Pakistan’s top three contenders

Pakistan’s top three contenders

Books on Imran Khan, the Sharifs, and Bilawal Bhutto

Books on Pakistan abound. But as the country heads to elections on July 25, that statement has a caveat: relatively few books actually essay the current political scenario, while there are many up-to-date collections on India-Pakistan ties, the tortured U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and Pakistan’s serpent dance with terror.

On current polity and problems, four books provide a comprehensive view: Husain Haqqani’s Reimagining Pakistan, Christophe Jaffrelot’s The Pakistan Paradox, Ayesha Jalal’s The Struggle for Pakistan, and Babar Ayaz’s What’s Wrong with Pakistan?

But there are only a handful of books to read on the three contenders for Pakistan’s top political position in the upcoming polls. Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf, considered to be the frontrunner, wrote his last autobiography, Pakistan: A Personal History, seven years ago. His previous memoirs — All Round View and Imran: The Autobiography of Imran Khan (co-authored with Patrick Murphy) — far predate Imran Khan the politician. His ex-wife, Reham Khan, has now crash-landed into this void with her book Reham Khan. Apart from salacious details of their marriage, the journalist draws a political portrait that would shock supporters: of a leader who is indisciplined about party work and careless about finances, a promiscuous man who is a drug and alcohol user, a non-practising Muslim, and one who may be used by Western intelligence agencies. If Imran Khan is the “chosen one” of Pakistan’s military establishment, as is widely believed, it is hard to see just how the all-powerful army didn’t prevent the book’s release ahead of the elections.

On the PML-N’s Shahbaz Sharif, who may well become the dark horse winner, or even his brother Nawaz Sharif, a former Prime Minister who is in jail, there are few books in English, but several in Urdu. Else, one must rely on accounts by foreign journalists who met them, but are often quite unkind to the Sharifs. For instance, Kim Barker in The Taliban Shuffle claimed that Nawaz Sharif gave her a telephone to “keep in touch with”, and Christina Lamb in Waiting for Allahsaid that the only book in the Sharif home was a telephone book.

On Bilawal Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief who is hoping to hold on to Sindh Province, one can at least count on the reams written about his mother, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

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