Book review: Will the state survive as an idea? — by Khaled Ahmed
Daily Times, January 25, 2009
Pakistan ka Tasavvur;
By Stephen Philip Cohen; Translated into Urdu by Shafiqur Rehman Mian; Vanguard Books Lahore 2008; Pp358
Shafiqur Rehman has competently rendered into Urdu Stephen Cohen’s 2004 book The Idea of Pakistan. This will the first book of its kind in Urdu because of Cohen’s well known habit of looking at his subjects from new angles of inquiry.
Stephen Cohen grasped Pakistan from the right end of the stick; he wrote about the Pakistan army first. He is different from other writers on Pakistan today because he shuns mere cataloguing of facts. He develops insights, theorises on the basis of multiple versions of reality felt in Pakistan, and focuses on personalities in order to define them. The last bit he does to account for the wisdom that where state institutions are weak men drive political evolution.
He reads the literature on Pakistan he thinks provides the most innovative approach to a problematic state but delves into journalistic coverage to lend intimacy of immediate detail to his writing. His ‘scenario’-building is saved from obsolescence because he doesn’t rely on just one scenario. Yet his tone is magisterial enough to breed confidence in the reader.
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