On the (book)shelf

Titles available at Books n Beans (Lahore) or through www.vanguardbooks.com

The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide
Azeem Ibrahim
Hurst (2016)

The Rohingya are a Muslim group who live in Rakhine state (formerly Arakan state) in western Myanmar (Burma), a majority Buddhist country. According to the United Nations, they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They suffer routine discrimination at the hands of neighboring Buddhist Rakhine groups, but international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) have also accused Myanmar’s authorities of being complicit in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims. The Rohingya face regular violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion, and other abuses, a situation that has been particularly acute since 2012 in the wake of a serious wave of sectarian violence. Islam is practiced by around 4% of the population of Myanmar, and most Muslims also identify as Rohingya. Yet the authorities refuse to recognize this group as one of the 135 ethnic groups or “national races” making up Myanmar’s population. On this basis, Rohingya individuals are denied citizenship rights in the country of their birth, and face severe limitations on many aspects of an ordinary life, such as marriage or movement around the country. This expose of the attempt to erase the Rohingyas from the face of Myanmar is sure to gain widespread attention.

Dr Azeem Ibrahim obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as a Research Fellow at the International Security Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a World Fellow at Yale, Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute for Social Policy Understanding and an Adjunct Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute US Army War College. He founded and actively chairs a private grant-giving foundation (www.ibrahimfoundation.com) focusing on innovative community projects. He served as a reservist in the UK’s 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment. When not running his business interests across the world, he teaches at the Harris Public Policy School, University of Chicago.

Points of Entry: Encounters at the Origin Sites of Pakistan
Nadeem Farooq Paracha
Tranquebar (2018)

Pakistan is more than the sum of its news-making parts. In these marvellous essays on history, politics and society, cultural critic Nadeem Farooq Paracha upturns various reductive readings of the country by revealing its multi-layered reality. With wit and insight, he investigates past events and their implications for modern-day society.

Thus, one piece explores how and why Mohenjo-daro has been neglected as a historical site, and another examines how Muhammad-bin-Qasim, who briefly invaded Sindh in 713 CE, has come to be lionised as the original founder of Pakistan. There is a story about a Pakistani Jimi Hendrix who plays the guitar like a dream and also one about a medieval emperor who lives on in the swear words of a Punjabi peasant. There are essays on Pakistani pop music, on Afro-Pakistanis and on how Jhuley Lal came to be more than just a folk deity for Sindhi immigrants in India.
Points of Entry examines the constant struggle between two distinct tendencies in Pakistani civic-nationalism—one modernist, the other theocratic—and the complex society it has birthed.

Nadeem Farooq Paracha is a well-known cultural critic, historian and columnist. He is associated with Pakistan’s largest English language daily, Dawn and also the author of two best-selling books on the social history of Pakistan: End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

The House of Islam: A Global History
Ed Husain
Bloomsbury Publishing (2018)

A fascinating and revelatory exploration of the intricacies of Islam and the inner psyche of the Muslim world from the bestselling author of The Islamist

‘Islam began as a stranger,’ said the Prophet Mohammed, ‘and one day, it will again return to being a stranger.’
The gulf between Islam and the West is widening. A faith rich with strong values and traditions, observed by nearly two billion people across the world, is seen by the West as something to be feared rather than understood. Sensational headlines and hard-line policies spark enmity, while ignoring the feelings, narratives and perceptions that preoccupy Muslims today.

Wise and authoritative, The House of Islam seeks to provide entry to the minds and hearts of Muslims the world over. It introduces us to the fairness, kindness and mercy of Mohammed; the aims of sharia law, through commentary on scripture, to provide an ethical basis to life; the beauty of Islamic art and the permeation of the divine in public spaces; and the tension between mysticism and literalism that still threatens the House of Islam.
The decline of the Muslim world and the current crises of leadership mean that a glorious past, full of intellectual nobility and purpose, is now exploited by extremists and channelled into acts of terror. How can Muslims confront the issues that are destroying Islam from within, and what can the West do to help work towards that end?

