Sunday, 25 March 2012

Waiting for Allah : Another Pakistan

 Christina Lambs book Waiting for Allah  was one of my first introductions to a Pakistan that nobody spoke or wrote about. It writes about Pakistan's history and in particular the heady days between 1988-1990 and Beneazir Bhutto. I thought I would share some memorable lines from the book:

Waiting for Allah: Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan

Why should we who have never lost a war, accept orders from those who have never won one?
                         -Mujahidin Commander Rahim Wardak on Pakistani interference in the Afghan conflict

"We told the US you need a worm to catch a fish  and we can provide one. ..but Haq admitted Hekmatyar could not be truste :'He's the sort of man who would share your bed then slit your throat" General Fazle Haq claiming credit for creating Hekmatyar

'I have been kept in power so long by the grace of Allah who has appointed me to carry out his task of making Pakistan a truly Islamic country'
                                 -Gen Zia-ul Haq 

'In 1985, it cost 10-11 million rupeesto win a national seat. Now there is a new class of nouveau riche who have grown fat from smuggling , arms sales and drugs, pushing up the stakes even higher. To the poor man in the street he has no reason for faith in any politicians ' - Sardar Sherbaz Mazari

'In a master stroke he had secured the help of one of Pakistan's brightest journalists, Hussain Haqqani, who wrote for the far eastern economic review, to go through lists of journalists arriving in the hotels and give them a run down of the political situation from an apparently independent and very plausable viewpoint'  - authors comments

'Feelings were running so high that Sharif told a rally 'he would dump the Bhuttos remains in the Arabian sea' - authors comments on Nawaz Sharif campaiging in the 1988 general election.

' I had many atrocities recounted to me - The most common one was the ambushing of a bus carrying students from the Sindh students Federation to Larkana.  9 students died and 120 were jailed
- the author on the 1983 military operation in Sindh

'When a Sindhi comes to power, the Sindhis are against us ; when pathan is in power; the Pathans will fight us . Will whoever comes to power always victimise us ' -authors interview with Altaf Hussain 

'We have tapes of Azim Tariq and Imran Farooq from the MQM  meeting an Army commander in Hyderabad before the incident, showing there was total connivance. We know too that the curfew was broken with the aid of local commanders and army trucks were used to transport snipers' 
                     - authors interview with Tariq Rahim about the Pucca Qila massacre

'We apologise for this temporary democratic interruption. Normal martial law will be resumed shortly ' (graffiti on Karachi wall August 1990)
Reproduced for educational purposes. Copyright
Lamb, Christina (4 July 1991) Waiting For Allah


TLW said...

Tak, when I come to your blog, I feel like I am climbing on some far, dry mountain to talk to a wise man. Your blog's background hues add to the cold, dry mountain ambience.

When I got my hands on Waiting for Allah, it was the first big-ass non-fiction book on Pakistan, and I was so glad to get it. But as I read it, I did feel contempt for Christina Lamb, because I felt that she was sounding off like a culture shocked spoilt brat, who was complaining about no longer having the luxuries she was used to in the UK. Simultaneously, she also earned my ire, when she mentioned how it was either covering Benazir, or traffic accidents in the UK. That felt a little pointless and insulting. If she was so low, that she was covering traffic accidents, then maybe she should just simply quit it with the reportage. Especially since it didn't paint Pakistan in a good light.

Now the flip side, on why I find this book necessary & why you've even written a blogpost on it. There is very little on that time, when Zia fell out of the sky and Benazir had her first term in 1988 to 1990.

I've made that clear on other blogs here & here.

And Ahsan has also emphasised that point, as this being the period when Hamid Gul & Mirza Aslam Beg were running wild, crazy and rampant. That is a period, that as Washington was windign down in Afghanistan fast, and with being distracted by the collapse of the Soviet Union & the Warsaw Pact, the reporters who buzz around it like flies, followed the Washingtonian leader & left. Leaving second stringers like Anatol Lieven & Christina Lamb to grow old, weary & a little wiser, with the shenanigans going on in Pakistan as Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990) & Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993) had their first cracks at the governing wheel.

A good book, for looking at a necessary period, a period of proto-military rule. Which only had begun to be cast off when the civilians began to look a little more secure, in the mid-nineties onwards. The security only ended when the military joined up with the ghosts of Jihad in Kargil's shadows. Some mistakes need to be kept in front of people's eyes to prevent their repetition.

But as we look back on the period 1988-1993, what with it erupting back into consciousness with the Supreme Court examining Mehrangate, maybe like Ayaz Amir said, we should consider that a lost time and look at it for lessons so that we can keep trying to move forward in time.

takhalus said...

thanks for the comments TLW,
I'll be honest and say I think the book has many flaws..but it is an entertaining read by someone who is trying to make sense of Pakistan and be honest you make a good point there is no definitive history of the late 80's and early 90's in Pakistan history. One reason is probably the loss of interest after the soviet withdrawal