Book Review: Pakistan in an Age of Turbulence, South Yorkshire, Pen & Sword History


  • Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi


Contemporary history is verifiable history, and when it is being written by someone with a rare access to the records, value is added. Dr Masuma Hasan is presently, Chairperson of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (P.I.I.A) Her stint as our Ambassador to Austria, and election as Chair of the Group of 77 in1996 (p.376) served her in good stead in her present position. For her doctorate from Cambridge, Masuma Hasan was under the supervision of Nicholas Mansergh, author of Independence Years, Oxford, 1999 and editor (with E.W.R. Lumby) of the 12 volume Transfer of Power Papers, HMSO, 1970-1982.

The reader could have reasonably expected an “official” history, the type that our intellectuals habitually decry, but it is as unofficial as it can be without stretching the facts. As Masuma Hasan states:

This memoir traces the upbringing, education and career of a woman, from a privileged and liberal background, who despite all odds, rose to become the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service in Pakistan (p. IX)

She does not come across as condescending, and on a number of issues her views are quite independent, even combative. This may be explained partly by the fact that she hails from Panipat, the most recurring battlefield, known to us, and partly by her being married to Fatehyab Ali Khan a leader of National Students Federation (NSF), the most radical leftist organization in the country. This perhaps gave her a stereoscopic vision one view from the Secretariat window and another from the walls of the prison, which she frequented to visit her husband.

But we get ahead of ourselves, her ancestry, her lineage and her immediate family are the stuff of history, and she writes about them as a trained historian. She is descended from the tenth Imam ‘Ali al-Naqi (827-868 A.D.) and collaterally from the revered Companion and host of the Holy Prophet, Abu Ayub Ansari (d.674) Ninth in descent from the Companion was Abdullah Ansari (1006-1088) who was honored by the Abbasid caliphs but beleaguered by fellow clerics, for being a Hanbalite, yet returned time and again to preach at the Grand Mosque of Herat,

The move from Herat to Panipat was made by an ancestor named Malak Ali in 1286 at the behest of the Delhi Sultan Ghiyath-ud-Din Balban (1200-1287) Her grandfather was Anwar Hasan (1877-1928) whom Masuma Hasan describes as a public servant and civil engineer who specialized in the construction of bridges. His appointment to the domain of the Nizam, exposed the family to Hyderabadi culture. All this she has drawn from her grandfather’s papers she inherited and preserved.




How to Cite

Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi. (2023). Book Review: Pakistan in an Age of Turbulence, South Yorkshire, Pen & Sword History. Quarterly Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, 71(4). Retrieved from