Archive for Afghanistan

The London Meet on Afghanistan

Posted in International Affairs with tags , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by Umer

 by Yohannan Chemarapally

(People’s Democracy)

THE London Conference on Afghanistan held in the last week of January was supposed to plan out a coherent “exit strategy” for the West out of the quagmire it finds itself in. Instead, the conference has only succeeded in sending out confusing signals to the international community. While there was a lot of talk of engaging with the “good Taliban there was also a continued emphasis on a military solution to the conflict.

However, the desperation to get out of Afghanistan was tangible from the statements of most Western leaders present at the meeting. The willingness to open a dialogue with the “good Taliban” to find a political solution was an indication of the prevailing pessimistic mood. But with a political or military solution nowhere in sight it was evident that the military occupation of Afghanistan would continue for another five years at least. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, in fact wants foreign troops to be around for a minimum of 15 years. He reiterated this demand once again in London. More than 70 countries, along with the European Union, NATO and the UN attended the London Conference. The EU and NATO officials were critical about Karzai’s 15 year time line for withdrawal.

It is evident that the grandiose promise of President Barak Obama to withdraw all American troops by 2011 is no longer a feasible proposition. With the militarily ascendant Taliban refusing to be drawn into a dialogue, the conditions on the ground will mean that US troops will continue to be stationed in Afghanistan beyond the deadline set by President Obama. The 10,000 additional NATO troops from European countries that Washington expected to be deployed in Afghanistan as part of the military surge, does not seem to be materialising. France has announced that it will not be sending any more troops to Afghanistan. Germany has promised only 500 more troops while the Dutch are on the verge of pulling out all their 2000 soldiers out of Afghanistan.

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No health-care right under capitalism

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Umer

Danish Khan

Capitalist system is completely incapable of providing the basic health care to the people. We all know how miserable and terrible the lives of the people of third world countries are. But even in the USA, the most powerful and wealthiest Empire of the human history, many people still don’t have a right to basic health care. This shows the bleak reality of the capitalist system at its supposed best. According to US government’s statistics, 45.7 million people in US have no access to health care. While US Empire is building its strength to dominate all over the globe, its domestic heath care system has completely crippled. US loudly proclaim its commitments towards “peace” and “stability” in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Empire has forgotten that more than 22,000 deaths each year are caused by the lack of health care in its home. Empire says that health care is too expensive, we can not afford it. On other hand, they are spending $255million per day in Iraq! Iraq is more important than health care because the neo-conservative lobby sees oil there. They are willing to spend money there, but in health care dollars will be used for the welfare of the people which is against the spirit of capitalism. US have the most advanced military weapons and aircrafts for wars. When it comes to health care, the story is little different. There are only 26 doctors per 10,000 people, and the worst is that there are only 31 beds for 10,000 people. Cuba, a very small island with very limited resources, has outshined US in health care only because their priority is the welfare of their people rather than more profit for big corporations. In US health insurance companies’ profits have reached more than 320%, while people have lost all their health overages. It a drastic picture of a most advanced capitalist society, the level of oppression and exploitation is infinite.

In US health care has been traditionally provided by the private employers. However, due to recent economic crisis, many jobs have been lost which resulted in the loss of all the health care services for working people. The degree of exploitation of labor, the appropriation of surplus labor and surplus value are raised notably by intensifying the labor. Marx explained these phenomenon years ago in Das Kapital. But its importance and relevancy is invaluable in today’s world. The accumulation of wealth is increasing every day by the labor of workers, but the only beneficiary of this wealth is the one who owns means of production (the capitalist class). The living standard and quality of life of working men is going vertically down, workers have no health care, and they can’t afford to send their children to go to colleges and universities. In US, 2.6 million jobs have been lost in year 2008 according to U.S Labor department. Is it surprising? Yes, only for those who never had a chance to read Marx’s Das Kapital. Those who have read it and understood it are the least surprised because they know it is a usual case under capitalism. In volume III of Das Kapital, Marx devoted a lot of time in explaining the conflict between expansion of production and production of surplus value. As the rate of surplus value rises, the number of laborers falls relatively or absolutely. In US from January 2008 to September 2008, 1.7 million jobs have been lost while in last four months 1.9 million jobs have disappeared. It is just another tactic of increase the exploitation by lowering the demand of labor as relative to people who are willing to sell their labor.

