‘Indus Raag’ producer wins Global Music Award

Indus Raag – Music Beyond Borders by Tehzeeb now available at Liberty Books stores and online.

Website: http://libertybooks.com/bookdetail.aspx?pid=26731

Tehzeeb Foundation patron and music producer Sharif Awan has won a gold medal at the Global Music Awards (GMA).

The laurel has been conferred upon him for the album Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders which is a part of the Indus Raag project that aims to archive the legacy of sub-continental music tradition.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Awan said he has been selected among nine artists from various countries for the medal. This is the first time a Pakistani album has featured in an international award show. “It really is an achievement for all those who have been associated with the project and have worked tirelessly to make it a success,” he added. Awan hoped the project will continue to play its role in the conservation and promotion of Eastern classical music.

It is pertinent to mention that Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders was Pakistan’s first indigenous entry to get shortlisted for the 57th Grammys.

GMAs are held ever1125273-image-1466261508-643-640x480.JPGy year in California, USA, acknowledging services of people from different countries and cultural backgrounds for world music.

Last week, Awan announced the digital release of Indus Raag 2 — Karachi Concerts, the second album in the series. It comprises 10 hours worth of recordings that feature as many as 65 musicians from Pakistan, India, UK, Germany, France and Turkey. Recorded between 2009 and 2015, it includes names such as Ustad Rais Khan, Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, Grammy-winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Gundecha Brothers and Ashraf Sharif Khan.

This article is published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2016.
Web link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1125273/indus-raag-producer-wins-global-music-award/


‘The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics’ reviewed by The Economist

China and Pakistan: Geopolitical friends | The Economist.

Order The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics by Andrew Small on our website here:

Thinner than Skin by Uzma Aslam Khan

Reviewed by Fatema Imani

I had no doubts after reading “Thinner than Skin” that the author, Uzma Aslam Khan, can really write and could give many of her contemporaries a run for their money. Her prose is lyrical and almost reminiscent of “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. Both have this unusual quality of making their prose sound poignant and effortless simultaneously. [I have always been envious of writers who can do that.]


The book follows the story of Nadir, born and bred in America, albeit of Pakistani origin, and Farhana, a half-Pakistani-American woman, as they make their way to the Northern areas of Pakistan accompanied by two comrades, Irfan and Wes and how their lives are changed after a tragic event occurs concerning the locals of the area. Political and religious violence reigns supreme in the background [not really a shocker where Pakistan is concerned], and as the novel progresses, becomes almost interlaced in the story.   


The book rides high on the intriguing, local ritual, mating of glaciers, which Khan abundantly writes about. For a person who has never heard of this custom, it is definitely fascinating to read about it!    


Khan capitalizes more on the language as opposed to the story. Her descriptions of Northern Pakistan and its inhabitants are beautifully rendered. I definitely feel that the story could have been stronger and the climax rather than thrilled, disappointed.


In all fairness though, Khan’s work is definitely novel; her setting unusual; her characters unconventional; and her language elegant and intense.



From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra – review


What did Asia’s thinkers make of western colonialism, asks Julia Lovell

Debates about the rise of the modern west (and corresponding decline of the east) remain a fertile source of historical polemic. Such oppositional historiography – the idea of a head-on clash of civilisations, with a clear winner and loser – seems to hold a perennial appeal in terms of both its simplicity and its drama of antagonism. Last year, Niall Ferguson – in his pugnaciously titled Civilization: The Six Ways the West Beat the Rest – brought the subject back into sharp media focus. “The rise of the west,” he argued, “is the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ. It is the story at the very heart of modern history. It is perhaps the most challenging riddle historians have to solve.

To condense two extremes of a now venerable argument, the old school contended that somewhere in the early modern period a progressive and free-trading Europe surged ahead through innate superiority of character and government, while ancient superpowers such as China turned complacently in on themselves. A newer, postcolonial school places the “great divergence” rather later, arguing that until 1800, the Chinese empire largely kept up with Britain, the most prosperous and vigorous of the European economies. Early in the 19th century, however, Britain began to nose ahead, through sheer good fortune. Easy access to coal and Caribbean sugar fuelled the steam-power and workforces of the industrial revolution. New World calories, timber and silver (paying for tea, coffee, textiles) in turn liberated millions of European arable acres for other productive purposes, permitting the industrial revolution to generate firepower that, by the 1840s, was trouncing the great non-European conquest empires.

