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Review by Adil Najam
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A few years ago a friend gave me a wonderful gift. A copy of the January 4, 1948 issue of LIFE magazine. This is the issue with a rather unflattering portrait of a clearly ailing ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ on its cover.
For most part the cover story – with pictures by Margaret Bourke-White – is as unflattering as the picture of Mr. Jinnah on the cover. Margaret Bourke-White is an important chronicler of the events of 1947 and beyond in both India and Pakistan. She has strong views on these events, including on the creation of Pakistan and on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. These views, also reflected in the LIFE article, are much discussed and sometimes debated in academic and popular treatise. These are not the subject of this post.
What has always fascinated me much more, and what I want to talk about today, are the pictures and accounts of everyday life in Pakistan at its birth. How severe were the existential challenges of survival the country faced at that time. How much has changed. And how much has not.
This being LIFE, the real story is in the pictures much more than in the text. My favorite picture is the one on the right. The caption reads:
“MODERN PAKISTAN WOMEN are symptomatic of the progress the new nation is struggling to make. Here, led by Zeenat Haroon, young members of the Sind province Women’s National Guard meet to practice the use of the bamboo lathi in self-defense. But most Pakistan women still prefer the old custom, even to the veiled face.”

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