Courtesy: London Review of Books
June is never a good month on the plains. It was 46ºC in Fortress Islamabad a fortnight ago. The hundreds of security guards manning roadblocks and barriers were wilting, sweat pouring down their faces as they waved cars and motorbikes through. The evening breeze brought no respite. It, too, was unpleasantly warm, and it was difficult not to sympathise with those who, defying the law, jumped into the Rawal Lake, the city’s main reservoir, in an attempt to cool down. Further south in Lahore it was even hotter, and there were demonstrations when the generator at Mangla that sporadically supplies the city with electricity collapsed completely.
As far as the political temperature goes there is never a good month in Pakistan. This is a country whose fate is no longer in its own hands. I have never known things so bad. The chief problems are the United States and its requirements, the religious extremists, the military high command, and corruption, not just on the part of President Zardari and his main rivals, but spreading well beyond them.
Tales from the thinktank
A brilliant analysis of Pakistan incorporates past and present politics, says Mohammed Hanif
• Mohammed Hanif
• The Guardian,
• Saturday October 11 2008
In the introduction to his third book on Pakistan, Tariq Ali quotes a friend who asked if it wasn’t reckless to start a book about the country when the dice were still in the air. Ali’s reply: he would never have been able to write anything about Pakistan if he had waited for the dice to fall. Ali has had an uncanny record of foreseeing the way things are going. In his 1969 book Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power he foretold the imminent break-up of Pakistan, a shocking prediction at the time which came true within two years. In the 80s, Can Pakistan Survive? caused outrage within the Pakistani establishment, but two decades later, on the cover of every current affairs magazine and in every TV talk show, not only is Pakistan being branded the most dangerous place on earth but it has even been suggested that the world’s end is being planned there.