‘Mirror of History’ — Dr Mubarak Ali’s 80th book launched
“This book should be made a part of our national curriculum!” said Dr Haroon Ahmed as he heaped praise on renowned historian Dr Mubarak Ali’s distinct analyses, at a book launch ceremony held for the latter’s most recent work, ‘Mirror of History’, at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) on Thursday.
The 80th addition to the septuagenarian’s expansive writings on the subject of history, ‘Mirror of History’ is a compilation of 110 essays he wrote for the English language newspaper, Dawn, on a variety of socio-political issues.
Besides Dr Ahmed, who is a neuropsychologist by profession and a leftist activist by calling, acclaimed journalist Zubeida Mustafa, Aurat Foundation’s Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman, Dawn Readers’ Editor Mohammad Ali Siddiqi and Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Dr Irfan Aziz, also spoke at the event.
While the discussion swayed from historiography to Pakistan’s past and present state of politics and the global practice of systemic suppression of the alternative narrative, to which Pakistan is also no alien, all the speakers kept coming back to the command with which Dr Ali has written on these and several other important subjects.
“We would often discuss how written history of any area or society centres around its ruling elite – their strengths, weaknesses, achievements or losses – but never on the common man,” said Dr Ahmed as he spoke of his meetings with Dr Ali and the latter’s reputation as a ‘people’s historian’ – a type of historical narrative that records the perspective of the common people rather than leaders.
Why is Dr Ali important
“Not everyone agrees with him and this is exactly why he is important,” maintained Zubeida while speaking of the disrespect Dr Ali’s writings have often been treated with owing to the domination of a right-wing narrative in the country.
Reading out an excerpt the historian wrote on war in one of his books, she said nobody had examined and questioned the characteristics of this destructive, yet important, phenomenon as Dr Ali had.
Speaking of her school times, she said we were never taught the right way to read and analyse history. “I wish we had had a chance to study the kind of history Dr Mubarak has written.”
Zubeida appreciated Szabist for choosing to hold the book launch ceremony at its premises for she believed it is important for young minds to read the kind of writings the scholar has penned.
Having joined the event via Skype, Dr Ali said history was his passion and he wished to utilise it as a tool to sensitise the masses and to create consciousness about how history is changing.
Making a point on how writers misrepresent history, he referred to IH Qureshi’s book on the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Despite being considered the emperor who strengthened the Mughal empire’s reign in the sub-continent with his politics of tolerance between Hindus and Muslims, the writer on the basis of this strategy concluded that Akbar was in fact responsible for the empire’s downfall.
On what all a historian needs to take into account before writing about a society, Dr Ali stated that not only is the person supposed to analyse written material but should also examine the way a common man of that particular place lives in, which includes their activities, the structure of their houses and the tools they use besides among other factors.