Purpose built: Islamabad, the Cold War, and non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan
Due to Pakistan's unique history - it, like Israel, came into being immediately after WWII very pointedly to serve as a homeland for a specific religious identity (Kumaraswamy 1997) - Pakistan faced and continues to grapple with linking territory and identity, place and ideology. The region's long historical arc adds complicating layers that ask us to understand the built environment itself as a primary text via which Pakistan represents what it is and who properly belongs there. Remarkably, destruction plays a central role in the production of the built environment as text.
My work examines how fictional and non-fictional representations of the built environment in Pakistan - particularly as they involve acts of destruction - inform the production and interpretation of what it means to be "Pakistani.” The representations sometimes serve as aspirations, sometimes as descriptions of actual everyday life and sometimes as provocations to think more critically about the material consequences of interactions between history and politics as they manifest in the built environment. I approach the concept of national belonging from both internal and external angles, leveraging the nation's ongoing efforts to articulate how "Islam” operates in relation to claims of belonging for non-Muslim Pakistanis (internal approach) and to relations between the U.S. and Pakistan through the Cold War (external approach). Less an effort to plot out these approaches along parallel historical tracks, my goal is to examine where they overlap so that we might question more purposefully whether domestic and global politics have exerted a reciprocal pressure or, put more plainly, to explore whether internal efforts to Islamise Pakistan via the built environment bore any connection to Pakistan’s geopolitical role as an erstwhile U.S. ally in the Cold War.
The monumental project of siting, funding and building Islamabad, Pakistan’s new capital city, in the 1960s establishes the link between what I refer to as Pakistan’s spatialisation of Islam and global Cold War interests. The early moments of U.S.-Pakistan relations connect to the development discourses operating in Pakistan through the 1950s and 1960s, particularly through Constantinos Doxiadis’s plans for Pakistan's purpose-built capital, Islamabad, that were, in part, underwritten by the Ford Foundation. Doxiadis’s work was textual and material, captured in letters, journals, reports, plans and eventually structures, roads and more. Given that Islamabad was newly built, imagined from the ground up, its representations and all that inform them, including Doxiadis's impressions of post-Partition Pakistan, offer a singular opportunity to follow how history, politics and a variety of views shape the built environment. Additionally, I turn to literary representations of the built environment in Pakistan, with a particular interest in how non-Muslim minorities, as well as others, are imagined to occupy and move through this space. As with the textual representations emerging out of and feeding into Doxiadis’s work, these literary works also grant important perspectives into the built environment through their abilities to imagine the phenomenology of place and to create a conceptual space for the analysis and critique of what influences such experiences. Here, I concentrate on Sorayya Khan's fictional universe populated by characters appearing in a trio of fictional texts: the 1995 novella “In the Shadow of the Margalla Hills,” the 2009 novel Five Queen’$ Road (Khan 2009) and the 2017 novel City of Spies. As Khan's work weaves a multifaceted fictional universe, it engages spatially inflected quandaries unique to Pakistan raised by other scholars, including what effects the conflation of “Pakistani” with “Muslim” has had on the occupation of place and the phenomenological import of Pakistan's long-standing and irresolute issues with “Islamic” nationhood.
