Good book versus good writer – by Abbas Zaidi


Sometime back, a few American-based human rights activists decided to document the Shia genocide in Pakistan. An email discussion group was created in which one of the activists added my name. Shortly afterward, ideas were exchanged and after some deliberations, it was decided that the nature of the problem required a book. After more deliberations, it was decided that the book must be a research work to do justice to the problem. The gentleman who had added me to the group proposed my name, which was immediately dismissed by almost everyone because of my anonymity and “lack of credentials”.Names of a few well-known Pakistani scholars with international standing were shortlisted. After some discussion, it was decided to approach one of them for their impeccable institutional and scholarly credentials. It was agreed that their name would echo all over the political firmament, especially in Washington. My skepticism about the scholar was immediately dismissed. I was a sour loser, so why should anyone have paid me attention?Briefly, the scholar was approached who demanded 250,000 dollars to write the book. I have no evidence to prove it because I was not part of the people who had money or those who had negotiated with him, but this is what was announced. The sponsors were only too delighted to pay up. But there was a snag. The scholar made it clear that they would not: (i) use the word “terrorists” but “extremists”, (ii) accuse any ‘brotherly’ country of sponsoring those “extremists”, (iii) point out the sectarian identity of the extremists, and (iv) use the word “genocide” because in the academia there is a consensus that a certain number of people have to be killed in order to qualify for the status (and Shias had not “reached” that high number).The scholar indicated a willingness to use “persecution” without hedging.The deal fell through and inculpatory infighting started. My name was suggested again, but by then the group had disintegrated. After some time, an individual got back to me and offered me around 10 percent of what had been offered to the scholar, which I accepted with gratitude and humility. I began working on genocide and discovered it to be one of the most, if not the most, bogus fields of intellectual inquiry. I will write another piece on it in the future.Three months into my research and my sponsor wanted me to submit the complete manuscript. One can imagine my situation. A work that demanded at least two years of dedication had to be finished in weeks! After nights of extreme stress, I was able to send him the complete manuscript within the deadline he had set for me. Now I realize that 10 percent of the money I got was spent on smoking cigarettes and drinking midnight coffee in a semi-lit Sydney flat.The manuscript was never published. I guess my own anonymity was responsible for it. However, later I got in touch with a Pakistani scholar who was interested in publishing a book on the Shia genocide in Pakistan.He was able to recruit two scholars of high calibre and standing. As a result, Faith-Based Violence and Deobandi Militancy in Pakistan was published by Palgrave-Macmillan. It is a landmark book, the first of its kind in Pakistan’s history and meets the highest possible academic standards. The endorsers of the book included Noam Chomsky and Professor Ayesha Jalal. Later the book was translated into Urdu by Muhammad Aamir Hussaini titled, Shia Genocide: Myth or Reality? Hussaini’s is a landmark translation.He provides annotations to guide the reader through “terminology” and ” historical context..”(Abbas Zaidi’s latest book is The Infidels of Mecca. He tweets at @HussainiZaidi.)


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