During the documentation of slums and heritage buildings, I made a special point of photographing old Arabic and Persian inscriptions, and translating them with the help of Begum Majeed Malik and Shanul Haq Haqqie, who would himself drive over to help me despite his old age. Another person who was of help to me was Ashraf Ghani who later became president of Afghanistan. He had studied at Beirut and married a Lebanese girl called Rula. He was a student of anthropology at Colombia and was well versed in English, Arabic and Persian. He went with me to Makli, Hala, Sehwon and Bhit Shah to document and translate inscriptions.
I found that most of the history of Sindh is based on the stories of the Chachnama, translated into Persian by Kufi from Arabic in 1225 for the pleasure of the King of Uchh. I found that no one had done any fieldwork or research on primary Arabic sources, therefore I wrote ‘A history of Sindh’, which was published by Oxford University Press. Before my history was published, some of the Sindhi politicians used to raise the slogan that Raja Dahir was our hero and Mohammad bin Qasim was an invader; but my book showed to them that Raja Dahir was not a Sindhi but the son of a Kashmiri usurper of Sindh’s throne. Similarly, the story that Mohammad bin Qasim had violated the daughters of Raja Dahir, thus causing the caliph to order him to be sent to him sewn into rawhide, was a figment of the imaginations of those who did not know that when the caliph changed, the officers of the old caliph were replaced by the officers of the new one. These in turn appointed officers of their choice in areas under their charge to dig out the concealed wealth of the previous office holders. Sindh was administered from Iraq, therefore after the death of Governor Hajjaj bin Yusuff, the new governor of Iraq recalled Mohammad bin Qasim to Iraq, where he was imprisoned in Wasit and lived to write beautiful verses, which I produced in my book on Sindh. I also showed that every Muslim tribe living in Sindh had at one time or another claimed that they were either related to the Prophet or to an Arab tribe.
All this was not liked by some people in Dawn, as is clear from the following letters that I sent to the Editor of Dawnand Ms. Zubaida Mustafa of Dawn;
“Mr. Ahmad Ali Khan
11 April 2003
Ms. Zubaida Mustafa has done it again.
When my first book on Sindh was published in 1994, Ms. Mustafa took a copy of it by saying that she would like to publish extracts from it. Later she told me that she could not do so because it was opposed by Mr. M. H. Askari who convinced the editor, Mr. Ahmad Ali Khan that it should not be published. When I asked Mr. M. H. Askari about this he expressed surprise. The same was your reaction.
However, Mr. K. B. Khalid was given almost half page in Dawn to censure my book under a denigrating headline. Fortunately at that time Ms. Naushaba Burney was in charge of the Magazine Section. Ms. Burney believed in journalistic integrity and ethics, therefore she published my reply.
History has repeated itself.
Ms. Zubaida Mustafa asked me for two copies of my new book on Sindh, 'An Illustrated History of Sindh', one for publishing extracts from and the other for review. However, as earlier, she did not publish any extracts but she published a review in the Books & Authors section, under a disparaging headline which is totally inaccurate and dishonest, and has no relevance to my book, being intended merely to malign and defame me.
Further, this time there is no Ms. Burney around with her journalistic conscience and ethics. Ms. Mustafa is now in charge of the Books & Authors section, and she has so far ignored my right to reply and has failed to accede to my repeated request to publish my reply.
Here may I also point out to you that all our books have received rave reviews from all magazines and newspapers, by writers whom I have never even met, except for the Dawngroup.
Now that you are once again editor of Dawn, may I request you to please direct Ms. Zubaida Mustafa to publish my reply. A copy of my reply, which Ms. Mustafa has refused to print, is enclosed.
Suhail Zaheer Lari
E6 Fourth Gizri Street
DHA-4, Karachi 75500”
“Ms. Zubaida Mustafa
Books and Authors
9 January 2003
I find Mubarak Ali’s review of my book, ‘An Illustrated History of Sindh’, in Dawn Books & Authors magazine dated 24 November, to be sadly lacking in intellectual honesty and veracity.
For example, Mubarak Ali states that my book is without any references being cited. In fact I have cited the reference in brackets as follows: (Low, 1991: 259) which shows that the quotation is from page 259 of Low’s publication of the year 1991, listed in my bibliography. The bibliography on pages 357-362 in the appendix of my book lists about seventy-five selected articles and two hundred and forty books. And according to the Oxford Reference English Dictionary, a bibliography is ‘a list of the books referred to in a scholarly work usually printed as an appendix’.