What we are seeing today is a new chapter in the history of capitalism. We need to educate the masses of the Pakistan about the material realities of the most advanced capitalist country. The bourgeois class of Pakistan, submissive followers of US Imperialism, can not portray this picture of capitalism. Capitalism in its prime form in US is unable to serve its own people. How can they play any role in the betterment and welfare of the people of the Pakistan? In every part of the world people are demanding their rights and they can see that present economic system has no ability to perform effectively. Thus the only alternative system which can provide people proper health care and all their rights and needs is the socialism. In working class circles, socialism and its advantages is a hot topic these days. As the material conditions of the society are becoming more and more favorable for the socialism, a need of a mass based movement is very crucial.

Danish Khan is a student in USA.

Class Basis of Taliban

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

It is my contention that the Taliban represent a reactionary and a restorationist movement. A simple definition of the term “reactionary” is as follow:

Reactionary (also reactionist) refers to any movement or ideology that opposes change or progress in society, and which seeks a return to a previous state (the status quo ante). The term originated in the French Revolution, to denote the counter-revolutionaries who wanted to restore the real or imagined conditions of the monarchical Ancien Régime. In the nineteenth century, the term reactionism denoted those who wished to preserve feudalism and aristocratic privilege against industrialism, republicanism, liberalism and socialism.

It is also a restorationist movement. An easy definition of “restorationist” is as follows:

Restorationism, sometimes called Christian primitivism, refers to the belief held by various religious movements that pristine or original Christianity should be restored, which usually claiming to be the source of that restoration. Such groups teach that this is necessary because Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians introduced defects into Christian faith and practice, or have lost a vital element of genuine Christianity. Specifically, restorationism applies to the Restoration Movement and numerous other movements that originated in the eastern United States and Canada and grew rapidly in the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The term restoration is also employed by the Latter Day Saint movement. The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Marxism does not preach a unilinear evolutionism (one sided historical development towards progress). It is premised upon the dialectics of class struggle that includes both forces of progress and forces of reaction.

Naturally, the Taliban do not want to restore “original Christian” they want to restore “original Islam”. Hence, in ideological terms there can be little if any doubt that the Taliban are both reactionary (opposed to progress) as well as restorationist (want to restore original Islam). What is the class basis of reactionary and restorationist movements?

It is only logical that pre-capitalist ruling classes destroyed by the spread of capitalism will from time and time attempt to restore the way of life in which they dominated. What we see in the shape of the Taliban is similarly an attempt to take society back to medieval times through blood and violence. Let us take a few examples:

  1. The burning of modern educational institutions are undertaken to substitute the medieval system of madrassah education.
  2. The veiling of women is a throw back to the medieval period when the 20th century women’s movement had not managed to win basic democratic rights.
  3. The discriminatory attitude towards religious minorities is characteristic of the medieval period.
  4. The public punishments including gruesome torture and amputations are a throw back to medieval practices (when such punishments were fairly common).

I could go on but I think these four examples suffice for now.

These examples should not be misconstrued to mean that capitalist modernity has achieved women’s emancipation, secular education, non-discrimination, or done away with human rights abuses. That is certainly not the case. However, in the modern world ethical sensibilities have so changed that such things are considered “ideals” that we should strive towards. Conversely, the inability under capitalism to achieve these “ideals” is considered “a failure”.

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The Swat offensive

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2009 by Umer

by Rashed Rahman

The military offensive in Swat Valley and surrounding districts of Malakand Division has more or less completed its initial phase. This may be a good moment therefore to assess the operation so far.

There is little doubt that there was a fundamental shift in the attitude of the army before such an unprecedented military offensive could be launched against the Taliban whom the military until recently was fond of referring to as its ‘strategic assets’. What led to this ‘change of heart’?

Under Musharraf as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), the duality in policy of capturing/killing Al-Qaeda members to assuage US post-9/11 rage and preserving the Afghan Taliban continued from after 9/11 until Musharraf’s ouster from power in September 2008. Along the way, US pressure to do something about the safe havens Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban enjoy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and which had permitted them to transform the relatively low intensity insurgency in progress since 2001 in Afghanistan into a more effective guerrilla war (helped enormously by Bush’s blundering into Iraq in March 2003), forced Musharraf in 2004 to send the army into FATA for the first time in Pakistan’s history. That campaign was a disaster. The army’s contingents were ambushed and literally cut to pieces. Clearly General Head Quarters (GHQ), the Pakistani military’s apex command, had forgotten the lessons of the British colonialists in fighting the Pashtun tribals in these areas.

