History is different from farce: Dr Mubarak

By Farman Ali (DAWN)
ISLAMABAD, July 8: Eminent historian and thinker Dr Mubarak Ali says the history written in Pakistan had been “dictated” by the ruling Establishment and represents its wilful perversion of facts “to accord with a fabricated ideology”.

“No authentic history has yet been written about Pakistan and its independence. There is a lot of confusion among the so-called pro-Establishment historians and educationists. Whatever has been written so far is distortion of history and entirely unbalanced,” Dr Ali told Dawn in an interview.

Unless the distortions were removed and facts told as they existed, the nation could not hope to make any real progress, he said, adding: “This is the lesson history has taught us”.

Dr Ali, who was interviewed over the weekend after he gave a lecture on the subject at Safma Media Centre the other day, said writing history in an ideological state was a problem.

“We project the deeds of our leaders out of proportion and ignore their crimes and blunders. Our modern history is also in a quagmire of confusion as our historians do not know the direction their work should take. They were unmindful of society’s need for truth and confused whether Pakistan’s history begins from the Indus civilization, or from Mohammad bin Qasim’s attack on Sindh or from 1947 the year it was born.

“Historians like Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, S.M. Ikram and Moinul Haq wrote history, as dictated by dictators like Gen Ayub Khan, on two premises: the two-nation theory and greater national unity. There writings are more anti-Hindu than about British colonialism.

“Some historians negated our ancient Indian and South Asian roots and tried to establish our links with Central Asia or with the Middle East which was historical and intellectual dishonesty,” said Dr Ali.

Fanciful novels written by Maulana Abdul Haleem Sharar, Naseem Hijazi and the likes were taken for history.

Gen Ayub in fact replaced the subject of history in school curriculum with social studies and the history departments of the universities in the country accordingly produced textbooks which contained articles by pro-Establishment writers who excluded the whole ancient South Asian history and blamed the downfall of the Muslim rule on Emperor Akbar, not Aurangzeb, he said.

Akbar and his courtiers never used the expression Deen-i-Ilahi but the textbooks projected this opinion as if he had invented a new religion, he added.

Asked how the history of Pakistan could be rewritten, Dr Ali said an independent institute should research the regional and small nationalities’ history and their role in the anti-colonial struggle “from the perspective of masses, not of rulers”.

“History is not just compiling and recording past events. Its real work lies in analysing the events,” he said, stressing that objective interpretation of past societies and civilisations was important to correct past mistakes and move forward in the right direction.

For that he called for grooming independent researchers outside the control of government institutions. Dictatorship was fatal for research and objective recording of facts and correct analysis, he observed.

History, like culture, is influenced by politics. Any system based on oppression, coercion and authoritarianism was the first problem in the way of writing history, he noted.

Dr Ali emphasised that no country could progress in any field unless it learned from its past and that would be possible only when independent historians record and analyse historical events in their true perspective.



Filed under History

10 responses to “History is different from farce: Dr Mubarak

  1. YLH

    The greatest distortion in Pakistan’s history has been the Jamaat-e-islami inspired ziast history which chose to reinterpret the very secular movement for Pakistan as an Islamist adventure.

    Unfortunately today everyone believes that Pakistan was conceived as an Islamic state when this defeats the very logic on which Pakistan was achieved ie minority rights.

    Unless and untill the myth of the ideological state is laid to rest, Pakistan will not be able to move forward.

  2. PMA

    Negation of our Sub-continental Indian & South Asian roots is intellectual dishonesty, but so would be the denial of our Turkic Central Asian & Persian heritage. Our history must maintain a true balance by considering not just one but ALL of our cultural backgrounds.

  3. Y2K

    What hypocrisy! Pakistan was an expression of Islam and to try to link it with our so-called South Asian roots is a false pretense by Dr Mubarak Ali. This man is a traitor to his own country and a RAW agent. He is an enemy of the state or should I say enema of the state and he knows it. Better for such history-distorters to shut their trap and let the learned speak instead of fouling up the atmosphere by spewing such nonsense.

