Carey Schofield is clearly an unusual woman. A new book by the Oxford-based defence expert should go some way to repairing the reputation of the Pakistani military, damaged by the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan's equivalent of Sandhurst or West Point.
Like her earlier book on Soviet Spetsnaz commandos, Inside the Pakistan Army (Biteback, £19.99) is based on deep immersion in a military subculture. Former President Pervez Musharraf granted her exceptional access and she was helped by the fact that gossip is rife in Pakistani society, especially regarding the top brass: generals are celebrities in a country in which the army is the school of the nation. Schofield formed strong bonds with many of these officers, notably the dashing Special Forces commander, Major General Faisal Alavi, the brother of Nadira Naipaul, the journalist and wife of Sir V.S. Naipaul. General Alavi was dismissed in 2005, nominally over "the Pathan bitch" (a divorcee who was briefly his mistress). Three years later he was assassinated, either by resentful senior colleagues, or the Taliban, or both. Schofield does not spare us the murky details of this shocking scandal.
In a country where disorder and squalor are ubiquitous, discipline, order and cleanliness pervade army facilities. The organisational model and ethos are those of the Imperial Indian Army. The regimental names will bring a tear to the eyes of military history buffs. With its huge collection of regimental silver, its motto ("Ich Dien") borrowed from the Prince of Wales, and its sons of the rich, 5 Probyn's Horse sounds like the Blues and Royals. Regimental halvidars suck liquorice sweets to counter the effects of bawling at the "gentlemen officer" cadets.
Although much of the Pakistani army is more interested in ousting India from Kashmir, they have been obliged to fight Taliban terrorists as the Afghan war has "blown back" into Pakistan itself. Schofield is particularly good on the nature of this conflict, with some generals (like the very brave Alavi) up for a fight, while others prefer to spread baksheesh among tribal chiefs to avoid it. Too often, operations are delayed to cater to the needs of a suspiciously high number of pregnant women, which gives the ferocious Chechens and Uzbeks of al-Qaeda a chance to blast their way out of trouble. The Pakistanis may be justified in pointing to the huge casualties they have suffered in a war that is highly unpopular because it is said to serve US interests better than their own. What Pakistan's soldiers think matters: given the corruption of the political class, theirs is the only institution which seems to work. However, it is a rare general who, like Musharraf, retires relatively poor.