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Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  356 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
“Among many recent books on Pakistan, Mr. Akbar’s stands out….A fine and detailed history of Indian Muslim anger and insecurity.”
The Economist

In Tinderbox, India’s leading journalist delivers a fascinating narrative history of Pakistan, chronicling the conflict between Muslim and Hindu cultures in South Asia and describing the role that their relationship has played in de
ebook, 400 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2011)
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I remember my school days' exams, where I used to keep the essay writing exercise towards the end, cause that would take considerable time and thought. I reach the essay question without realizing that there are only few minutes left before the warning bell to ring. I begin in style, elaborating the most un-important thing with "you need to provide the context before you come to the actual gist" rationale. And then suddenly the warning bell rings and then I have to finish the essay in next 10 mi ...more
Ateeq Ahmad
I am not a league-y . My mother's family is very congressi so we buy a lot of the reasoning that goes behind Mr. Akbar's thesis of how Pakistan was formed. A lot of this book is well written research until we get to Pakistan's independence. Then the narrative breaks down and the author does not seem to have good sources to draw upon. The period after Pakistan's independence looks like it is patched together from newspaper clippings, mostly.

Nevertheless a good read on how Pakistan has gone a bit
MJ Akbar begins off in style. The early Islamic contacts through trade and violence, the dynasties, their decline and the British policies that impoverished them were pretty well narrated. The highlight of the book was the elaboration of Gandhi’s shrewd manipulation of the Khilafat issue and his success in winning over the Muslim support- only to squander it all in the end and lose their trust for good. Hailing from Malabar, I was not aware that the Moplah rebellion also had its links to the Khi ...more
Asad Khan
Jul 25, 2014 Asad Khan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An insightful and captivating account of South-Asian History.
Feb 05, 2013 Ashwin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Any book, that traces the idea of Pakistan, from its most nebulous beginnings to the present day, from Aurangzeb to Zardari and Kayani, cannot be this short. MJ Akbar's intent is noble, but the chapters of Pakistan's troubled history require more detailed and nuanced treatment. The book gathers pace as it progresses and soon the year changes with each page. This speed is fatiguing and does not do any justice to the complexity of the region.

Pakistan, to me has always been a nebulous entity. Havin
Tariq Mahmood
Jul 22, 2011 Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
Excellent history of Pakistan written by an Indian Muslim. One by his own admission 'chose' not to migrate to the land of the pure. Very current, must read. Talks about the idea of Pakistan and the Pakistani of today. Which one does the average Pakistani subscribe to, one of the father Jinnah or the godfather Maudaudi? Inclusive or exclusive? A Pakistan of Rahet Fateh Ali Khan and Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi or the one of Ajmal Kasab and Qadri? Liberal or conservative? It's a question every Pakistani n ...more
Kapil Joshi
Jan 17, 2014 Kapil Joshi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though it is tough to capture an entire history in a few pages, the author, through his lucid narration, has done well in exploring a country which has always been an enigma of sorts. Credit must be given to the author for not wavering from the underlying theme of identity crisis, its genesis and nurturance with seamless past and present connectivity though the detailing reduces considerably as we progress towards the end of the book, particularly the post-independence years. But then there is o ...more
Aug 23, 2015 Kedar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by well known Indian journalist M.J. Akbar, this is a scholarly book about Indian history, India's freedom struggle, role of Muslim community in it and the partition of India and Pakistan.

This book focuses more on the past and a bit of present. There is actually nothing about future. It is a great commentary on how Pakistan formed, trying to trace the problems of today through the events of past.

These are the views on Pakistan from what is seen from India (though the author is Indian Mus
Aniket Sharma
Oct 25, 2014 Aniket Sharma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Traces the idea of Pakistan. Starts with the fall of Mughal empire, and covers the contemporary history of Pakistan - which happens to be one of deceit, fraud and conspiracies at a humongous scale - in some detail. A fascinating account of a toxic jelly state, founded on a weak idea whose foundation was the artificial, whipped up fear of 'Islam in Danger'. Amusing account, would have been funny were it not so tragic as we'll at the same time.
Madeeha Maqbool
Aug 01, 2012 Madeeha Maqbool rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My copy of this copy is heavily annotated and post-it(ed). I LOVED it. Akbar has a way with words that makes him unlike any other political writer. And he is really really funny - something I appreciate over anything else. Everybody should read this book; apart from being well-informed, the entertainment value is excellent. The critique of the military and the Jamaat-i-Islami are especially giggle-inducing.
This guy can really write. And he can think. He's an Indian journalist who wrote this book well before he found himself in the position of being an assistant Foreign Minister. His is an excellent effort at explaining why Pakistan behaves the way it does, and why India finds it so difficult to engage with it. The philosophical underpinnings of the creation of Pakistan, according to Akbar, are a "theory of distance", propagated by a series of Muslim scholars who concluded that the only way to prot ...more
Pradeep T
Oct 11, 2016 Pradeep T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good insights on the overall picture of how, Pakistan, as a nation was formed. M.J. Akbar, a renowned journalist, columnist and a writer has produced a well researched book covering the historical background right from the Islamic invasion into Greater India and how things have took shape from then on to form the today's Pakistan. The book's theme suggests that, it was mainly the fear that inculcated by many individuals, with the utmost urge of personal agenda to fulfill, have brainwashed the ...more
Feb 16, 2017 Syed rated it it was ok
A very very biased writing! Putting all the burden of History on Pakistan, while saving all other faces!

