LAHORE: The developing countries have adopted the western ideas without thinking through the consequences and landed in bigger troubles, says acclaimed essayist and author Pankaj Mishra who was in discussion with novelist Mohsin Hamid at the LLF.
Dilating upon his point, Mishra said India borrowed the notion of becoming an industrial superpower from the Britain and had been in pursuit of it ever since – even when all statistics tell it won’t.
“This kind of hot pursuit of fantasies breeds frustration, which, in turn, creates space for dream sellers like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He boasts of his chest size – projecting the uber man image of himself – rather than finding solutions to the Indian problems.
“India is not alone in this pursuit, the Americans found it in Donald Trump, the Russian got it in Putin and Pakistan in Imran Khan.”
Mishra was of the opinion new philosophies emerged at time of crisis and this point was not new.
“Humanity has already seen such breakdowns of social and political security and found ways to deal with them. Even Buddha, when he found new faith, was responding to such a breakdown. So, keep your fingers crossed,” he concluded.
In an earlier session – Decoding Iran and Legends of Emperors and King – on Iran, the guests were of the opinion that Iranian identity was as difficult a myth as it was with other nations.
“It is more of a political project, rather than historical fact,” claimed Kamin Muhammadi – a British-Iranian writer.
“Only 15pc of Iranians speak Persian, so the Persian identity is almost out. Then what it is? At this point enters the ruling elite! What kind of identity suits them? Till the Iranian revolution, the ruling elite had invoked historical inferences to create that identity – trying to recreate the Iranian past and future glory. After the Revolution, it is now State of Medina – basing everything on what happened in the 6th century Saudi Arabia and trying to create that in the 21st century.”
His reference of State of Medina provoked laughters from the audience as they tried to interpret it in Pakistani context.
Earlier, Dr Iftikhar Salahuddin, the writer of “Iran: Legends of Emperors and Kings” divided the Iranian history in two distinct periods: pre-Islamic and Islamic era. During the pre-Islamic period, the Zoroastrian dynasties ruled. But in the 6th century, the Persian Empire fell to Islamic forces and a new era started. The Islamic rule brought its own benefit and injected new intellectual tradition as it was first ruled from Medina and later Damascus.
AYESHA JALAL: Dawn Media Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hameed Haroon engaged historian Ayesha Jalal in a session, titled ‘Between Remembrance and Forgetting: History as Freedom’.
Jalal talked about how she became interested in history in the jam-packed session.
Talking about 1971 fiasco, she said there was some degree of recognition among the people of what happened in the East Pakistan in 1971 and there should be some memorial to remember the dead. She said rote learning was intended to create believers and dummies and “we had done a terrific job at that”.
“Changing the educational system is a political problem. It is not for the historians like me to answer a question in this regard. It is for you to answer because you have to choose who will lead you.”
She added that until Pakistan decided between being a federation or some sort of unitary state, it could never be constitutionally strong, she added.
Hameed Haroon called for a new way of looking at history, reforming education and history textbooks.
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2019