Who is the most famous Pakistani today? You can have your own take, as for me, it is Tariq Ali, the one-time revolutionary and a life-long dissident. Yes, I knew him in a sort of way, though I haven’t met him. He was junior to me at Oxford, he came there much later. But Tariq Ali went on to create some piece of modern world history, I should say. He became a real street fighter he was at the centre of things when the students riots broke out in Paris in 1968.The rest are history.
Just now I viewed his You tube video, “Conversations with history” of one hour.
Yes, there is still much of the old fire in the man and his latest book gives a glimpse into his view of Pakistan as it is evolving.
Though much of what he says is controversial..I have this much to say. He severely criticises Asif Ali Zardari and praises India. Fine. But he also wrote a book on the Nehru dynasty and yet he decries Benazir Bhutto’s will to put her son as her heir while her husband should act as the regent. But then everyone in this part of the world does this sort of politics only.
May be this is the sort of feudal-military complex Tariq deplores about Pakistan.
But his language, much of his jargon is jarring to my ears.
He doesn’t seem to understand the modern world, I would say. Much of the globalised ,well-integrating world of economics, politics and the current rather relative world peace, free of world wars of the last century,
Anyway, here he is a well-versed authority on Pakistan. For me Tariq brings me my old memories of the revolutions of the Sixties and after. Though what we have now is a rather barbaric terrorism of a new kind and it is time India and Pakistan (under Zardari) bring about a new friendship and peace in his subcontinent.
Tariq Ali’s new book released on September 15
Asif Ali Zardari is the best hope for India
The Mumbai terrorist attacks had drawn worldwide attention. USA has acted swiftly. Pakistan government had arrested or held the masterminds in custody. This is a great development, a sort of first victory for India. Asif Ali Zardari has written an op-ed page article in the New York Times (which has been reproduced in the Indian media and that shows the earnestness of the Pakistani President.
The article is a frank statement of the reality in Pakistan. Zardari has been quite candid about what is the problem. He points out at the very outset that how in Karachi in Oct 2007 terrorists attacked during the homecoming rally for his dear wife, Benazir Bhutto 150 Pakistanis were killed and 450 injured. He lost his wife in the second attack two months later. So, he notes with utter candour that India and Pakistan share a common problem, that of the terrorists and he therefore pledges co-operation with India in arresting this menace.
He also notes further that Pakistan has 150,000 soldiers fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban; far more troops than Nato have in Afghanistan.2, 000 Pakistanis lost their lives to terrorism this year alone.
Such figures are telling and he praises India’s democracy and our democratic contributions and pleads for a new joint effort to fight terrorism in both countries.
Now, we have to take Zardari’s words as the most sincere expression of a new comer and a very different person from the other, earlier dictators, military men and politicians.
Leaving other niceties of diplomatic speak and much else in the government establishments, mutual suspicions die hard and this also doesn’t give India any excuse not to take Zardari’s words seriously From the accounts coming from Pakistan it is clear that the two masterminds are under some restriction. Yet, we are also told the terrorist organisations, Let and Elm are well-established and of long standing and have enough funds and cadre and so it won’t be so easy to contain them in a short term. Pakistan has also promised India a joint interrogation and let us sees what comes of it and further developments depend upon a number of factors.
Now, Pakistan has no democratic government for long and the military there is very entrenched. This is the civilian government and it is only wise India has to build on this basis that is to cultivate and in the process strengthen the democratic government there and also keep up all the routine peace process and act more on other fronts.
Pakistani public psychology is fed by the successive governments on the fear or threat from India and that is how the military had gained supremacy over the civilian government there.
Any Indian initiative and it has to be a bold and creative initiative to succeed. in order to give a new momentum and a new meaning.
I am not sure how the mind of the Indian government, the minds of the PM and his foreign minister and the very foreign establishment in the government thinks. But I am sure of one thing. The initiative must come from some bold mind and the person, whoever he or she is, must have the good of India and peace in the Indian subcontinent in mind.
I am very confident that anyone of us can take up this initiative.
How to build the democratic institutions inside Pakistan successfully.
An invitation for Zardari to visit India and have heart-to-heart discussions to promote long-term peace between the two countries.
It is in this context, I was fascinated, yes, that is the right word, by a new book by the ever youthful maverick, though he must be now old enough to be a grandfather, I mean Tariq Ali.
Heard of Tariq Ali?
Oh, in my time at Oxford, in the late fifties, Tariq Ali was perhaps the most famous and most romantic of the youth heroes! In England and on the European continent.
Tariq Ali, by the way, is a Pakistani and he at Oxford had the distinction of getting elected as the Oxford Union Debating Society in 1965.Benazir Bhutto got this distinction in 1977.
