I recently finished reading Tariq Ali’s most recent book “The Duel”. For those who don’t know about Tariq Ali, he was a prominent leftist leaders close to Bhutto as well as many higher ups in both Pakistan as well as India. You can get a brief intro about him on wikipedia here. A review of the book by The Independent is also available here.
So, Im not going to do a review per se, but highlight a few interesting tisbits. OFcourse I should qualify that these are his words and are based on his interviews or informal “chats” with the concerned people. Having said that lets check them out:
(1)He talks about discussing with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on why he promoted the unnecessary ’65 conflict when he should have known that the war would be a disastrous consequence for Pakistan. And that there was no need of needling India with the conflict. The response he reveals from Bhutto was that it was very necessary for the Pakistani army to be defeated and humiliated in the ’65 war so that the military dictatorship could be weakened. Otherwise, the army was never going to leave politics. This is Bhutto himself justifying the ’65 adventure.
(2) Indira Gandhi in an informal chat with Tariq Ali in the 80s and said proudly that the military was totally under civilian command in India unlike Pakistan. She gave example of ’71 where the army was raring to go against W. Pakistan but a firm no from her was the final result and the army complied.
(3) In the same chat, Tariq Ali asked Indira Gandhi why she just didn’t hold a plebiscite after ’71 in Kashmir when the whole world was shocked by the genocide in Bengal? He said that according to him, all Kashmiris would have voted overwhelmingly to stay with India. Indira kept quiet for a while and said tragically that she doesn’t trust Sheikh Abdulla.
(4) She also asked Tariq Ali in the same chat that she has intelligence reports that Pakistan was planning a full fledged insurgency in Kashmir by diverting the militants from Afghanistan to Kashmir. Tariq Ali was shocked and said that the army would not be so stupid to do such a thing as it would hurt the Kashmiris the most. This shows that GoI knew well in advance that an insurgency in Kashmir was in the offing well before the 1990s.
(5)Another interesting section is apparently an Pakistani intelligence officer told him that Zia’s death in the plance crash was Russia’s gift to India for Pakistan using Sikhs to assassinate Indira Gandhi. Indira he mentions was very much loved by Russia. However, he mentions another senior bureaucrat in Pakistan telling him that the deaths of Zia, Indira and Mujeeb were actually part of CIA plots to get rid of socialist or seemingly anti-US leaders and keep South Asia in turmoil.
(6) A retired army officer mentions/speculates in another place that Zulfiqar Bhutto was killed only after American permission was given to Zia. Without that Zia would never have gone ahead as the entire world including close muslim countries as well as India were opposing his hanging and were offering political asylum as well. It was only US support and assurance that he will not be treated as a pariah and that he should go ahead with the hanging that led to the event.
(7) The most interesting was an chat with a close friend and a senior military intelligence officer in Pakistan. He states obliquely to him that Osama bin Laden is alive. Only a few important officers in Pakistan as well as a few US officials know where he is. Why would we (as in those in the security business Pakistanis or Americans) kill the goose that lays the golden eggs he says.