Seeing history through the people’s lens

‘Mirror of History’ by Mubarak Ali examines a different side of Pakistan’s past


Kazim Hamdani November 25, 2017
The book launch was held at SZABIST. PHOTO: COURTESY SZABIST

KARACHI: There is a dire need to see history through the lens of the masses instead of the version presented to us in the state curriculum, which is primed on the vested interests of those in the corridors of power.

This was the crux of the launch of ‘Mirror of History’, a book written by historian Mubarak Ali at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology on Thursday.

Ali spoke via Skype to the participants, while journalist Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, leading psychiatrist Dr Haroon Ahmed, Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rehman, journalist Zubeida Mustafa, and Dr Irfan Aziz all spoke at the event.

The book is a compilation of articles published by the writer in the Sunday magazine of Dawn. It has been published by Mahmood Azhar.

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“I tried to use history to understand consciousness and the society we live in,” Ali stated. “Once I went to Germany for my higher studies I realised how truly dismal the standard of education in Pakistan is and how history itself is manufactured in the country,” he said.

“You see, the nature of history itself has evolved and we are taught political history in Pakistan, which has the same traditions,” explained Ali. “Instead, the public must learn social history and this is what I have tried to do in my book,” he added.

“It is imperative to develop a sense of social consciousness through history as well,” he said. “As history by nature can’t be a confined within a framework I endeavoured to shed light on this too,” Ali told the participants.

“I also tried to dismantle hero worship in history since if anyone questions these personalities it is considered to be tantamount to treason,” he lamented. There are also no real truths in history as there are only perspectives, which is a relative term, the writer claimed.

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Rehman said that Ali is the only people’s historian in the country, adding that our history has been written by military dictators and therefore lacks authenticity. She added that the selection of literature in the state curriculum does not allow free thinking.

Rehman discussed the importance of having an egalitarian society to remove tyranny - a long-standing theme in Ali’s work.

Siddiqui said that the author is a liberal and has underscored the need for pluralism in his many writings. He added that we study history to create links to the present and even the future. He added that Ali is a true humanist and has touched upon a wide array of subjects in his work.

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