The word 'jharloo' is now commonly used in Urdu/Punjabi slang to express electoral rigging. But the question is Which was the first rigged election in Pakistan? The answer It was the Punjab provincial assembly election held from March 10 to 20, 1951, which saw the massive rigging and the results, too, were manipulated in favour of Muslim League candidates, according to Aqeel Abbas Jafri.

Why did the Quaid-i-Azam dissolve on August 22, 1947 the then NWFP provincial government headed by Dr Khan Sahib (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's elder brother)? What were the early signs of trouble in Balochistan and how we mishandled the issue and alienated betrayed the Baloch people? When did the first suicide bombing take place in Pakistan? Which was the first movie made in Pakistan? Who was the first Pakistani to scale the Mount Everest? When did Pakistan play their first cricket test match? These and replies to thousands of such queries are given in Aqeel Abbas Jafri's new, informative and encyclopaedic Urdu book Pakistan Chronicle.

Though it gives a chronological account of important events in the history of Pakistan and Jafri is known for his encyclopaedic knowledge, quiz books and quiz programmes, it is by no means a quiz book. Modelled on the famous Chronicle of the 20th century (Longman, 1988), it is a day-to-day, matter-of-fact, succinct and brisk account of the important events that took place in Pakistan right from August 14, 1947 to March 31, 2010 — till a month before the book was brought out.

The book presents all major events in a way that makes one feel that one is reading important newspaper clippings. The events that took place in a specific month of a calendar year have been given in a separate section. Comparatively less important events are briefly listed in a separate box. Obituaries have been allocated a separate column. What makes this monumental work all the more commendable, in addition to over 4,000 pictures (many of which are extremely rare), is that Jafri has a special talent to narrate vital facts, taking care of all important aspects, in minimum words and in correct language. This, perhaps, is a gift from his years of hard work on quiz books, quiz-programme script-writing as well as his penchant for journalistic work. The 1,080-page Pakistan Chronicle records some 5,000 important events in the fields of politics, literature, music, painting, architecture, science, journalism, show business, trade, industry, sports, advertising, philately etc. A brief history of Pakistan unreels itself before the readers' eyes in the shape of brief, crisp and authentic accounts taken from leading newspapers of the country.

Posters of newly-released Pakistani movies, images of new Pakistani postage stamps, title pages of new important books and magazines and mini replicas of selected advertisements published during all these years are part of the book. With these images, one can draw an outline history of Pakistan's achievements and progress in these fields.

Another feature is the rare photographs of some famous — and infamous — personalities and the account of historic events concerning them or feats achieved by them. The list of such persons and events includes Maulvi Tameezuddin Khan, Justice Mohammad Muneer, Bhoopat Dakoo, Basheer Saarbaan and scores of others.

Writing a book in our society is a thankless job and usually the writer has to put in a lot of time, money and labour without much hope of getting any return. It's same with this book. Jafri has been collecting material for the book for years and had been working on it for some 20 years. He probably won't get much out of this book but, a Pakistani to the core, he has dedicated the book to the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Summarising the entire work, he says “The book is a gift to the country and the generation that loves it and dreams of a splendid future and a glorious Pakistan.”

With its old photographs and accounts of historic events, the book will give you some nostalgic feelings. It will, at times, make you feel proud to be Pakistani citizens with the accounts of great achievements that we as a nation have accomplished. And at times, it will make you feel like weeping when recalling the historic blunders or the woeful tales of moments of shame. It is a peep on Pakistan's hall of fame and hall of shame.

Published jointly by Fazlee Sons and Varsa, Karachi, 'Pakistan Chronicle' deserves appreciation for high production standards as well.

—drraufparekh@yahoo.com

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