‘Victor Kiernan: Marxist historian, writer and linguist who challenged the tenets of Imperialism’

‘Victor Kiernan’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, February 20, 2009

Victor Kiernan, professor emeritus of Modern History at Edinburgh University, was an erudite Marxist historian with wide-ranging interests that spanned virtually every continent. His passion for history and radical politics, classical languages and world literature was evenly divided.

His interest in languages was developed at home in south Manchester. His father worked for the Manchester Ship Canal as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese and young Victor picked these up even before getting a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School, where he learnt Greek and Latin. His early love for Horace (his favourite poet) resulted in a later book. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied History, imbibed the prevalent anti-fascist outlook and like many others joined the British Communist Party.

Unlike some  …

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‘Musharraf was rambling and impervious to tormented cries from his people’

‘Musharraf…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, August 19, 2008

General Pervez Musharraf acted swiftly and ruthlessly when he seized power to become Pakistan’s fourth military dictator in October 1999. He proclaimed himself Chief Executive of Pakistan. When he lost the confidence of two key board members—the United States and the Pakistan Army—majority shareholders of Pakistan plc, he realised his time had come. After a rambling, incoherent address to the nation, replete with the most puerile self-justifications, he resigned. He should have done so when his term expired, but afflicted with the power disease, his mind remained impenetrable to the tormented cries from below.

We can only speculate whether he would have lasted nine years had it not been for 9/11 and the “war on terror”. A previous dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), had similarly become a vital cog  …

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‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade’

‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, December 31, 2007

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in  …

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‘Pakistan takes yet another step into the dark night’

‘Pakistan takes yet another step into the dark night’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, November 4, 2007

For anyone marinated in the history of Pakistan yesterday’s decision by the military to impose a state of emergency comes as no surprise. Martial law in this country has become an antibiotic: in order to obtain the same results one has to keep doubling the doses. This was a coup within a coup.

General Pervez Musharraf ruled the country with a civilian façade, but his power base was limited to the army. And it was the army Chief of Staff who declared the emergency, suspended the 1973 constitution, took all non-government TV channels off the air, jammed the mobile phone networks, surrounded the Supreme Court with paramilitary units, dismissed the Chief Justice, arrested the president of the bar association and  …

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From the archive

  • ‘Dr Tariq Ali on history and politics’

    April 18, 2011

    By Sarah-Jane Bradfield for Rhodes University, April 14  2011

    Writer, journalist, filmmaker and public intellectual Dr Tariq Ali addressed a capacity crowd at Eden Grove this week on the current uprisings in the Arab world and their links to contemporary history and the international community.

    In his talk entitled “The West, the Arab World and its Discontents”, Dr Ali, who was born in Lahore in 1943 and educated at Oxford, attributed the current uprisings in the Arab world to widespread dissatisfaction with the neo-liberal capitalism system.

    “This particular system punishes the poor and rewards the rich, who are blinded by greed. Things reached a breaking point and uprisings were triggered because of the inability of the elite to deal with the discontent and the refusal of the poor to continue living in dire conditions,” he said.

    To fully understand the current  …

  • Portland Oregonian reviews Night of the Golden Butterfly

    June 26, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Lydia Beyoud for the Portland Oregonian, June 26, 2010

    Sicily, Spain, Istanbul, Jerusalem. For over a quarter-century, Tariq Ali has been transporting readers to Muslim lands through the historical novels of his Islam Quintet. In them, the staunchly leftist British-Pakistani filmmaker and historian marries tales of art, political intrigue, and sensuality with his particular blend of invective, highbrow intellectualism and bawdy humor.

    Though Ali’s writing is always a commentary upon the present day, the Quintet’s previous four novels are set in a different historical era when the bright lights of cosmopolitan and intellectually curious Islamic civilizations still shone but had begun to fade. In each, the fortunes of the West are inextricably bound to those of the waning East, a narrative theme commenting upon the preposterousness of  …

  • Pakistan’s Osama bin Laden report is more cover-up than self-criticism

    July 11, 2013

    “Pakistan’s Osama bin Laden report is more cover-up than self-criticism” by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, 10th July 2013

     

    After the US helicopter assault on Osama bin Laden’s quarters in Abbottabad and his assassination by navy Seals in 2011, a shaken Pakistani government set up a commission of inquiry, presided over by a retired judge, Javed Iqbal. Its findings, a part of which was leaked to al-Jazeera this week, reveal the country’s intelligence agencies at loggerheads and in a general state of confusion.

    The evidence of General Pasha, the former chief of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, is particularly interesting, with its account of Bin Laden’s travels in Pakistan following the war on Afghanistan, and explanation of how one of his aides used his Pakistani identity card to buy a plot of land not far from the Pakistan military  …