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The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power
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The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  433 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. It is the only Islamic state to have nuclear weapons. Its border with Afghanistan extends over one thousand miles and is the likely hideout of Osama bin Laden. It has been under military dictatorship for thirty-three of its fiftyyear existence. Yet it is the linchpin in the United States' war on terror, receiving ov ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,314)
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Meg Jayanth
Jun 01, 2012 Meg Jayanth rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
An excellent overview of the history of political power in Pakistan - from pre-Partition through to Musharraf. (That's the one caveat: the book was published before Musharraf stepped down, so it isn't quite up to date with current events.) Ali obviously has a history and vested interest in Pakistan - that's what makes The Duel incredibly engaging, with its anecdotes and awareness of political culture & society, and indeed Ali's personal relationships with many of the people in power. It does ...more
Dec 13, 2008 Ben rated it it was amazing
Tariq Ali, reputed to be an inspiration for the Stones song "Street Fighting Man," has a commendable history of committed activism and is also a wonderful writer of both fiction and non-fiction (the only novle of his I've read is "Fear of Mirrors," which was tremendous). As a friend pointed out after listening to a recent speech of Ali's, the man is an artist.

He knows of what he writes in this volume partly due to his lineage in a well-placed Pakistani political family. He thus has had contact w
Apr 12, 2009 Chris rated it did not like it
I'm consistently underwhelmed by Tariq Ali, whether it's his writings for the London Review of Books, or longer work such as 'Clash of Fundamentalisms' or this new book. Ali is poor at explaining complex subjects of which the reader might know little about. As this book is about Pakistan, a subject of which I am largely ignorant, I was expecting to learn a lot. However, it's written at the level of someone who already knows a whole lot about Pakistani history and politics. And then it is layered ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Remat rated it it was amazing
Tariq Ali writes in meticulous details on Pakistani politics, military and deplorable role of US in the evolutionary process of the country. Despite facing great challenges on multiple fronts, Tariq is hopeful that Pakistan is capable of putting things in order if genuine democratic leadership with sincerity controls reigns of the state instead of being run by an incompetent politicians or military brass seeking all-times mercy of their master, Uncle Sam. He gives practicable solutions to the ma ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Details India during the later portion of British Imperial rule, through the partition, and to present day Pakistan/India/Afghanistan. Tariq Ali has a way of including his own anecdotes with his unquestionably historical knowledge of the region and people's movements around the world. Tariq provides historical foundational backgrounds for every prime minister/president/military ruler of Pakistan's history. Reframing the partition, radical jihad, and international relations within in the region i ...more
May 19, 2014 Calzean rated it liked it
The short history of the country of Pakistan including it's culture, corruptness, foreign relationships, military coups, role of Islam, role in the war in Afghanistan, etc is complex. This book helps a bit to understand these issues but is not well structured. Bits of information appear repeatedly, other parts seem out of order and there is not a lot of coherency to what is the basis to the book's argument - how the US pulls the strings.

There are some interesting parts and Tariq Ali's personnel
Valentin Mihov
Jun 27, 2015 Valentin Mihov marked it as just-have-it
Shelves: my_ebooks
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. It is the only Islamic state to have nuclear weapons. Its border with Afghanistan extends over one thousand miles and is the likely hideout of Osama bin Laden. It has been under military dictatorship for thirty-three of its fiftyyear existence. Yet it is the linchpin in the United States' war on terror, receiving over $10 billion of American aid since 2001 and purchasing more than $5 billion of U.S. weaponry in 2006 alone.These da
Simon Wood
Feb 09, 2014 Simon Wood rated it it was amazing

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 hy
Apr 10, 2010 Chad rated it really liked it
A little bit of a mess, structurally. Overlaps information, shifts through time (especially before the 4 Generals section (but even during)), and is pretty digressive. Sort of seems like there was minimal editing.

BUT: there is a ton of information in here. A good primer (I assume, being completely ignorant) from a well-defined point of view (i.e. you know what the biases are).

