PAKISTAN A New History By IAN TALBOT – OXFORD University Press
The original version were published by Hurst (Pakistan: A Modern History) has since been revised and appeared in a second edition. It concluded that ‘further polarisation and instability’ could only be avoided by ‘the genuine political participation of previously marginalised groups such as women, the minorities, and the rural and urban poor. This would not only redeem the ‘failed promise’ of 1947, but also provide hope that Pakistan can effectively tackle the immense economic, social and environmental challenges of the next century’. Now well over a decade into that century, while some of the dramatis personae have changed, most tragically through the passing of Benazir Bhutto, the structural problems of governance and the economy that I highlighted in my narrative not only remain unaddressed but persist in a more critical form.
The current volume is reflective of Pakistan’s mounting problems. PAKISTAN A New History By IAN TALBOT book seeks to look beyond the headlines and to uncover the continuities and contingencies that have shaped Pakistan’s historical travails. It is intended as a work of interpretation and reflection which rebuilds. It is this as much as its updating that constitutes its newness. The aim is highlight major turning points and trends during the past six decades. In particular, there is emphasis on the increasing entrenchment of the army in Pakistan’s politics and economy; the issues surrounding the role of Islam in public life; the tensions between centralising tendencies and local identities and democratic urges; and the impact of geo-political influences on internal development. While this is a study in failure-failure of governance, political and economic development, and most of all of the hopes vested in the project of a separate Muslim homeland-the text attempts to reveal that this was not pre-ordained. Such a fatalistic interpretation does not do justice to the complexities of historical developments, individual actors and the state’s own possibilities. This understanding offers the comfort that, while acknowledging that Pakistan’s gravest crises may lie ahead, there still remain opportunities for a reappraisal of priorities and a reform of institutions which could yet enable the state not just to muddle thorough, but to achieve political and economic sustainability.
The work reflects my own understanding of Pakistan’s history, which has developed over many years of scholarly engagement. It has been influenced not only by the extensive sources cited in this volume, but as a result of numerous formal and informal academics exchanges. Not all of the following will agree with my line of reasoning in its entirety, but I nevertheless wish publicly to acknowledge their contributions to my assessment: Professor Iftikhar Malik, Professor Younas Samad, Professor Mohammad Waseem, Professor Imran Ali, Professor Gurharpal Singh, Professor Francis Robinson, and Dr Farzana Shaikh.
If Pakistan is to preserve all that is good about the country, it must face the deterioration of its social and political institutions. Sidestepping easy headlines to identify Pakistan’s true dangers, this volume revisits the major turning points and trends of Pakistani history over the past six decades. While Ian Talbot’s study centres on Pakistan’s many failures—the collapse of stable governance, the drop in positive political and economic development, and, most of all, the unrealised goal of a Muslim state as envisaged by the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah—this book unequivocally affirms the country’s potential for a positive reawakening. These failures were not preordained, Talbot argues. His sensitive historical approach makes it clear that favourable opportunities still remain for Pakistan, in which the state has a chance to reclaim its priorities and institutions and re-establish political and economic sustainability.
‘Talbot’s judgements are balanced and his words authoritative.’
— Francis Robinson, Professor of the History of South Asia,
Royal Holloway, University of London
‘An invaluable guide for navigating and understanding Pakistan’s complex, byzantine politics. No other contemporary history of Pakistan comes anywhere near Talbot’s understanding and detail of its challenges and missed opportunities.’
— Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US and
editor of Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ (OUP, 2011)
Ian Talbot is Professor of History at Southampton University and one of Europe’s leading historians of South Asia. Among other publications written and/or edited by him are Divided Cities: Partition and its Aftermath in Lahore and Amritsar, 1947–1957 (OUP, 2006), The Deadly Embrace: Religion, Politics and Violence in India and Pakistan, 1947–2002 (OUP, 2006), and Region and Partition: Bengal, Punjab and the Partition of the Subcontinent (OUP, 2000).
OXFORD University Press
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