‘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

  • The Vassal’s Revolt

    September 2, 2013

    Rejoice. Rejoice. The first chain of vassaldom has been broken. They will repair it, no doubt, but let’s celebrate independence while it lasts. For the first time in fifty years, the House of Commons has voted against participating in an imperial war. Aware of the deep and sustained opposition inside the country and within the military establishment, members of parliament decided to represent the will of the people. The speeches of all three leaders were pretty pathetic. Neither the opposition amendment nor the war resolution could muster enough support. That’s all we needed. The thirty odd Tory dissidents who made British participation impossible by voting against their leadership deserve our thanks. Perhaps now the BBC will start reflecting popular opinion instead of acting as the voice of the warmongers.

    Given Britain’s status abroad as Washington’s bloodshot adjutant, this vote will  …

  • A Review of The Book of Saladin

    November 11, 2008

    The Book of Saladin reviewed by Vinod Joseph in Epic India, November 11, 2008

    In The Book Of Saladin, Tariq Ali goes back a few centuries from his first book, Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree. This second novel in Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet is set in the 12th Century and is narrated by Ibn Yakub, a Jewish scribe retained by Saladin to pen his memoirs.

    As the name suggests, The Book Of Saladin revolves around Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. As most people know, Saladin’s biggest achievement was the recapture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders and its defense against subsequent invasions. Tariq Ali has done an excellent job in portraying Saladin’s character. Saladin is not your average, run-of-the-mill brave King who dashes off into danger  …