The Duel, By Tariq Ali

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The Independent Culture

The thesis of Tariq Ali's third polemic on Pakistan takes the reader through the nation's 61-year history from Partition in 1947 to the fall of Pervez Musharraf. Ali's argument is a damning one – that if the nation were a plc, its two key board members - America and the army - would be "majority shareholders", and that its salvation must come from land reforms, not from its revolving door of corrupt dictators, damp democracies and medieval political dynasties.

The book's unique strength lies in Ali's aptitude for storytelling, from the tragic tale of an unpaid blue collar worker who sets fire to himself in despair to inebriated former president Yahya Khan careering onto the streets of Peshawar "stark naked". Then there's Ali's own brush with the Bengali resistance whom he hopes to meet in 1971 disguised as a Hindu trader with his hair dyed a "Hollywood serial killer" red.