The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

Published by Scribner, 2008

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. It is the only Islamic state to have nuclear weapons. Its border with Afghanistan extends over one thousand miles and is the likely hideout of Osama bin Laden. It has been under military dictatorship for thirty-three of its fiftyyear existence. Yet it is the linchpin in the United States’ war on terror, receiving over $10 billion of American aid since 2001 and purchasing more than $5 billion of U.S. weaponry in 2006 alone.

These days, relations between the two countries are never less than tense. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf reported that U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage threatened to “bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age” if it did not commit fully to the alliance in the wake of 9/11. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama said he would have no hesitation in bombing Al Qaeda inside the country, “with or without” approval of the Pakistani government. Recent surveys show that more than 70 percent of Pakistanis fear the United States as a military threat to their country.

The Bush administration spent much of 2007 promoting a “dream ticket” of Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto to run Pakistan together. That strategy, with Bhutto assassinated and the general’s party winning less than 15 percent of the contested seats in the 2008 election, is now in tatters.

With increasingly bold attacks by Taliban supporters in the border regions threatening to split the Pakistan army, with the only political alternatives—Nawaz Sharif and Benazir’s widower Asif Ali Zardari—being as corrupt as the regime they seek to replace, and with a newly radicalized movement of lawyers testing its strength as championsof the rule of law, the chances of sustained stability in Pakistan look slim.

The scion of a famous Punjabi political family, with extraordinary contacts inside the country and internationally, Tariq Ali has long been acknowledged as a leading commentator on Pakistan. In these pages he combines deep understanding of the country’s history with extensive firsthand research and unsparing political judgment to weigh the prospects of those contending for power today. The labyrinthine path between a secure world and global conflagration runs right through Pakistan. No one is better placed to trace its contours.

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Reviews: The Independent

From the archive

  • ‘Pakistan: the Aftermath’

    December 31, 2007

    ‘Pakistan: the Aftermath’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, December 31, 2007

    “Arranged marriages can be a messy business. Designed principally as a means of accumulating wealth, circumventing undesirable flirtations or transcending clandestine love affairs, they often don’t work. Where both parties are known to loathe each other, only a rash parent, desensitised by the thought of short-term gain, will continue with the process knowing full well that it will end in misery and possibly violence. That this is equally true in political life became clear in the recent attempt by Washington to tie Benazir Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf. The single, strong parent in this case was a desperate state department–with John Negroponte as the ghoulish go-between and Gordon Brown as the blushing bridesmaid—fearful that if it did not push this through both parties might soon be too old  …

  • Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone at the New York Public Library

    January 6, 2012

    January 19, 2012 7:00 pm

    New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building 5th Ave & 42nd St New York, NY 10018 USA

    Writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali and film director Oliver Stone will continue their ongoing discourse about “forgotten—or deliberately buried—episodes” from American history, from the US intervention against the Russian Revolution to the ongoing interference of the United States in Pakistani political affairs.

    In their recent public dialogue, On History, Oliver Stone asks, according to Jon Wiener, “smart questions about the rise and fall of the United States and its empire in the 20th century.” In this conversation, the tables are turned as we ask Tariq Ali to kick off with some questions for Oliver Stone, leading into a conversation between them on politics, film, and the untold history of the nation.

    Admission is $25 general, and $15  …

  • ‘Close New Zealand’s foreign ministry’

    March 23, 2011

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Michael Field for Stuff, March 21 2011

    Leftwing author, academic and radical Tariq Ali is filling Auckland lecture halls with his views of the world. Stuff’s Michael Field met him for coffee and his views on New Zealand.

    Intellectual Tariq Ali – the striking fellow the Rolling Stones wrote Street Fighting Man in honour of – sees no reason to soften a message in deference to his hosts.

    ”New Zealand is not a country one thinks of greatly when one doesn’t live here,” he says, sitting on the terrace at Auckland’s Old Government House (”surprisingly modest for the British”), before giving a deep laugh.

    New Zealand has no foreign policy but is simply a vassal of the United States, he says, and there is no point in having a standing army.

    He wonders why Maori  …