‘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  …

Read more

‘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  …

Read more

‘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  …

Read more

‘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  …

Read more

‘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  …

Read more

From the archive

  • ‘Particular viewpoint’

    September 9, 2007

    ‘Particular viewpoint’, and interview with Tariq Ali by Aoun Sahi for News on Sunday posted at Indus Asia Online, September 9, 2007

    The News on Sunday: How do you analyse the present political scenario in Pakistan ?

    Tariq Ali: We are caught into the rut of a political cycle, which has dominated the country since October 1958. We have had military coups followed by civilian governments. This is what has been going on in Pakistan for 50 years of our history. Now the question is: Why can’t we break through this. I think the one big chance Pakistan had of modernising itself and making a new start was at the time of the break-up of the country. It was a bloody and brutal trauma, especially for the population of the then East Pakistan .

    Pakistan had an opportunity to make a new start under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. People  …

  • The Saudi Kleptocracy: ‘In Princes’ Pockets’

    June 19, 2007

    ‘In Princes’ Pockets’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, July 19, 2007

    The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

    ‘Where’s your mother?’

    ‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

    The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone  …