Among the literary circles of Pakistan, among the intellectuals and the reading minority among the educated urban middle classes of Pakistan both home and away, Fatima Bhutto's new book is the talk of town among Pakistani's. From her book unveiling event last week at the London School of Economics to young adults wandering through the book shop or their book club in the city of Karachi too many people are eager to get their hands on this book titled The Shadow of the Crescent Moon. Many will be even glad to know that the book shop franchise chain Liberty books is selling a limited supply of hard back copies of the book autographed by FB (Miss Bhutto) herself. I was one of the fortunate one's who was able to pre-order the book on Amazon and it was automatically delivered my Kindle device on the day the book was released by Amazon UK. Like many I too was eager to read it, get my hands on it the first opportunity. Though I managed to finish the book in a couple of days time, I was extremely disappointed with the reading experience, and after only finishing a quarter of the book, I wanted to claim a refund from Amazon. Though I had not read her memoirs i.e. her previous publication this was a book I truly looked forward to.
Many in Pakistan's urban middle classes admired Miss Bhutto, especially those with a dislike for the Pakistan People's party or the legacy of her paternal aunt and her grand father. Many saw her as a true patriot, some one really sincere to Pakistan, some even saw her as a beacon of hope for the revivalism of Zulfiqar Bhutto's legacy onto Pakistani politics, many saw her as the future of Pakistan's dynastic politics and the rightful heir to her grandfather. After reading her debut fictional novel I am starting to suspect otherwise and I am beginning to wonder if she is very disconnected from what it means to be a Pakistani and embrace this soil or is she trying to position a certain propaganda through her literature, or is she just simply another self hating Pakistani intellectual like the thousands more like her who think hating their country is one that will gain them popular appeal, and as such they justify their extreme criticism by saying they love this country hence their right to criticize, however that would vary on the level and nature of the actual criticism meted out would it not?
Her book it seems is nothing short of an Anti Pakistan propaganda aimed at maligning the state and its apparatus as being a monster that is always and always an evil demon off sorts down the throats of ordinary citizens of this nation. Not to mention the mediocre quality of writing that has gone into this book, a huge contrast from the debut novels of other Pakistani fictional writers such as Mohsin and Kamila. The book is set in a very small remote FATA or KPK province town called Mir Ali (There is an actual town by the name of Mir Ali in FATA). One can make an assumption that the town depicted in the book is a fictional one as opposed to basing it on the real Mir Ali, based on how the town is described and other locations in proximity to it, such as a town of it's small size and that also one in the FATA region having a large university campu with an extensive arts, political science and mass comm departments. The university depicted in the book is also seen as a hot bed of Anti State secessionist political activity led by the far left students and the youth of the town. This forms the back drop of the book, a fictionalized secessionist movement brewing in a remote FATA/KPK town which is also under heavy military presence, where the military establishment is responsible for strange disappearances of young men.
Sounds quite similar to allegations made by BSO Azad in Balochistan province, does it not? The real life town of Mir Ali in Pakistan lies in the South Waziristan region of FATA, and it is a town that was brutually plagued by Taliban presence, which were cleared out by the intervention of the Pakistan armed forces. For those that don't believe this statement, look up the Battle of Mir Ali on Wikipedia, and for those even more curious about this random insurgency, Google it, you won't find a damn thing. Though it is also a reality of the KPK/FATA region that there are many politicians and some political parties based on the province that are Anti State, the party whose founding fathers did not a extreme left wing politicians who did not accept the partition of India and the establishment of Pakistan. To this very day they continue to maintain their links with those on the other side of the Durand line to the West or those sitting East of the Radcliffe line in present day Northern India. Do not be surprised if we meet people from KPK who are apathetic towards Pakistan and have strong ties with people living in New Delhi.
As far as Miss Bhutto is concerned, as a patriotic Pakistani who truly admired her over all these years, I am truly disappointed and I genuinely expected not just far more balanced objectivity in her political angle but also quality of creative fictional writing. For a debut novel disappointing effort even though the second half is far more reader friendly than the first half, and as far as her attempt at spreading Anti Pakistan sentiment among the influential affluent educated urban middle classes, it was distasteful. We can only hope Miss Bhutto steps out of her luxurious Old Clifton Bungalow and communicates, engages and understands the millions among the Pakistani youth for whom this country is more than just a mark of citizenship and a passport. Last thing we need is another Self Hating Pakistani among our educated intellectual lot, such gifted individuals with their attitude are a great loss to this nation.