The writer opened a box, digging deep in history to correlate, the current situation of Pakistan, but as you flip pages you will realize, it is an in futile effort. He manipulated the historical facts just to make his points!

Not a very impressive read!
Feb 18, 2011 Raghu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an investigation into the idea and creation of Pakistan as a separate state from India for Indian Muslims. The author looks into the historical roots of this idea and what it holds for Pakistan's future.
M.J.Akbar, the author, identifies a 'theory of distance' amongst the Muslim elite in India in the 18th century onwards. This theory holds that Hindus and Muslims are different people and that Muslim interests and way of life in India can only be secured by Muslims living as a separa
Aarish Khan
The basic argument of the book is that the underlying problem of Pakistan that has resulted in its gradual drift toward extremism and militancy is its creation in the name of Islam. In other words, Pakistan’s extremism and militancy problem is in its DNA. In author’s view, the use of religion for the creation of Pakistan and then for ruling it by its mostly secular elite was bound to have the inevitable consequence of religious intolerance and hatred. I’ll come to a discussion on this a bit late ...more
Kaustubh Kirti
I completely agree with Akbar ji when he talks about Pakistan in this book but, I wish to say this is not the story and history of Pakistan in the subcontinent but a brief picture of what is today the Islam in the subcontinent. IN this description he has more or less touched on various points (given the space and such a varied huge topic) but the way he puts it is commendable. Every important story with Islam has been touched but what I seriously missed here an acknowledgement that even if you c ...more
Aug 13, 2014 Ravi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
MJ Akbar wrote a balanced account of medieval Indian history under Muslim rule, Indian independence movement and the events that lead to the partition of India, and post partition history of Pakistan. What made it interesting to me is that Akbar is an Indian Muslim who also believes in a secular democratic form of government.

Akbar narrates a more honest account of history, by including instances of communal strife and of temple destruction by Muslim rulers, compared to the official version serve
Abhinav Agarwal
Jun 16, 2013 Abhinav Agarwal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One good section, two okay parts, and several instances of selective interpretations."

Short review: MJ Akbar displays an impressive grasp of history, that blends into a fast-paced account of world events that intersect with the march of the Indian subcontinent to freedom, and partition. This is however marred, repeatedly so, by the jarring interjection of incongruous paragraphs that seem to exist for little reason other than to serve as the display of an elegant train of thought's ugly derailme
Jul 14, 2014 Hrishikesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books that I've read so far. M. J. Akbar provides a very deep analysis of the ideological ethos that lead to the creation of Pakistan. The book can be divided into 3 broad points - the origins of Pakistan, the current state (and the way this has been attained), and the future.

The historical origins of Pakistan are traced back to the decline of the Mughal empire. This analysis has provided an useful understanding into what "minority"-ism is all about. The way the political require
Rajendra Dave
Nov 17, 2014 Rajendra Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In late seventies of the last century, "The Sunday" introduced me to Asterix and Obelix the Gauls and Mr. M. J. Akbar the journalist. They have remained my favourites ever since, though I must confess that my reading has been confined to newspaper columns by Mr. Akbar. So I started reading the book with great anticipation and I was not disappointed.

