Some of the best parts of The Taliban Shuffle are Barker's encounters with various Afghan and Pakistani high officials, all of whom are fairly eccentric characters. But, inevitably, it becomes difficult to keep track of their names and positions. Here is a short list of some of the figures met in the book.
Pacha Khan Zadran: A powerful warlord and leader in Southern Afghanistan. Zadran was involved in driving out the Taliban, but soon thereafter turned on US forces because, in Barker's opinion, "No one paid enough attention to him".
Zalmay Khalilzad: The US Ambassador to Afghanistan during the period covered in the book. Khalilzad is described as being perpetually surrounded by attractive women in tight clothing, dubbed "Zal's gal's".
Abdul Jabar Sabat: A conservative Afghani lawyer described as "windmill-slaying". Sabat develops a claustrophobic friendship with Barker early in her career in Kabul.
Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry: Chief Justice of Pakistan from 2005-07 and, at the time this book is set, something of a "rock-star" to the Pakistani people for his political dissension. Barker respects his populist appeal, but fails to see his massive popularity in light of his "tendency to mumble, prickly ego, and lazy eye."
Nawar Sharif: Another populist hero, called both "The Lion of the Punjab", and alternatively, "The Tiger". Sharif is a major figure in Pakistani politics, serving multiple times as Prime Minister, and an amiable figure who attempts, unsuccessfully, to romance Barker.
Asif Ali Zardari: Husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, offered by Nawar Sharif as a potential husband for Barker. The current president of Pakistan, his reputation has been consistently mired in corruption and he has gained the notorious nickname "Mister Ten Percent" for his alleged reputation for kickbacks.
This article was originally published in June 2011, and has been updated for the
March 2012 paperback release.
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