Unity, Faith and Discipline are often considered to be the founding principles of the Pakistani nation. While these values feature prominently in school textbooks and monuments in public spaces, they are rarely mentioned in discussions about what connects Pakistanis to one another.Many scholars have spoken of the importance of pluralism and diversity in holding Western societies together. Similar work in Muslim-majority countries has illustrated the fragility of attempts to establish a religious nation based on Islam. These scholars argue that religious unity was, and remains, an aspiration rather than a genuinely uniting force. This points to the importance of another factor in sustaining social ties in the face of adversity, says Professor Stephen Lyon of AKU’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.A renowned anthropologist and Pakistan specialist, Professor Lyon’s new book Political Kinship in Pakistan, Descent, Marriage and Government Stability views kinship, or how a culture defines and recognises family roles and interactions, as a crucial factor that establishes relationships of loyalty and reciprocity within Pakistani society and between stakeholders. The notable feature of using kinship as the binding mechanism to link otherwise unconnected political networks, is that it makes no assumptions about mutual affection or agreement. Kin can and do fight with one another, while still satisfying obligations. For example, land disputes between close kin are common yet that doesn’t negate kinship obligations in other domains of interaction. “A person may despise their mother’s brother’s son, but that doesn’t mean they will sever relations with their mother or that she will sever relations with her brother,” Professor Lyon explains. “In other words, kinship provides a resilient system of relations that can deal with high levels of conflict and disruption in formal leadership role-holders. Kinship in Pakistan is one of the entry points for understanding alliance building and rivalries in both urban and rural contexts.” Throughout the book, he uses insights gained from extended study of kinships in a village in northern Punjab, to make sense of actions and events that affect the nation. Making sense of electoral politics in Pakistan necessarily means unpicking the complex network of relationships that bind ostensibly locally focused political networks together. In Pakistan, the evidence would suggest that political party ideologies are neither coherent nor compelling enough to serve that role. Instead, the binding ideology is one of kinship. Mutual, reciprocal obligation that comes from being kin may be the only glue that holds some movements together in Pakistan, Professor Lyon adds. The book concludes that not only does an approach based on kinship help us to better understand Pakistani state politics, but it also moves us closer toward a coherent understanding of the interplay between social and cultural systems in bureaucratic and state contexts.Professor Stephen Lyon has lived and worked in Pakistani Punjabi villages and cities since 1982 and has carried out longitudinal research in the same northern Punjabi village for more than 20 years. His research integrates social network analysis, context coding, narrative thick description, and different varieties of quantitative and audiovisual data to address complex social and cultural questions of the human experience.