Vol. 4 Num 269 Sun. February 29, 2004  
Front Page

The book that got him marked for death

Humayun Azad's satirical book 'Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad', which most likely caused Friday's assassination attempt that the writer survived with life-threatening injuries, focuses mainly on the psyche of an Islamic militant who wants to eliminate all opposition to his beliefs and establish a Taliban-style Bangladesh.

The title of the book was taken from the Pakistani national anthem and symbolises repression of the Pakistani rule till the 1971 War of Liberation. The militant hero of the book wants to take Bangladesh back to the middle ages by creating a 'distorted Pakistan'.

'Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad' was first published in the 2003 Eid supplement of Dainik Ittefaq. The progressive community hailed the novel while fundamentalists denounced it, demanding a ban on it. The novel came out in the form of a book in December last year and its second edition was just released in February.

A monologue of the book's hero reveals his past as a militant leftist involved in the politics of Sarbahara Andolon (an extremist movement) and then "purified his spirit" by the words of Abul A'la Moududi and Ayatullah Ruhulla Khomeini.

An excerpt of the monologue goes: "We are not alone, our brothers all over the world are doing their work. If they fly an airplane into a building somewhere, if some car crashes into a hospital or hotel, or if a bomb blast kills 300 people in some recreational centre, then we know it's the work of our brothers; in other words, it is our work. This is Jihad."

"There is no sin in killing in the name of Islam," is one of the teachings of the militants, Azad describes in his novel.

An activist of the 'Jama'-e-Jihad-e Islam Party', the hero does not believe in democracy but approves the killing of poets, writers and intellectuals who are viewed as infidels.

One of the characters in the book Karim Ali Islampuri says, "We must seize power. Right now, we are with the power and the main party. At some point, power will come to us, we will become the main party. We are entering everywhere. Islam will be established. Pakistan will be created. There won't be any infidels, Hindus. There won't be any Hindu or Jew under the guise of Muslim. There won't be any university. Universities are places for illegal sexual activities where men and women sit together, walk and the devil lurks among them ..."

The book then goes on to the issue of minority repression and describes many related criminal acts.

Azad drops a bombshell toward the end of the book when the militant undergoes a dramatic change of heart -- he suddenly finds himself in love with a Hindu woman and decides to abandon his militant career.

Dr Humayun Azad is a professor of Bangla at Dhaka University with over 60 books to his credit. He is often referred to as the last outspoken person in the contemporary literature for his bold statements.