Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As 250 Killed in Clashes Near Afghan Border British-Pakistani Author Tariq Ali on Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Ongoing U.S. Role in Regional Turmoil

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

"AMY GOODMAN: The Pakistani military continues to bomb villages along the Afghan border, bringing the death toll to 250 after four days of clashes. The villages lie within Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, which the White House described as a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda in its National Strategy for Homeland Security released Tuesday.

Pakistan’s military ruler, key US ally, Pervez Musharraf, swept most of the votes in Saturday’s presidential election, which was boycotted by the opposition. Eight years after seizing power in a coup, General Musharraf might have won the votes, but his victory is not yet complete. He has to wait until the Supreme Court confirms the legality of his re-election bid, given that he’s still the army chief.

In his election, if it’s confirmed, General Musharraf has promised to shed his military uniform, transition to civilian rule, and, in a US-brokered deal, share power with the exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But General Musharraf and his policies have generated a maelstrom of opposition from a broad spectrum of the Pakistani population. He acknowledged his precarious base of support in a speech after Saturday's election.....

AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali is an acclaimed British-Pakistani historian, novelist, political campaigner and commentator, one of the editors of the New Left Review and the author of a dozen books on South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Islamic history, empire and resistance. His book on the 1979 military coup in Pakistan has been adapted for the stage and opens in New York next week. It’s called The Leopard and the Fox: A Pakistani Tragedy. Tariq Ali was in Pakistan this summer, joins us from our firehouse studios. Welcome to Democracy Now!.....

TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, the same president who is talking like this is now engaged in negotiations with the Taliban, because his own power doesn’t extend beyond Kabul. And that’s during the daytime. And everyone knows that Afghanistan is in a very unstable situation. And, Amy, one reason for this, one big reason for this, is that when the Taliban were toppled after 9/11, within Afghanistan -- one has to be clear about this -- there were large numbers of Afghans who were very happy, because they didn’t like them, but they were hoping that change would come and there would be a social infrastructure in their country and they would be able to breathe. This never happened. No money was spent on creating institutions for the ordinary Afghan people. Instead, Karzai and his cronies built themselves gigantic villas in the heart of Kabul, just taking land which belonged to anyone else. And while these large villas were being constructed, NATO troops were guarding them. You know, it costs $5,000 -- that's all -- to build a home for a poor family of four or five people. Very few of these homes were ever built. And so, people began to get completely alienated.

Karzai's brother, his younger brother, Wali Ahmed Karzai, is well known in Afghanistan and Pakistan as one of the largest traders in heroin and gunrunning. It’s very, very well-known. And this is a guy who can’t control his own brother, and then he has the nerve to come and talk like this in the White House....."

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