Hum Ne Jo Bhula Dia:
Tareekh-i-Pakistan Ke Gumshuda Auraq
By Dr Farooq Adil
Qalam Foundation, Lahore
Don’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Dr Farooq Adil’s Hum Ne Jo Bhula Dia: Tareekh-i-Pakistan Ke Gumshuda Auraq [What We Have Forgotten: The Lost Pages of Pakistan’s History], go ahead, because the cover is a real eye-catcher. With a minimalist design, a captivating title, artfully chosen historical illustrations and a wealth of information, this 434-page gem leads you down the shadowy lanes of Pakistan’s history.
From the complications faced after its creation, the hurdles placed in its trajectory due to repeated change of commands in the 1950s and the issues that were raised when the economy was booming, the book gives a clear idea about what was cooking behind closed doors in the early days of Pakistan.
A veteran journalist, Dr Adil carries decades of experience under his hat. He has been associated with many reputable organisations and people, including working as a PRO (Public Relations Officer) to the late President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain. I worked with him when Dawn News turned into an Urdu channel, in 2010, after transmitting news in English for two-and-a-half years. As my shift in-charge, he was a man of few words.
The book is a compilation of articles by Dr Adil, published on the BBC Urdu website from time to time. Yet he has made some changes to them before compiling them into a book.
A veteran journalist’s book reminds us that all that is served up in Pakistani textbooks is not the whole truth
Filled with references from authentic books and newspapers, Hum Ne Jo Bhula Dia begins with what went wrong in Kashmir after Partition. Be it the shaky 1950s or the booming ’60s, the book continues to expose era after era.
The chapter concerning the famous Moscow invite, circa 1949, reveals that it was intrigue from within that kept Pakistan’s leadership from going to the USSR. Pakistan’s rejection of that early invitation, in favour of a later one from the United States, has often been cited as setting the tone for Pakistan’s dependence on the US. Tracing back from the very moment the vehicle of the Second Secretary of the USSR pulled up in the porch of the Pakistan Embassy in Tehran, everything has been explained step-by-step until the end.
The culprits behind the rejection, according to Dr Adil, were finance minister Ghulam Muhammad (later governor general), foreign minister Zafarullah Khan and foreign secretary Mohammad Ikramullah. All were against Pakistan getting closer to the communist nation. These gentlemen even warned Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of dire consequences, if he ever went to the USSR.
The book needs to be avoided at all costs by those who still argue that the muhajireen [refugees] from India in 1947 were welcomed with open arms in Karachi and that the bureaucracy were content to live in tents and burnt houses. Liaquat Ali Khan was never happy with the residences the ‘rulers’ were provided with in 1947, and finance minister Ghulam Muhammad wanted a bungalow in a posh area, but expressed his grievances to Ayub Khuhro, the then chief minister of Sindh, for not providing his son-in-law a residence that matched his standards.
One of Jinnah’s able lieutenants, Khuhro was ousted through a conspiracy and Pir Ilahi Bakhsh stepped in, founding a housing development in his own name (PIB Colony) that ‘welcomed’ the migrants, while destroying Karachi’s infrastructure.
Do you also know that Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin was referred to as “Hazimuddin” due to the wheat shortage in Pakistan of the 1950s? The reasons for the ‘father of all shortages’ were not at all political.
The entire drama regarding the dissolution of the first Constituent Assembly gets due mention, and the formation of One-Unit and Iskandar Mirza’s short tenure are explained beautifully as Dr Adil’s pen takes the reader back in time. Similarly, Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon’s lie to the nation about acquiring Gwadar free of cost was exposed by Time magazine, which revealed that the land had been purchased for over 42 million rupees.
Liaquat Ali Khan was never happy with the residences the ‘rulers’ were provided with in 1947, and finance minister Ghulam Muhammad wanted a bungalow in a posh area, but expressed his grievances to Ayub Khuhro, the then chief minister of Sindh, for not providing his son-in-law a residence that matched his standards.
Dr Adil even compares former premier Nawaz Sharif’s vote-of-confidence of 1993 with the vote-of-no-confidence that became the reason for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster in 2022. He also traces the use of the word ‘Lota’ in Pakistan politics, which has become a part of our culture since then.
The book elaborates on every topic that has been erased from our textbooks and our memories. Justice Munir, one of the most controversial characters in Pakistan’s history, gets a full chapter all to himself, while the rise of Ayub Khan and his thirst to rule has been explained along with his eventual downfall. One can also trace the incidents that led to the rise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
All four army rulers have also been taken to task in the book, which exposes their double standards and their ability to fight their ‘enemies’. The way the first President of Pakistan, Iskandar Mirza, was exiled still sends shivers down the spine, while the ill-planned operations before the 1965 war with India are also shocking. The passing of the Elected Bodies Disqualification Order was nothing more than a joke, while the days when a strict censor policy was in place, are also recalled.
What really followed in Tashkent after the 1965 war, which ended in a stalemate, also gets a detailed account, which is rather shocking for many who believed what was published in the newspapers back then. Everyone knows the opposition Pakistan National Alliance talks with Z.A. Bhutto in 1977 led to the Gen Ziaul Haq-led martial law but, in this book, one also gets to read about the last few hours of Bhutto as a leader, and the chaos that followed.
The most shocking was the ‘drama’ staged to make Pakistanis believe that the entire United Nations stood still in October 1980 to listen to the Tilawat-i-Quran during Zia’s time. Dr Adil claims it was all the work of Pakistan Television. He claims they merged two shots from the UN and an earlier recording of Qari Shakir Qasmi, manipulating it to look as if Gen Zia had come to the rostrum after the recitation.
The infamous yet mostly-unknown reception of Zia in Dadu, at the height of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, would bring a smile to one’s lips, when the most powerful man of the country did not have the guts to face his own people. The army’s role in its failure to suppress the movement, the resolution of the tussle between President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1993, and the unceremonious exit of an elected president Rafiq Tarar bring the real rulers of the state to the fore. Dr Adil also gives minute-by-minute descriptions of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s military coup.
Unlike other history books, Hum Ne Jo Bhula Dia has a large portion dedicated to East Pakistan — its politics, the treatment meted out to the Bengalis, the neglect of East Pakistan by West Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s six points and their rejection, the agitation in the eastern wing and the army’s role, the blocking of information and the eventual break-up of the country. It has all been summed up beautifully.
There is also a detailed account of the ruckus in the Dhaka Assembly, which led to the death of the honourable speaker, becoming the reason for the first martial law in the country in 1958.
How Gen Musharraf destroyed the administrative system set up by the British and the concluding chapter, where the use of jadu tona [magic and superstition] by the rulers of Pakistan, is a surprising revelation. Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad’s inclination towards a ‘baba’ in Ajmer and Zardari’s reliance on a particular pir, clearly negate the notion that only Imran Khan had been ruling with the help of a “spiritual adviser.”
For those who had the disadvantage of growing up in the Ziaul Haq era, this book is pure gold. For those who believe the 1950s were peaceful and the economy of Pakistan was ‘booming’ in the ’60s, this book should serve as an eye-opener. It is certainly not for those who have a weak heart (and a weaker mind), and who believe Pakistan won all its wars with India, or that the country was created to safeguard the rights of those who had made sacrifices for the nation.
In an era when movies are experimenting with multi-verses and time travel, this book will take you back in time as well as present a Pakistan for you which might seem as if it hails from an alternate universe.
The reviewer writes on old films,
music and loves reading books.
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, September 17th, 2023