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A definitive history of Pakistan

Pakistan’s best-known historian, Ayesha Jalal, is back with a new book: The Struggle For Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics. This book essentially synthesises much of Jalal’s earlier work that by all accounts is rich and comprehensive. In short, the new book presents an overview of Pakistan’s progression as a national security state, a lop-sided federation to its current existential woes fuelled by state-sponsored Islamisation. Jalal acknowledges that the country’s Islamic identity was not enough to hold it together and the continued cycles of military rule turned it into a polity that cannot provide full citizenship rights to all Pakistanis.

This emphasis on citizenship is an important perspective that Jalal has brought forth to a global reader, who views the country as an epicentre of terror and blowing itself as a jihadi state. As the premier scholar on the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jalal refers to the origins of Pakistan as a “truncated … moth-eaten and mutilated state” in the most peculiar circumstances of 1940s and the breakdown of power-sharing schemes that were deliberated in that decade. Lord Mountbatten’s ominous sentence marked the start: “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are putting up a tent. We can do no more.” And even today in many parts of the country, the tent exists without a responsive state structure. Sixty-seven years later, Pakistan is a country of 200 million people with no local governments that can assure accountable services (including security) to its citizens.

Pakistan’s insecurity is rooted in that phase when it was widely projected that it may just collapse under the burden of its inherent contradictions. Over 40 million Muslims stayed in India; its two wings were 1,000 miles apart and the task of creating a nation-state was even more onerous given the diversity — ethnic, linguistic and religious — of the new state. Nearly 25 per cent of Pakistanis in 1947 were non-Muslims (today only four to five per cent are). The perennial debate on Pakistan’s national identity has not ended. […]

Shahid Jalal’s new paintings

Jugnu Mohsin writing for The Friday Times says that Lahore’s most celebrated oasis is now the subject of enchanting paintings

You are truly amongst Lahore’s privileged if you receive an invitation to a harisa lunch on a winter afternoon at the home of Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan. No ordinary repast this, cooked as it is laboriously and lovingly over an evening and a night by Tahira herself. And only harisa is on the menu.
Originating in Kashmir, harisa is a purer cousin of haleem, without the spices and far more meaty and grainy. But as with all other Kashmiri offerings, harisa became a memorable dish only after its encounter with the Punjab. For hundreds of years, driven out by the harsh winter or latter day Dogra tyrants, Kashmiri Muslims and their families came down from the vale to Sialkot, Lahore and Amritsar and settled in their droves. Here, their customs, dress, language and cuisine underwent a metamorphosis. […]

March 23rd, 2009|Arts & Culture, Pakistani Art|5 Comments

Lost Imaginations

jinnah_with-fatima-and-dina2By Raza Rumi

Sixty one years have gone by but the creation of Pakistan is still a heated debate: contested, fractured and bitter. That history has been the preserve of the victors and the powerful is well known. But to spin and whirl the truth to the extent that it becomes empty and farcical is an art form practiced by the Pakistani state and its mock-historians.
In early January of this new year, a heated controversy entered the public domain. A famous Urdu columnist writing for the largest vernacular newspaper reiterated the widely-known fact that the pragmatic Mr Jinnah had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan and given up the demand for Pakistan in 1946. However, it was the […]