These quandaries invite a cross-disciplinary examination. For instance, by taking a spatial turn - that is, by attending to the territorialisation or spatialisation of Islam in Pakistan -1 extend Sadia Saeed’s analysis of how the Pakistani state inflected and took shape from "a new definition of the national community by equating the nation with Islam,” a move that, in Saeed's view, led to the “construction of new social imaginaries” (Saeed 2016: 133). I am interested in how these imaginaries take material form, especially with respect to minority experiences of the built environment. In working with representations to grasp lived spaces, I deliberately turn to both imaginative and non-fictive writings not just to scrutinise textual hierarchies but also to initiate dynamic analyses that refuse to fix the spatial aspects of representation as unchanging or mimetic. With more specific reference to the Islamabad project itself, Markus Daechsel argues that Doxiadis’s role provides a critical perspective on post-World War II development discourse that helps “to avoid the trap of automatically equating development with state agency” (Daechsel 2015: 14). Highlighting the role of non-state actors in the Islamabad project matters because it helps illustrate how dynamics within Pakistan operated within the political upheaval that immediately preceded the awarding of the Islamabad project to Doxiadis and how domestic tensions over development aid within the U.S. inaugurated an era of reliance on prominent philanthropic foundations for “soft diplomacy” in the Cold War. The interworkings of these currents in Pakistan and the U.S., as they channelled through Doxiadis’s efforts, lead Daechsel (2015: 6) to contend that Pakistan's articulation of postcolonial nationhood put it in tension with mid-century Global North development discourse, even as Pakistan sought to position itself regionally and internationally. Taken cumulatively, these scholars introduce a conversation about interconnecting issues dealing with Muslim identity, Islam, Pakistan and the built environment. I bring to this conversation a particular interest in non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan and the consideration of literary representations as source materials appropriate to address these issues.
Ten itorialising Pakistan
Pakistan, as an idea, took shape in South Asian political imaginaries well before geographical boundaries demarcated the territory that would make up the nation. From the moment of the term’s coinage, “Pakistan” already hinted at what has become a significant challenge: how to spatialise or territorialise a nationalism itself subject to contested views of the role of Islam in the nation’s identity. Choudhary Rahmat Ali's pamphlet, "Now or Never: Are We to Live or Perish Forever?,” first published in January 1933, introduced the term “Pakistan” into the many anti-colonial discourses gaining purchase in South Asia in the first decades of the 20th century. In the first clause of his pamphlet, Rahmat Ali coined the term as an acronym for the territories that would, in part, eventually make up West Pakistan: "PAKISTAN by which we mean the five Northern units of India viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan” (Rahmat 2017). The term also means "land of the pure,” a definition that neatly connects space and concept (here, religious identities).1 Within this neat connection lies an irony: the territories encompassed by Rahmat Ali's term were Muslim majority, so, while in the grander context of the British exit from South Asia, Muslims were a minority in relation to Hindus, in the space (partially) identified as Pakistan, the minority-majority ratios swung in a different direction. The minorities were the non-Muslims. And, as the process of decolonisation accelerated after World War II, this idea took on increasingly concrete dimensions, culminating in the actual territorialisation of Pakistan into a new nation bisected across the north of the South Asian subcontinent. Consequently, the minority-majority ratios, especially in what became West Pakistan, tilted even more in favour of the Muslim majority.2 Thus, the physical reality of Pakistan added new dimensions to the reality of minority status, especially in spatial terms.
In an 11 August 1947 speech to the Constituent Assembly, Muhammad Ali Jin-nah assures his soon-to-be fellow Pakistanis that they "are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan” (Jinnah 2017: n.p.). These lines encapsulate a founding spatial vision for Pakistan not only in terms of the actual physical existence of temples, mosques, churches, etc., but also in terms of mobility. NonMuslims, in this vision, will be free to move about cities and villages to get to their respective houses of worship. This vision is, at once, both descriptive insofar as it captures the everyday lived experience of people currently inhabiting the territories that would shortly become Pakistan and prescriptive in that Jinnah and members of the Muslim League were highly cognisant of the need to ensure the safety of minorities throughout the decolonising process.
Moreover, what remains as yet unexamined though crucial to this analysis of space and the built environment in relation to non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan are the broader geopolitical dynamics that may have shaped the domestic politics of the nation. Jinnah closes his 11 August 1947 address, for instance, with mention of George Marshall's greetings. Marshall, as U.S. secretary of state in the post-WWII era was, of course, the architect of the Marshall Plan and, thus, a prime mover in the U.S.’s Cold War ascendancy and its eventual identification of Pakistan as a crucial ally because of its geopolitical location? As a key player in the nascent post-war relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, John Foster Dulles, the U.S. secretary of state from 1953-1959 (Dulles was serving as the U.S. delegate to the UN in 1947), exchanged cables with the American diplomatic staff in Karachi that made clear the secretary's preference for dealing with Pakistan because of its Muslim-majority population over India, with its polytheistic majority. Dulles, a staunch Christian, believed that "people of the book” bore a natural mutual affinity and aversion to the threat of godless communism, whereas polytheists were less stringent regarding others’ belief systems. Thus, Dulles set a religiously tinged tone at a crucial formative moment in U.S.-Pakistan relations?