These were great honours for the former colonies, Sri Lankan young men, like Lalithe Athulathmudali and Lashman Kadirkamar were also Union Presidents. I knew these two though now I forget the details of the discussions we often had with each other. I had many Sri Lankan friends, the Sinhala students, like those from Pakistan, used to came from feudal and affluent family background unlike Indians who often came from the old ICS families or those who came from the princely families.
By the time I went up to Oxford, there wasn’t much of a change in the profile of the Indian students there. Most came on scholarships (like Dr.Manmohan Singh, a contemporary of mine) and they were mostly research students, they went back and got into the bureaucracy and disappeared from public view.
But Tariq Ali was in a class of his own. He became a Marxist and a student revolutionary. I read very much later in his autobiography called provocatively, “Street Fighting Days”, how he took up revolution always whenever or wherever it happed and it became, if I can say so with no offence, his full-time preoccupation. The famous Paris student’s riots of 1968 saw Tariq Ali in the front row and in the front rank. Perhaps that was his moment of glory.
In fact, there were so many parallels in my life too. I of course didn’t opt for full-time revolution; I became committed in my mind for full-time politics back in India.
Also, Tariq Ali became a playwright and he cultivated some of the famous actors and actresses of the time. I was interested in theatre but only as an avid visitor to plays, both modern and classics like Shakespeare. I was glad to study how Tariq Ali was a close friend of one of the greatest actresses of her time, namely, Vanessa Redgrave, my own favourite Shakespearean actress. Oh, how many days I waited for long hours in the queue at Stratford Upon Avon to buy tickets just because Vanessa Redgrave was acting that evening!
So, Tariq Ali brings back to me many memories than just what he has got to say on the latest situation in Pakistan.
His new book, “The Duel: Pakistan on the flight path of American power”, 2008, released on September 15, is now the best-seller in Pakistan and has come at a timely moment.
Here is his most powerful statement on the current Pakistani scenario. He knows Pakistan as well as he was almost a contemporary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, so also his daughter, Benazri Bhutto as many other leaders so closely and know the minds of the current rulers as well.
Pakistan, says Ali, is in tight embrance of America. This is wrong, he says. US-Pakistan alliance was never popular, he says.
Of course, Tariq Ali is a radical and a romantic revolutionary. So, we have to take his analysis of what is wrong with Pakistan and he has in his latest book hasn’t given much hope for the future of his country.
He has some damaging things to say about every other leader in Pakistan including the founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. As for the current President, Zardari, he says in the book and also in the Guardian article dated September 7, 2008, that it is fate that singled out Benazir Bhutto’s heir and successor!
Says Tariq in the article: “The transference of power is from a moth-eaten general to a worm-eaten politician”.
The party has become a family heirloom, to be bequeathed to her son, with husband as the regent till the boy come of age”.
What would be the reaction in India to this charge, when in India too we witness, of course in a vastly grown up democracy, a similar play of politics, warming the seat with a nominee Prime Minister till the “price charming” comes of age or gets ready for the job!
Of course Tariq Ali has some harsh words for Benazir as well. Says he: “She was never one to regard politics alone as the consuming passion of her life and always envied the lifestyle and social behaviour of the very rich”
Today, says Ali, Zardari is the second richest person in the country. So on and on!
Of course, we consider what Tariq Ali says about Pakistan’s future, its “sustainable economic development” and emerging as a stable democratic order” is a mere wishful thinking.
His own prescriptions, doing away with the military-landlord nexus is not so easy and needs much deeper study and policy changes.
Also, Ali is not also helpful how democracy can be sustained with his own criticism of Zardari as being corrupt etc.
The good thing about Pakistan today is there is here a President elected by the democratic process. That is what matter. Now, Zardari, in the case of putting an end to the terrorist menace, he is willing to co-operate with India.
India should seize this opportunity and must become pro-active and show lot of foresight and statesmanship and reach out to Zardari and build a measure of mutual trust.
There is no other way.
India must speak out to the Pakistani people and say repeatedly, if needed, about India not being a threat at all to Pakistan’s existence.
The best security for India is India’s democratic traditions. The best security for Pakistan comes from a democratic India and not from an unpredictable autocratic government as in China.
So, let us build bridges of mutual trust and more open borders and people to people friendships and trade across the Kashmir borders.
As for the actual process of arrest and trial of the terrorists, may be we have to take the matter to the UN security Council and even to the international courts.
In the modern world, given the current international relations, with USA and Israel and even Russia being friendly to India and Pakistan, India has to exert pressure in international forums to bring the guilty to speedy trial and justice sought.

