Tales from the thinktank

Duel140 Mohammed Hanif reviews Tariq Ali’s The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, in the Guardian:

In the introduction to his third book on Pakistan, Tariq Ali quotes a friend who asked if it wasn’t reckless to start a book about the country when the dice were still in the air. Ali’s reply: he would never have been able to write anything about Pakistan if he had waited for the dice to fall. Ali has had an uncanny record of foreseeing the way things are going. In his 1969 book Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power he foretold the imminent break-up of Pakistan, a shocking prediction at the time which came true within two years. In the 80s, Can Pakistan Survive? caused outrage within the Pakistani establishment, but two decades later, on the cover of every current affairs magazine and in every TV talk show, not only is Pakistan being branded the most dangerous place on earth but it has even been suggested that the world’s end is being planned there. The Duel is less concerned with the trajectory of the dice than with why they’ve been in the air for more than 60 years and who threw them.

When I heard the title of the book earlier this year, I thought it had a certain poetic flourish. As American drones started pounding the tribal areas of Pakistan and its ruling elite tried to convince their people that it’s for their own good, it turned out to be devastatingly literal.