Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this is the best in-depth examination of Pakistan's army I have come across. Mr. Nawaz is the brother of Asif Nawaz, the former Chief of Army Staff who died in mysterious circumstances in 1993. His study provides an insider's view of the Pakistani military, and displays extensive knowledge of that institution. The book is arranged chronologically, and presents a detailed history of military affairs since Pakistan's independence. This is a long and complicated story; and it is not intended for readers who are newcomers to the subject. However, those who seek a more profound understanding of Pakistan will find this work invaluable.
Nawaz discusses a wide range of topics which have been poorly recorded by western historians. The 1947 and 1965 Indo-Pakistan Wars over Kashmir are explained in detail. Of particular interest is his analysis of the 1971 war and the crisis leading to the birth of Bangladesh (Sheikh Mujib's civil disobedience movement, "Operation Searchlight", and India's intervention). This bloody episode and its repercussions are crucial to understanding the modern history of the region.
The book is also excellent at describing how the Pakistani military progressively took power from the political establishment after independence. The different stages of this process are well-documented by the author. He notes the unresolved murder of Pakistan's first PM, Liaqat Ali Khan, and reviews Ayub Khan's military coup in 1958. Khan combined the offices of president and prime minister in a new constitution which was rubber-stamped by the judiciary (the "Doctrine of Necessity"). Nawaz vividly chronicles the struggle for power between Zia ul-Haq and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The ascent of Zia, execution of Bhutto, and rise of fundamentalism in the security services, are all depicted as landmark events that consolidated the army's hold over power. The ensuing transition from an overt military dictatorship to a facade of 'parliamentary democracy' is well explained, and covers the administrations of Benazir Bhutto (whose later assassination is noted but not discussed), Nawaz Sharif, and Pervez Musharraf. "Crossed Swords" also draws attention to the army's international relations, and provides an excellent discussion of Pakistan's nuclear program and its mastermind: A.Q. Khan.
Furthermore, Nawaz shows the military to be a complex institution that often stands in stark contrast to Pakistani society. It's leadership is mostly secular, well-educated and extremely wealthy. In sum, the very opposite of the average man on the street. It is riddled with competing factions who value ethnic and community ties above loyalty to the state. To achieve its great wealth and political influence, the army has forged foreign alliances and indulged in widespread corruption. The author draws attention to how pensions, real estate, and military contracts play an essential role in the army's racketing of state funds. He also emphasizes the importance of the military's political propaganda, and how the armed forces repeatedly pass themselves off as the guardians of Jinnah's legacy.
In conclusion, "Crossed Swords" is an impressively well-researched and authoritative study. In my opinion, it's one of the most important works on Pakistan's military history in years. Given the all-powerful influence of the army in Pakistani society, this book should be considered essential reading.