In From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra turns his attention to the other side of the story: to attempts by Asian thinkers (in Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Turkey) to rebuild their cultural and political identities after collisions with the imperialist west. His account begins in the first half of the 19th century with the west already approaching ascendancy in east Asia, India and the Muslim world. It spans Asia’s steady disillusionment with western modernity through two world wars, then ends with the rise of China, India and global Islam, and the much-rumoured decline of the west. Too often, Mishra has argued elsewhere, these non-western voices have been mute in anglophone accounts of the east-west clash, as if intellectual dynamism and creativity had lain solely with the modern west. Asian state-builders such as Sun Yat-sen are mocked (or ignored) for their jarring juxtaposition of admiration for the west with passionate, anti-colonial patriotism. We perhaps tend to see successful Asian leaders as relevant only to their immediate contexts: to view men such as Mao Zedong or Ho Chi Minh as cunning military strategists rather than as political thinkers with bigger ideas that might traverse regions and eras. Moreover, Mishra has no time at all for big, broad-brush accounts of western success contrasted with eastern hopelessness. Instead, he is preoccupied by the tragic moral ambivalence of his tale. There is here no triumphal sense of “eastern revenge” against the 19th century’s “white disaster”, but rather one of self-doubt, inconsistency and virtuous intentions gone badly wrong.

Mishra sets the scene for western hegemony with Napoleon’s 1799 invasion of Egypt. From here, he moves swiftly through the “slow battering of India and China” with trade wars and opium. Europe’s dramatic scramble for control of the non-western world prompted Alexis de Tocqueville to wonder at how “a few million men, who a few centuries ago, lived nearly shelterless in the forests and in the marshes of Europe will, within a hundred years, have transformed the globe and dominated the other races”.

The trauma of this collision exposed some of Asia’s most educated, thoughtful men – Persia’s Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, China’s Liang Qichao, India’s Rabindranath Tagore – to an unprecedented crisis of intellectual, moral and spiritual confidence. This was a conquest “which left its victims resentful but also envious of their conquerors and, ultimately, eager to be initiated into the mysteries of their seemingly near-magical power”.From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to their curious, complex intellectual odysseys as they struggled to respond to the western challenge. All were forced to look far beyond home-grown traditions: Liang Qichao attacked Chinese antiquity as an internal cancer and wrote paeans to Washington and Napoleon; al-Afghani was one of the first Muslim thinkers to realise that “history was working independently of the God of the Koran”; Tagore became internationally renowned for his English-language poetry (he was awarded the Nobel prize in 1913 for his “beautiful verse, by which … he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English works, a part of the literature of the west”).

Yet all three of them, in turn, were disappointed by “western civilisation” and turned back to native resources. Al-Afghani, though only superficially devout, reinvented himself as a religious zealot to forge a potent blend of nationalism and pan-Islamism, advocating violent struggle against the west. To the end, however, he remained capable of searing criticism of his fellow Muslims, and conscious of the perils of Asian tyranny and fanaticism: “The entire oriental world,” he once remarked, “is so entirely rotten and incapable of hearing the truth … that I should wish for a flood or an earthquake to devour and bury it.” Buried in an unmarked grave in 1897, he was reclaimed as a great Muslim patriot by Iranians and Afghans after the second world war. Liang Qichao’s youthful worship of the west’s parliaments and newspapers faded in middle age into melancholy observation of the “gratuitous western vandalism” that climaxed (in his own lifetime) in the first world war. Tagore, who developed a certain tendency towards eastern mysticism in later years, was at the same time well-attuned to feelings of colonial humiliation; in 1919 he relinquished his British knighthood in protest at the imperial administration’s massacre of protesters in north India.

