This is not a list of ‘top 10’ or ‘must read’ books about Pakistan in the traditional sense.  Rather, it’s a collection of titles that present a wide range of perspectives about a country that has a complex past and, to put it mildly, a confusing present.  It covers topics that include everything from the history behind the creation of Pakistan, to the man who led the movement, to a critique of how our history is being presented today, to a glimpse into the future.

The Great Divide Britain–India–Pakistan; by H. V. Hodson

This book looks back at the final days of the Raj (British rule) up to the creation of Pakistan.  The author discusses in great detail the events that led to the partition, how the power was transferred to the two nations and the aftermath of this history-altering event.

The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan; by Ayesha Jalal

Although most historical accounts assert that the “two-nation theory” was the basis of the creation of Pakistan, there are opposing arguments as well.  In her book, Ayesha Jalal refutes the conventional explanation about the creation of Pakistan.  She shows how Muhammad Ali Jinnah negotiated with the British government and used the religion aspect as a strategic tool to protect the interests of the Muslims in India.

Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan, by Hector Bolitho

This is the first authoritative biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which remained the only significant work for thirty years.  In this book, Bolitho interviewed numerous contemporaries and colleagues of Mr. Jinnah and weaved this insight with the political and personal life of this great leader.

Jinnah of Pakistan, by Stanley Wolpert

Coming 30 years after Hector Bolitho’s ‘Jinnah: the Creator of Pakistan‘, this book takes a different approach.  Up until this point, Jinnah’s depiction was quite misrepresented in most of the written works.  Stanley Wolpert presents a balanced and objective view of this towering figure of the modern world politics.

Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic identity: the Search for Saladin; by Akbar S. Ahmed

The primary characters involved in the partition of India include: Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru and Lord Mountbatten.  Among these four leaders, Jinnah has received a less than fair portrayal of his character, strategy and achievement.  This influential study by Akbar S. Ahmed, counters the prevailing narratives and presents a more balanced and well-rounded picture.

Pakistan: A Modern History, by Ian Talbot

The populist view of Pakistan in the west is fairly stereotypical with fundamentalism, violence and absence of true democracy as the central themes.  Ian Talbot presents a more refined understanding of Pakistan while breaking down the prevalent stereotypes. He argues that Pakistan is a complex region and is going through change and showing resilience against repeated dictatorial regimes and economic hardship.

The Idea of Pakistan, by Stephen P. Cohen

We constantly hear how Pakistan is a failed state, which is about to collapse.  This book counters this popular argument and presents an alternate view point.  The author touches upon various facets including foreign policy, the role of army, the role of Islam, economy, etc.  Stephen Cohen also presents some possible scenarios about the future of Pakistan.

The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History Edited by Ayesha Jalal

Students of Pakistani history will find this work to be of great value as it encompasses objective information about a vast array of topics related to Pakistan.  It begins with the pre-partition period and moves on to include the people, culture, architecture, economics, art, education and several other related subjects.

The Murder of History: A Critique of History Textbooks Used in Pakistan by K.K. Aziz

What we have come to know as the history of Pakistan, is it really like it is told? In this seminal work, K.K. Aziz keenly analyzed the history books used in our educational institutions.  He highlights the historical inaccuracies in our text books and discussed its impact on the minds of the students.

New Perspectives on Pakistan Visions for the Future Edited, by Saeed Shafqat

The prevalent discourse about Pakistan is fairly similar across the board, the primary themes of which are failed state, fundamentalism and a gloomy future.  But this collection of papers from various acclaimed authors tells otherwise based on research from multiple angles.

Do you see any substantial books missing from my “list”? I’m sure there are and I am counting on you to name a few.  Please share your picks with us.

(Image Courtesy: Brenda Starr)