‘A firebrand revolutionary’

‘A firebrand revolutionary’, an interview with Tariq Ali by Ayesha Azfar for Dawn, April 21, 2006

At the height of the Zia era when all pro-democracy voices had been stifled, getting hold of banned political literature was considered something of a feat. However, it rarely followed that the forbidden treasure carried a message of hope, or that it even temporarily banished the dark images of Pakistan’s longest and most brutal military dictatorship from the mind. Leftist intellectual and activist Tariq Ali’s ominously titled Can Pakistan Survive?: The Death of a State, a work that furtively found its way into bookshelves in the early 1980s, was no exception.

More than 20 years after its publication, the one-time fiery student leader who was packed off to Oxford by his parents to escape the wrath of the Ayub regime, and who continues to write books and actively participate in left activities around the world, remains disenchanted with Pakistani politics. “I think this country is headed for stagnation,” he says, “It’s a country very dependent on foreign largesse despite all the propaganda generated by Shaukat Aziz. There is no political vision within the two so-called secular parties. One (PML) is basically just a clique of opportunists. The other, the Pakistan’s People’s Party, still has some good people but its policies are totally determined by the whims of Benazir.” read more