‘The Colour Khaki’

‘The Colour Khaki’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Jan-Feb 2003

Now each day is fair and balmy,

Everywhere you look, the army.

Ustad Daman (1959)

On 19 September 2001, General Pervaiz Musharraf went on TV to inform the people of Pakistan that their country would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States in its bombardment of Afghanistan. Visibly pale, blinking and sweating, he looked like a man who had just signed his own death warrant. The installation of the Taliban regime in Kabul had been the Pakistan Army’s only foreign-policy success. In 1978, the US had famously turned to the country’s military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq when it needed a proxy to manage its jihad against the radical pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan. In what followed, the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence became an army within an army, with much of its budget supplied directly from Washington. It was the ISI that supervised the Taliban’s sweep to power during Benazir Bhutto’s premiership of the mid-nineties; that controlled the infiltration of skilled saboteurs and assassins into Indian-held Kashmir; and that maintained a direct connexion with Osama bin Laden. Zia’s successors could congratulate themselves that their new province in the north-west almost made up for the defection of Bangladesh in 1971. read more