Alive and Well in Pakistan

by Ethan Casey
Alive and Well in Pakistan, Ethan Casey’s landmark 2004 book of personal narrative nonfiction, has been praised as “compulsory reading for anyone visiting Pakistan” by Munis D. Faruqui in the Harvard International Review, “Magnificent” by Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos, “Intelligent and compelling” by Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and “Wonderful … a model of travel writing” by the novelist Edwidge Danticat. In The Daily Telegraph, reviewer Alex Spillius wrote: “The author’s real journey is a search for common humanity.”
Alive and Well in Pakistan incorporates several chapters documenting Ethan Casey’s reporting sojourns in the long-disputed Vale of Kashmir in 1994 and 1995, during a crucial early period of the uprising against Indian rule. This material is newly relevant since India’s unilateral decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. In public and university speaking engagements, Ethan Casey emphasizes the centrality of Kashmir to any true understanding of the subcontinent in the 20th and 21st centuries – and the centrality of Pakistan’s mere existence as a largely unspoken but urgently significant subtext to all of the region’s issues and disputes.
He emphasizes the human suffering or ordinary Kashmir people and points out that, a quarter-century after he first visited Kashmir, nothing there has changed – except for the worse. At the end of Chapter 4 of Alive and Well in Pakistan, Ethan Casey writes:
I would move on, I realized that evening on the pier, and life and death would go on in Kashmir as before. This was their life; it was only a slice of my varied, attenuated experience. I had no right to claim Kashmir, to feel sure that it was mine. I was not suffering and dying; I was not losing my livelihood. On the contrary, as a journalist I was literally making money from other people’s suffering. And in more important ways, I had been given more than I deserved or felt I could repay. Maybe the best I could do was to say, with a faith truer and more confident than I could have mustered a year earlier: we’ll meet again, inshallah.

 Alive and Well in Pakistan is available through Blue Ear Books in the updated and expanded 10th-anniversary edition published in 2014, for $12.95 + $3.95 U.S. shipping: