Books

From Liaquat Khan to Pervez Musharraf

Speaking to Ambassador Jamsheed Marker is to trace the journey of Pakistan. But before I met Marker, I read him while standing in a bookshop called Mr. Books in Islamabad. The book in my hand, Quiet Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador of Pakistan, was starkly different from Bapsi Sidhwa’s tale of Pakistani Parsis. Marker describes how despite being from the margins, he became one of Pakistan’s most successful diplomats.

It was in 2012 when, while he sipped tea in his Karachi home and shared tales with me of his meetings with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Marker explained how he succeeded in Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan, but felt his life’s work being threatened by the rise of a new Pakistan. He said that he would write about the leaders of Pakistan in his new book, Cover Point, which was published earlier this year.

Cover Point can be read as a diplomat’s memoir or as a recollection of the manner in which Pakistan has come to acquire its present political and security architecture.

The book is rife with interesting tales. It narrates how easy it was for the Markers to befriend the unorthodox Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of the newly created country. When Khan was assassinated, Marker discovered that his friend, who left behind his princely estate in India to come to Pakistan, had possessed just the bare minimum belongings. In another anecdote, Marker narrates how General Yahya Khan got drunk in front of Russian and Chinese diplomats and challenged Indira Gandhi to a war. She was unfazed.

The Ambassador is strangely strident in his criticism of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir. He describes Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as an “evil genius”, one who drove Pakistan into the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Benazir Bhutto is sharply criticised on account of the corruption charges against her.

Marker served as Ambassador-at-large till 2008 under the Pervez Musharraf regime. But the veteran diplomat, who figures in the Guinness Book of Records as having been “ambassador to more countries than any other person”, is unhappy with present-day Pakistan and with military dictatorship. But what disappoints him most is the failure of democratic leaders in Pakistan. He blames them for leaving behind a divisive legacy.

kallol.b@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:43:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/article16756320.ece

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