Book Ti­tle: Au­thor: Pub­lisher: Pages:

ISBN: A His­tory of Pak­istan Roger D. Long Ox­ford Univer­sity Press 888 9780199400249 Re­viewed by S.G. Ji­la­nee

Southasia - - BOOKS & REVIEWS -

His­tory of Pak­istan” is not an­other book of his­tory in the gen­eral sense of the term as it is nei­ther writ­ten by one au­thor, nor is it a con­tin­u­ous nar­ra­tive about peo­ple and events. It is a col­lec­tion of 19 es­says, most of which read like op-ed pieces by em­i­nent schol­ars and are set in a chrono­log­i­cal or­der. Each es­say is self-con­tained and in­de­pen­dent, with pro­fuse an­no­ta­tions, deal­ing with a par­tic­u­lar topic. A few are opin­ion pieces, like Aye­sha Siddiqa’s on Pervez Mushar­raf. As a re­sult, there is much du­pli­ca­tion and over­lap­ping that has en­larged the size of the book.

The two open­ing chap­ters are by ar­chae­ol­o­gist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer and deal with Pak­istan’s rich ar­chae­o­log­i­cal her­itage. One cov­ers the Stone Age; the other dwells on the “Early his­toric chief­doms and states of the north­ern sub­con­ti­nent.” With the help of fig­ures and maps, the au­thor traces the ori­gin of Pak­istan to “more than two mil­lion years ago” with the “ear­li­est ev­i­dence of hu­man pres­ence in the Po­to­har Plateau,” be­ing 500,000 years old.

The ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas that are part of Pak­istan to­day had a flour­ish­ing ur­ban so­ci­ety when most of the world was still plunged in dark­ness and was ruled by the Nanda dy­nasty through the Mau­riyas, Sun­gas, Greco-Bac­tri­ans, Parthi­ans, Kushanas, Sakas, Gup­tas and Har­shavard­hana.

This knowl­edge should or­di­nar­ily have been a source of pride for Pak­ista­nis, but the au­thor laments that “there has been lit­tle at­tempt to use the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal past to re­in­force the mod­ern political struc­ture or to val­i­date the ex­is­tence of Pak­istan as a mod­ern na­tion.”

Kenoyer’s re­gret finds a louder echo in the next es­say, “The Ad­vent of Is­lam in South Asia,” by Manan Ah­mad Asif. “This es­say,” he claims, “is one small step” to con­test Pak­istan’s ori­gin myth and takes the of­fi­cial ver­sion of the “ad­vent of Is­lam in South Asia” as taught in schools, head on, ex­pos­ing with elab­o­rate quotes from school text­books, how his­tory has been dis­torted to cre­ate the myth about Pak­istan’s ori­gin, delink­ing it from the an­cient past and trac­ing it to the con­quest of Sindh by the Umayyad troops in 711 CE, and “the as­sump­tion that it was from this seed that Is­lam spread through­out the In­dian penin­sula.”

The au­thor also de­bunks two ba­sic claims made in the text­books, namely, that Mo­ham­mad bin Qasim’s ex­pe­di­tion was the first Arab foray into this re­gion and that it was in re­tal­i­a­tion to Raja Dahir’s re­fusal to re­turn Arab women, cap­tured by pi­rates, as they were sail­ing home from Sri Lanka.

To the con­trary, Arabs had been send­ing ex­pe­di­tions to this re­gion from long be­fore and had cap­tured Makran in 664 C.E. Sim­i­larly, “the piracy episode….. and the ex­pe­di­tion against Day­bul led by bin Qasim were sep­a­rated by at least a decade!” More­over, “Not only was the piracy episode not the ca­sus belli but there is no his­tor­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to even seek a unique cause be­hind Mo­ham­mad bin Qasim’s ex­pe­di­tion.” And, fi­nally, “there never was mass con­ver­sion; ….there never was a ‘Mus­lim’ nor a ‘Hindu’ cat­e­gory,” as the pupils are taught.

This is fol­lowed by dis­cus­sion on the Delhi Sul­tanate, through the Mughal Em­pire and Bri­tish

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