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Diary

Tariq Ali: In Turkish Kurdistan, 16 November 2006

... It was barely light in Istanbul as I stumbled into a taxi and headed for the airport to board a flight for Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in eastern Turkey, not far from the Iraqi border. The plane was full, thanks to a large party of what looked like chattering students with closely shaved heads, whose nervous excitement seemed to indicate they’d never left home before ...

Diary

Tariq Ali: The Future of Cricket, 12 March 2009

... The BBC’s decision to stop showing cricket in the late 1980s was brought about by a combination of the cricket establishment’s greed, misplaced sporting priorities on the part of public broadcasters and, according to some, strong pressure from Margaret Thatcher, who was determined to help Rupert Murdoch build up his television empire. Within a few years there was no live cricket left on terrestrial television ...

Anyone for gulli-danda?

Tariq Ali, 15 July 1999

... The cricket matches I grew up with in the Indian subcontinent during the Forties and Fifties lasted five days. The players were dressed in immaculate white or off-white flannels, the ball was dark red and the spectators were well-dressed and sedate. It was no different in the West Indies: English cricket was everywhere the model. Our heroes were the great English batsmen and bowlers of the time ...

Ho Chi Minh in Love

Tariq Ali, 22 November 2012

The Zenith 
by Duong Thu Huong, translated by Stephen Young and Hoa Pham Young.
Viking US, 509 pp., £25, August 2012, 978 0 670 02375 2
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... A few weeks after leaving university many years ago, I was lunched by a publisher. ‘What book would you most like to write?’ he asked. The war in Indochina was beginning to escalate, with more and more US ‘advisers’ arriving after the defeat of their local stand-ins at the battle of Ap Bac in January 1963. I had sabotaged my finals by bringing Vietnam into every answer ...

In Princes’ Pockets

Tariq Ali: Saudi Oil, 19 July 2007

America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier 
by Robert Vitalis.
Stanford, 353 pp., £19.50, November 2006, 0 8047 5446 2
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Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation 
by Madawi Al-Rasheed.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.99, November 2006, 0 521 85836 4
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... The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone. ‘Where’s your mother?’ ‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’ The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback ...

Could it have been avoided?

Tariq Ali: Partition’s Legacy, 14 December 2017

... to the viceroy. Tame pro-British governments took their place. The Muslim League leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, suited, booted and monocled, also went to call on the viceroy. His message was simple. The Muslim League, unlike the Congress scoundrels, was solidly behind the war effort. He wanted guarantees of minority rights (a strong federation with limited ...

Andropov was right

Tariq Ali: The Russians in Afghanistan, 16 June 2011

Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 
by Rodric Braithwaite.
Profile, 417 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 84668 054 0
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A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan 
by Artemy Kalinovsky.
Harvard, 304 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 05866 8
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... Rodric Braithwaite, British ambassador to Moscow between 1988 and 1992, was in Russia when Soviet troops crossed the Oxus into Afghanistan in 1979. His fascinating account of the Soviet intervention is based almost entirely on Russian sources: interviews with participants, information from veterans’ websites and from archives, although those of the GRU and the KGB remain mostly sealed ...

Next Door to War

Tariq Ali: After Benazir, 17 July 2008

Descent into Chaos: How the War against Islamic Extremism Is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia 
by Ahmed Rashid.
Allen Lane, 484 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 7139 9843 6
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Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars within 
by Shuja Nawaz.
Oxford, 655 pp., £16.99, May 2008, 978 0 19 547660 6
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... To recapitulate. After Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last December, her will was read out to the family’s assembled political retainers. Her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, inherited the Pakistan People’s Party, but until he came of age her husband, Asif Zardari, would act as regent. The general election, postponed following her death, took place in February ...

Corbyn’s Progress

Tariq Ali, 3 March 2016

... The UK state​ – its economy, its culture, its fractured identities and party system – is in a much deeper crisis than many want to accept. Its governors, at least in public, remain in semi-denial. English politicians assumed that the threat to the unitary state had been seen off after they got the result they wanted in the Scottish independence referendum ...

Pakistan at Sixty

Tariq Ali: The Trouble with Pakistan, 4 October 2007

... in newspaper supplements competing for space with stale photographs of the Founder (Muhammad Ali Jinnah) and the Poet (Iqbal). Banal panel discussions remind us of what Jinnah said or didn’t say. The perfidious Lord Mountbatten and his ‘promiscuous’ wife, Edwina, are denounced for favouring India when it came to the division of the spoils. It’s ...

The General in his Labyrinth

Tariq Ali: Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US, 4 January 2007

... and all it could see in the Awami League’s victory was a threat to its privileges. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, which had triumphed in the western portion of the country, should have negotiated a settlement with the victors. Instead he sulked, told his party to boycott a meeting of the new assembly that had been ...

The Unseeables

Tariq Ali: Caste or Class, 30 August 2018

Ants among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India 
by Sujatha Gidla.
Daunt, 341 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 911547 20 4
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... and to the Untouchables in India?’ He also advised the leader of the Muslim League, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, not to place any trust in the brahmin-dominated Congress and to fight hard for a Muslim state. Ambedkar considered demanding a separate status for untouchables, slicing them away from Hinduism. This would have given them separate electoral ...

‘Try and disarm us, if you can’

Tariq Ali: Old friends and new enemies in Lahore, 15 April 1999

... prospered. They had no interest in politics. One day in 1972, Benazir’s father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was advised to nationalise the Sharif family enterprise. It was an economically inept decision, but it pleased party loyalists and distracted attention from Bhutto’s failure to push through badly needed land reforms. The landlords, of course, were ...

Enemies of Hindutva

Tariq Ali: The BJP defeat, 8 July 2004

Nehru: A Political Life 
by Judith Brown.
Yale, 407 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 300 09279 2
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Nehru 
by Benjamin Zachariah.
Routledge, 336 pp., £10.99, April 2004, 9780415250177
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... The pundits say that the Indian electorate does not cast votes, but votes castes. This is generally true but at key moments in its postcolonial history, the citizens of the world’s largest democracy – India’s population is just over a billion – have acted to punish the ruling elites. It is the subaltern’s revenge, unpredictable and unpredicted ...

Suspicious

Tariq Ali: Richard Sorge’s Fate, 21 November 2019

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent 
by Owen Matthews.
Bloomsbury, 448 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 4088 5778 6
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... The​ skills of the three top Soviet spies of the 20th century – Richard Sorge, Leopold Trepper and Ignace Poretsky/Reiss (better known as Ludwik) – remain unmatched. Sorge has always attracted particular attention. Ian Fleming called him the ‘most formidable spy in history’; other admirers included John le Carré, Tom Clancy and General MacArthur ...

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