The Home Minister has resigned. One Chief Minister has resigned. But is this enough? What about the bureaucrats and officials – from National Security Adviser downwards – whose actual job it was to act and prevent this tragedy. Its more important that they are made accountable if this system needs to be truly overhauled. The public mood today remains restless.

It is now more than one week since the ghastly attacks hit Mumbai in such a ruthless manner. As reports, new sources of information and new analysis by experts and media investigations show this was an attack that almost hit its targets and served its purpose.

Now, there are reports that fresh attacks might take place. The country is on alert.
The citizens are very concerned. Citizens alertness and citizens’ sensitivity seems to be the only hope. Where is the government? What the government is doing? No one seems to have any idea. This is the country’s real tragedy.

The government seems to be not up to our expectations. There doesn’t seem to be real men in government. Just boys who talk and move around ,sit in TV talk shows and well-dressed and well-settled in Delhi.
Sorry for such observations and then this is the view from afar. What it nearer the levers of power?
Only close observers must tell. Delhi-based journalists, including one or two senior journalist says what the Prime Minister said in the wake of the attacks and thereafter is incoherent and even inaudible!

We need better articulation. We demand action. We demand more accountability. Some more heads must roll, roll at once and people must come out of the shock and trauma. The nation needs some emotional bonding. There is clearly now a disconnect.

By all accounts, it now seems the attacks were all well-planned and well-executed. Almost, if we can say so, with hundred per cent “success”. All the targets were hit, the ATS police chiefs were all killed and the famous landmarks bore the brunt of the attacks.

The Jewish rabbi and his wife were killed. So whoever might have planned this attack, they deserve some sort of recognition and resolute action. But now the mood in the country is not yet ready to condone the government.

The government’s response from the moment the attacks took place to this very moment, if we can take some liberty with our freedoms of expression and right to have our own opinions, the government hasn’t shown any high degree of sensitivity we associate with a democratic government like ours.
We have the great legacy of Gandhi and Nehru. We are known for our humane culture. We are a successful democracy. We have lots of freedoms and also lots of leverages like our very many failures and yet we tolerate a government for its many weaknesses.

It is time to take some stock of our failures.

The Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, by all accounts, expressed or suppressed, has failed us miserably.That is the thought that comes and comes again and again whenever we sit back and recollect the past week’s events.The Cabinet didn’t meet immediately after the attacks. Neither our National Security Guards moved out in a responsible manner. The delays were almost like horror stories.

It took nine long hours before the NSG landed in Mumbai. No fire tenders at the site as quickly as one imagined.It took almost 14 long ,long hours before the Cabinet met.

There are now more disturbing reports the government was fed by intelligence beforehand in Oct on the 18th,in Nov on the 19th and three times the RAW intercepted the message to the effect some sea-based attacks are likely.Now, the Navy chief says no such intelligence was passed on to it.
Now much more disturbing loopholes come out. The government protocol is the intelligence wings, RAW, IB and NAS report directly to the Prime Minister almost on a day to day basis.
Dr.Manmohan Singh, the ever academic he is, changed this protocol, he made the ageing M.K.Narayan who is not only a security adviser to the Prime Minister, perhaps their age makes them very cosy colleagues, was also made the National Security Adviser in the place of the late Dixit and the intelligence agencies only report to the NSA and not the Prime Minister.

Now with this almost near-like war against the country where the enemy left us devastated and a demoralised nation, we have a Prime Minister who is going about his business as if the terrorist attacks don’t matter much. Or, one more attack in the series he had asked us to live with in the past few years!And how long it took to send out the hapless Home Minister Shivraj Patil?

Mrs.Sonia Gandhi can’t sit back either as if the troubles of the country don’t come under her purview.
She is also accountable by holding back her favourite Home Minister Mr.Patil all these days and months.Now what are we likely to expect from this government?Any accountability? Who would be running the intelligence outfits? The very same bunglers? Or, will there be any changes. Given the mindset and the way he is going about the Prime Minister looks like a reluctant PM. Is this perception right? We like to seek the views of our readers and the general public.

