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