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on 1 October 2011
This is a good primer for the conflicts in the sub-continent. Tariq Ali is an insightful observer.

However the latter half of the book is a bit repetitive. Some points are made over and over. As another reviewer mentioned, this book is more personal than scholarly. However it is often difficult to maintain complete objectivity when one is as intimately connected to the subject as Ali is.

Even with those minor faults, this book is well worth reading and indeed should be required reading for those interested in the region. I do wish Ali would bring an updated vesion about the effects of the Obama surge in Afganistan. With the killing of Karzai's brother and of Rabbani and the continuing upsurge in taliban activity, the endgame in Afganistan seems murkier than ever before.

Does anybody have a workable solution or is going to be status quo ante?
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on 14 November 2008
We are heading towards the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama. Obama has promised to put the war in Afghanistan high on his list of priorities. Not to reach a negotiated settlement, but to achieve the mirage of a military victory. This will involve U.S. military action in Pakistan and risk destabilising that country. If anyone doubted that Pakistan was being sucked into the centre of the maelstrom of the War Against Terror, they can stop doubting.

It's with this near future in mind that I read Tariq Ali's `The Duel', hoping to find a clear understanding of Pakistani political history and, expecially, how the relationship with U.S. imperialism works. This book gave me what I was looking for.

Tariq knows Pakistani politics and history, knows many of the individuals he writes about personally and, coupled with his own astute political analysis, is able to present a clear and readable account of that politics and history.

It has to be said, that the history of Pakistan is not a pretty one. This unattractive history is marked by the duel (hence the title of the book) between the mass of the Pakistani people and those corrupt, venal and vicious people who make up the elite of Pakistani society - both the civilians and the military - and who run that society in their own interests and in the interests of their key foreign backers in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Tariq presents this history well and weaves analysis into the narrative. You can tell that he also writes novels as his style is very readable.

Key events in Pakistani history are clearly explained and spice added as Tariq delves into such things as competing theories as to who assassinated the vile General Zia and why the journalist Daniel Pearl was murdered.

There are comic moments when, describing U.S. demands on General Musharraf, Tariq quips that, had such demands been met, Pakistan and it's sovereignty would have been reduced to the level of Britain.

More seriously, Tariq proposes reforms which he believes would go a long way to help stabilise Pakistan and improve the lives of it's people. He knows, however, that these reforms will not be implemented as the elite in Pakistan is tied to Washington and, ultimately, serves the needs of Washington.

Tariq fears for the future of Pakistan if the U.S. continues to undermine the state and the army, which he fears may split if put under too much pressure, by launching military operations across the frontier from Afghanistan. The undermining of a nuclear state is a very foolish thing to do.

In the coming months and years Pakistan will move even further on to the centre stage of world events. If you want to understand what is happening and why, then you will need this book.