In Pakistan itself the long night continues as the cycle restarts: military leadership promising reforms degenerates int
Aug 17, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
Tariq Ali has written a series of books on the state of Pakistan in the past and this is his latest offering sub-titled “on the flightpath of American power”. As always it pulls no punches and provides a good account of the politics in Pakistan up to and including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2008. The intrigue, backstabbing, assassinations and plotting within the various Pakistan governments down the years have always been played out on a canvas of American design. Where Pakistani dic ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Sjo rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
This is the best book I've read to date on Pakistan. I attended a lecture by Tariq Ali in Chicago and was so impressed with him, I bought his book (which he signed)as a sign of appreciation. Two other guests were supposed to show up and share the stage with him, but Chicago winter weather didn't allow Tariq Ali spoke extemporaneously for 50 minutes on life, Pakistan, Chicago etc. This amazed myself and my friend more than anything he said specifically. He provides a somewhat cooler pe ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Tom rated it liked it
A little hard to follow at times for someone new to the topic but an interesting presentation of the conflicts and history of this relatively young nation.
Whilst the author does have a distinct bias and some may criticise the book for this, I found if anything this added a personal insight into the the characters and parties involved that went beyond a dry objective depiction and as long as your aware of the bias you should be able to draw your own conclusions and opinions.
Focusing mainly on Pa
Tariq Mahmood
May 17, 2012 Tariq Mahmood rated it really liked it
Shelves: pakistan
Alternate history of Pakistan. Must read for all bred by Pakistani governmental historical propaganda.
Starts of well with good insight into the reasons why Pakistan was created. I liked the bits about Muslim League own history, as a feudal based conservative party created to garner relations with their British masters. I also enjoyed the piece on the way how the colonialists used to brand certain nationalities like the Pathans for their own nefarious purposes. How an image of a warrior and a al
Apr 12, 2010 Noel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent analysis of Pakistan's history and political affairs. The author veers off into Afghanistan for part of the book but I suppose the two are closely linked and the events and history of one country is directly linked to the other. The formation and more crucially, the break-up of Pakistan (East & West) is discussed in detail and I found that very helpful to understand the history of this country.

The book does paint a rather bleak picture of Pakistan but I wonder if there is hope t
Jan 19, 2013 Fahad rated it really liked it
Tariq Ali is an outspoken critic of all things political in Pakistan. I agree with his viewpoints on the future of the region. In this book, he's a bit jumpy but focused enough to provide a realistic point of view in the history and politics of Pakistan.

This book was published in 2007. Pakistan is a country where things drastically change every week, so it would not be much help in understanding post Musharaf era. I recommend this to anyone who wants to get an unbiased view into Pakistan. The id
Dec 02, 2012 Moiz rated it really liked it

The initial half of the book was very interesting and very comfortably written. I did think that throughout the writing one could sense the left leaning aspect if writer's life. So the book is not completely free of all bias. It is an account of history and not the account of history. However I do think that for a foreign reader this is a very good account of the history.
There were a few places where the author relied on his 'insider information' bit too much. I thought the book was divided in
Sep 04, 2014 Faheem rated it liked it
I loved the book gives the Overview of Pakistan of Political history of Pakistan and american influence on it. Describes how Pakistan lacking a firm political infrastructure fell into the hands of elite n establishment, support of dictators by the americans and the devastating results of the policies that were adopted. Readers with very little knowledge of Pakistan might struggle through, but for those interested in understanding Pakistan, how it came to be what it is today, its highly recommend ...more
Nov 10, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it
Perhaps one of must enlightening books I have read on the dynamics of a country in turmoil. Faced with dilemmas , paradoxical scenarios and unlikely politics thrust down it's throats , the land called Pakistan survives and lives on. Histories of nations are never complete but rather tales in progress. Anyone who has yet been confronted with understanding of the post independence scenarios and the role the country plays with the desire to answer the question that who's in charge any way this coun ...more
Oct 17, 2012 Elgin rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
I read this because I felt I did not know much about Pakistan. The author certainly has a bias, but it may be justified. This is mainly an account of the history of Pakistan, with a chapter (more or less) devoted to each ruler...all of them thieves or thugs or both. It is fascinating (and disturbing) to read Ali's take on several Pakastan leaders and how his opinion differs so radically from what we hear in the western press. For example, I used to have a good opinion of Benzair Bhutto. However ...more
The author, Tariq Ali, is undoubtedly very knowledgable (although not without bias) of the history of Pakistani government and foreign involvement in the politics of the country. This book is crammed full of information that would be beneficial to anyone interested in the subject... provided they can get through it. I rate this text very low on readability, not only due to complexity of the topic but also because of a rudimentary style of organization that bounces back and forth chronologically ...more
Aug 03, 2014 Christiaän rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive account of Pakistan's political history, which covers the complex and macabre nexus between the U.S. Government and Pakistan's military and central government (at risk of sounding redundant). Tariq Ali demonstrates firsthand insight into the sociopolitical failings of one of South Asia's most important political actors, and how policies and behaviors displayed by the U.S. and Pakistani governments stubbornly continue down a path of socioeconomic deterioration and violence.
Feb 21, 2012 Himanshu rated it liked it
I have just finished this book; and now I find myself not only more knowledgeable about the real situation in Pakistan and it's military history; but I can also understand why my Pakistani friends are critical of their military. If you want to know one point of view on Pakistan's history tracing from its separation from the erstwhile Indian state; the role of military in its politics - then you should read this book. Tariq Ali is an acclaimed journalist and writer; and he has put together this r ...more
Aug 14, 2015 Yas rated it liked it
a good read for all beginners learning about Pakistan history and politics.

