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

  • ‘Venezuela After the Referendum’

    December 3, 2007

    ‘Venezuela After the Referendum’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, December 3, 2007

    Hugo Chavez’ narrow defeat in the referendum was the result of large-scale abstentions by his supporters. 44 percent of the electorate stayed at home. Why? First, because they did not either understand or accept that this was a necessary referendum. The measures related to the working week and some other proposed social reforms could be easily legislated by the existing parliament. The key issues were the removal of restrictions on the election of the head of government (as is the case in most of Europe) and moves towards ‘a socialist state.’ On the latter there was simply not enough debate and discussion on a grassroots level.

    As Edgardo Lander, a friendly critic pointed out:

    “Before voting in favour of a constitutional reform which will define the  …

  • Tariq Ali speaks to Democracy Now about the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize

    November 27, 2012

    The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year for its historic role in uniting the continent. Committee chair Thorbjoern Jagland praised the EU for transforming Europe “from a continent of wars to a continent of peace.” The selection surprised many as it comes at a time when much of Europe is facing an economic crisis that threatens the EU’s future. Tariq Ali spoke to Democracy Now about the award and the state of the European Union.

    To see the interview visit the Democracy Now website.

  • Tariq Ali with Noam Chomsky on The Julian Assange Show

    June 28, 2012

    Appearing on The Julian Assange Show alongside renowned linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali argues that the “infectious” Arab Spring has spread to the US and Russia, and is still underway. Criticising the “extreme centre”, a political consensus of centrist neoliberal orthodoxy that destroys political diversity and opposition, Ali talks about how the speed and flair of the Arab Spring caught everyone, from dictators and their sponsors to the Western media, by surprise.

    Assange, Ali and Chomsky continue to discuss the “new hope” that resides in South America Bolivarian movements, and the democratic crisis in the Eurozone.