Luminous details glimmer through these swaths of political and military history: the Indian villagers who named their babies after Japanese admirals on hearing of Japan’s epochal defeat of Russia in 1905; the curious history of the fez, a deliberately reformist piece of headgear that became an international symbol of Muslim identity; the touching naivety of Ho Chi Minh, so convinced that Woodrow Wilson would make time to meet him in Paris in 1919 that he hired a morning suit for an encounter that never happened; Nehru’s fanatically anglophone father, rumoured to have sent his shirts for dry-cleaning in Europe. There are shocking reminders of the double-dealing hypocrisy of the great powers during the first world war and at the Versailles peace conference: the squalid secret treaties agreed between Britain, France, Japan and Italy, news of which Wilson tried to suppress; the exclusion of many non-European peoples from the conference; the racist jokes openly cracked by the Australian and British prime ministers. The betrayal of racial equality at Versailles opened the door to an Asian move towards communism, with all its pernicious consequences, as Comintern agents scattered across a receptive China, India, Iran and Turkey.

The book concludes by tracing the painful legacies of Asia’s responses to the west: Japan’s near-genocidal pan-Asian revenge for earlier imperial slights; Maoism’s disastrous pursuit of a post-imperial modernity; the violent anti-westernism of global Islam. Despite widespread western admiration for the contemporary Asian miracle, Mishra sees in China a country in which some “stand up, while most others are forced to stand down, and the privileged Chinese minority aspire for nothing higher than the conveniences and gadgets of their western consumer counterparts”. He hails India as a democracy in which “numbers of the disenchanted and the frustrated” are growing, along with a huge sense of hopelessness among landless peasants. And to those who read China’s and India’s embrace of capitalism as a comforting sign of their reconciliation with western ways, he offers a warning. Environmental apocalypse, he anticipates, will be the final consequence of these centuries-old collisions between Europe and America, and Asia: “the bitter outcome of the universal triumph of western modernity, which turns the revenge of the east into something darkly ambiguous, and all its victories truly Pyrrhic”.


‘The Gun’ by C. J. Chivers, About AK-47 – Review – NYTimes.com

It is no accident that C. J. Chivers opens “The Gun,” his bold history of the AK-47, not with the loud crack that is the report of the rifle but with the monstrous bang of the first detonation of a Soviet nuclear bomb. As Mr. Chivers’s detailed history then skirts as far back as the United States Civil War and brings us right up to the current conflict in Afghanistan, the message of his prologue is clear: For all that the escalating cold war shaped the last 60 years, no one was ever killed in conflict by a Russian nuke. By contrast untold millions have been wounded and killed by the AK-47 and related weapons, as they have proliferated and mutated from tools of engineering ingenuity, honestly wrought in defense of the socialist motherland, to the firearm of choice for both oppressor and oppressed.


The AK-47 was revolutionary because it was the first weapon to combine the portability of machine pistols that had proved popular in World War II with the accuracy of less portable, sharpshooting weapons and the firepower of the heavier, more traditional machine guns. It was also and remains beguilingly easy to use and maintain and unerringly reliable.

Mr. Chivers is a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and a former Marine with, one suspects, more than a nodding acquaintance with his subject. He writes both with technical precision and the humanity that comes with understanding the invariably unhappy and all too often horrific consequences of the weapon’s effects.

All this makes for a delicate and at times fascinating balancing act, as Mr. Chivers the enthusiast and expert shares the page with Mr. Chivers the historian and journalist — the expert dealing well with the detailed mechanics of his subject, the journalist at other times brilliantly illuminating the book with highly effective vignettes of human courage, ingenuity and, mostly, suffering.

There are as many inherent dangers as advantages in writing object history. The recent deserved success in Britain of “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” a collaboration between BBC radio and the British Museum, has shown how informative history can be when told from the perspective of a single object, but such histories can be selective.

Mr. Chivers succeeds in bringing his own disparate strands together into a mostly coherent narrative, but the history is necessarily a subjective one. He moves from topic to topic at a healthy pace. Certainly the reader doesn’t tire as we roam from Kremlin politics to the Tet offensive via diversions like the Hungarian uprising and the Munich Olympics.

