Born in Lahore, Tariq Alis grandfather was Prime Minister of the Punjab and his uncle was head of Pakistans Military Intelligence. While Ali has written extensively about the country, his latest offering The Duel sees him assess the prospects of the contending groups in Pakistan, drawing on extensive first-hand research and personal knowledge of many of the key players involved. With customary verve and acuity, he considers the causes and consequences of Pakistans rapid spiral into political chaos and explores a number of controversial topics, including Americas complex relationship with Pakistan and the power each country wields over the other. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, its the only Islamic state to have nuclear weapons, and its border with Afghanistan extends over 1000 miles. Its also the likely hide-out of Osama bin Laden. It has been under military dictatorship for 33 of its 50-year 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 US weaponry in 2006 alone. These days, relations between the two countries are never less than tense. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf reported that US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage threatened to “”bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age”” if it did not commit fully to the alliance in the wake of 9/11. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama said he would have no hesitation in bombing Al Qaeda inside the country, “”with or without”” approval of the Pakistani government. And recent surveys show that more than 70 per cent of Pakistanis fear the United States as a military threat to their country. With increasingly bold attacks by Taliban supporters in the border regions threatening to split the Pakistan army and with the only political alternatives being as corrupt as the regime they seek to replace, the chances of sustained stability in Pakistan look slim.
Simon & Schuster