Osama Iqbal Ahmed
Jun 18, 2014 Osama Iqbal Ahmed rated it liked it
Tariq Ali surprised me with his ferocious grasp of the English language and the fluidity of his writing. No doubt he is well versed in his analysis of Pakistan's history, although I have to say that this book was quite arduous to read and was a real challenge to complete.
Oct 05, 2012 Johan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book enough: it is thought provoking and makes you look at things from a completely new and very different perspective. The history of Pakistan (a country that never should have been - one can only agree with Tariq Ali) is told briefly but clearly and explains why democracy never got a chance there. How the USA supported and propped up one of the most corrupt regimes in the world for geo-political reasons, should make you shake your head in wonder. You will never look at t ...more
Like other reviewers,I found the structure of this book to be a little's not always clear why material is included in one chapter rather than another,and the titular concept of 'the duel' is seldom referred to.maybe he was just struggling for a title?
That said,he has a pithy turn of phrase,a well-developed vocabulary (I haven't seen the word 'quondam' in print for a while!) and a wry sense of humour that comes out perhaps unexpectedly in a book of this sort.a recommended overview of
Abhinav Agarwal
May 06, 2012 Abhinav Agarwal rated it it was amazing
History, Analysis, Commentary, Opinion. Of massages, midnight romps, horrible examples, and of boiling water at the right temperature

This is a sweeping and often trenchant look at Pakistan, its leaders, its geo-politics, the role of the US, and the challenges facing the nation. It is not a comprehensive account, nor is it altogether impartial, but it is a jolly entertaining and at the same time educational read.

My full review is at
Ajitabh Pandey
Jan 13, 2010 Ajitabh Pandey rated it really liked it
This book is a great analysis of the current situation of Pakistan with historical background. The author demonstrates his great knowledge of political and social situation in Indo-Pak region.

I used to get very agitated by the name of Pakistan mainly because of the trouble they created and are still creating for India. After reading this book, I feel sympathetic for the people of Pakistan. The current condition of Pakistan is primarily because of the Army, Politician and religious extremists.
Sep 16, 2013 Vijay rated it liked it
A critical narrative of the political history of Pakistan. Frank assessment of the issues and what is needed. plenty of interesting and sometimes intriguing nuggets of facts / perspective on historical events. but at times the arguments are repetitive and the narration could have been tightened a bit. Overall a good read for both folks who are familiar with south Asia and also folks who don't have much background.
Serving Patriot
Jun 06, 2009 Serving Patriot rated it really liked it
Superb and unconventional review of Pakistan's short history. Ali's continuous return to U.S.'s unhelpful involvement and ill-advised support of Pakistani dictators is a bit repetitive and tendacious. But, this is Ali and I can accept that. His critical eye in the internal should be a must read to all interested in what is happening today. And why!
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Tariq Ali (Punjabi, Urdu: طارق علی) (born 21 October 1943) is a British-Pakistani historian, novelist, filmmaker, political campaigner, and commentator. He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and Sin Permiso, and regularly contributes to The Guardian, CounterPunch, and the London Review of Books.

He is the author of several books, including Can Pakistan Survive? The Death
More about Tariq Ali...

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