In the time it has taken to write this book on Pakistan, I have begun research
and made swift progress toward a second, on Bangladesh. This discrepancy
in the two temporalities of research and writing has me wondering if the
di√erence lies in the fact that a first book takes longer to write than subse-
quent ones because one has never written a book before it. I don’t think,
however, that this fact alone is the reason, because I have come to under-
stand that one’s actions are not exclusively one’s own, that they bear the
impersonal impress of external forces. Pakistan underwent a sea change
after I completed my doctoral research, with 9/11, participation in the United
States’ war against terrorism, and drastic rearrangements in its national
politics, and this sea change, without a doubt, has left its mark in the tem-
porality of this book, as I have had to return to Pakistan several times if only
to absorb the shifting moods accompanying these changes. But I have also
been slowed down by the overwhelming sense, at the completion of my
dissertation in 2003, that while it was a more than adequate piece of writing
I wanted to meditate further on Pakistan to be able to speak about it. While I
wanted to critique its history and present, I wanted still to be a≈rmative.
This was easier said than done, and the seven years that it has taken to
complete this book have entailed considerable self-work, for me to be able
to read widely and deeply into the literary and state archives and to visit and
revisit friends and informants, some of whose fortunes have flailed and
others flourished, while attempting to keep up with the changing political
scene without falling into the apocalyptic mode that often creeps into dis-
cussions on Pakistan (remember Hillary Clinton describing the existential
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