The launch of Professor Anatol Lieven's book, Pakistan: A Hard Country could hardly have been more timely coming three days after the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. It was, he admitted ruefully, a bad week for friends of Pakistan.
Throughout his talk Prof. Lieven did not shy away from the difficult issues facing Pakistan but his assessments were generally encouraging. His book, he said, looks at Pakistan's most important structures - justice, religion, the military and politics - and at the four provinces, analysing the relationship between institutions and networks of kinship and patronage. He saw these networks giving the country a stability that many western observers fail to grasp. The state may be weak, but he believed Pakistani society was strong and able to withstand the dangers posed by militant extremism, poverty and ecological change. Throughout his talk, his affection for Pakistan was palpable. Members asked him many questions afterwards. They felt his talk was not only informative and entertaining but also morale-boosting.