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A Parallel Vision

Ashok Behuria

By Babar Ayaz
Hay House India, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 364, Rs. 599.00


Babar Ayaz’s book does not present an ordinary diagnostic enquiry into the health of a state called Pakistan. His is no run-of-the-mill attempt—quite a fad today—to put Pakistan in the dock. There are plenty of writers these days looking at Pakistan in an uncharitable manner. ‘A Hard Country’ says one; a country of ‘Magnificent Delusions’ says the other. ‘On the Brink’, ‘Unravelling’, ‘Cauldron’, ‘Tinderbox’, ‘Warrior State’, caution quite a few. Maybe Pakistan deserves such sobriquets, may be it does not. But none of them tries to grapple with a problem called Pakistan with critical empathy. This is what Babar attempts to do.   True to his claims, he calls a spade a spade. Unscathing in his analysis, he wields an unforgiving scalpel and right from the word go diagnoses that Pakistan suffered from a ‘genetic defect’. The defect is one of mixing of religion with politics. It is not something Pakistan cannot overcome; in his persuasive analysis of Pakistani politics starting from the Pakistan movement till today, he hopes that all is still not lost and sooner the defect is acknowledged and removed, the better for Pakistan. From a tinder box it can become a normal state and normal society.   For all that Pakistan is, it has been a battlefield of four broad political traditions ever since it came into being—centrist-liberal, rightist-liberal, rightist-conservative and left-wing secular. These traditions are in a way personified by Jinnah, Iqbal, Maududi and Faiz respectively. Babar’s views approximate to the last of these traditions. His diagnosis and prescriptions are therefore predictable. However, what makes his book different from others is his unwavering zeal to dissect the all-too-familiar history of Partition, lay the blame at the door of every personality that counted, no matter whether he was ‘the great leader’ or an ‘Allama’, and to debunk and humanize them. His marshalling of facts, his impeccable analysis and his persuasive logic help him resurrect a parallel version of Pakistani history taking the cue from his ideological siblings—Hamza Alavi, Eqbal Ahmed, Feroze Ahmed, Tariq Rahman etc.   As a Pakistani, it takes real guts to call Iqbal, ‘confused’ or to masquerade Jinnah as a politician ‘with a shortsighted vision in spite of the monocle he wore’ (p. 55), who would rather ‘warm a conservative’s heart than delight a liberal’s mind’. He argues that Iqbal was quite wrong to over-emphasize the historical role of ...

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