Gues Post by Salim Chowdhrey
It was late summer in 1984 or 1985. I received a surprise call from a friend in Pakistan. We had been friends since kindergarten but our destiny had carried us on different trajectories. However, to date we have managed to keep abreast of what is going on in eachother’s lives. When my friend called me he said that he was in New Jersey, USA. He said he was sent here from the then President Zia-ul-Haq. I was very impressed that he was sent here by the President and conveyed my thoughts to him. He gloomily said that that he may not be able to meet the goal of his visit.
Zia came to the dinner that evening. No not the President Zia-ul-Haq but Zia Hussain my childhood friend. In our conversation that evening he shared that he was the General Manager of Oxford University Press (Pakistan) - a Publishing house in Karachi. Their parent company in New York had published the biography of the Father of the Nation titled as Jinnah of Pakistan. Though the book was full of unvarnished facts, it was also scholarly honest and unbiased. Most of all; the image of Jinnah that came through the book was of a once in a century hero- much like George Washington of the US.
Amazingly enough the book got banned in Pakistan. President Zia-ul-Haq, on the other hand, not only wanted the book be published, but he also wanted it to be the core of all undergraduate studies in the Universities across Pakistan. In his mind President Zia could not smudge Jinnah Sahib’s image. So the mention of Jinnah Sahib ‘s indulgence with whiskey and eating forbidden flesh was unacceptable to him. It had to be excluded from the book. This was Zia Hussain‘s mission. He had to convince Mr. Stanley Wolpert to expunge a part of Mr. Jinnah’s Life, in order to make him a “True Hero”.
Zia Hussain‘s mission failed. Wolpert didn’t even feel the need to meet Mr. Hussain. His publisher Oxford University Press and Zia Hussain were told firmly and politely (which was his style as I later found out) that the book was written to document the life of a Great Man. A part of President Zia‘s message contained the temptation of selling millions of copies in Pakistan as it was proposed to be part of a perpetual curriculum of all the Universities in Pakistan. Mr. Wolpert alluded that having written many books, text and otherwise; and being a Professor at Stanford University (He is now Professor Emeritus there), he was financially more than secure and riches were not his goal.
Years later Mr. Wolpert came to Asia Society in New York City, to introduce his book Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan. I had the good fortune to meet him. He had flown in from California; and had directly arrived at the Asia Society. It was dinner time. A few friends and I invited him for dinner. He graciously accepted. We instantly arranged for a catered Pakistani meal at Tariq Malik‘s place. We spent five unforgettable and precious hours with Mr. Wolpert. In an informal setting one could see that he himself is a great man. No pretensions, but very proper, gentlemanly, polite and firm. We talked about ZAB, Nehru and Gandhi. He has since then written books about all of them. He was respectful talking of his subjects but there was a special respect for the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In the conversation, more often he called him the Quaid than Mr. Jinnah. He said that no one suggested to him to write about Jinnah Sahib. It was his own admiration that led him to research and write about this remarkable hero. I was left wondering whether great historians have heroes too? And heroes from far off lands?
About the Author: Salim Chowdhrey M.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an Attending at St Barnabas Medical Center. He practices Psychiatry in Livingston. NJ