Rummaging in Book Shops

No-one told me about the bookshops of Islamabad. Not just Saeed Book Bank, in F7, but all the dingey little secondhand stores that lurk in the least promising corners of every one of the little shopping centres. They have pile upon pile of newspapers – everything from the local Urdu offerings to The Manchester Evening News – month old copies of The New Yorker for 150 rupees and stacks of books by Pakistani authors. Their shelves also groan with secondhand novels, allowing me to indulge my unnacountable weakness for Alistair Maclean.

But best of all, you can sometimes dig out long forgotten books that can’t be found anywhere else.

Into this last category I would place Sandy Gall’s book Afghanistan: Travels with the Mujahideen. We’ll overlook for now the fact that he has put an image of himself on horseback on the cover, and simply savour the fact that for my generation this guy was a newscaster famous for his “weathered looks” – thi book, published in 1989, is part of the tale of how he got them.

Then there’s the foreword by one M. Thatcher that pays tribute to Gall’s bravery and speaks in glowing terms about the Mujahideen and their role in taking on the Soviet Union. Sometimes, though it does seem that nothing much ever changes….

On the way he came across many harrowing tales, but he also witnessed, undimmed, the Afghans’ remarkable spirit of resistance.

There has to be a political settlement in Afghanistan, based on a Soviet withdrawal. To understand how this can best be achieved, we must first understand the nature of the war and of the Afghan resistance.

Erm… quite. I’m rather looking forward to reading it.


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