Home Opinion Op-Ed A season for new books

A season for new books

new books
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Murtaza Shibli |

Apart from the heat generated by the unruly sun, new books are scorching the milieu and pushing the ever-raging debates on Pakistan and its socio-political trajectories to a new height or low, depending upon the affiliations or how one sees these developments. In March, Hussain Haqqani, a former Islamist-militant-turned-extremist-secularist, came out with a new book, Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State. Haqqani, who is notorious for using his creative talent in character assassinating people on behalf of his ever-changing benefactors, harvests genuine concerns to construct a deeply partisan narrative that could easily pass off as a deliberate and dishonest attempt to bolster a toxic anti-Pakistan narrative.

His refrain blames Pakistan for its ills or even targets the military, without any appreciation for the continued outside interference – both on its borders from the outside, and within its geography. There is a growing indication that the US and India are working in tandem to push a more antagonistic and hate-filled storyline against Pakistan, and Haqqani’s new attempt fits well within that fold.

In comparison, Nasim Zehra’s From Kargil to the coup: Events that shook Pakistan, is grounded in intellectual rigour. The book unravels structural flaws within Pakistan’s decision-making system that dogs the country’s well-being. While investigating the Kargil debacle, Zehra emphasizes for a “comprehensive narration, one that would weave in critical dimensions of state-craft and policy-making while unravelling the mystery of a military adventure planned for the world’s highest and toughest battle-ground”.

The positive aspect of the book is that it makes bold and forthright statements about the operational war capacities and limitations of India and Pakistan. Both the authors agree that no country is in a position to change the status quo on the ground in Kashmir, and, therefore, call for rapprochement.

That the Kargil operation was a disaster is an understatement as it not only caused huge international embarrassment for Pakistan, but also exposed its deep internal flaws and structural divisions that ultimately led to the derailment of a nascent democracy and obliterated its progress. The disaster caused massive sufferings for the army men who were thrown into the war theatre only to be abandoned and left to die in the most inhospitable conditions. In the aftermath, I heard several heart-wrenching stories from my former colleagues at the International Committee of the Red Cross who accompanied dozens of dead bodies and prisoners from India to Pakistan.

Read more: Interview with Former RAW Cheif A S Dulat

Nasim Zehra deftly approaches the heavily sensitive issue of the civil-military relations and the perpetual binary – civilian versus military. She rightly believes such a binary “promotes a flawed reading of decision-making, policies, and policy impacts” that tends to produce contradictory or mutually antagonistic narratives that obfuscate any possibility of a serious debate or engagement within various state organs. “The common narrations either eulogize the army while critiquing the civilians or extol the civilians while critiquing the army”.

The book uncovers anomalies that beset the whole decision-making process, civilian or military, and suggests that none of them is superior to the other. It also reveals how the self-serving and deficient politicians, who promote flattery rather than indulge in any serious conversation or debates about the issues of national import, are jeopardizing any reform within the system. This book is a must-read for every concerned Pakistani and a student of contemporary Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the amount of interest this book should generate – both in public and policy circles – has eluded it, as the public imagination has been hijacked by the unfolding gossip from a visibly bitter ex-wife.

Imran Khan’s former spouse, Reham Khan, is spouting distilled venom. In her latest TV interview with an Indian news channel, she has more or less confirmed the contents of her yet-to-be-named or released book that have been doing rounds for nearly a week now. Although former Mrs. Khan was in some sort of conjugal bliss for less than three months, and her marriage could not benefit from an anniversary, the focus of her book, per the information available, seems to wrest on Imran Khan – exposing her extremely unhealthy obsession with her past that was so very short-lived and fleeting.

Read more: Spy Chronicles: A one-sided narrative

By her own admission, the forthcoming treatise seems immersed in raunchy details about the alleged sexual exploits and misdemeanors of the men at the helm of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. London-based Pakistani journalist and a former colleague of Rehman Khan, Mubeen Rashid, who was initially part of the book project, told me that because the book is too vulgar and laden with unsubstantiated claims, nobody is willing to take up the manuscript in the UK. Mubeen claims to have withdrawn her partnership with Reham for it was one-sided and filled with unsubstantiated declarations.

There is a growing indication that the US and India are working in tandem to push a more antagonistic and hate-filled storyline against Pakistan, and Haqqani’s new attempt fits well within that fold.

Apparently, the book will now be either published in India or self-published, but most likely not launched in the UK because of strict libel laws. Therefore, India seems to be on the only likely place to launch the vilifying volume. The other book that is still causing ripples is the ‘Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the illusion of Peace’ co-authored by the former RAW chief, AS Dulat and General Assad Durrani, the retired DG ISI. This has landed Durrani in trouble for he has been officially been banned to travel outside of the country while having to face a court of inquiry from the army.

Read more: A Letter to Indian Army Chief from a Kashmiri writer

This is probably for the first time that a former ISI chief has faced official censure, Retired Lt. General Ghulam Mustafa told me last week. He, like several others in the country, believes that Durrani was led into a trap by the RAW to speak in a way and style that hurt Pakistan’s basic narrative. Whether such a claim will hold water during a court of inquiry or not, it is uncanny for a collaborative book to portray a one-sided narrative. What is clear from the exercise is that Durrani, who has very little intelligence experience as compared to Dulat, is keen to spill the beans while Dulat is circumspect and clinched with his answers; he seems to be very economical with the details.

In an interview with me, Dulat rubbished the notion that he had any motives other than wishing the ongoing “madness between India and Pakistan needs to end, [and] that we need to move forward.” The positive aspect of the book is that it makes bold and forthright statements about the operational war capacities and limitations of India and Pakistan. Both the authors agree that no country is in a position to change the status quo on the ground in Kashmir, and, therefore, call for rapprochement.

Murtaza Shibli is the author of the book, 7/7: Muslim Perspectives, a collection of reactions by the UK Muslims on the London Bombings of 2005 that killed dozens of Londoners. He tweets: murtaza_shibli. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.


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