Pakistan at 70: Ayesha Jalal in conversation with William Dalrymple


LAHORE: Two critically acclaimed history heavyweights, Ayesha Jalal and William Dalrymple, sat down at the LLF to discuss the many problems faced by Pakistan today as well as talking about the historical context of partition, its causes, and consequences.

The talk was fast paced with Dalrymple throwing out question after question and Jalal responding with equal quickness. The sense of urgency was perhaps due to the sheer number of things that had to be discussed, but nevertheless the conversation did not seem rushed for a moment.

In one of the most awaited talks, Dalrymple asked Jalal regarding her work on partition and she responded by describing both her work and taking her great-uncle Saadat Hassan Manto’s work as an example of both the cause and consequences of partition. Manto was also used to illustrate continued problems of press censorship that journalists, writers, and other artists still facer all over the subcontinent.

The talk was important in bringing up the ever present question of the continuing identity crisis that the Pakistani nation faces. Jalal made significant observations in her impassioned rhetoric, saying that “our biggest challenge is mental.” Regarding Pakistan she said: “Our great failure has been failing to create institutions.” She went on to describe the necessity of coming to terms with partition and the impact it has on the nation’s identity.

Ayesha Jalal went on to lament the sorry state of education in the country saying that a proper education system was needed to “reinvigorate and teach them to think again.”

The audience was spellbound by the lively debate between the two historians as they argued over topics such as the possibility of SAARC rising to become stronger in the wake of Brexit and the doubtful position of the EU. The electrifying session resulted in a hotly contested Q&A session that featured talk over such subjects as racial profiling of Pashtuns and the state’s new operation against terrorism, Radd-ul-Fasaad.