Pakistan Through the Eyes of a Native Son

by RON JACOBS

Tariq Ali opens his new book The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, with the declaration that the struggle in Pakistan is not a battle between Islamists and tribal residents of Waziristan and the Pakistani government, but between the government and the bulk of the Pakistani population.  In fact, continues Ali, this has always been the case.  He then continues by explaining historically why and how this is so.

Ali was a leader of the popular resistance movement that spread through Pakistan in  the late 1960s, culminating in the 1969 fall of Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship.  It is  his participation in this movement that informs his passionate belief that a truly democratic Pakistan can exist.  Unfortunately, it is also the defeat of that movement–most graphically illustrated in the decision by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Zia Bhutto to attack East Pakistan in 1970 in a murderous civil war that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh–that forces Ali to admit that the rule of the military must be removed in order for such a democracy to come into fruition.  Furthermore, the corruption that defines Pakistan’s major parties has to be destroyed.

The Duel is a tale of conflict not only between the government and the people, but between different agencies of the government, various landed families that fight to rule the land, and even occasionally murderous feuds between family members.  It is also a history of a nation created because religious differences were fanned into armed conflict to serve imperial needs.  In other words, it is a tale that is representative of many nations created in the wake of World War Two and the the dissolution of earlier colonial empires that followed that disruptive war.   At the same time, it is a story that is uniquely Pakistani.

When discussing the role of Islamist fundamentalist groups in Pakistan’s history and current reality Ali is consistent in his portrayal of these groups as perpetual supporters of the most reactionary elements in the Pakistani military and government.  He also looks at the roots of these groups and explains how those same forces were involved in their creation.  He challenges their intolerant application of their version of Islam and argues that this interpretation is contrary to the sentiment of most Pakistanis and their historical roots in forms of Islam that have nothing to do with the Wahabbist beliefs expressed by the fundamentalists. .  At the same time, Ali mocks the popular western Christian contention that Islam is a monolith and all of Islam is a threat to the western world.  He writes that a primary reason that the neo-Taliban are enjoying popular support in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of the NW Frontier in Pakistan is not because people necessarily agree with their interpretation of Islam, but because they are the most effective resistance to the occupation of Afghanistan and the NATO incursions into Pakistan.  Furthermore, Foreign troops’ lack of knowledge of local cultures, ethnic differences, and religious commitments creates a situation where the US in its arrogance sees an entire ethnic group as the enemy.  By doing so, they create a the reality they describe.

This is a provocative history that informs the reader and challenges the western perception that Pakistan is a democracy, Ali’s text spares no Pakistani general or politician in its narrative.  Nor does it rationalize or minimize the constant intervention by Washington into Pakistan’s affairs.  Written by a man who understands what his country might be while rejecting what it is, the narrative is analytical with an undertone of love for a people.  As always, Ali brings in literary and other cultural references which do more than merely spice up the text; they reveal the true spirit of a people.  It is that spirit where Ali places his hope as he describes a history of corruption, sycophancy, and ego.  Challenging the dominant political view in Pakistan and India, he challenges both peoples to look at each other as allies, not as enemies.  He further argues that maintaining the latter situation only serves those whose interests lie with Washington and the local war machines.

The book ends by asking questions as to Pakistan’s future, especially as regards Washington’s bipartisan insistence that not only is Afghanistan a good war, but that it is also a war that must be won by the US and its NATO allies.  It is quite clear that Ali believes further US armed intervention into Pakistani territory is not only dangerous to the stability of the region, but to the world.  Ali’s description of the US-created government in Kabul is applicable to that in Iraq and other US colonies as well:  "an army not meant to serve the nation, but to impose order on its people, on behalf of outside powers; a civil administration that will have no control over health, education, etc. all of which will be run by foreign NGOs…, and a government whose foreign policy is identical to Washington’s."

The Duel is  an important book.  There has been very little published in English about Pakistan that doesn’t merely parrot the positions of the Pakistan government, the US desires for that government, or some combination of the two. It is written in an engaging and accessible style.  As the US widens its war against those who would defy its designs into Pakistan, it becomes essential reading for anyone who refuses to accept the Orientalist narrative spewed by the policy makers in Washington, DC.   Ali has written a history that explains and interprets the reality of Pakistan that is free of western prejudices and self-serving assumptions conceived in the foreign policy bureaucracies of DC and London.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net  

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”