"Shame" and modern Pakistani history (mild spoilers, perhaps)

Mods: this might be better suited for Café Society, since it deals with the plot of a novel; but since I’m also looking for factual answers, I figured it would fit better here. Feel free to move it if you see fit.

I just finished re-reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Shame, by Salman Rushdie. I know that much of the plot of the novel mirrors modern Pakistani history, and that two of the main characters, Iskander Harappa and Raza Hyder, are thinly veiled portraits of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, respectively. On the other hand, Rushdie did change some of the story around (most notably, Hyder’s fate in the novel is rather different from Zia-ul-Haq’s.) But how faithful is the rest of the novel to history, and how much did Rushdie embroider to make a better novel? More specifically, I was wondering about the following things:
[ul][li]Haroun Harappa seems to be a portrayal of Ahmed Reza Kasuri, the politician that Bhutto was accused of trying to have killed. Was Kasuri involved in the government of Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, as Haroun Harappa is in the novel? Was he related to Bhutto, as the novel implies?[/li][li] Talvar Ulhaq seems to be Rushdie’s version of Masood Mahmood. Was Mahmood a polo player before becoming head of the FSF? Was he actually Zia-ul-Haq’s son-in-law?[/li][li] Did a real person corresponding to Omar Khayyam Shakil (the third “main character” of the novel) exist? A doctor who was a good friend of Bhutto’s, and/or married Zia-ul-Haq’s feeble-minded daughter? (Come to think of it, did Zia-ul-Haq actually have a feeble-minded daughter?)[/li][/ul]
Obscure questions, I know, but I figured if anyone on the web could help me, they’d be on the SDMB. :slight_smile:

It’s quite a coincidence that you posted this as I am in a book group reading Shame at this moment. Although I know a bit about Indian history, I don’t know anything more about Pakistan that you already shared. I hope you get some good responses to your questions.

Rushdie is one of my favorite authors, but I find that it really helps to know about Indian/Pakistani history and culture. It doesn’t hurt to understand a fair amount of classical mythology either! This, combined with his writing style puts a lot of people off Rushdie. Me, I love it!

One thing that is particularly tricky with Rushdie is knowing where the historical references stop and fiction starts. For example, what about the character development of Isky and Raza? Did Bhutto and ul-Haq go through periods of irresponsible debauchery before hearing the political calling and cleaning up their act? What about Rani Harappa’s 18 shawls? Is this an allegory to anything in Islamic or Pakistani history?

By the way, Rushdie is set to release his next novel in Oct/November. It will be called Shalimar the Clown. I am really looking forward to it.

Hmm. It appears that there are some questions too specialized for the SDMB to answer…

Have you noticed a decrease in the ‘knowledge’ base of SDMB since the introduction of the membership fee? It may just be anecdotal, but I feel that the number and depth of responses (especially in GQ) seems to have decreased.

That said, the questions spurred me into action and I wrote to one of my friends in Lahore. This is his response:

“… Bhutto (ZAB) was deposed by Zia via a military coup in 1976, Ahmed Raza Kasuri was killed (or murdered depending on the political affiliation) in 1974, the soviet invasion of Afghanistan was on December 24 1979. FSF (Federal security force) was an internal intelligence organisation formed by ZAB as his brown shirts and were disbanded or merged into other organisation soon after him. ZAB was hanged (or murdered depending on the political affiliation) on April 4 1979. Masood Mahmood indeed was the head of FSF who later turned state witness and his testimony directly led to Bhuttos death. Zia does have a special (dim witted…choose your own politically correct word) daughter (who is still living and incidently had her birthday few days ago) called Zain. some of the characters are just part of the story…but believe me life is stranger than fiction and some characters are less vile than some humans…”
I particularly like his last sentence. And some of Rushdie’s characters are pretty damn vile…

I was thinking that you might get more responses if you tried Cafe Society. That way you could get the attention of others who have read the book and made similar inquiries…

Rushdie invented the disabled daughter and found out there was such a person afterwards, IIRC.