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on 26 November 2011
This is a bulldozer of a book, which convincingly trashes the priorities of Pakistan's past. Ali writes blisteringly well, though sometimes the wit and detail comes too thick and fast for a non-expert like me. But basically, it gets abundantly clear that for 60 years the biggest danger to the Pakistani people has been their own armed forces. And the most harmful policy of foreign powers has been supporting the military as the key to controlling Pakistan's people. If anyone wants to defend the present priorities of spending many times more on the armed forces than on education and health, Ali's book will blow them out of the water.
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on 16 October 2008
A real honest, brutal at times, account of the failures of present and past politicians of Pakistan in implementing the will of the voters in national and international matters. Charting how the Pak-American relationship was formed over the early part of the country's existence. Gives a well written account of regional politics today, providing an excellent account of the current Afghan situation, in light of Pakistani and American influences and interests. Tariq Ali's own personality drips through this book, with his political activism evident through anecdotes, and accounts of his own life and experiences. These touches humanise the book, however this would not be to everyone's taste. Ali seems to be a "like it or lump it" kind of guy, and it is this unforgiving attitude that makes this book stand out, and be demanded to be read. Highly recommended.
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on 17 June 2009
I heartily recommend this book to everyone for the light it sheds on the relationship between the West and Pakistan. Ali's style is very accessible and his affection for the Pakistani people if not their inveterately corrupt leaders is clear. Detailing the reasons for the birth of Pakistan from British India - essentially the fears of Indian Muslems that they would not have any jobs or influence in the independent India, Ali goes on to explain the reasons for the numerous military dictatorships in Pakistan and the Pakistani military's embrace of the new imperial power in the region, the US. The duel is now, as it always has been, between the ordinary people and their corrupt, parasitical ruling class, which, with the support of the US has armed and funded militant Islam to the hilt to keep itself in power. The way that this impacted on Cold War politics eg the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is well covered.
Also the tragic splitting of East and West Pakistan, and the attendant genocidal attack on the Bengali people, about which I am ashamed to say, I knew virtually nothing, is examined and discussed.
The author knows or knew personally many of the key players in Pakistan, including Benazir Bhutto. He also has a nice sense of humor, as well as an appreciation of some of the great poets of the region which he shares with us in this most rounded and insightful analysis.
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on 27 May 2012
Tariq Ali as always speak of the politics in Pakistan and the American influence in the affairs throughout. There're many aspects of it, and the truth is that you'll come to know when you read this book. From cold war, creation of Taliban, Usama an allie of CIA, Russian defeat, chaos created and Pakistan was left fighting Afghan war's side effects decades after. Then West is back into action again with the same people they've created. There are many facts linked together and very interesting piece to read and hard to digest for many.
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on 15 October 2008
Loved it! Ali throws a fresh light on the modern history of Pakistan by adding important historic details to the overall picture. Naturally the chapters which deal with the late 60es and early 80es stand out stonger, since Ali have written about these periods in two earlier books. But since Ali is the first to point out where history proved him wrong (allthough he never loses an opportunity to point out were he was right either), he still leaves a fresh impression. One mayor point of critique, however, is the title. Only the last chapters deals extensively with the juxtaposition of american foreign policy and Pakistan, whereas the rest of the book throws in a note or two on the subject. Here I am led to believe that commercial motives flawed Alis choice of title. But still a good book, which I would recommend to anybody with a general knowledge and insight of pakistani politics since 1947.
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on 13 March 2014
A delightful book to read if you you wish to acquaint yourself with things as they are and not as they are made out to be about what is going on in this part of the world.
It also throws some light into the role of our 'western democracies' in creating this infernal mess. All in all a good read as are most of Ali's other write ups.

Naeem banday
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on 14 November 2008
This is a brilliantly written account of Pakistans history with particular emphasis on their relationship with the United States. History truly repeats itselfs with a never ending roll of Military Dictators and Civilian Politicians who are too busy with their hands in the till to do anything constructive for the people of Pakistan. The only person in power who comes out with any dignity is the head of the Pakistani judiciary who was dismissed for his efforts. All the hype and tripe around the assasination of Benazir Bhutto is put into context and one feels rather more sympathy for those bystanders killed than Bhutto herself who appears to have made a rather squalid deal with the US and UK to work with Musharif.

Ali makes a convincing case for the catastrophic effect of the Pakistanis Elites relationship with the US and there is no shortage of material, especially with regard to the events since the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Along side the history are personal anecdotes some of which are extrememly funny, poetry and reflections on the culture of Pakistan. All sounds fairly depressing but its an enlightening book on the current state of Pakistan and its relationship with the US.
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on 6 October 2010
The author himself is extremely knowledgable about the region and I have read some of his other books which paint a similar necessary picture of Pakistan. I had bought this book a year ago and was never motivated to actually pick it up. The fact is the title perhaps suggested different things to me and I thought I would get what I expect which was the analysis of the obvious and a point of view on what is happening in that region. I was pleasantly surprised after reading this book. Infact so much so that I think it has taught me so many things about my own country that I wish it would be included in the Pakistani School Curriculm as a Pre text to the, superficially valuable, Pak-Studies subject. I do agree that what is written down is a summary but it is by no means a confusing one. As a reader you will be able to follow it without much difficulty and should be able to connect the dots. Where the dots become dashes, the author helps out but there are not that many instances of that sort. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the region, it's politics, its military dynamics and its relationships with key players with vested interest in that region. I would specially recommend this to people from the region.
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