If the Prime Minister is not inclined to invite criticism from the concerned citizens, if he doesn’t show any further resolute action, then, it is time for the country to think of an alternative Prime Minister even in the next few months before the next elections. What the next elections would mean to people, if the government doesn’t act now? On the aftermath of the tragedy?

The news report gives a rather dismal picture. Even the latest Cabinet meet didn’t discuss the terror attack. So says Kapil Sibal.

It is very distressing.

Also the media, in particular the TV news channels received lots of criticism. Burkha Dutt, Group Editor, NDTV.com has come under critical comments. She was obviously over-doing her brief in an attempt to one-upmanship game. Rightly, Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor in chief of CNN-IBN put it rightly that the tabloids in television had done this mistake. Like Barkha’s interviewing the husband of the slain journalist in the midst of so much agony she was seen asking the man unnecessary questions. Barkha needs cite N.R.Narayana Murthy to her support!

Even the Navy chief criticised the way the TV journalists played their roles. There is much to mourn about. There is much to think about at this moment. At least a citizens committee with eminent men and women, from corporate world, from the arts and culture and NGOs must take independent action and come out with a report on what happened that day and nights and how the governments, both in Mumbai and Delhi failed us.

Some more heads must roll!
What L.K.Advani did in not attending the all party meeting is unbecoming of an Opposition Prime Ministerial candidate!
In the post attack period, we have seen the first-ever deep-felt anger over the government’s poor governance, poor preparedness in spite of the warnings before hand.
Also, we see the same-old mindset at work.
The Congress cant sit tight with its own narrow-focused favourtism in retaining old-faithfuls, both at the Congress party inner circles as well as the PMO’s old faithfuls.
Some officials, key men at the intelligence organisations also must be replaced, replaced rather swiftly. That only can partly assuage feelings of hurt and letdown.
The latest terrorist attack has left the country and the Indian people thoroughly shocked and it would take a very long time for the country to come back to normaly. Perhaps, India would no more the same country after all this has happened.
India is a democracy, an open society, a country friendly with almost all countries in the world. India is a predominantly a very large country with a very large Muslim population. India is a friend of the Muslim countries of the world; we are friends of the Middle Eastern nations. We have been following a fairly independent line when it comes to steering clear of the many controversial positions taken by the USA with whom we are maintaining a friendly and at the same time a sort of equi-distant stand when it comes to Arab nations and Iran and other countries with many controversial issues and stands.
As Pranab Mukerjee had brief the members of the Congress Working Committee, it is not a simple method to deal with the latest terror attack and India has to tread carefully.
Yet, the Indian public is outraged and wont rest with the UPA government if it doesn’t take decisive action.
The terror outrage left the Indian mainstream opinion strongly divided.
The government, as we now learn from many pieces of information as to intelligence failures, there were three warnings at least. The government machinery failed to act.
Yes, there are great many lapses and so the great many losses to so many lives.
It is perhaps the greatest tragedy in modern India and certainly the great defining moment in our recent memory. Someone, suddenly an unforeseen enemy came along the Indian shores and suddenly declared war against the Indian people.
The terrorist attacks in so many goary detail defies our common sense and goes to prove that life from now onwards for the common man in the country wouldn’t be the same again.
Yes, we have to learn to live with terrorism as we have not so far learnt to live with. Yes, there have been regular terrorist attacks now in India, in Delhi and elsewhere, why even in Mumbai itself. But this is the most terrible and most in terms of human costs. The previous ones were no less tragic and the news media, both the print, Indian and foreign have detailed these causalities and therefore we needn’t go over again this part of the tragic tale.
But now in the wake of the Central government taking action, first the removal of Shivraj Patil, from the home ministry is the right signal to appease public anger and disenchantment with the rather regular expected routine of government response. Yes, this time too the same routine we saw and the people got disgusted with the slow pace of operation even after the attackers started firing the innocent guests at the Taj Hotel. Now, the questions are being asked and they should continue to be asked and the government must respond.
Why the delay in the response from the NSG, for over good nine hours? It is a serious failure and the government machinery must be revamped. The reports about the lack of a big enough plane etc are really unconvincing and hurting. The location of the NSG too in Delhi and Chandigarh, now we can see, doesnt make any strategic sense. Second, there is a clear intelligence failure. There is a report that there was a telephone intercept a week before and yet no one acted. Who are responsible for this failure? They must be brought to book. Let some more sackings take place. That would at least assuage the feelings of those who lost their dear ones. Why it should take 60 hours to flush out or wipe out the four attackers?
