There are, I discovered, less than half a dozen good bookshops in the whole of Lahore, once considered to be the intellectual capital of India, that stock books in English.
The vast majority of these books are, curiously enough, published in India, a few in the West and the rest, a very small proportion, are local Pakistani publications.
The vast majority of the titles on display were about Islamic rituals and theology, hagiographic accounts of the Prophet, early Muslim warriors, saints, rulers and ulama, treatises on the ideological founders of Pakistan and on the "Two-Nation Theory", tomes on the history of the Muslim League and the alleged perfidy of the Hindus, accounts of Pakistani rulers by their supporters and critics, besides hundreds of texts containing gems of Urdu literature.
Although important as sources of Pakistani history and national identity, they had little to reveal about the actual social realities of Pakistan today that I was keen on knowing more about, a telling reminder, once again, of the poverty of intellectual discourse in the country.
No equivalent of the Indian Islamic scholars As a student of Islamic history, I was particularly interested in procuring books by socially engaged Pakistani scholars articulating progressive positions on various issues through engaging creatively with the Islamic scholarly tradition.
However, wading through the books on display in the shops in the Urdu Bazaar, I found that few such texts are actually available.Few books The Urdu publishing scene in Pakistan is somewhat different, although I found it almost as uninspiring as its English counterpart.Lahore's famed Urdu Bazaar, located in a chaotic, run-down part of the old town, consists of several narrow lanes lined with filth-clogged drains, almost impossible to wade through.Quite awful actually." I thought the man was exaggerating, but I was soon to discover that he was not entirely wrong.In my interactions with a wide cross-section of people in various places that I visited in Pakistan during my one-month visit I was shocked at the pathetic state of intellectual discourse that seemed to pervade the country, which I often unconsciously contrasted with the situation in India.Kaushik was tortured for two years at an interrogation centre in Sialkot, jailed in Mianwali for another 16 years and was left to die.In November 2001, Kaushik succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis and heart disease and died in the New Central Multan Jail. Kaushik loved theatre and performing characters as a teenager and that's how RAW spotted him.It is said that Kaushik had learned Urdu, acquainted himself with Muslim religious texts and the terrain of Pakistan during his training.Image: Facebook He was sent to Pakistan with a new name- Nabi Ahmed Shakir, while all his records in India was destroyed.He later completed his LLB from Karachi University and joined Pakistan Army and became a commissioned officer.