In his review of the first edition of my book on 9 December 1994 in The Nation,I. A. A. wrote that, ‘The book contains references to important articles, books and original sources. Short as the book may appear, it has succinctly given all important information, making it a handy, useful and connected history of Sindh from the earliest days. It will form an important guide for research workers and students of history and literature of Sindh’. And Prof. Narayani Gupta of the Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, described my book in September 1995 issue as, ‘A Reference Work’.
I try to keep my books as brief, to the point and uncluttered as possible, because a survey in the UK has shown that most people do not like to read books, which are of more than two hundred pages. Therefore I have not given any brackets where it is obvious where the quotation can be found, like when I say that Khuhro stated thus and thus in the Sindh Assembly on 14 March 1946, or that the Quaid-i-Azam told this and that to the 30th Annual Session of All India Muslim League in Delhi, because the proceedings of the Assembly are published date wise, as is the case with the proceedings of the Muslim League annual sessions listed in my bibliography. The same is the case with the Quaid-i-Azam, whose speeches and statements have been chronologically compiled and published by more than one author and institution.
While most reviewers at least go through the flaps, preface, introduction and a few chapters, Mubarak Ali appears not to have gone beyond the covers, because his review reproduces only one sentence from it, and that is from the back cover. If Mubarak Ali had read even one chapter of this book, he could never have made honestly the statement that it is without any references.
Mubarak Ali states that, ‘There are three important elements in writing history; events, evidence, and interpretation. He says that my book presents events and evidence but no interpretation’. Yet he also says that my book, ‘seeks to show that the history of Sindh is one of invasion, occupation and immigration of people originating from outside and the destruction and displacement of earlier civilizations’. In a review of my book in the Friday Times, dated Nov. 29-Dec. 5, 2002, under the caption, ‘New Facts About Sindh’, Khaled Ahmed wrote, ‘But what is more remarkable is that he has brought to his narration of events a more balanced interpretative angle. This gives the story a heretical slant and makes it exciting to read. Lari has a historian’s natural bent as you can see in the linear record that his brief book tries to maintain. It is his penchant for neglected facts that adds excitement to what otherwise would have declined into ideological routine’.
Mubarak Ali writes that ‘recent researches show that the Arabs invaded Sindh because of their economic interest, and not to preach Islam, but this is not discussed at all in Lari’s book’. This is untrue, because my chapter on the Arab period starts with the sentence that, ‘The Arabs had lost lucrative maritime trade routes between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea’. Moreover, the Arabs also came to Sindh to preach Islam, a case in point being that of Imam Husayn who at Karbala put forward as an alternative that he be allowed to go to the borders of Sindh.
Mubarak Ali also states that I do not refute the claim of the Kalhora rulers that they belonged to the Abbasid family. This again is erroneous because the second paragraph of the chapter on Kalhora in my book states, ‘The ancestor of Kalhora, Mian Odhana, lived a saintly life in Kech and his descendants were known as Odhani. When the Odhani migrated to Sindh they became Sayyid (members of Prophet’s family and claimed descent from the Prophet’s uncle Abbas)’.
Mubarak Ali claims that it is now acknowledged that there is no basis to the story that Charles Napier expressed his regrets on the conquest of Sindh and sent a telegram stating, ‘Peccavi’ (I have sinned). May I suggest to him that Punch was at that time the most widely enjoyed magazine in the English speaking world for its humour and use of words with double meanings. And no one in the English-speaking world took the puns coined by Punch to be facts. If Mubarak Ali had for so long considered it to be a fact then it was due to his failure to appreciate Punch and its brand of British humour.
Mubarak Ali says that, ‘the author fails to note that Sindh suffered as a result of foreign rule’. Here too he is mistaken. Sindh both suffered and benefitted as a result of foreign rule. May I remind him of his article in Dawn Magazine Section dated 14 July 2002 insinuating praise of foreign rule. And an angry rebuttal by a reader in that publication dated 21 July 2002, of his thesis in favour and adulation of foreign rule, and reproach and condemnation of national heroes.
In a recent interview to the Urdu press, Mubarak Ali complained bitterly that he was disgracefully chased out of Sindh University General History Department, which evoked sympathy. He has now lost my sympathy, due to his brazen inaccuracies and obvious habitual intellectual unreliablity.
Suhail Zaheer Lari
E6 Fourth Gizri Street
DHA-4, Karachi 75500”
As expected the great gentleman editor of Dawn, Mr. Ahmed Ali Khan, overruled Ms. Zubaida Mustafa and published my above reply/rebuttal.