It is hard to come to terms with the explanations given. A layman won’t be so easily convinced.
The price to pay for this huge tragedy is too high and so it is not just again routine, back to business as we are accustomed to expect from the way government functions.
Yes, we have to reconcile to the harsh reality of political life in a democracy. We need a government and we are better with the form of democracy we have and we have to live with what set of people we get nominated, if not properly elected so that we expect to get some leaders who would be natural leaders who would speak their minds out.
At a time like this we have to talk some unpleasant truths and make some hard and harsh observations if at all to assuage the hurt feelings of the people.
Our hearts go to those all who lost their lives. Our heart goes to the brave policemen and others who lost their lives in doing their duty. Some of the tales are really heart-breaking.
In such a situation, we have to be a bit harsh without politicians.
Heads must roll in a democracy, not necessarily only in a dictatorships or autocratic Prime Ministers.
The IB, RAW and NSA must be revamped and new heads must be appointed.
That will be a true signal for new urgency to the issues raised by the post-Mumbai scenario.
At the political level, it is necessary the Prime Minister showed enough remorse and offered to resign. That was a good gesture. But that is not enough.
It is needed to note that the current incumbent is not a political person. He is a bureaucrat. To inject some political reassurance, we have to appoint a politically savvy person, designated as a Deputy Prime Minister. After all, this is a coalition and it is nearing its term and in the rest of the months and days, it is necessary that at least till that time, we should have a new face, as far as assuring the public a new political face.
Dr.Singh alone wont do. This is our opinion.
So a person like, say, Lalu Prasad Yadav can be designated as the Deputy Prime Minister and given charge of the reassurance as for the government’s resolution to pursue the anti-terror secularity apparatus in place.
The Deputy along with the PM must tour the country and create confidence in the minds of the people.
See, how irrelevant most of the regional leaders have become in the wake of this large scale terror. Where is Karunanidhi or Buddadeb Bhattacharjee or even Shivsena or other BJP regional leaders like Narendra Modi come in?
There are nowhere and they are no more relevant to the new situation like this one.
That has a message.
The current outrage brought in the more mainstream society into the public policy making view.
The corporate world is agitated; the rich and powerful, the elite and the intellectual community must be co-opted to create a new confidence and a new path ahead.
For this, we suggest a new and independent commission of enquiry, not a bureaucratic body or partymen identified in the public mind with Sonia Gandhi or others must be avoided.’
We need a citizen enquiry committee to study and find out as to where the system failed, why were the early warning were not followed up, who have to be fixed for this lapses?
Only credible names, say prominent citizens, say, Sobha De, Sobhana Azmi or prominent civil society activists, artists, intellectuals and others like some NGO leaders must be appointed and the citizen enquiry must make its preliminary results out, say, within a month.
This enquiry must show the urgency of the uncertainties of the citizens minds. It is not one more commission thriving on extensions and nothing else.
So, let us hope there is some real movement forward.
One word about the media’s role. The Print media was better than the TV channels. NDTV was found faltering. Only Bharka Dutta was found holding the operations. The best of the lot was undoubtedly CNN IBN. The ladies at the CNN did a very empathetic job. Next came Times now.
Even after the outrage and the wide coverage, when it came to covering the CWC meeting, it was amusing to see the TV channels focusing only on the PM and Sonia Gandhi and none else. This gave a wrong impression. Even the CWC meeting, why only PM and Sonia Gandhi only? Why focus and replay only Rahul Gandhi and Dr.Karan Singh, dummy only!
It is very unfair and not true fair press or fair coverage.
Anyway, as time passes the true dimensions of the reality of our life and times would dawn on the citizens, let us hope so.
Let the nation become more stronger and with more resolve to take the country forward towards greater heights of self-confidence and unity of purpose.

I was elected as the Member of the Madras Legislative Council (MLC) from the graduates constituency consisting of Coimbatore, Salem, Nilgiris and Dharmapuri districts in 1968. I led the the teachers agitation in Chennai and was arrested for the same. This photo was taken just after the arrest.

I came to know him through his relationship with Coimbatore. I had been attracted by some of his hitherto unnoticed and unpublicized side of the man. He was down right a serious man who commented on serious character failures of the Indian people. This particularly attracted me to meet him in Coimbatore and Chennai. This photo was taken in Chennai at the New Woodlands Hotel.