24 February | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Diplomatic legacy: 147 diplomats authored over 400 books since 1947

Former envoy Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi introduces ‘Expressions’ on an unusual subject that reveals historical accounts of Pakistan’s interaction with world since its creation

Pakistan’s former ambassador Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi has said that over 400 books were written by 147 Pakistani diplomats since 1947, and over two dozen books by first Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Zafarullah Khan – the only person to date to serve as the president of both UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.

“I was amazed to know that over 400 books were written by our diplomats since Pakistan’s creation, including 15 books by first Charge d’Affaires to China, as well as Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, no human served in as many capitals as he did,” he said while launching of his book – Expressions – at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) in Islamabad on an unusual subject that revealed historical accounts of Pakistan’s interaction with the world since its creation.

Afrasiab Hashmi, a prolific writer of several books, has served in the Pakistani missions in Washington DC, New Delhi, Beijing and Vienna. He also worked as high commissioner to Bangladesh and New Zealand. Published by the National Book Foundation (NBF), his book is a compendium of ‘over 400 books,’ written by more than 140 diplomats, since 1947.

Sharing his views, the former ambassador pointed out that one of the diplomats requested during compilation of his work to abstain from mentioning his book as he didn’t want to gain prominence. “I considered every book of that diplomat who had diplomatic status. However, this list of books is incomplete and mine is a preliminary effort which needs to be accomplished by others,” he said.

“Books give you a confidence to live because they have the idea to live,” he said in his comment. The enclosures in the book include write-ups on important diplomats and speeches related to Pakistan’s foreign policy. Afrasiab Hashmi informed the audience that the motivation behind taking up the uphill task of collecting knowledge and compiling it into a book was the teaching of Islam for seeking knowledge as a source of illumination as well as a ‘weapon’ for preservation of civilizations.

He said that the books were important as knowledge was important. He referred to the book of famous Andalusian historian, jurist, philosopher, and theologian – Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya – that was reported to have 14,000 to 24,000 pages but could not remain preserved. However, he said that there were different references but the one in Chapter 366 had connectivity with the future – mainly the present times – with regards to international relations and politics.

‘We have to think, reflect and write and if we don’t, foreigners will write for us and we will read their books against us’

Afrasiab Hashmi said that there was a dearth of knowledge among the masses as they were unaware of the diplomatic scholars and were raising questions about any of their publications. “It pricked me to dig out a reason for it and find how many diplomats have written books,” he said. “I used to visit libraries during my postings in New Delhi, Washington, Vienna and Wellington. I started tabulating the list which was guided by my colleagues and seniors in the endeavor to write this book.”

In 1844, he pointed out that the Britain burnt a library of Congress in Capitol Hill – the seat of the American government, home to the domed United States Capitol, Senate, Houses of Representatives and the Supreme Court. He also said that a library in Alexandria was destroyed by Romans due to ‘false information’ and propaganda of colonial powers. He said that Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union relinquished the name of Chechnya to end their history from ‘all’ encyclopedia books and their territory as they resisted during Second World War.

He said that Ustad Esa and Ahmed Ali Lahori were known as the real architects of Taj Mahal. “But there is no information available pertaining to their educational institutions,” he said. “We have to understand the reason that when a nation is vanquished, and the victor maintains law and order then he destroys the books first,” he said. “All the books on Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan were expunged from Chittagong libraries on November 18, 1971 after the ‘fall of Dhaka’ to end all bonds of Bengalis’ history with Pakistan’s founders,” he said.

Afrasiab Hashmi warned that history has been changed and the nation would have to remember all the great empires. “Otherwise you will be expunged from history,” he said. “We have to think, reflect and write and if we don’t, foreigners will write for us and we will read their books against us.” In his opening remarks, IRS President Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz, Ambassador Naghmana Hashmi, and NBF Managing Director Dr Raja Mazhar Hameed also spoke on the occasion, emphasizing the significance of the book for national and international readership.