Ed Husain expertly and compassionately guides us through the nuances of Islam and its people, contending that the Muslim world need not be a stranger to the West, nor its enemy, but a peaceable ally.

Ed Husain was an Islamist radical in his teens and early twenties. After rejecting extremism, he travelled widely in the Middle East and worked for the British Council in Syria and Saudi Arabia. He is an adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York; cofounder of Britain’s first Muslim counterextremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation; and a former senior adviser at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State
Husain Haqqani
HarperCollins Publishers (2018)

Salman Rushdie once described Pakistan as a ‘poorly imagined country’. Indeed, Pakistan has meant different things to different people since its birth seventy years ago. Armed with nuclear weapons and dominated by the military and militants, it is variously described around the world as ‘dangerous’, ‘unstable’, ‘a terrorist incubator’ and ‘the land of the intolerant’. Much of Pakistan’s dysfunction is attributable to an ideology tied to religion and to hostility with the country out of which it was carved out - India. But 95 per cent of Pakistan’s 210 million people were born after Partition, as Pakistanis, and cannot easily give up on their home. In his new book, Husain Haqqani, one of the most important commentators on Pakistan in the world today, calls for a bold re-conceptualization of the country. Reimagining Pakistan offers a candid discussion of Pakistan’s origins and its current failings, with suggestions for reconsidering its ideology, and identifies a national purpose greater than the rivalry with India.

Husain Haqqani is Pakistan’s leading dissident public intellectual. In addition to serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011, he was an adviser to three civilian prime ministers, including Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto. Haqqani currently lives in exile in the United States, where he is Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute. He is co-editor of the journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. His books include Pakistan Between Mosque and Military; Magnificent Delusions: US, Pakistan and an Epic History of Misunderstanding; and India v Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?

India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds
Avtar Bhasin
Bloomsbury Publishing (2018)

The book is based on archival material accessed for the first time from the Nehru Papers and the archives of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. It provides readers with a new perspective on a great many significant issues of the sub-continent’s India–Pakistan discourse.

The Partition was an opportunity for the two nations to go their own ways and build egalitarian societies, complementing each other. Unfortunately, unable to transcend old animosities, Pakistan added new ones to construct the bogey of Indian hegemony. This was diametrically opposed to India’s determination to steer clear of the past and pursue a positive policy towards Pakistan, since it shared centuries of historical, economic, social and cultural ties with its people. For India, the separation was like a family dividing its assets by mutual agreement of its members and living peacefully thereafter. For Pakistan, however, the separation was akin to a permanent breakup of a family, which was accompanied by the nursing of grievances and the harbouring of adversarial feelings. It is this mental make-up dictating the Indo–Pakistan narrative in the years following the Partition, which the book succinctly captures.

Avtar Singh Bhasin, born in 1935, holds a Masters in history and enjoyed a short stint with the National Archives of India and the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, before joining the Ministry of External Affairs in 1963. Here he served for the next three decades, retiring as Director (Historical Division) in 1993. During his tenure in the Ministry, he served in Indian missions abroad and travelled abroad extensively in the performance of his official duties.

He took to academic research after retirement. Avtar was Senior Fellow at the Indian Council of Historical Research from 1994 to 1996, and Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Studies at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library from 1996 to 2000. As part of his research, he produced five volumes each of documentary studies on India’s relations with Sri Lanka in 2001, Bangladesh in 2003, and Nepal in 2005. Avtar also produced a ten-volume study on India–Pakistan Relations in 2012. Another study in the same genre, India – ASEAN; Peace and Prosperity, was published for the Ministry of External Affairs for the Summit Conference of the ASEAN Heads of Government held in New Delhi. His latest study, also in five volumes, India–China Relations – 1947-2000, was published in January 2018.

He edited and published an annual series, India’s Foreign Relations, from 2002 to 2013 for the Ministry of External Affairs. He has also authored two other books, Some Called It Partition, Some Freedom, and, India in Sri Lanka: Between Lion and the Tigers.

The second book was separately published in both India and Sri Lanka.