Doxiadis | the Ford Foundation | Islamabad
Constantinos Doxiadis's archive, including reports, diaries, letters and other papers, chronicles his immersion into the Pakistani context - its urban centres, its countryside and, in an interested and (self-)invented vein, its architectural idiom. Analyses of these documents, which themselves are products of impressions and actual projects that accumulated over nearly two decades, show the planner’s changing understanding of the place around which so much of his work centred, even as these changes did not explicitly alter his driving theories about how planning and lived experience co-mingle. Instead, Doxiadis’s papers and the material results of his work show a conflated tendency that attempts to render religion and the built environment inextricable. The strength of this connection relied, unexpectedly, on the destruction of environments that erased evidence of religiously motivated violence and, in doing so, also attempted to homogenise or unify places' identities. Perhaps despite Doxiadis’s intentions or knowledge, this unification through the planning of the built environment itself mimicked the very dynamics operating politically within Pakistan.
Doxiadis’s extended involvement in Pakistan, which spans the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, connects back to his post-World War II role as Marshall Plan administrator in Greece. His training in architecture and urban planning made him a valuable asset to post-war efforts to rebuild Greece, especially as that nation emerged from its own civil war (Brooks 1964)? As a known quantity in U.S. foreign aid circles, Doxiadis eventually began working with the Harvard Advisory Group (HAG), an organisation of academics and consultants based at Harvard who served in an advisory capacity to the government of Pakistan. Writing over 40 years ago, Asaf Hussain characterised this group’s influence in Pakistan as one "neo-colonial allianc[e]” that served to "legitimize . .. western ideologies of economic development and transfer of technology” (Hussain 1976: 926)? Supported in part through Ford Foundation money, Doxiadis and the Harvard Advisory Group wrote Pakistan's First Five Year Plan, which was to cover development in Pakistan from 1955 to 1960 (Daechsel 2015: 109).7 Clearly, Doxiadis’s work on the First Five Year Plan, the plan's administration by the HAG and that group's reliance on the Ford Foundation serve as one example of U.S. Cold War dynamics connecting to urban planning and development in the Global South.
Doxiadis’s tours of Pakistan that informed the composition of this First Five Year Plan and his subsequent involvement in the nation's business provide a compelling glimpse into the extent to which he understood the role of religion in the construction of a Pakistani national identity via the built environment. These observations about religion mark a nascent triangulation between it, Cold War interests and the built environment in Doxiadis’s records. In the writings Doxiadis penned between October and November 1954, he links his recorded observations to those of the unsurpassed Orientalist T. E. Lawrence (1999), crediting the latter’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (written between 1919 and 1926) with introducing him to the Arabian landscape even though he had never travelled there. Doxiadis’s admission of the power of Lawrence’s text - that it "taught [him] the nauire of the land and the people and their culture” (ibid.) - imbues written representations with great material significance: we can know places through textual encounters. That Doxiadis places his diary in the same tradition as Lawrence’s also traces a through line from colonial representations prior to the Second World War to the neocolonial relations that characterise the United States’ Cold War ascendancy. Doxiadis’s explicit invocation of this literary tradition as a key part of his own introduction to Pakistan signals the interestedness of his plans for this nation’s built environment.
In other words, Doxiadis’s claims to represent Pakistan in writing (and photographs that are taped into his diary) are not neutral. Daechsel formulates a convincing argument on this point, emphasising how Pakistan's unique iteration of postcolonial nationhood was at odds with modern development discourse emanating from the Global North (2015: 6). I expand this line of enquiry to include the ways Doxiadis’s plans for Pakistan's built environment overlooked central ideological and socio-cultural troubles involving that nation’s “Islamic” identity. Daechsel contends, for instance, that Doxiadis’s role as a non-state actor heading up development projects in Pakistan highlights how a "whole range of otherwise unconnected sites of struggle were brought to influence each other” (2015: 4). Compellingly. Doxiadis’s involvement in Pakistan, even years before the Islamabad project, also touches upon a site of struggle dealing with non-Muslim Pakistanis and how/where they fit into the built environments that Doxiadis planned. While his papers show his awareness of Partition's aftermath (i.e., the absence of Hindus) and a desire to design locations for their proper inhabitants (i.e., Muslims), Doxiadis does not make explicit any knowledge of the larger domestic tensions surrounding definitions of “Islam” - to say nothing of the growing intolerance for minorities - within Pakistan. This crucial disjuncture may well have facilitated Doxiadis’s ability to work successfully with the Ford Foundation, as it mirrors Dulles’s own limited understanding of religion in this new nation. A timeline outlining Doxiadis's views on religion, people and place set in line with Pakistan’s history illustrates these points.
The Pakistan diary Doxiadis wrote in the fall of 1954 records his impressions of Partition's impact on the built environment with references to non-Muslims who previously occupied the places that were now a part of Pakistan. Curiously, his views appear to shift slightly over the course of his multi-week tour of rural Sindh. At first, Doxiadis seems to value the workmanship and habitational maintenance he sees in areas previously occupied by Hindus. In an entry dated 20 October 1954, for instance, Doxiadis notes his "feeling of depression and [his] complete conviction’’ that Pakistan’s evacuee property policy is "wrong”:
Here we have good buildings but they are already in a few years' time falling to pieces. This is certainly also the Government’s fault as the ownership of these houses has not yet been given to these people [the new Pakistanis], but this is not a justification for the complete abandonment and bad maintenance of this building wealth.
(Doxiadis 201; Pakistan Diary DOX-PP 20, Oct-Nov, vol 2, archive ref 235 54)8
This despair and judgement arise from Doxiadis's observation that the nation’s wealth is “slipping through the people’s fingers” as buildings - sometimes large portions of villages - decay:
I am asking myself what has happened to the skilled workers who have been building such beautiful building [sic], Were they Hindus who left for India? I cannot get an answer to this question.
The silence Doxiadis faces in response to his question about the absent Hindus resounds in that it speaks to the very real violence that came about due to the ideological and socio-cultural currents swirling around religious identities and shaping Pakistani nationhood at the time of his visit. Although acknowledged in various official ways, Pakistani society continues to struggle with how to represent this violence and its far-reaching consequences.9
In the next paragraph, Doxiadis further ponders: "I am thinking again that it is not enough to have good buildings unless you have the right people to inhabit them and the appropriate relationship of people to buildings” (ibid.). While Doxiadis is likely referring to his Ekistics theory of the necessary connection between humans, everyday life and built environment here, his thoughts also reveal a bias that discriminates against people according to their suitability for the habitation of buildings;10 that is, Doxiadis posits an intrinsic connection between types of people and types of structures. Briefly, Ekistics is an interdisciplinary approach to the built environment, ascendant in the mid-20th century, that considered topography,
Purpose built 197 sociology, urban planning, engineering and architecture in formulating modern and ideal (as in Doxiadis’s ongoing interest in the City of the Future) habitation designs. His creeping depression suggests that he sees the Hindus' absence as a loss, as though they are the (only?) suitable inhabitants of this place, these buildings.
In subsequent entries dated 6 and 8 November 1954, Doxiadis returns to this theme of the poor maintenance of Hindu buildings. On 9 November, though, Doxiadis seems to articulate a way through the impasse caused by the absence of a place's “proper” inhabitants presented by his Ekistical convictions. Now in Lahore, Doxiadis comments:
LIT [the Lahore Improvement Trust] has shown lately a great initiative in the old town of Lahore. Following the partition and riots, a big destruction by fire or by demolition of the evacuee Hindu's [szc] properties has taken place. Big parts of the old town lie now in ruins. .. . LIT has used this occasion to open some completely new streets in the middle of the old town.
Doxiadis’s entry on 12 November 1954 records a similar phenomenon in Peshawar, marking the clearing out of Hindu structures as "an important change” (294). In both locations, the newly created openness appeals to Doxiadis, whose planning philosophies prioritised the regularity of gridded design over the maze-like and haphazard historical development of Pakistan’s old cities.11 These philosophies also insisted on the appropriate spacing of structures on plots so as to avoid a sense of crowdedness. With apparently little concern over the trauma of the riots that sparked the fires and demolition, or its aftereffects, Doxiadis sees here an opportunity to align place and people properly, that is, to align or, perhaps more accurately, conflate the built environment with Pakistanis, whom he reads as Muslim. But this conflation overlooks or ignores the centre-periphery challenges, many involving questions of religion, language and identity, the Pakistani government was facing since before the nation's inception. One of these challenges involved (and continues to involve) how to define "Islam” in a geographical region featuring an array of religious practices and identities under that name (not to mention those Pakistanis who identified and practised otherwise).
With respect to the Islamabad project more specifically, the government's proclamation of the capital’s name illustrates the force with which it was seeking to stabilise a unified national identity in the midst of pluralism, fractiousness and outright hostility. Via a process that putatively included national input, Ayub’s cabinet decided upon "Islamabad” and made the announcement on 24 February 1960. The article appearing in Dawn ("New Capital Named Islamabad” 1960), Pakistan's oldest English daily, cites Z. A. Bhutto, who was minister for National Reconstruction and Information and Broadcasting at the time, as declaring that the "new Capital would be in keeping with the ideology of Pakistan and the name Islamabad would reflect the real feelings of the people” (Dawn). In the next paragraph, the article ascribes to Bhutto the claim that the "planning of the
Capital... would reflect not only architectural individuality of Pakistan but would also develop a personality for the nation with special emphasis on the values of the people of the country” (Dawn). The import of Bhutto’s comments attesting to Islamabad's name manifesting the authentic will and values of the Pakistani people emphasise a centralised and centred national identity. As much as Doxi-adis owed to Ayub, Pakistan's first military dictator, and his strong-armed tactics (Hull 2010: 456), the urban planner did not recognise or acknowledge in his work the regime’s efforts to consolidate power and national identity around an idea of “Islam” that was not tied to the region's specificities.
Given this disjuncture, Doxiadis's success at landing the Islamabad job seems improbable. His prolonged association with the Ford Foundation, though, may have contributed to his longevity in the region. In short, that organisation had the money desperately needed by Pakistan and officially fraught in the U.S. (Daechsel 2015). Frances Stonor Saunders’s groundbreaking work. The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, traces how "the systematic organization of a network of ‘private’ groups or ‘friends’” became a "central feature of the [CIA's] efforts to mobilize culture as a Cold War weapon” (1999: 129). While Stonor Saunders focuses on work done in western Europe under the "cover” and through the "funding pipeline” of these private groups (ibid.), the Ford Foundation did not restrict its activities to that region only. As noted earlier, the HAG relied on Ford Foundation support for its work in Pakistan, and Doxiadis's participation in this group gave him the necessary contacts to keep those funding pipelines open. Any review of the leadership at the Ford Foundation in the 1950s and 1960s shows the tight connections that organisation had with the CIA and the U.S. government more broadly. Many men worked between the two entities - the foundation and the agency or U.S. government - prompting reasonable speculations over whose agenda the Ford Foundation was forwarding in its projects in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Global South.
Doxiadis's self-fashioning in the early 1950s as a mid-century South Asian T. E. Lawrence positions him in vexed relation to the very places he sought to make inhabitable for the new Pakistanis. Clearly entrepreneurial in approach, Doxi-adis nonetheless seems to have grounded his planning in ideologically charged ways when it came to considerations about non-Muslim Pakistanis and to the forces and funds supporting this work. With respect to Islamabad's afterlife, that is, after Doxiadis was no longer involved, his "planned” methodology carried through to the Capital Development Authority (CDA), which is still in existence today. While the CDA has worked seemingly around its own strictures to allow for mosque building in Islamabad, this government agency has not, according to Matthew Hull, officially accommodated its "substantial Christian population.” Hull states that "unplanned” "attempts to build [churches] have generated virulent protest” (2010: 481, n.17). At the same time, other shifts in Islamabad’s built environment attest to the increasingly evident role U.S.-Pakistan relations play in that nation’s affairs. Thus, while Doxiadis’s work in Pakistan through the 1950s and 1960s forwarded the U.S.’s Cold War agenda under the cover of development
Purpose built 199 work, by the time the Soviets asserted themselves in Afghanistan, the U.S.’s position in Islamabad imprinted itself even more materially on the built environment.
Khan’s fictional universe
Sorayya Khan's fictions animate this imprint and enrich it with imagined experience, enlivening Pakistani history, Doxiadis’s plans and Cold War geopolitics. Through three texts, Khan constructs an imagined Pakistan that tracks carefully the phenomenological consequences of that nation's history and, more specifically, its government's efforts to build and maintain a national(ist) identity in the midst of that history. With "In the Shadows of the Margalla Hills,” Five Queen’s Road and City of Spies, Khan develops a network of characters and places whose relations take shape in some measure through Pakistan’s own fitful starts and stops.12 Reading these works together as elements of a composite national imaginary - but not a nationalist one - identifies how destruction creates the elisions of non-Muslims that appear to be necessary to claim legitimacy in the nation precisely through laying claim to the built environment. Together, these three fictions suggest connections between the initial exclusions of non-Muslims at the time of Partition to the American-supported dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq and its aftermath. In gesturing toward such connections, Khan's work marks important points of intersection between Pakistan’s internal politics and broader geopolitics operating in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Published between "In the Shadows” and City of Spies, Five Queen’s Road (FOR) sets the historical precedents for the other two works, in effect making the fictions occurring in later decades possible. While it is itself split across two temporal planes, FOR portrays minority absence as foundational to the establishment of belonging for those characters deemed appropriately Pakistani. As a minority resident in Lahore after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Dina Lal gauges both belonging and displacement through his claim to the built environment. The protagonist purchases a grand home at Five Queen’s Road initially as a direct rebuke to the British. Conceding his own complicity with empire building, for "he had profited from the railway lines expanding across his village land” (FOR 15), Dina Lal nonetheless has "had enough” by the time 1947 rolls around; Radcliffe’s cartographic “etchings” spur Dina Lal to "teach [the British] a lesson. On this side of the lines in Pakistan” (ibid.). Spatial occupation, for Dina Lal, is an assertion of legitimacy: he is “like the country, land of the pure, just born” (FOR 25). Anti-colonial resentment translates into national belonging. Dina Lal’s invocation of Pakistan as "land of the pure” is not about religious identity, since he is not (as yet) Muslim, but, instead, appears to refer to the British departure from the subcontinent.
Khan's novel highlights the futility of Dina Lal's anti-colonial sentiments as the violent realities of Partition and its aftermath for Pakistan’s minority populations becomes evident. Dina Lal effectively erases himself by converting to Islam. At the same time, he partitions his grand home and invites a Muslim tenant, Amir
Shah, thinking that doing so will secure his own and his wife’s belonging, spatially and nationally. In Dina Lal's mind, these acts constitute “whatever was necessary to claim [Lahore] back” (FOR 52), even as they signal the dissipation of Dina Lal's sense of having begun a new life in the land of the pure. Within months of Amir Shah’s occupancy, however, Dina Lal's wife is abducted by unidentified men (FOR 85). That Amir Shah's presence does nothing to deter this act of violence leads Dina Lal to conclude that Amir Shah "had failed in his obligation to protect him and his wife” (FOR 91), a figurative representation of the vexed majority-minority tensions occurring extra-fictionally. Indeed, Dina Lal's expectation of Amir Shah's obligation to protect and his allegation of his tenant’s failure to do so invoke assurances made by Jinnah, such as those cited earlier, in the years leading to Partition, as well as those reasserted (though with different emphases) by Liaquat Ali Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950. In a joint agreement, the prime ministers declared:
The Governments of India and Pakistan solemnly agree that each shall ensure, to the minorities throughout its territory, complete equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion, a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honour, freedom of movement within each country and freedom of occupation, speech and worship, subject to law and morality.
