Pakistan in the Twentieth Century:
A Political History

Lawrence Ziring

Oxford University Press 1997

Pakistan - A Dream Gone Sour

Roedad Khan

Oxford University Press 1997

A History of the Peoples of Pakistan:
Towards Independence

J. Hussain

Oxford University Press 1997
A book review by Danny Yee © 1999 http://dannyreviews.com/
Pakistan in the Twentieth Century is, as the subtitle suggests, focused on politics. Ziring describes constitutions and elections and changes in government, but his focus is above all on the leaders. Other facets of the tumultuous history of Pakistan — wars and military operations, provincial and local politics, economics, religious and ethnic identities and conflicts, cultural changes, foreign policy and the Cold War — are only covered where necessary to understand the events at the centre.

Despite this narrow focus, I enjoyed Pakistan in the Twentieth Century. Ziring's narrative is accessible without a background in Pakistani history and he presents lively portraits of those who led Pakistan — Jinnah, Suhrawardy, Ayub Khan, Bhutto, Zia ul Haq, Benazir Bhutto, and others — along with evaluation of their successes and failures. His approach does make it hard to distinguish interpretation from description, however, and his own biases are not always clear.

In Pakistan - A Dream Gone Sour Roedad Khan presents a different perspective on the same subject. A high-ranking civil servant whose career spanned more than fifty years, he highlights those events and people with which he was personally involved, but he also offers commentary on broad issues such as corruption and accountability, political sovereignty and succession, the politicisation of the civil service, and the independence of the judiciary. Roedad jumps around a bit and his style is idiosyncratic — he has a fondness for comparisons with historical events and figures, especially United States presidents — but he is never boring or self-indulgent.

A History of the Peoples of Pakistan is a completely different kind of book. A history of the area in and around what is now Pakistan, from the earliest times up to independence, it has the feel of an old-fashioned school text: the subject material is artificially broken up into small sections of paragraph or page length and treated superficially, with sweeping generalisations and no interpretation or analysis. A History of the Peoples of Pakistan also lacks either references or index. This was not really my cup of tea, so I ended up reading only a few chapters. (What I would like to read is a world-systems perspective on the Pakistan region: given its position on the cross-roads between south, west, and central Asia, it should make a natural unit for long-term economic analysis.)

July 1999

External links:
Pakistan in the Twentieth Century
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Pakistan - A Dream Gone Sour
- buy from Amazon.co.uk
A History of the Peoples of Pakistan
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- books about Pakistan + Pakistan history
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%T Pakistan in the Twentieth Century
%S A Political History
%A Ziring, Lawrence
%I Oxford University Press
%D 1997
%O hardcover, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0195778162
%P 647pp

%T Pakistan - A Dream Gone Sour
%A Khan, Roedad
%I Oxford University Press
%D 1997
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 019577776X
%P 263pp

%T A History of the Peoples of Pakistan
%S Towards Independence
%A Hussain, J.
%I Oxford University Press
%D 1997
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0195778197
%P 487pp