  4. bonobashi


    You will share my feelings when I discovered myself agreeing with a post from your learned self. It was a difficult, disconcerting moment. We have had serious disagreements in the past, and on some occasions, it has become, not on my part, a bitter, personal matter.

    However, historically speaking, I cannot agree more. Recent notes and essays in praise of the Indus Man have been abounding; they ignore the far more significant historical position of more or less the same territories as today constitute Pakistan as a key to the civilisation and culture of several disparate surrounding cultural catchment areas. These deep-flowing and culturally very rich currents left an enduring legacy, a heritage on both sides that they connected.

    It seems the Central Asian heritage (until the Ephthalites, not Turkic; after the Ephthalites, almost exclusively Turkic) does not receive the importance that it should. To a lesser extent, so too the Persian heritage, although frankly the relationships are well understood, usually fairly well, compared to the other three that influenced what today is defined as Pakistan.

    This seems an appropriate enough forum to remind ourselves of these influences. I look forward to your detailed comments on the Central Asian influence, although our views will probably differ in some particulars.

  5. Zia Ahmad

    “So called South Asian heritage? ”
    Look up the map. Pakistan is very much in that part of the world so it would be only natural to trace the history of our country within those geographical parameters.
    “Expression of Islam” doesn’t require anyone to find and uncle or aunty in arabia.
    As for labeling whoever offers a sensible point of view a “traitor” and “Raw agent” severly limits your horizons.
    Then again this is what happens when you sink in too much Pak Studies rhetoric in impressionable minds.

  6. bonobashi

    @Zia Ahmad

    I agree with your criticism, and understand your indignation. From the academic point of view, however, let us try to understand the ‘Arabist’. We do not have to agree with them, but only understand what drives their thinking. This also requires a clinical filtering of the petty abuse that proponents of such positions use to paper over their intellectual insecurity.

    We can acknowledge a school of thought, or of opinion, then, that holds that the establishment of this country, Pakistan, in its original form, West and East Wing, was a political act which did not relate to its geographical location in any way. We can refuse to accept the Billingsgate used by the poster, when he presumably ran out of logic and reason, and consider only his bare political position, and engage with it.

    Except for the fact that this position has been trampled under by whole Army Corps, hurled towards their objectives by YLH or one of the other field marshals surrounding him, and has about as much nourishment left in it as the fishing nets used year before last, one could continue to the conversation.

    Unfortunately there is really little left but to say our prayers over the grave of this particular position, with all the sobriety and gravity that such a solemn occasion demands, and in the same spirit, ignoring the froth coming our way from our somewhat overenthusiastic friend.

    His enthusiasm is misapplied. Let us pass on.

  7. Zia Ahmad

    Dear Bono,
    Yes I guess one should be a bigger man and ignore such displays of enthusiasm. Then again the base immediacy of such twaddle prompts a knee jerk reaction. It is equally unfortunate and frustrating that the arrested mentality, as exhibited above, holds populist attention to outdated suspicions.
    Speaking of which, the Y2K moniker seems to attest to outdated suspicions he dearly subscribes to.

  8. bonobashi

    @Zia Ahmad

    We are on the same wavelength.

    One small rider, though: please don’t forget that these universalist or centralist theories, I really don’t know what the correct term is and wish I was well enough to consult a good reference, are prevalent across many religions. Christianity, for instance, as well as Judaism, arrogate to themselves a monopoly of access to divine writ which rings very strangely in non-Christian or non-Jewish ears. With a little more knowledge, it should be possible to point out similar tendencies in Hinduism (I wish there were a better term), Buddhism and Jainism. In these, I suspect, without really knowing, the same expressions are put in different, difficult-to-recognise terms, and unusual contexts.

    Your last line was a yorker. Impossible to play it!

  9. Zia Ahmad

    I hear you loud and clear Bonobashi.
    I guess there can no be one true account of history in the midst of all these grand narratives. The subordination of just about everything under the sun and beyond isnt only the hallmark of religion but of marxist manifestos and scientific journals as well so its all in the mix

  10. Zia Ahmad

    And where are my manners, thanks for the yorker comment. 🙂