(Nehru and Khan, “Agreement” 1950: 344)
When added to the prevailing gender and communal economy of this historical moment as portrayed in Khan's novel. Liaquat and Nehru's agreement appears inattentive to the lived experiences of the non-Muslim minorities who remained in Pakistan. Dina Lal goes from feeling as though he could claim belonging to Pakistan via ownership of Five Queen’s Road to recognising "the truth was [that] he was left behind” (FOR 96).
The image of Dina Lal’s ironic abandonment complicates his spatialised belonging just as much as Amir Shah's attempts to delegitimise it over the course of the two characters' long association. In the novel’s first unnamed reference to Dina Lal, for instance, readers learn that “Amir Shah wasted as little energy as he could on a person [Dina Lal] who had made it his mission to rob him of his peace and property alike” (FOR 11). This initial presentation of Dina Lal, made early in the novel but ten years into his and Amir Shah's acquaintance, invites the conclusion that Amir Shah is the proprietor of Five Queen's Road, as it is Dina Lal who seeks “to rob” his "peace." Although the novel makes Dina Lal's ownership of the house clear when it introduces the earlier narrative plane in the next chapter, Amir Shah's claims of ownership in the later plane prompt confusion in the reader and demonstrate the imbalanced interdependence of both characters' identities. The power differentials revolve on an axis of religious identity and the built environment.
The novel also includes crucial episodes that return again to the placelessness of non-Muslim minorities. For instance, in the novel's epilogue dated 1980, the city of Lahore sends an announcement to Amir Shah at his new residence informing him that Five Queen's Road will be demolished. Yunis feels compelled to witness the demolition. As the bricks crumble, Yunis stifles the unexpected anger that rises within him. His anger's targets include: "The angrez, for one. The prime ministers, the presidents, generals and the reach of all who had come in between and would surely come again” (FOR 210). Khan's precedent-setting novel closes in this context: the anger of a non-Muslim Pakistani at the actors responsible for the nation's history. Tellingly, this history, in Yunis’s view, is a violent one, a force encapsulated by the narrator's description of the house at Five Queen's Road as "being devoured" (FOR 209). Thus, rather than have the house’s demolition be a clearing of the Muslim-Hindu tensions that sparked the contentious living arrangements between Dina Lal and Amir Shah, the novel instead posits the house's city-sanctioned destruction as yet another erasure of non-Muslim minority belonging to the built environment.
Through the fiction’s temporal expansion within FOR itself and into City of Spies, its companion novel, passing decades and their accompanying historical events naturalise the majority-minority imbalances through generational ties. City of Spies opens in 1977 Islamabad with Amir Shah's son Javid, Javid's wife Irene, and their three children relocating to Pakistan's capital after years in Vienna. Drawn back home and to the newly inhabited capital by Javid's job as head of the Water and Power Development Authority, this novel concentrates most on Pakistan-U.S. relations and, in doing so, seems to leave off any concerns about non-Muslim minorities. However, Amir Shah’s recurring presence, as well as that of Yunis and his brother Sadiq, who is not a convert to Christianity like his brother, draws a through line from Five Queen’s Road to the present narrative.13 Javid and Irene's youngest child Aliya serves as the novel's narrator, and her status as a child allows the novel to filter its highly charged political events through a child’s (albeit precocious) naivete. For instance, as the novel's opening timeframe indicates, the family's return to Pakistan coincides with Zia’s coup and the expansion of the Islamisation process Bhutto inaugurated. The family and particularly Javid, due to his government post, are thus at the epicentre of the nation’s very explicit efforts to spatialise Islam in public life. Indeed, Javid’s prominence - his job literally makes him responsible for the nation's infrastructure - is made possible through the privilege of his upbringing by Amir Shah. It derives from that family's relationship to the house at Five Queen's Road or, to be more direct, to the debt they own Dina Lal, their Hindu landlord. Yunis’s appearance in this later story, too, subtly recalls his own displacement even while he continues to bear considerable responsibility for Amir Shah.