The military debacle persuaded the army to sue for peace with the local militants in Waziristan and other tribal areas. Such agreements were totally to the benefit of the militants and humiliating for the ‘mighty’ Pakistan army’s pride. Nevertheless, the army swallowed its gall in the interests of trying to persuade the Pakistani Taliban to support the struggle in Afghanistan rather than challenge the writ of the Pakistani state. The watchful US military command in Afghanistan did not try to disguise its disquiet at these so-called peace agreements since it detected that an easing of the military pressure on the Pakistani side of the Pak-Afghan border meant increased attacks on their and NATO’s troops in Afghanistan. Hence at every given opportunity, they attempted to sabotage such agreements through missile strikes that took out the local Taliban commanders who had signed such deals with the Pakistan military. The Pakistani military still hoped (consistently since 2001) that the US and NATO would tire of the ‘futile’ and endless struggle in Afghanistan and GHQ and the Afghan Taliban would then easily step back into the relative power vacuum in Kabul, aided and abetted by their Pakistani Taliban facilitators and hosts. This was a serious underestimation of US determination not to repeat the mistake of allowing Afghanistan to slip once again into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda’s hands. Whatever other differences in policy Obama may have had with the outgoing Bush administration (for example on Iraq), on Afghanistan he declared for seeing the task through, albeit with a more nuanced policy.

In the interim, Musharraf and the Pakistani military continued on a strategy of raising the cost of the Western presence in Afghanistan through the Afghan Taliban, extracting in the process $ 11 billion dollars for the Pakistani military over eight years without any proper accounting of where this money went. Suspicions in the US Congress that the bulk of this money went to provide weapons for the Pakistani military to bolster its conventional arms balance against India have led to delays in and calls for accountability and transparency for any future US aid to the Pakistani military.

Under Musharraf, the Pakistani military came to be hated as never before by the people of Pakistan. The military’s overbearing attitudes, corruption and control of state and society under Musharraf evoked great resentment amongst the Pakistani people. When General Ashfaq Kayani took over as COAS last year, he and the military’s top brass embarked on a refurbishing of the military’s public image. This was conducted through an ostensible distancing of the army from politics and cooperation with the elected civilian government. The past collaboration between the military and the Pakistani Taliban incrementally gave way to a firmer posture of not allowing the Pakistani Taliban to challenge the writ of the state. The failure of the so-called peace agreement in Swat (a chronicle of a failure foretold) cleared the path for the current military offensive in Swat, backed as it now is by a changed public perception of the Taliban and their brutalities.

As for the offensive, the military has not cared a fig for the people of Swat, using heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and the air force to blast their way into the Valley from three directions at the cost of three million people’s displacement. These people fled for their lives in the face of this indiscriminate bombardment, which arguably saved many soldiers’ lives, but at the cost of so many tragic stories of local people killed, children and the old having to be abandoned, and the continuing misery of the displaced in camps and amongst host communities. The military advanced behind this heavy bombardment into Swat from the south, east and west. Despite this, they failed to cut off the escape routes of the Taliban (an inherently difficult task in such mountainous terrain). The result is that the Taliban leadership has by and large escaped, probably into surrounding mountains and FATA. That is the harbinger of a protracted war, especially since the military is now planning an offensive into South Waziristan, the stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) will have a tough time even after returning to their shattered homes, with no economic opportunities, smashed infrastructure and a huge reconstruction and rehabilitation task, which on the evidence of the government’s capabilities of looking after the IDPs promises to be another disaster to add to the long list of Pakistan’s miseries.

The situation is certainly at a turning point, especially since the inventors and mentors of the Taliban, the Pakistani military, has finally decided that the challenge to the state is too grave to brook any further prevarication. That does not, however, rule out the possibility that some of the Taliban may be persuaded to forego their challenge to the Pakistani state in exchange for being spared and diverted once again to the ‘export’ of jihad into Afghanistan and Kashmir. Whether this fond hope of GHQ materializes or suffers the same fate as their best laid plans of the last four decades to control Afghanistan in the name of ‘strategic depth’ and liberate Indian-administered Kashmir through jihad, only time will tell. However, what can be surmised at this juncture is that the whole jihad export enterprise has suffered a crippling blow. Whether the blow is fatal or something can be and will be salvaged from the ashes, it is difficult to say at this juncture. The Taliban having taken to hitting back throughout Pakistan through terror indicates that we are at the beginning of a long and bitter civil war whose outcome will determine the future direction of state and society. The present conjuncture represents a turn from the domination of the national agenda by the military and its Taliban cat’s paws. Without overcoming this phenomenon, Pakistani state and society cannot hope to clear the way for a more enlightened and hopeful future.

