The Struggle for Pakistan: Complete book in PDF


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Pakistan for me is more than just a place of origin. Ever since my formative teen years in New York
City, the trials and tribulations of this self-styled Muslim homeland have sparked my curiosity and led
me to ask questions for which there were no easy answers. As a high school student in the
cosmopolitan setting of Manhattan during the civil war in East Pakistan, I could not reconcile the
narratives of Pakistan’s official nationalism with daily media reports of atrocities perpetrated by the
national army and its auxiliaries against the Bengali population of the eastern wing. The events of
1971, which ended with Pakistan’s military defeat by India and the creation of Bangladesh,
demolished the most cherished truths of official Pakistani nationalism and left a profound mark on
my development as a historian.

It was as an undergraduate at Wellesley College that understanding the causes of Pakistan’s
recurrent spells of military rule and the uses made of Islam by the state to govern a federally
disparate and inequitable nation-state became an intellectual preoccupation. I was in Rawalpindi for
my summer holidays in 1977 when General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto and imposed martial law in Pakistan. The Zia regime exploited the global assertion of
Islam in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the quadrupling of oil prices to promote
“Islamization” and inject public displays of Islamic piety into the national culture. The swift
transformation of Pakistan in the name of Islamic ideology defined by an unpopular military dictator
propelled me toward studying history, both as a methodology and as a discipline. Zia’s contention that
Islam was the sole reason for the country’s creation prompted my inquiry into the partition of India
that resulted in my doctoral work at the University of Cambridge. This work was later published in
1985 by Cambridge University Press as The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the
Demand for Pakistan.

The insights I gained from research on British decolonization led me to envisage writing a history
of postcolonial Pakistan. When my attempts to gain access to government archives in Pakistan made
little headway, I used the available sources to write a book on the formative first decade. The State of
Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge University Press,
1990) demonstrated how the interplay of domestic regional and international factors during the Cold
War resulted in the suspension of political processes and the first military intervention of 1958. The
emergence of military dominance has been the most salient and enduring feature of Pakistan’s
postcolonial history. I always intended to extend the analytical narrative to the subsequent decades to
explain the reasons for military supremacy despite the staggering loss of the eastern wing and
abortive attempts at establishing the rudiments of a functioning democracy. However, I chose to give
precedence to works of theory and history based on deep research in primary sources to write Self
and Sovereignty (Routledge, 2000) and Partisans of Allah (Harvard University Press, 2008). It was
only after revisiting partition through the life and literature of Saadat Hasan Manto in The Pity of
Partition (Princeton University Press, 2012) that I felt the time had come to write a definitive,
contemporary history of Pakistan in a changing global context.

Even as Pakistan grapples with religious extremism, regional dissidence, and a swarm of political
and economic challenges, opportunities have lately arisen for Pakistan to leave the state of martial
rule behind. Military regimes, in particular, have used Pakistan’s geostrategic location at the crosshairs
of competing dynamics connecting South Asia with the Middle East and Central Asia to claim a
pivotal role in international affairs. But with the Cold War now over, the military’s ascendancy is
more of a liability than an asset in negotiating global politics. How well a nuclearized Pakistan is able
to make the necessary adjustments in civil-military relations will have major implications for its
internal stability as well as global peace. The presentist turn that has crept into recent scholarship on
Pakistan needs to be countered with a work of historical interpretation that is attentive to key shifts at
the interconnected domestic, regional, and international levels. This narrative history of Pakistan
represents decades of research and thinking about a country that is all too often reduced to facile and
defective descriptions without regard for either context or content.


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