Polity and society

May 29, 2022

Ammar Ali Qureshi’s book is an engaging collection of articles highlighting the many problems Pakistan faces

Polity and  society


initially found it daunting to review Ammar Ali Qureshi’s book Views and Reviews, the reason being the apparent lack of a single theme in the book. It is an assortment of articles that Qureshi contributed to various newspapers at different times. However, as I started reading it, Views and Reviews proved to be an engaging account of the problems staring right in our faces. The book comprises six sections on the Punjab, Pakistan; the Muslim world; issues of governance; various personalities and lastly one on the author’s own thoughts. All articles offer a profound analysis of various issues confronting our polity and society through a prism of liberalism, which is the greatest merit of this book. Several mega themes of great significance have been explicated with parsimony. The book can also serve as a guideline for young scholars on how to write a book review.

The first section of the book deals with the 19th Century Sikh history of the Punjab. Raj Mohan Gandhi’s hefty book From Aurang Zeb to Mountbatten has a long durée scope. Analysing that book is a formidable task that the writer has performed admirably well. The last article discusses the weak chief ministers of Pakistani Punjab with a primary focus on Sardar Usman Buzdar. Some of his predecessors, including Meraj Khalid, Hanif Ramay and Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi are also mentioned. Thus, he gives his analysis historical depth. The writer has reviewed Khushwant Singh’s slim volumes on the Punjab and the biographies of Ranjit Singh and his son Daleep Singh, which makes for a good read.

In the next two sections, the writer examines books and some of his own newspaper articles that scrutinise the life and death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s uneasy relationship with Iran, the Shia sect and the persecution that it had to endure, which in fact is a comment on various books. Then comes a review of the book The Pakistan-China Axis: Asia’s Geopolitics. I consider this book very important for those interested in Pakistan’s history in general and its relationship with nations to the east. Section 3 is a sequel to the previous one and offers us a perspective on the problems that the beleaguered Muslim world is facing.

All articles offer a profound analysis of various issues confronting our polity and society from a liberalist prism. 

Next, come the themes of governance and economic issues which appear to be parenthesis while looking at the contents of the book. However, one cannot dispute the importance of such issues as the rule of law and corruption, accountability and poverty. When it comes to the travails of contemporary Pakistan, these issues should be at the core of the national discourse. If we set ourselves the task of pinpointing the core problem that the state and society of Pakistan are plagued with, it would certainly be the rule of law. After having travelled in several countries, I can vouch that Pakistan can easily be ranked among the countries where the law is flouted with the most impunity. The inanity towards law and constitution pervades the very core of our social fabric. Social ailments like corruption, lack of accountability or misuse of power emanate from this single factor. I strongly urge the writer to attempt a full-fledged book on this issue of vital importance.

The next two sections of the book comprise a medley of writings which generally should not be put together under one sub-theme. Talking about Bhutto, Rumi and Gordon Brown, all in the same place, can cause the reader a bit of disorientation. Karl Max has been included in the section too. Historical contemporaneity should be observed while classifying the personalities and events. The same can be said about the last section. Robert Fisk and Kohinoor appear in this section. The general thrust of the section is American retreat. Taking up China’s rise and analysing the rise and fall of the British makes sense but the Deadly Diamond (Kohinoor) is an odd inclusion. Other than these minor blemishes, the book is engaging and profound. The foreword is written by the celebrated physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, which adds to the merits of the book. I am a great admirer of Folio Books, perhaps one of the very few if not the only one left in Pakistan to publish quality stuff in the English language. I will urge the writer to keep pushing his pen for the welfare of the suffering mankind.

Views and Reviews

Author: Ammar Ali Qureshi

Publisher: Folio Books, 2021

Pages: 239

Price: Rs 950

The reviewer is a professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

Polity and society