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Pakistan: In Search of an Identity


D. Suba Chandran

SOUTH ASIA: A HISTORICAL NARRATIVE
By Mohammed Yunus and Aradhana Parmar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 267, Rs. 250.00

HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF PAKISTAN
By Shahid Javed Burki
Vision Books, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 402, Rs. 495.00

LIAQUAT ALI KHAN: HIS LIFE AND WORK
By Muhammad Reza Kazimi
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. 354, Rs. 595.00


By Philip E. Jones
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. 543, Rs. 625.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 5-6 May/June 2004

Pakistan is an amazing nation that is perennially at the crossroads. Ever since its creation, there was not a single decade in which it was not at war, either with its own self or with its neighbours both in the East and West. Outside its territory, it has fought four major overt wars with India and a series of not so overt wars with Afghanistan since the 1980s. Inside Pakistan, there were a series of wars at different levels, the most prominent being – between the military and polity; between democracy and dictatorship; between Islam and secularism; and between the Shias and the Sunnis. Unfortunately for Pakistan, none of these wars, internal or external, have come to an end; in fact, the faultlines have been increasing. India, on the contrary, though facing its own wars both internally and externally, has to a larger extent stabilized in all accounts, where Pakistan has failed.        Where does Pakistan stand today? What identity does the nation and its people hold? How does Pakistan manage to meet this situation? What are the factors that have contributed to Pakistan’s instability? Where did it fail?      While there are a number of reasons one could tabulate, three are primary. First was the failure of Pakistan to create an identity for itself. No doubt, religion was used for political means to create a new nation in 1947. But, for almost every Pakistani, the history does not start from there. Therein lies the first problem of identity. When was Pakistan born? Shahid Burki’s Historical Dictionary of Pakistan addresses this question in the introduction. He asks: “At what point should one begin a history of Pakistan? Should one start with August 14, 1947? Or should one go back to March 23, 1940? Or should one go back to 1857, when the Muslim community fought its last battle against the British advance into India?”      Burki’s answer to the above questions raises further questions. For him, “to really understand the circumstances that resulted in the birth of Pakistan, however one has to go far back into history, to the eighth century, when Islam first arrived in South Asia…Pakistan’s history really begins with the arrival of Islam in India in the eighth century.” In fact Burki’s chronology of Pakistan begins with Muhammad bin Qasim conquering the province of Sindh, incorporating into the Ummayad caliphate. Herein lies the primary problem with Pakistan. A nation with a ...


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