City of Spies features a violent alteration of the built environment - the burning of the American embassy in Islamabad in 1979 - once again to call attention to the sublimation of historical trauma rather than the inauguration of a more hopeful and equitable order. Due to Aliya's role as narrator, the embassy attack unfolds retrospectively only after she is rescued by Amir Shah from the American school, which is also a target. As she puts together a larger understanding of what transpired, Aliya mentions that the next day’s newspapers did not “ofte[r] a solid reason for why the general [Zia] had not sent help to the burning embassy” (City 181). Zia’s apparent disregard for the peril experienced by the American diplomats, which mirrors actual historical accounts, appears to signal a Pakistani disengagement from U.S. influence. Javid's responses to Aliya's enquiries about the aftermath of the attack reinforces this possibility:
‘‘The newspaper said the Americans fled to a vault” [states Aliya].
"Perhaps it’s a large room where they keep confidential papers, special equipment or . . .” [replied Javid].
"With enough space to fit one hundred and thirty-seven people?” I asked doubtfully.
My father cleared his throat and changed the subject. "Things will be different once US citizens leave the country . .
"Why will things be different once the Americans leave Pakistan?” [asks Aliya].
"For one thing, there are so many of them,” my father said (City 183).
This exchange illustrates how Khan's novel makes use of Aliya’s childlike perspective: she’s smart enough to question but not worldly enough to know what her father’s elisions and silences signify. In this instance, Javid will not be explicit about the Americans’ intelligence activities and the influence these activities wield over Pakistan. Nonetheless, his replies to Aliya do indicate Javid's sense that American absence from the place itself will benefit Pakistan. This absence is prompted, of course, by the violent destruction of the most explicit signifier of American presence: the embassy. Much as with Doxiadis's determination that the demolition of Hindu structures in Lahore and Peshawar, as well as the razing of the house at Five Queen's Road in Khan's other novel, Javid’s attitude toward the "good” derived from the violent alteration of the built environment and, relatedly, the Americans’ mobility throughout the capital privileges moving on from historical trauma rather than directly addressing or working through it.
Khan's fictional depictions of Pakistanis in place and in history serve as an exploration of the possible lived experiences that coincide with, result from or themselves influence how history materialises, so to speak, in the built environment. As her novels engage the many decades of Pakistan’s existence, their development plays out a critique of how identity connects to place by interweaving seemingly domestic issues involving religious minorities with decidedly global Cold War concerns. In this layered context that conjoins the internal and the external, Khan's novels subtly make visible a recurring tendency to frame the built environment - or its demolition - as a flat or oversimplified way of containing or enabling select articulations of identity. Considering these fictions alongside Doxiadis’s work enlivens what Doxiadis’s theory of Ekistics aimed to capture: namely, how people and place engage in everyday life. In many ways, Doxiadis’s attitudes, even aside from his Ekistical theorisations, similarly flatten the relation
Purpose built 203 between identity and place. Given the geopolitical moment in which he was working, this flattening, perhaps inadvertently, forwarded ideological agendas for both the U.S. in its Cold War antagonisms with the Soviet Union and Pakistan in its own struggles with defining “Islam” and securing a national(ist) core.
From even before Pakistan’s inception, its advocates deployed Muslim identity as a crucial factor in their argument for political, social, cultural and economic autonomy from India’s Hindu majority. Post-Partition Pakistan saw the reiteration of this distinguishing feature in ways that became, at least officially, increasingly orthodox, exclusive and encompassing: Pakistan went from a homeland for India’s Muslims to an Islamic republic. This trajectory did not launch in a vacuum, and its propellers and consequences draw from or impact many quarters, including the U.S. and non-Muslim Pakistanis. With respect to the construction of Pakistan’s new capital, this trajectory begs the question: for whom was it purpose built?
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