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Updated: August 25, 2009 19:57 IST

Jaswant may visit Pakistan to promote his book

Nirupama Subramanian
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Will Jinnah's admirer woo the Pakistanis ?
PTI Will Jinnah's admirer woo the Pakistanis ?

It’s all hush-hush for the moment as the programme has not yet been finalized

If all goes according to plan, Jaswant Singh is to head to Pakistan later this week to promote his controversial book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The planned visit has not been publicized yet but The Hindu learns that Mr. Singh may arrive here on Friday. The former External Affairs Minister, whose three-decade long membership of the Bharatiya Janata Party ended abruptly last week with the launch of his “Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence” will sign copies of the book at a leading bookshop here and has a speaking engagement before he moves on to Karachi for another promotion gig at the weekend.

The organizers are keeping it all hush-hush for the moment as the programme has not yet been fully finalized. Invitations are being passed to Islamabad's who's who by word of mouth only.

Not that Mr. Singh's book needs any promotion in this country. The 600-page tome, the first recent work by an Indian in praise of Pakistan's founder, viewed as all the more significant because its author is a high-profile right-winger, is selling like hot cakes at ‘Mr. Books,' the only place in Pakistan where it was available until Monday.

The bookshop flew in a couple of hundred copies immediately from India, and despite its high price tag – Rs. 1995 (Indian Rs. 1167 approximately) – they are all gone.

The owner was apologetic about the price but said he had incurred heavy costs transporting the books from India to Pakistan via Dubai. There are only two weekly flights from Delhi to Lahore, and the quickest way to ship in the books was through a third country, he said.

Another big bookshop in the capital, Saeed Book Bank, said it was expecting a consignment of 500 copies on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Singh has shot to iconic status in Pakistan for what newspapers here have described as an act of courage on his part in writing a book that goes against the grain of received wisdom in India.

Ever since the book was launched, it has also stirred up a noisy debate, at least in the columns of newspapers and on the airwaves, on the need for an “objective” re-examination of Partition and the Quaid-e-Azam's role in it.

Some have seen in it an opportunity for Pakistan to acknowledge that Jinnah's dream of Pakistan was not an Islamic state, but a homeland for Muslims. Others have said it is an opportunity for India and Pakistan to recast their relations in a more constructive way.

Said the Daily Times, “The Quaid can save Pakistan from its internal crisis if is Pakistanis are prepared to see that the terrorists hiding behind “Islam” are opposed to what he wanted Pakistan to be. […] He was never an enemy of India; India can reclaim him now. And in the process, India and Pakistan can change their bilateral equation […] accepting the mutual co-operation and economic interdependence dictated by history and current circumstances.”

The Dawn laid down a challenge: “Can we [in Pakistan] imagine a similar statement about India's independence leaders? Mr. Singh has been treated shabbily, but the whole affair demonstrates that India, or a part thereof, is at least trying to come to terms with the ghosts of partition, and assess it in a frank, honest manner. Can anyone in Pakistani politics claim such boldness?”

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