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

  • Michael Arditti on Night of the Golden Butterfly for the Daily Mail

    May 21, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Michael Arditti for the Daily Mail, May 21, 2010

    Tariq Ali may still be best known as a 1960s political firebrand but, in latter years, he has reinvented himself as a novelist of distinction. Night of the Golden Butterfly is the fifth volume of his Islam Quintet. Having traced the tortuous relations between the Muslim world and the West in key historical eras, he now takes on the fraught task of tackling it in the present day.

    Switching between Pakistan, China and Europe, the central narrative concerns four men—Dara, Zahid, Plato and Confucius—who were intellectual and political comrades in 1960s Lahore and are thrown together more than 40 years later when Plato asks Dara to write his biography.

    Dara agrees, but his account focuses less on Plato  …

  • 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.

  • Novembre: Paris – Aix-en-Provence – Avignon

    October 21, 2011

    Jeudi 3 Novembre, 19H 00 PARIS: Centre national du livre, Hôtel d’Avejan, 53, rue de Verneuil – Paris VIIe La Nuit du Papillon d’or

    C’est avec La Nuit du Papillon d’or, publié aux éditions Sabine Wespieser que se clôt le Quintet de l’islam de Tariq Ali. Cette « Comédie humaine de l’islam », retrace en cinq romans l’histoire des conflits entre l’Occident chrétien et la civilisation islamique, de l’an 1153 à nos jours. On retrouve bien, dans cet éblouissant cinquième volet du Quintet de l’islam, Tariq Ali tel qu’en lui-même : drôle, imaginatif, intelligent, satirique et diablement informé.

    “[Ces histoires] montrent aux Occidentaux comme aux musulmans mal informés que l’islam n’est pas synonyme de djihad. Que son histoire est celle d’une culture riche, tolérante et qui a eu ses Lumières”, expliquait récemment Tariq Ali dans une interview accordée au Monde.

    Soirée animée par Florence Noiville, journaliste au Monde.  …

  • 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.

  • ‘Shimmering Prose against the Clash of Civilisations’

    September 7, 2011

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Claudia Kramatschek for Qantara, June 10, 2011

    Since 9/11 at the latest, every fable on the state of our world appears to follow a formula that is as cheap as it is simplifying: The dominant rhetorical model is that of a clash of civilisations, depicting one side as enlightened and therefore per se in the right, and the other as backward and caught up in the constant agony of crisis and terror.

    The western media – and if nothing else the journalist and novelist Tariq Ali, who was born in Pakistan in 1943 and emigrated to London in 1963 owing to his political activities, also makes this clear in his new novel – add their own model to the mix, with the result that the word Islam automatically makes people think  …