Of Historical Contestations Across the Durand Line
Rana Banerji
THE PASHTUNS: A CONTESTED HISTORY by Tilak Devasher HarperCollins India, 2022, 304 pp., 799.00
January 2023, volume 47, No 1

Pashtuns are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world who do not have their own country but straddle across a contiguous stretch of territory, across northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. They have been embroiled in wars with the British, invaded by the Soviet Union and suffered an almost two-decade long interference by the United States, albeit sometimes benign. Despite sharing common ethnic, linguistic, cultural and familial bonds, they have been forced to face continuous violence, refugee influx/exodus and other disruptive influences, not least from a radicalized version of Islam, depriving generations of peace, civilized living and the fruits of development.

After Olaf Caroe’s classic The Pathans (1958), and more recently, Thomas Barfield’s Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (2010), this book is the first comprehensive account easily accessible to Indian readers on this vastly complex subject. The author Tilak Devasher retired as Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.  Currently, he is a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB). He has written three other widely acclaimed books on Pakistan: Pakistan: Courting the Abyss (2016), Pakistan at the Helm (2018) and Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum (2019).

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