Sometimes, however, he dwells, perhaps indulgently, on a particular theme or episode. We are for example more than a third of the way through before we encounter the sometimes pathetic, sometimes tragic figure of Mikhail Kalashnikov and his eponymous rifle.

Mr. Chivers’s account of the general development of automatic weapons and the men who pioneered them is impressive. The portraits of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s forerunners, Richard J. Gatling and Hiram Maxim (whose entertaining character comes across bizarrely at odds with the devastation his machine wrought on the fields of Flanders) stand in effective contrast to Kalashnikov, the curiously unsympathetic Russian sergeant, and lend the book depth.

From horse-drawn, hand-cranked cannons that subdued the enemies of the British Empire, Mr. Chivers traces the development of automatic weapons in the early 20th century and the often costly failings of conservative military leaders to understand their potential and effect. He deconstructs the Soviet mythology behind the AK-47’s development before charting its proliferation and rise to ubiquity. The book sometimes struggles to keep up with the various tactical and strategic changes occasioned by the development and distribution of the rifle, but this may be an accurate reflection of how the wider world has struggled to comprehend and cope with the spread of this powerful gun.

His broad reach allows Mr. Chivers to touch on diversions that he and many readers may well find interesting — a considerable discussion of the ill-fated introduction of the M-16 rifle to United States Marines in Vietnam is one example — but means that we are sometimes caught in a limbo between a necessarily limited canter through big events and a dense excursus on the gun itself. The book’s discussion of the difficulties of penetrating layers of secrecy and Soviet myth in deconstructing the historiography of the AK-47 will be fascinating to many historians, less so to casual enthusiasts.

Other elements of “The Gun” are perhaps unwittingly illuminating. Mr. Chivers skates over the murky distinction between romantic freedom fighters who wield their AK-47s against the brutal Soviet regime and the current terrorists who do so against its armies. While much of the detail on the development of the gun and the treatment of the man whose name it bears serves as a salutary reminder of the awfulness of life in Soviet Russia, Mr. Chivers can’t resist taking a few easy shots at the Soviets.

For an essentially international book about an international symbol, “The Gun” never quite escapes an essentially Western perspective. While our own shortcomings are often addressed with clarity and precision, it is hard to escape the feeling that the ill-use the rifles have been put to by our enemies gets more attention than when the butt has been on the other shoulder.

But these are minor quibbles that fall away when Mr. Chivers provides in harrowing detail a sense of the human cost of this sometimes too abstract symbol.

“Karzan Mahmoud toppled and fell, landing in a puddle of cold standing water,” he writes of the shooting of a young Kurd. “There he lay, on his back, blinking up into raindrops peppering his face. He had no idea how many times he had been hit. His body was broken; his mind, for the moment, was strangely detached. His blood stained the puddle red. He thought he heard thunder.”

Mr. Chivers adds: “Technical studies did not sketch this: what it looked and felt like when military rifle bullets smacked human life, when incapacitation meant not just preventing action but summoning death, when rifles and gunfights were stripped of engineering, politics, romance or any whiff of fable.”

He is right to address the “fable” of the AK-47. As someone who has been shot at and shot back with this weapon, I can testify to its enduring appeal. But for all that, “The Gun” is a history of 10 pounds of wood and steel. Its strength is that it can’t but be a human history: the history of the men who designed and built, did or didn’t purchase, correctly or incorrectly deployed, and triumphed or perished by an inanimate object.


This article is written Patrick Hennessey, the author of “The Junior Officer’s Reading Club,” a memoir of five years in the British Army during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was published in The New York Times.

The Gun is available is currently out of stock but will be available again shortly with Liberty Books. For more details about the book or order – please click here.

DAWN.COM | Books & Authors | Sowing discord

The assertion that drug money is bankrolling the resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan has found an echo chamber among European and American writers, retired generals and now more and more journalists. Gretchen Peters’ recently published Seeds of Terror has caught the eye of policymakers in America and is reinforcing the argument that war in Afghanistan is all about drugs, not Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Maria Ressa, a Filipina journalist, has written a bestseller with the same title but with a different theme: what role has fundraising played in Southeast Asia in the rise of Al Qaeda?

