Pakistan – In Search of a Messiah

(Fawad Farooq, )

Title: “Pakistan – In Search of a Messiah”
Author: Major General (retd) Askari Raza Malik
Publisher: Apollo Publications, USA
ISBN: 978-1-64084-117-8 Paper Back
978-1-64084-118-5 Hard Back
Pages: 280
Paper Back: $ 15.00
Hard Back: $ 25.00

Though the publishers have launched General Askari’s book “Pakistan – In Search of a Messiah”, yet its formal launching is scheduled in Islamabad by the end of this month. Eminent amongst the top brass and government have already been sent invitations to grace the occasion.

The book, as is understood from its title is being regarded as an interesting read. According to the author, “Technically this book is my memoirs. In essence it is a record of my perceptions of those consequential events that shaped the history of Pakistan”. He admits that since individual perceptions can vastly vary, he does not expect complete agreement with his thoughts and arguments. Yet, “No conclusion is wholly devoid of truth as no interpretation mirrors the whole truth. The book is open to divergent views”.

According to initial reviews, this characteristic approach of the author makes the “story very impelling and intriguing. It also tells non-Pakistani readers the human side of Pakistan. All readers may not agree with his arguments, but his case is built on solid reasoning.”

The opening chapter of General Askari’s book sums up the political developments of the first 10 years of Pakistan. The politicians were as free as their counterparts in India and had the same opportunity to shape the destiny of Pakistan. During this period, there is no evidence to suggest any military interference in politics. After the martyrdom of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the politicians failed miserably to deliver. Pakistan had a very poor start to its political journey.

The next chapters dwell on the military rulers, their individual and collective blunders and the events leading to the tragedy of 1971 bifurcation of Pakistan, the judicial murder of a civilian Prime Minister (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and the fragmentation of Pakistani society amidst the religious prostitution that continues till to date. The more recent history, Musharraf onwards covers more intimate details that have led us to the present sorry state of affairs where dynastic politics, oligarchy and kleptocracy have become the order of the day.

Still the author does not seem to lose hope. A free judiciary, a free and fearless media and a politically growing parliament are the silver linings that could eventually put Pakistan on the path that leads out of the jungle. There is a chapter that deals with terrorism and one on the essentials of leadership and governance. The last chapter deals with civil-military relations and Pakistan Army, which should help a civilian reader in better understanding of the country’s military.

In view of the American readers the book presents a picture of Pakistan that could never be clearly perceptible in the heaps of nebulous concepts, misinformation, negative propaganda and lies about the people and the military of Pakistan and its Inter Services Intelligence. The book also affords an opportunity to also an ordinary American to understand the basic facts in context of Pakistan-India relations, the lasting peace in the region and geopolitical realities that demand a fresh outlook by the powers that be.

The style reflects military training. There is no doublespeak and no grey areas. Sometime the judgment could be termed as abrupt. It is uniformly so for the soldiers and civilians alike. The theme remains compulsorily ‘Pakistan and its unfortunate poor people’. To quote, “The civilian and the military dictators have left the nation of Pakistan badly raped, traumatized and humiliated. Now only a Messiah can resuscitate her. Unfortunately, among the thousands in the arena there is not one political doctor who seems equal to the task.”

The author’s passion about the Father of the Pakistan Nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is obvious, bordering on emotionalism. He traces the political history of Pakistan and the suspect growth of its institutions like the judiciary, bureaucracy and police. He thinks that it is the quality of justice and justice alone that defines the comparative status of nations, the first and the third world. The author also emphatically advocates that it is not only the judiciary but the entire system of justice that needs to be freed from the executive. He has very high hopes from the emerging media in Pakistan which is as free as any in the world.

The chapter on ‘the friends and foes’, discusses the role of various powers in the context of regional security environment. It dares opinion which might not be very palatable to non-Pakistani readers. The opinion is, however, as said earlier built on the assumptions that cannot be cursorily dismissed as flimsy. These have a food for thought.

In religion, he can be called a fundamentalist liberal. He thinks the Islam of the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and his four righteous successors answers all the questions as it is based on equality and justice. Islam – that allows equal rights to everyone living in an Islamic country without distinction of caste, creed or colour. The founder of the nation, Jinnah, also sounded clear on his concept of democracy as given out by the Holy Prophet (pbuh), equal rights and justice for all the citizens. A theocratic government was never a part of Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan. That is the interpretation the religious parties are bent upon forcing down the throats of common Pakistanis.

Whatever its merit, the book is bound to generate discussion. The author is conscious of some popular perceptions that have taken roots in the absence of any counter-narratives. Therefore, he thinks, “we can agree to disagree”. But, “It is our duty to record the truth. We owe it to our future generations”.

The book is available at book stalls like Mr Books, Saeed Book Bank, etc.

(Fawad Khan is a freelance columnist, based in Islamabad)


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