"The number of enquiries I’ve had about this one, I cannot remember for any other book in a long time," said Mohammed Yusuf. Mr. Yusuf is the owner of Mr. Books, a leading bookstore in the Pakistani capital, and his telephone has not stopped ringing for the last three days
“The number of enquiries I’ve had about this one, I cannot remember for any other book in a long time,” said Mohammed Yusuf.
Mr. Yusuf is the owner of Mr. Books, a leading bookstore in the Pakistani capital, and his telephone has not stopped ringing for the last three days.
The calls are all about Jinnah – India, Partition, Independence, the book that cost its author Jaswant Singh his membership of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Don’t ask me how many calls I’ve had to take on this one, I have lost track over the last three days,” he said on Thursday.
The book is not yet available here but not surprisingly, the raging controversy over an Indian politician’s admiration for Pakistan’s founding father is being closely followed in this country.
Mr. Singh’s expulsion was covered extensively by all television channels, with many bringing his press conference on Tuesday live to their audiences, with captions such as “Jaswant expelled for praising Jinnah.” Most newspapers also gave it front-page slots, though no editorials have yet appeared on the subject. But opinions are gradually beginning to surface.
At a press conference about domestic political matters, Pakistan Muslim League (N) chairman Raja Zafrul Haq was also asked what he thought about Mr. Singh’s expulsion from his party.
He expressed surprise that even in India, which enjoyed a stable democracy with well-established democratic traditions, a person did not have the freedom to express opinions or new ideas.
Mr. Haq said most historians of the world had acknowledged Jinnah as an iconic figure and had heaped praise on his intellect and statesmanship, and for the BJP to penalise one of its leading lights for saying the same thing was “unfortunate.”
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit too was asked at his weekly briefing on Thursday for a comment on the book and Mr. Singh’s expulsion from his party.
The spokesman declined to comment on the BJP’s action against Mr. Singh, saying it would be inappropriate as it was “purely an internal matter.” But, he said: “the Quaid was a great leader and this is widely acknowledged across the world. If it is also being realised in India, it is a welcome thing.”
But columnist Sarah Humayun, writing in the Daily Times, warned: “There shouldn’t be much crowing over the book on this side of the border either. Singh’s ‘research’ is bound to be equally discomfiting to the great Pakistani historical narrative. Indian nationalist parliamentarian Jinnah? Turning demagogue to beat Gandhi at his own game? Surely not good news for the portrait that hangs in every government office.”
Poet and author Harris Khalique also takes a similar line in a column to be published in The News on Friday. Writing that the book challenges accepted Indian wisdom about the sagacity of Nehru and Patel, he also predicts that in Pakistan’s present environment, there will be many “dimwits” who will see in Mr. Singh’s book a “conspiracy of undermining the struggle of Muslims and taking away the credit for the creation of a separate homeland from their leadership.” He told The Hindu that he “couldn’t wait to lay his hands on the book”.
It will fly off the shelves in bookstores here, that much is sure. “I’m expecting a consignment of 200 copies, they should arrive tomorrow because I’ve asked for them to be couriered. But I’m quite certain I’ll run out of copies immediately,” said Mr. Yousuf.