Peters, a Harvard graduate, is a journalist who has drawn on her 10-year-long experience of reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The intrepid author has documented in bewildering detail intelligence reports and hundreds of interviews involving boots on the ground, drug interdiction officers, both former and serving, and Afghans of all stripes. Indeed, she provides the reader a sweeping understanding of the nexus between drug lords and the Taliban. She sees a direct linkage between the growing insurgency and the $500 million-plus garnered from narcotics annually in Afghanistan.

She observes: ‘Eight years after 9/11, the single greatest failure in the war against terror is not that Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture, or that the Taliban has staged a comeback, or even that Al Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan’s tribal areas and probably planning fresh attacks on the West. Rather it’s the spectacular incapacity of western law enforcement to disrupt the flow of money that is keeping their networks afloat.’

The same argument has been made by General James Jones, Nato’s American Supreme Commander in his book Afghanistan: On the brink (2004). The general was particularly enamoured of saying that Afghanistan’s main problem is drugs. The implication was that if you take care of this problem, the Taliban’s lifeline would snap. To the obvious question about whether Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are involved in the drug trade themselves, Peters at best provides circumstantial evidence. On cold analysis, however, some might think her line of reasoning to be less than convincing.

The author appears to be on the same page as American writer David B. Edwards who argued in his book Heroes of Age that Afghanistan’s problems come from the ‘moral incoherence’ of the country itself. For her the dichotomy between what the Taliban profess (a puritan version of religion) and do (reaping rich drug-related dividends) springs from the same moral incoherence. There are of course an increasing number of people in America who view Afghanistan through the same prism.

That said, the attractively written narrative walks the reader through the economics of poppy trading and the well-oiled network of drugs that has defied the most powerful military and intelligence machine on the planet. As Peters says, ‘it is what pays the bills and cements the loyalties, individually and for ethnic groups.’

This is how she frames her main thesis: the confluence of narco-traffickers, terrorist groups and the international criminal world is the new axis of evil. It does not stop at Afghanistan’s porous borders; it is a problem with global dimensions and so, too, must be the response. Pakistan’s ISI gets hammered throughout her book for its shadowy role in the drugs episode for much of the 1980s and ’90s.

As America ponders a face-saving exit strategy from Afghanistan, what does Peters offer to salvage the situation? She is proposing a multi-tier strategy to apply a chokehold on the insurgents’ supply of cash. How might this be done? She is pitching for punishing military strikes against drug lords, not against the poppy fields themselves as she believes that wiping out poppy fields would drive up poppy prices and put more money into the pockets of drug dealers and terrorists. It could also lead to a humanitarian disaster.

Therefore her strategy is this: go after the top and mid-level drug lords — kill them or arrest them. Second, she wants alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers. As for the Taliban, she suggests the United States make them irrelevant, not defeat them militarily. She is convinced that Taliban and the United States are involved in a zero-sum game in Afghanistan.

Alongside the process of neutering drug lords and smugglers, the author recommends that America throw its massive weight behind restoring regional peace. This means bringing India and Pakistan back to the table, as well as getting Iran to weigh in on the side of peace in Afghanistan. Both these recommendations are up against the hard rock of realpolitik. Peters is a fine hybrid of investigative journalist and scholar and she has pursued her research with a passion. Her book is not a page-turner, but it offers a lot to reflect upon.

This review was published in Dawn (Books and Authors) and is written by Syed Javed Nazir.

Seeds of Terror: How heroin is bankrolling the
Taliban and Al Qaeda

By Gretchen Peters
302pp. Rs995

Available with Liberty Books.

Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage /Author: Elizabeth Gilbert /Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Committed picks up where the international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love left off. Elizabeth Gilbert is still travelling but not solo — on a quest but not for the same reasons. The last time she went into exile to Italy, India and Indonesia, it was self-imposed and involved food and spiritual enlightenment. The latest one to Southeast Asia, however, has been brought on by circumstances beyond her control and is about facing her deepest fear head on.

