‘The Rat-boys of Karalabad”, a New Book by Pakistani-American Author Zulfiqar Rashid


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According to the author, while this new book is a work of fiction, it is based on personal experiences of the author. He observed some of the events during the time he spent in Pakistan, and other experiences are from his own life.

The book deals with difficult social issues such as child abuse, deification of humans, and the corrupting of religion for personal gain.

The author provided the following synopsis of the book:

“After learning that his parents are not only alive but living only a few hours away in the city, Omar, the heir to the ancient shrine of Karalabad, decides to meet them, risking his very life as he sneaks from under the watchful eye of Pir Sahib, the holy man with a black, evil heart, who at one time Omar thought was his father. While Omar has some fond memories of his childhood, his life takes a drastic turn when he runs into a ‘Rat-boy’ – one of the many mysteries of the shrine. Through this unplanned encounter, Pir Sahib rips the veil of innocence from Omar’s eyes, accelerating his training and vividly showing Omar that to disobey is to court death. After living through heart-wrenching loss, and being forced to commit unspeakable acts of terror and cruelty, when Omar stands face-to-face with his real parents, he knows he must find any means possible to run away from his life of lies. But even when he does the unimaginable with the help of the lovely Zarina, can he really escape the brutal grasp of the three hundred-year history of the shrine?”

The book was published in July 2013, and had had numerous positive reviews. It is available on amazon.com and itunes.

Sampling of book reviews:

“The Rat-boys of Karalabad is a must-read for fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner…As I made my way through the suspenseful pages of Rashid' s book, I wondered at some point whether or not readers were meant to feel empathy for Pir Sahib, who, if tradition was followed, was also kidnapped by his predecessor. Rashid simply replied, "I certainly don't. He's the villain." April 28, 2014, Jenny Platt, “Life in LA”


“This is one of the most eye-opening books I've ever had the pleasure to read. Brilliantly and beautifully written, the story is of a young boy being groomed to become the next Pir Sahib of a religious shrine. By turns poignant, horrifying, infuriating, but ultimately redemptive, the book let me into a world I didn't know existed. Filled with insight into Pakistani culture, it educates as it entertains. In the tradition of Khaled Hosseini, this one is better.”

January 2013, Susan Malone, Developmental Editor

“The reader briefly steps into a different world, one so corrupt and inhumane you scarcely think it could possibly exist, yet it does. The life of child beggars is brought to light in this book along with the industry they support. Children are kidnapped at a very young age and then have their head and limbs tightly bound, leaving them disfigured and brain-damaged – rat-like in appearance. Even though the story itself is fiction, it is based on the children of Southeast Asia who are intentionally disfigured in order that people will feel sorry for them and give them money.”

April 08, 2014, “War or Terror News”

“I do like a good story - a plot has to keep my interest and The Rat Boys of Karalabad has a well-paced plot. The setting has to be as powerful and the characters this one was. I think perhaps there could've been some even more evocative description of the plot - it's an evocative place with a colorful and vibrant setting so maybe more could've been made of that. For me, I have to feel for (or against) the characters and The Rat Boys' protagonist was carefully created such that I wanted him to 'win'. I liked him and his 'friends' and I came to despise his 'enemies', the book's antagonists. It was that emotion and hope for the protagonist that kept me reading quickly. I was quickly enchanted by the story and its characters such that I was reading well into the small hours. If you enjoyed The Kite Runner, I strongly recommend this book to you.”

January 14, 2014, Ryan, Amazon Reviewer

“In Zulfiqar Rashi’s debut novel, life takes place in a barren part of the palace of a high ranking official. Within the palace walls is all one could possibly need. The man who calls the palace home, opens his doors to feed anyone who wants to come. They ask for help in healing. He is like their lord, a father and a healer. His rosary beads in hand, his calm manner of speaking to those who come to him, believe in him, believe they need him…Well written, this book keeps your interest and keeps you wondering what's going to happen next. The kindness of Omar is what keeps the smile in one's heart as you read on. Thank you, Omar. Pick up a copy and enjoy. Wisdom, greed, joy, love, family. Isn't that what fuels the world?”

July 13, 2013, Judy Petersen, Authorlink Press

Book Spotlight: Looking for an interesting read that will immerse you in a little known world far away? The Rat-Boys of Karalabad ” is a unique and at times harrowing fictionalized account of a culture that allows for the exploitation of children.  The Rat-boys of Karalabad’ is author Zulfiqar Rashid’s first novel. Like any good story it has universal themes like a loss of innocence, search for self, and coming to terms with the past. The protagonist (Omar) is an appealing character, and I can see this book easily being made into a film at some point.”

April 03, 2014 “Monsters & Critics”


“New Book, ‘The Rat-boys of Karalabad,’ Shines a Light on Pakistan's Begging Industry.

In the new novel “The Rat-boys of Karalabad,” Pakistan native Zulfiqar Rashid looks at Southeast Asia’s begging industry through the eyes of a child destined to inherit the position of “saint” at a religious shrine. The story is fiction, but the shrines across the region, and the purposefully disfigured child beggars forced to work at them, are very real, Rashid says.”

August 27, 2013, PRWEB.com


About the author: Zulfiqar Rashid was born in Pakistan, and now resides in Southern California. As a regular contributor to various newspapers, Rashid has written extensively, recounting his travels to Pakistan, and about major figures in the Pakistani artistic and cultural scene. Rashid is also an accomplished artist and calligrapher, whose art has been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune. His works have been exhibited at galleries in San Diego, Del Mar, and La Jolla, as well as the San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego Port Authority’s “I Madonnari” festival. For more information, visit http://www.zulfiqarrashid.com/ .



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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