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Tariq Ali: Conflict and Crisis in Pakistan

by campaign2008
November 19, 2008

Journalist and author Tariq Ali warned that U.S. military action in Pakistan and escalation of the war in Afghanistan would create widespread instability in the region. Speaking Tuesday in a public discussion with Chicago Council on Global Affairs president Marshall Bouton. Ali said he was “extremely disturbed” by President-elect Barack Obama’s assertion during the presidential campaign that he would be willing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside of Pakistan with actionable intelligence if the Pakistani government was unwilling or unable to do so.

Ali, a native of the Pakistani city of Lahore, disputed what he called “the most common view on Pakistan in much of the Western world,” that Pakistan is “a nuclear state and a group of bearded jihadi terrorists might be on the verge of capturing this nuclear facility.” Rather, Ali insisted, jihadi groups in Pakistan represent a “tiny minority of the population as a whole,” and said it is “virtually impossible” that these groups would be able to capture the nuclear facility.

Ali urged Western leaders to develop a “serious exit strategy” for the war in Afghanistan, and questioned the premise of the war’s start. The al-Qaeda group responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 disappeared in the weeks before the war’s beginning, he said. “They had no particular links to Afghanistan as such they could function from everywhere,” Ali said, noting that no Afghan or Pakistani citizens were implicated in the attacks.

Ali called for a regional strategy involving the region’s “big players,” like Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia, to try to stabilize Afghanistan. He said United States should seek a political solution to the conflict, rather than a military one.
In Pakistan, Ali said, a major project, perhaps through UNESCO and Western civil society groups, could lift Pakistan out of poverty. He called for land reform and proposed that the United Nations build six large teacher training universities across Pakistan to improve the education system.

For more analysis and research about Pakistan and U.S. policy, see this Issue Guide.

1 Comment

  • Posted by Zarghun Khan

    Mr. Ali looks like representing the government of Pakistan. He, like the government of Pakistan, would like the NATO and American troops to leave Afghanistan so as Pakistan can turn it once again into a hub of terrorist training camps as it had done before the arrival of the international forces in the aftermath of the 9/11. Pakistan has yet to give up its designs of using terrorists in order to win its regional battles against India and Afghanistan.

    The USA and other NATO members need to stay the course in Afghanistan. They need not be scared by the sporadic terrorist incidents here and there which are perpetrated by the Pakistan-Trained Islamic terrorists.

    One cannot help saluting the culture of the freedom of expression in the West. Otherwise people like Mr. Ali would never have dared to lecture the West on what to do in Afghanistan because he comes from a country that hurt the world on 9/11 by helping in turning Afghanistan into a hotbed of international terrorism by supporting the retrogressive Taliban regime and other Al-Qaeda elements.

    Rather than lecturing America, he needs to lecture Pakistan and try to convince it to extradite Osama Bin Aladen and Zawahiri who are hiding in there. Also he should lecture his leaders on putting its own house in order and not allow terrorists safe heavens on its territory who cross over to Afghanistan and kill NATO and American troops there. The world can no longer be fooled by Pakistan.