especially on the core-issue of Kashmir, over which it has fought two wars. However it has had long-standing close relations with its other neighbors Afghanistan, Iran and China, extensive security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf and wide-ranging bilateral relations with the United States and other Western countries.

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in terms of population (after Indonesia), and its status as a declared nuclear power, being the only Islamic nation to have that status, plays a part in its international role.

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PRINCETON UNIVERSITYPrinceton University is a vibrant community of learning. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching. Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,000 undergraduate students and 2,500 graduate students. The University's generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were key supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as part of their "strategic depth" objective vis-a-vis India, Iran, Russia and to try to bring stability to Afghanistan after years of civil war following the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban, being primarily Sunni and Pushtun, are of the same ethnic origin as Pakistanis on the other side of the Afghan border and were natural allies. However U.S initially did support Taliban, but later pulled support.

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After 9/11, Pakistan, led by General Pervez Musharraf, reversed course under pressure from the United States and joined the "War on Terror" as a US ally. Having failed to convince the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda, Pakistan provided the U.S. a number of military airports and bases for its attack on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support. Since 2001, Pakistan has arrested over five hundred Al-Qaeda members and handed them over to the United States; senior U.S. officers have been lavish in their praise of Pakistani efforts in public while expressing their concern that not enough was being done in private. However, General Musharraf was strongly supported by the Bush administration – a common theme throughout Pakistan's relations with the US has been US support of military dictators to the detriment of democracy in Pakistan.

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In return for their support, Pakistan had sanctions lifted and has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, primarily military. In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally, making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology.Pakistan has lost thousands of lives since joining the U.S. war on terror in the form of both soldiers and civilians, and is currently going through a critical period. Suicide bombs are now commonplace in Pakistan, whereas they were unheard of prior to 9/11. The Taliban have been resurgent in recent years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been created internally in Pakistan, as they have been forced to flee their homes as a result of fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan and further in Swat. In addition, the economy is in an extremely fragile position.

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Since independence, relations between Pakistan and India have been characterized by rivalry and suspicion. Although many issues divide the two countries, the most sensitive one since independence has been the status of Kashmir.