‘Pakistan’s Plight’

‘Pakistan’s Plight’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, January 3, 2008

A multidimensional charade is taking place in Pakistan, and it is not an edifying sight. Pervez Musharraf has discarded his uniform and is trying to cling to power, whatever the cost.

So far it has been high: the dismissal of the Supreme Court judges and their replacement by stooges; police brutality against a strong lawyers’ movement protesting the military assault on the judiciary; and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan as part of an ill-judged deal brokered by the Bush Administration and its British acolytes.

Add to this the sad spectacle of supposedly reformist, Western-backed politicians assembling like old family retainers at the feudal home of the slain leader and rubber-stamping her political will: Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has become stopgap supremo  …

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‘Mystic River’

‘Mystic River’, a review by Tariq Ali of Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity for The Nation, November 17, 2005

The sage of Bengal has pronounced. Pluralism, we are informed, has an ancient pedigree in Indian history. It is embedded in the oldest known texts of Hinduism and, like a river, has flowed through Indian history (including the Mughal period, when the country was under Muslim rule) till the arrival of the British in the eighteenth century. It is this cultural heritage, ignored and misinterpreted by colonialists and religious fanatics alike, that shapes Indian culture and goes a long way toward explaining the attachment of all social classes to modern democracy. The argumentative tradition “has helped to make heterodoxy the natural state of affairs in India,” exerting a profound influence on the country’s  …

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‘A Tale of Two Tragedies’

‘A Tale of Two Tragedies’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, October 26, 2005

The government figures provided the third week after Pakistan’s earthquake are probably a serious underestimate, but they indicate the scale of the catastrophe: 50,000 dead, 74,000 injured and at least 3.3 million—far more than after the tsunami—left homeless, virtually all of them in the mountains, where snow begins to fall in November. The poverty of the overwhelming majority of the victims is only too apparent. Bagh, a town north of Muzaffarabad, has virtually ceased to exist. In Islamabad a relief worker told me that “there is a stench of rotting corpses everywhere. In their midst survivors are searching for food. Local people say that 50,000 have died in this town alone. And more will follow if medicines and food are not equitably distributed.”

The  …

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‘Operation Iranian Freedom’

‘Operation Iranian Freedom’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, July 31, 2003

In Washington, the hawks and vultures are beginning to gaze at Iran with greed-filled eyes. The British attack dog is barking and straining at the leash. And the Israeli ambassador to the United States has helpfully suggested that the onward march of the American Empire should not be brought to a premature halt in Baghdad. Teheran beckons, and then there is always Damascus. The only argument summoned by the blood-mottled “doves” is that the occupation of Iraq should be sufficient to bring the Iranian mullahs to heel. Naturally, this latter view does not satisfy the would-be Shah or his followers in Los Angeles. The Young Pretender is appearing regularly on the BBC and CNN these days, desperate to please and a bit too eager to mimic  …

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‘A Political Solution Is Required’

‘A Political Solution is Required’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, September 17, 2001

On a trip to Pakistan a few years ago I was talking to a former general about the militant Islamist groups in the region. I asked him why these people, who had happily accepted funds and weapons from the United States throughout the cold war, had become violently anti-American overnight. He explained that they were not alone. Many Pakistani officers who had served the United States loyally from 1951 onward felt humiliated by Washington’s indifference.

“Pakistan was the condom the Americans needed to enter Afghanistan,” he said. “We’ve served our purpose and they think we can be just flushed down the toilet.”

The old condom is being fished out for use once again, but will it work? The new “coalition against terrorism” needs the  …

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From the archive

  • ‘Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair’

    February 5, 2008

    ‘Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, February 5, 2008

    When I agreed to participate in the Turin Book Fair, which I have done before, I had no idea that the ‘guest of honour’ was Israel and its 60th birthday. But this is also the 60th anniversary of what the Palestinian call the ‘nakba’…the disaster that befell them that year, when they were expelled from their villages, some killed, women raped by the settlers.

    These facts are no longer disputed. So why did the Turin Book Fair not invite Palestinians in equal numbers? 30 Israeli writers and 30 Palestinian writers (and I promise you they exist and are very fine poets and novelists) might have been seen as a positive and peaceful gesture and a positive debate might have taken  …

  • ‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’

    October 3, 2008

    ‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, October 3, 2008

    The US embassy is withdrawing from its central London fortress. If only America would quit other parts of the world it occupies

    Grosvenor Square is about to be liberated. News that the US embassy is moving to an unspecified five-acre location in south London may be good news for local residents (some of whom were renting rooms for a proper view of the rioting in 1968), but bad news for the unhealthier sections of the north London left. Till now, we could all meet happily in central London. A long march to south London is far less enticing, unless the San Francisco model of demonstrating on bikes becomes fashionable here as well.

    Of course, we could be spared all this if the United States simply  …

  • ‘At the Manor of the White Queen’ – Tariq Ali blogs for the LRB

    August 10, 2010

    Tariq Ali on Zardari for the London Review of Books Blog, August 10, 2010

    As the floodwaters surged through Pakistan, killing hundreds of people and displacing millions, the president was on his way to Europe. Properties had to be inspected; his son had to be crowned as the future leader of Pakistan at a rally in Birmingham. And to reinforce Zardari’s pose as the permanent widower of the ‘goddess of democracy’, the kids had to be introduced to both Sarko and Cameron.

    Mercifully the coronation in Birmingham was postponed. It was too crass even for the loyalists. Instead Zardari delivered an appalling speech and a Kashmiri elder, angered by the nonsense being spouted, rose to his feet and hurled one of his shoes at the businessman-president. Zardari left the hall in anger. ‘Zardari joins the Shoe Club with  …