FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Zardari Bans My Books

“They don’t ban books any more, or at least not recently, which is a relief and a small step forward.” I wrote in a preface to my latest book on Pakistan [The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power] after explaining how the previous two had been, at different times, banned by military dictators. I was wrong. I had foolishly assumed that since General Musharraf had not banned books his civilian, supposedly democratic, successors would also stay the course. The Pakistani distributors of my publisher, Simon and Schuster, who had no problems selling ghost-written volumes by Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto (published by the same house), have for the last four weeks been waiting for ‘clearance’ from the Ministry of Information (i.e. Propaganda) to import my book. The Minister, Sherry Rehman, is a former Karachi journalist.

Her public embrace of Sarah Palin notwithstanding, she had a reasonable civil liberties record, often preached the virtues of legality, political morality, civic virtues, freedom and equality. They lie now at her feet, broken and scattered shards as the government stumbles from one crisis to another. A war on the Western frontier, a run on the banks, a disaffected public is not enough. They still have time to stop books. Did she really think that working for President Zardari meant anything else? Her friends tell me she is not responsible for the ban and is trying her best to ‘expedite clearance’, but if not her, who? The man at the top these days is well-known as a semi-literate who has never read a whole book in his life. But there is a chain of sycophants stretching down from the Prime Minister’s office to the most lowly civil servants, whose task as loyal retainers, is to second-guess and please the master.

They don’t realise that its totally counterproductive to ban a book in these times and even if they did they wouldn’t care provided the master was happy. I’ve received e-mails from many friends in Pakistan who have expressed delight: ‘what an honor to be banned Zardari’, ‘ surely you realise the book will be smuggled in from India’, ‘everyone will want to read it now’, etc. And one from a literary scholar urging me to read a short-story by the late and very great Saadat Hasan Manto: ‘Please read Manto’s ‘The New Constitution’. It is the same old law. Nothing changes because no government in the last 63 years has made any attempt to even tinker with the state structure and a bureaucratic system designed to oppress. You should have felt surprised if your book wasn’t to be banned.’

All this may be true, but is still depressing.

The short story, incidentally, was written during the Raj when the 1935 Act of India promised limited democracy. Ustad Mangu, an old tongawallah in Lahore, attempted to test the new order by responding to racist abuse and violence from an English soldier by beating him up. Mangu was arrested but kept screaming ‘New constitution, New constitution.’ His jailers told him ‘What rubbish are you talking? What new constitution? It’s the same old constitution you fool.’ Manto concludes: ‘Then they locked him up.’

My book is still locked up, but is being translated into Urdu for publication in November which will be a release of sorts. That edition does not require a clearance, but one can never be too sure in Pakistan. And in case you were wondering, the book is a very sharp critique not just of military dictators, but also of their civilian counterparts, whose corruption knows no bounds.

One mustn’t exaggerate. When the Amsterdam Synagogue, mimicking the Inquistion, excommunicated Spinoza in 1656, they decreed: ‘May he be cursed by day and by night….may God never forgive him. We order that no one have commerce with him by speech or in writing, that no one give him the least sign of friendship or approach him or live under the same roof as he, that no one read a work written or composed by him.’

I got off lightly.

TARIQ ALI’s latest book, ‘The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power’ will be published on September 15 by Scribner.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail