Readings on Pakistan

in homistan

I am often asked to write up a single post on the broad overview of the history of Pakistan – and I usually say: I am a medievalist. Part of the frustration is, of course, that there isn’t anything notable out there which covers the politics, history and culture in around 200 pages for the general audience. No, Ian Talbot and Stephen Cohen are not up to the task – neither are any books that have any of the following words in their title: Military, Extremism, Mosque. Such books may or may not be good reading on those specific topics, but they fail miserably at everything else. Until the time that a money-hungry Press asks me for the manuscript that will land them on the best seller’s list (Sepoy’s Pakistan: Mad Mutterings of the Melancholic Sort), the best “book” on Pakistan is a series of readings. I am providing a partial listing from a class I taught. The list is by no means meant to be taken as exhaustive, comprehensive or even exemplary. The main selection criteria was the availability of materials in pdf format. There are also other pedagogical quirks buried here. I pay as much attention to historiography as to history in my selection of readings and I also like to assign readings that will provoke my students, rather than simply inform them. In that, I often tend to assign materials that do not share my own outlook or with which I have substantial issues. That said, if you read these 30 odd articles, book reviews, etc., I promise you will be totally prepared for anything a Fareed Zakaria or a Tom Friedman can conjure.

a bit of political history:

Spate, O.H.K. “The Partition of the Punjab and of Bengal”. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 110, No. 4/6. (Oct. – Dec., 1947), pp. 201-218.

Brown, W. Norman. “India’s Pakistan Issue”. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 91, No. 2. (Apr. 5, 1947), pp. 162-180.

Franck, Dorothea Seelye. “Pakhtunistan – Disputed Disposition of a Tribal Land”. Middle East Journal, 6 (1952) p.49.

Sayeed, Khalid B., “The “Jama’at-i-Islami” Movement in Pakistan”. Pacific Affairs, 30:1 (1957) p.59.

Ikramullah, Shaista Suhrawardy. “The Role of Women in the Life and Literature of Pakistan”. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 106:5025 (Aug., 1958), p. 713.

Abbott, Freeland. “The Historical Background of Islamic India and Pakistan”. Contributions to Asian Studies 2, (July, 1971), p.6.

Nations, Richard. “The Economic Structure of Pakistan: Class and Colony”. New Left Review I/68, July-August 1971.

Maxwell, Neville. “A Passage to Pakistan”. The New York Review of Books. Vol. 18, No. 5 · March 23, 1972.

Choudhury, G. W. “‘New’ Pakistan’s Constitution, 1973″. Middle East Journal, 28:1 (1974) p.10.

Qureshi, Sameel Ahmed. “An Analysis of Contemporary Pakistani Politics: Bhutto versus the Military”. Asian Survey, Vol. 19, No. 9. (Sep., 1979), pp. 910-921.

Richter, William L. “Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto”. Current History, 88:542 (1989) p.433.

Diamond, Larry. “Is Pakistan the (Reverse) Wave of the Future?”. Journal of Democracy. Vol. 11, No. 3. (July, 2000), pp. 91-106.

Waseem, Muhammad. “Constitutionalism in Pakistan: The Changing Patterns of Dyarchy”. Diogenes, 53:102 (2006).


Nasr, Vali. “International Politics, Domestic Imperatives, and Identity Mobilization: Sectarianism in Pakistan, 1979-1998″. Comparative Politics, Vol. 32, No. 2. (Jan., 2000), pp. 171-190.

Wright, Theodore P. “Center-Periphery Relations and Ethnic Conflict in Pakistan: Sindhis, Muhajirs, and Punjabis”. Comparative Politics, Vol. 23, No. 3. (Apr., 1991), pp. 299-312.

Chaudhry, Kiren Aziz. “State, Society, and Sin: The Political Beliefs of University Students in Pakistan”. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 32:1 (1983) p.11.

Haq, Farhat. “Rise of the MQM in Pakistan: Politics of Ethnic Mobilization”. Asian Survey, Vol. 35, No. 11. (Nov., 1995), pp. 990-1004.

Nicolini, Beatrice. “The Baluch Role in the Persian Gulf during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2007, pp. 384-396.


Stern, Jessica. “Pakistan’s Jihad Culture”. Foreign Affairs, November/December 2000.

Tremblay, Reeta Chowdhari. “Kashmir Conflict: Secessionist Movement, Mobilization and Political Institutions”. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 4. (Winter, 2001-2002), pp. 569-577.

Laber, Jeri. “Afghanistan’s Other War”. New York Review of Books. Vol. 33, No. 20. December 18, 1986.

Mishra, Pankaj. “Kashmir: The Unending War”. New York Review of Books. Vol. 47, No. 16. October 19, 2000.

de Bellaigue, Christopher. “The Perils of Pakistan”. New York Review of Books. Vol. 48, No. 18. November 15, 2001

the nuclear gods:

Ali, Tariq. The Colour Khaki. New Left Review 19, January-February 2003.

Shaikh, Farzana. “Pakistan between Allah and Army”. International Affairs, Vol. 76, No. 2, (Apr., 2000), pp. 325-332.

Slijper, Frank. Project Butter Factory: Henk Slebos and the A.Q. Khan nuclear network. TNI / Campagne tegen Wapenhandel. September 2007.

Langewiesche, William. The Wrath of Khan. Atlantic Monthly. November 2005.

Langewiesche, William. How to Get a Nuclear Bomb. Atlantic Monthly. December 2006.

(nation) imagined:

Gilmartin, David. “Partition, Pakistan, and South Asian History: In Search of a Narrative”. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 4. (Nov., 1998), pp. 1068-1095.

Jalal, Ayesha. “Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imagining”. International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1. (Feb., 1995), pp. 73-89.

Oldenburg, Philip. “A Place Insufficiently Imagined”: Language, Belief, and the Pakistan Crisis of 1971″. Journal of Asian Studies, 44:4 (Aug., 1985), p. 711.

Khan, Naveeda. “Flaws in the Flow: Roads and their Modernity in Pakistan”. Social Text, Issue 89, Vol. 24, No. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 87-113.

Ali, Kamran Asdar. “‘Pulp Fictions’: Reading Pakistani Domesticity”. Social Text, Issue 78, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 123-145.

Mufti, Aamir. “Towards a Lyric History of India”. boundary 2, Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 245-274.

Ewing, Katherine. “The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan”. Journal of Asian Studies, 42:2 (Feb, 1983) p.251.

That is all I can manage at the moment (If you want to grab these readings, join the CM group on facebook). Please add your suggestions in the comments.

Also fictions: Salman Rushdie’s criminally under-appreciated Shame, Shaukat Siddiqi’s God’s Own Land, Abdullah Hussain’s The Weary Generations, Intizar Husain’s Basti and Agha Shahid Ali’s translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rebel’s Silhouette. Hmm. Maybe, you don’t need to read all the non-fiction, if you just manage to read the above.

update: Since 2007, some new titles worth adding: Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military, Inc, Iftikhar Dadi’s Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, Naveeda Khan and Veena Das’ Beyond Crisis: Re-evaluating Pakistan and the forthcoming volumes by Saadia Toor, Kamran Asdar Ali and, um, me.

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