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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Zardari bans history, creates a bestseller By Farrukh Dhondy

My friend and comrade Tariq Ali has had his third book on Pakistan The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power banned in that country. The Pakistani regime, for all its democratic crowing, cannot bear too much reality.

In the preface to the book Tariq writes: "Books have a destiny. This is my third study of Pakistan. The first, Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power? was written in 1969 and predicted the break-up of the State. It was banned in Pakistan… Just over a decade later I wrote Can Pakistan Survive? The question mark was not unimportant but nonetheless struck a raw nerve in General Zia’s Pakistan, where to even pose the question was unacceptable… Zia attacked both me and the book at a press conference in India, which was helpful and much appreciated by the publisher’s sales department. That book too was banned, but to my delight was shamelessly pirated in many editions in Pakistan. They don’t ban books anymore, or at least not recently, which is a relief and a small step forward".

Tariq spoke too soon. The book hit the shelves and the Zardari government banned it. Cassandra dropped her guard while Troy burned.


The ban on Tariq’s book has been imposed under the aegis of the minister of information, one Sherry Rehman, who was formerly married to a very liberal friend of mine. I went to their wedding at the Bombay Brasserie in London and thought she seemed a liberal sort who would be fan of both, the Rushdie and T Ali schools of thought and not a candidate for the thought-police.


Moreover, a huge moreover, Tariq accuses Zardari of involvement in the murder of his brother-in-law Murtaza Bhutto. Now anyone who has travelled in Pakistan knows that it’s a club and not a country.


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