The title of this memoir may be Committed but Elizabeth has not gotten over her dread of matrimony. She has been committed to the institution of marriage before and has no interest in going back. Thus far she has successfully evaded capture and is determined to do anything — anything at all to avoid “going through that apocalypse”. Details of that particular ‘apocalypse’ can be found in the pages of her previous book — Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia, recently turned into a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts.

While she is content to be in a long distance relationship with a foreigner, her government, sadly, is not. And so Elizabeth Gilbert is “sentenced to marry”. By the US Department of Homeland Security no less and unless she complies, the US will close its doors to her man. Permanently. Suddenly, she is forced to come to terms with her scary marital history and make peace with the idea of marriage.

It gets worse. Soon, any American interested in marrying an outsider will have to undergo an FBI investigation. Thus begins an agonizingly long wait and an obligatory return to a nomadic life. Elizabeth uses this unexpected break to her advantage, raking through her private history and public records to determine “what this befuddling, contradictory, and yet stubbornly enduring institution of marriage actually is”.

As their travels take Elizabeth and her fiancé off the beaten path, she will make a solitary journey armed with the works of eminent matrimonial scholars to better understand her “inherited assumptions, the shape of her family’s narrative and her culturally specific catalogue of anxieties”. She argues that she must be vigorously persuaded because matrimony has not always been kind to women. This involves extensive time travelling to explore the primitive notions about marriage and divorce. Turns out that marriage was not always considered sacred even within Christian tradition, (they resisted for at least 10 centuries) and this discovery alone allows her to stop stringing together the terms sin and failure with divorce and finally let herself off the hook.

Elizabeth, who has been watching the women in her family “adapt, adjust, glide and accept”, is painfully aware that her advantageous childhood has been built on the ashes of her mother’s sacrifices. She comes across some alarming statistics claiming that a long, happy, healthy, prosperous existence awaits married men who are the sole beneficiaries of this union.

She will also embark on parallel journeys to decipher the modern interpretation of marriage while closely examining its evolutionary nature, which she believes actually ensures its survival. This is nice because it really needed to change. In Europe, a nasty practice known as ‘coverture’ forced women to renounce their legal rights and property, “doubling a man’s power as his wife’s evaporated”. She further observes that combined with the strict anti-divorce policies of the church, marriage became an institution that entombed and erased its female victims — especially among the gentry. Trace amounts of this troubling ruling could be detected as late as 1975 and prevented married women (like Elizabeth’s mother) from opening checking accounts or taking out loans without their husband’s written permission.

While she wanders through the pages of history, learning new facts (apparently, even a seagull that supposedly mates for life has a 25 % divorce rate) and putting the marriages of her friends and family on the stand, Elizabeth must also introduce marital customs of distant lands. This is a part travelogue, after all. In the hills of northern Vietnam, for instance, reside the Hmong, convinced that it does not matter whom one marries “and with rare exceptions, one man is pretty much the same as another”. Their depressing worldview has held them in good stead thus far.

The writer, on the other hand, duels with her deep-seated insecurities and reveals the sort of marriage she is likely to have — “wifeless, motherless and husbandless” — which simply means that neither would be obligated to fulfil the traditional role of housekeeper or breadwinner. It also means that she will proudly defend the decision to join an “Auntie Brigade” instead of enlisting in the “Mommy Corps”. Members of the exclusive brigade will be pleased to learn that they are in great company — Tolstoy, Capote, Lennon and the Bronte sisters, all raised by doting aunts.

Elizabeth freely admits that the point of the whole exercise is just to talk herself into tying the knot. And this leads to an elaborately crafted, highly illuminating, (delightful) discourse between a sceptic and western marriage.

Published in Daily Times 28 Aug 2010

Viking Adult; Pp 285; Rs 1,150

Available at Liberty Books

Afrah Jamal is a Columnist for Daily Times.

Email: afrahjh@hotmail.com
Blog: http://afrahjamal.blogspot.com/