What strikes one most is Mr. Akbar's objectivity. Though it's clear where his sympathies are, he is careful to present both sides of any argument. T
Harisha Vellanki
No doubt, the book is well structured..But it is more an academic exercise of History than the current social and cultural rulings of Pakistan. I really got bored reading the whole history of partition again as there are enough of books on it already! Though the book describes itself as "The past and future of Pakistan", 80% of the book just deals with the past..The present social, political and economic systems of Pak are totally neglected. I wonder why it took 2011 for MJ Akbar to write someth ...more
Jun 12, 2011 Yugaljoshi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a brilliant book discovering the history of Pakistan as we see it today, and way beyond the 1947 partition of India into two countries. It also blasts the myth of "hindu muslim" living in peace romanticism, and highlights how and why Pakistan came into existence. The book has lots of facts and data that is precious. Moreover, the book ends with a poignant and realistic assessment that Pakistant is at a point of no recovery. The book does not get into utopian solutions to Pakistant's largel ...more
Aparna Singh
It is understandable that journalist M.J.Akbar wants to first give the reader an understanding of Pakistan's past before he gets to its possible futures - for after all, this is a country with a difficult past that continues to impact on its future. Yet, the first half of the book feels a little too much like a history textbook - much of it is known, although there is probably more analysis of key Muslim players on the pre-independence scene than most history books give us. In particular, I foun ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Rajmr64 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This work by M J Akbar goes on to demonstrate that we do have scholars in India who are well informed of the intricacies that go on to make Pakistan on of those countries in the world which everyone loves to hate....The complexities of the Pakistani society, the angst of partition, the ursurping of the State by theocrats have all been very well analysed in this seminal work. If the future of Pakistan is going to roll out as per the predictions of the author, we are in for serious trouble in Indi ...more
Pērtińācious Frāńĸ
an excellent read ,
precisely if you want to know what went wrong, since when ,and how far it's ripples have extended.
the author is an Indian national which gives a Pakistani reader- as yours truly, a glance at the other side of the face of history. To know something thoroughly, you need to have a holistic perspective of things; which is why I picked up the book in the first place.From notions such as the worn-out cliche' of the "two-nation theory" ,misinterpretation of the ideology of Pakistan,
Prasan Kaikini
Jan 03, 2014 Prasan Kaikini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, well-researched description of how Pakistan came into being. The differences in thinking between the westernized Muslim elite, the Muslim religious leaders is very interesting. I particularly liked the fact that Akbar starts before the official fall of the Mughal empire in 1858. He description of how the loss of power and privilege affected the Muslim intelligentsia is impressive.

The part after the 1950's is not well put-together, with lots of repetitions, etc. And there is really
Masen Production
“I was unaware of the realities that surrounded the Hindu Muslim divide in the pre Independent India. This book unveils the lineage & mentality of tenants of both the religions. Its a very easy to follow & understand why the small neighboring rift has developed into an abyss of complications today. It traces the myths, facts in a very logical fashion to give one the insight of what has Made Pakistan today an Islamist nation.

Well researched book & a good read. At times it gets a littl
Jim Rimmer
An in depth survey of the history which led to the creation of two nations and the implications which have subsequently developed. Daunting in more ways than one. The personalities add an extra dimension and complexity to the tale, particularly those who will be less known to most western readers.

Though this was an informative and, at times, enthralling read I have to admit that I also found it a little clunky ie, repetition, time leaps, detail imbalance.

Requires some previous knowledge of regio
Aug 28, 2016 Vishwas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book which traces the history of idea of Pakistan, since its conception during the decline of Mughal empire in 18th century to its creation in the middle of the twentieth century.
It also explains the reasons for the gradual decline of Pakistan since its independence to the pathetic state of affairs it finds itself in now.
The research done by M.J.Akbar to come up with this book is extraordinary. This book not only explains history but gives warning signals for contemporary p
Abhijeet Gorhe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Mobashar Jawed "M.J." Akbar (born 11 January 1951) is a leading Indian journalist and author. He was the Editorial Director of India Today, India's leading weekly English news magazine published by the Living Media group till his resignation in October 2012. He also had an additional responsibility of overseeing the media conglomerate's English news channel, Headlines Today.
He launched "The Sunday
More about M.J. Akbar...

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“Lord Charles Canning, the last Governor-General and first viceroy of India (the transition from East India Company rule to the British Crown took place during his turbulent tenure, 1856–62) wrote candidly to Vernon Smith, president of the Board of Control, on 21 November 1857, at the height of the ‘mutiny’: ‘As we must rule 150 million of people by a handful [of] Englishmen, let us do it in a manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and national feeling they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power and with the least possible suspicion of our motives’.” 3 likes
“An economically devastated Bengal became too weak to fight back the famine of 1769–70; it is estimated that 10 million, out of a population of 30 million, died. ‘In fact, British control of India started with a famine in Bengal in 1770 and ended in a famine – again in Bengal – in 1943. Working in the midst of the terrible 1877 famine that he estimated had cost another 10 million lives, Cornelius Walford calculated that in the 120 years of British rule there had been thirty-four famines in India, compared with only seventeen recorded famines in the entire previous two millennia,’ writes Robins. The Mughal response to famine had been good governance: embargo on food export, anti-speculation regulation, tax relief and free kitchens. If any merchant short-changed a peasant during a famine, the punishment was an equivalent weight in flesh from his body. That kept hoarding down.” 2 likes
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