The writer is an acclaimed journalist and political analyst. This article is a part of his email series by the title of Pakistan Political Review. He can be reached at: rrahman@nexlinx.net.pk

Backwards, forward, twisted around

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by Umer

The Taliban’s continuous reneging from agreements made with the government may yet turn the tide against them and enable the military to move decisively against them, which it has so far been unable, or unwilling, to do. A journalist’s notebook

Beena Sarwar Karachi Hardnews

In November 1999, like many others, I thought that the Taliban were the ‘last gasp of a dying order’. They were isolated in Afghanistan. The world largely turned a blind eye to their oppressive system imposed in the name of religion — public floggings, limb amputations and executions – for alleged moral transgressions that the Taliban saw as crimes, like adultery.

Such punishments were not entirely an aberration in the last decade of the 20th century: USA’s most allied ally, oil-rich Saudi Arabia, routinely meted out similar punishments (and continues to do so). The Taliban in Afghanistan controlled an area across which America wanted to build an oil pipeline. Until they refused to allow this, their ‘barbarism’ received little notice in the West, particularly America.

The Taliban’s attitude towards women was an extreme version of attitudes generally prevalent in the context of this region. Women across South Asia are verbally and physically abused every minute of the day, every day of the year. ‘Honour killings’ in one form or other are common all over the Middle East as well as South Asia, in addition to the ‘dowry deaths’ and female foeticide prevalent in India. At least 1,210 women were killed in Pakistan during 2008, including at least 612 in so-called ‘honour killings’ and at least 185 over domestic issues, according to the recent annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

“The malaise is more widespread than we care to acknowledge,” wrote Jawed Naqvi in his column My fanatic versus your fanatic (Dawn, reproduced in http://www.hardnewsmedia.com, after the ‘Swat flogging video’ came to public notice. Highlighting gender violence in various societies including India, he comments, “What goes for religious fanaticism elsewhere can easily mutate into caste bigotry in a country like India. Although caste-based zealotry goes largely unnoticed because of its prevalence in under-televised rural areas, it works with the brutality associated elsewhere with honour killings and violence against women generally.”

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Towards theocracy

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by Umer

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

Frontline on net

Note: This article appeared in the Frontline magazine of India. Therefore, the contents of the article and the message is addressed to the Indian audience. The article, nevertheless, is highly essential for us living in Pakistan.

Towards Theocracy: State and Society in Pakisan Today 

EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.  

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

 

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

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Eqbal Ahmed on Talibanization and Imperialism

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by Umer

From Ammar Querishi:

I have seen that a number of our friends/colleagues are not clear about our stance on both anti-US Imperialism and anti-Talibanization. As a result, we have been entering into lot of discussions on various aspects. In order to resolve this this discussion, I am sending the following four weblinks to different articles by the late Eqbal Ahmad on US Imperialism and Talibanization. These pieces were written more than 10 years back ( Eqbal passed away in 1999 in Islamabad). All are refreshingly poignant even ten years later although some of them are so chllingly prescient. The first article deals with the rule of Taliban, the second deals with the much-touted concept of strategic depth and its implications for Pakistan. The third traces the roots of violence in a historical context. The fourth piece ( which is an excerpt from his conversations with David Barsiman which later appeared as a booklet titled Terrorism: theirs and ours) is a scathing criticism of US imperialism. However, it also talks about Osama bin Laden’s relationship with US ( this was before 9/11 but after bombings of US embassy in Africa) and points to/predicts the future direction of relationship between these two entities. All these articles are laced with Eqbal’s trademark coruscating witticism.

1) In a land without music ( Dawn, July 1995)

2) What after strategic depth (Dawn October 1998)

3) Roots of violence in Pakistan and other parts of Muslim World

4) Terrorism theirs and ours