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

  • Lennonisms

    February 2, 2010

    Tariq Ali on John Lennon’s politics and Power to the People, for The Guardian, February 2, 2010

    John Lennon’s power for the people … Whether or not Lennon did regret his associations with the radical left, I still remember his beliefs—and his voice—fondly.

    Maurice Hindle’s comments raise some interesting questions regarding John Lennon’s politics. For the record, it might be useful to point out that it was Lennon who rang and wanted a conversation, a year after the 1969 exchange on the Beatle’s album Revolution in the “ultra-left” Black Dwarf. We met a number of times before the interview that Robin Blackburn and I conducted for the even more “ultra-left” Red Mole.

    The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he’d written a song for the movement, which  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘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’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • The Obama Syndrome reviewed in the Kathmandu Post

    January 5, 2011

    The Obama Syndrome reviewed by Anthony Wentzel for the Kathmandu Post, December 24 2010

    Normally, I wouldn’t recommend judging a book by its cover. But in the case of Tariq Ali’s latest release The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, the image on the cover speaks volumes about the ideas contained within. A surreal picture stares back at the viewer: the face of US President Barack Obama, but with a fragment missing. Where the missing fragment of Obama’s face should be is an all too familiar grin, that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Ali’s thesis is established even before the first page is flipped: Obama does not signal a departure from the status quo of American politics, but instead represents a continuation of the policies of those who ruled  …