FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail