A peep into Pakistan, specially for Indians

By Rahul Dass, IANS,

Book: “Pakistan – Identity and Destiny”; Author: Javed Jabbar; Publisher: Har-Anand; Price: Rs.495; Pages: 191

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Here’s a three-time former Pakistani minister trying to help Indian readers better understand his country. The intent is laudable, but the book meanders through too many reasons to justify why Pakistan is Pakistan.

Launched by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani earlier this year, it says in a specially written preface for India that this is “a small step towards getting to know each other a bit better”.

The author has certainly succeeded in highlighting Pakistan’s strengths and does not shy away from discussing the weaknesses. However, his contention that Pakistan’s origins represent “the most unique set of factors to shape the formation of a new nation-state” does sound a bit stretched.

An important chapter, “What is so special about Pakistan”, gets wrapped up in just two pages, leaving the reader wanting more.

But the next discusses in over 20 pages the six categories of nation states, a chapter that reminds one of the monotony felt on a long hot afternoon spent in a classroom as the good professor speaks without a break.

Jabbar, who has served under Benazir Bhutto, Meraj Khalid and Pervez Musharraf, seems to have got a bit carried away in projecting a country that grabbed international headlines much of this year due to a string of terror attacks and the May 2 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Sixty strengths of the country have been diligently penned by Jabbar.

Pakistanis are lauded for being hardy and resilient as well as practical and pragmatic. The author writes that Pakistan is the first Muslim nation to develop and test nuclear weapons.

The country conducted five nuclear explosions May 28, 1998, and the book says that “Pakistan was obliged to develop these weapons only as a defensive reaction to the introduction of nuclear weapons into South Asia by India”.

An interesting nugget of information is that cricket-obsessed Pakistan has produced some of the finest bridge players in the world.

The book highlights a strong and independent judiciary and points out that 85 million out of the total population of 170 million are youthful and energetic as they are below 21 years. Calling women the backbone of society, it says several women have achieved global recognition for their outstanding abilities.

Listing 40 weaknesses, the book touches upon severe income disparities, grinding poverty and systemic inequalities. Then there is misgovernance and rampant corruption, besides weak enforcement of the law.

The book discusses the persecution of non-Muslims by fanatics and says: “Christians and Hindus have also been victims of attacks by extremists.”

Jabbar admits that intelligence agencies operate beyond the law. “With its weak democratic institutions, the executive arms of civil governments in Pakistan and armed forces have tended to misuse intelligence agencies to promote varying interests…”

The book in its final pages discusses factors that lead towards what it calls Pakistan’s unique destiny. It admits that “democracy remains imperfect and is a perpetual work-in-progress” and adds that it demands infinite patience and perseverance.

Jabbar’s book would have been more engaging had he avoided a pointwise format.

(Rahul Dass can be contacted at [email protected])