Archive for Benazir Bhutto

Left Opposition to the PPP

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2008 by Umer

The Policy Document issued by the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (Communist Workers and Peasants Party) of Pakistan:

In the period of military rule (till February 2008), our Party supported all democratic forces fighting against Musharraf’s dictatorship. At the same time, we remained opposed to the extreme right-wing fundamentalists that had lodged themselves within the democratic movement (such as the JI, JUI, and other fundamentalist parties).

Whether it was in the lawyers movement or in the workers movement in general, our party can hold its head up high and say with absolute sincerity that we fought with courage and to the best of our abilities.

Our party won thousands of sympathizers from the heady days of street battles when we were in the front-lines of the clash with the police. We rekindled the appreciation of progressive poetry by reviving the memory of Faiz and Habib Jalib, singing them in the streets of Pakistan and attracting people to the red banner of revolution. We also brought to the democratic movement a theoretical rigor that was wholly absent in capitalist-democratic forces. And most importantly, we mobilized the working class and brought them into political action to defend workers rights and to struggle against military rule.

With the dastardly attack that killed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, we stood alongside the PPP in complete solidarity. We ideologically defended them from right-wing forces especially the intellectual hacks of the military and the mullahs). On the streets we supported them in their electoral campaigns, in protests and demonstrations demanding a UN probe into the murder, for the holding of elections, and ideologically defended their democratic right to form a government and for power to be transferred to the elected representatives of the people.

Between February 18th and August 18th, the elected government and Musharraf loyalists existed in an uneasy and tenuous situation. While the right-wing forces of the APDM conveniently forgot about the forces of military rule and concentrated their fire against the elected government. We felt that it was a mistake to align or join with the right-wing All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) against the elected government (as the LPP, NWP, and AT had done). We felt that it was necessary for progressives to support the elected government against the dictatorship of Musharraf.

Since August 18th, the victory over the previous regime (but not the neo-colonial state structure) was complete. However, one of the vital movements that played a key role in the ouster of Musharraf, that is the lawyers movement, was bitterly disappointed that the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was not restored. At the same time, the activities of religious extremists increased, leading to the Bajour operation in the very same month of August. Again, while being critical of the military operation itself (that resulted in displaced people and numerous civilian casualties), we were supportive of the elected government against religious extremists.

Our main and arguably only motivation for supporting the forces of capitalist-democracy against military dictatorship was to win more democratic space in order to organize the most revolutionary class of Pakistani society: the working class. Encouraged by the victory over military dictatorship, the workers movement forged forward. This may not have been obvious to those that were focusing on the mainstream media. But our party connected strongly with the working class movement could see the enormous difference. In this regard, our specifically working class campaigns began to bear greater results. Both our campaign on the food crisis and now our campaign for the enforcement of minimum wages where we bravely faced beatings and arrests began to bear fruit. We developed mass support among the textile workers of Lahore and in the advanced the banner of Marxism-Leninism in the face of hostility of reactionary forces.

Thus, our line of march has been to ally with the forces of capitalist-democracy against military dictatorship and right-wing forces in order to win more democratic space for the workers movement, while at the same time maintaining an independent Marxist-Leninist class position in opposition to capitalist ideology and influence and building the class organizations (unions) and revolutionary organization (communist party) of the working class. Aside from individual errors, we believe that the general line of the CMKP was correct and we have won many victories as a result.

In order to advance the interests of the working class, we are now faced with a new situation. There is a world economic meltdown the burden of which will be placed disproportionately on the working class. This is because ruling class parties are unwilling to step outside the framework created by imperialism to meet this challenge. Since their own class interests are tied to the preservation of the neo-colonial capitalist and imperialist system, they are following the diktats of the international financial institutions and will destroy the lives of millions of workers in order to prop their political government. They are utterly unwilling to challenge the very system that has given rise to this world economic crisis.

While the current economic crisis in Pakistan is no doubt partially related to the world economic crisis, and is partially explained by the neo-liberal policies of Musharraf’s government, this explanation alone does not suffice to explain the disastrous management of economic affairs by the PPP led government. Further, we are yet to see any radical transformation in the broad economic principles upon which the economic policy of the current government is based. Specifically, the neo-liberal agenda is still seen as the panacea for the people’s economic problems:

“The Government’s policy of liberalisation and privatisation is aimed at promoting market-based, private sector-led growth. Long-term growth is at the heart of poverty reduction. Distorted prices, lack of competition, and poor government management of businesses have hindered economic development, introduced inefficiencies, generated unproductive and unsustainable employment, slowed down investment, reduced access to services by the poor, resulted in sub-standard goods and services, and contributed to fiscal bleeding. Privatisation can help change this.” (Privatization Commission of Pakistan).

The Privatization Commission under the current elected government has drawn up a list of 20 key industries for “upcoming transactions” (i.e. privatization). This includes key natural monopolies such as the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Sui Southern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Pakistan State Oil (PSO), and the Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation. Let us also remember, that while the world’s greatest market pundits (including the reactionary economic school at Chicago) are suggesting that the Washington Consensus and the unholy trinity of privatization, liberalization and free trade has failed miserably our economic policy makers are still living in a bygone decade promising a neo-liberal paradise.

Nearly 70% of all textile units have been forced to shut down in the past 8 months, both as a result of unhindered competition from Indian and Chinese textile manufacturers, and inadequate power supplies. As a result, nearly 15% of the industrial working class has been left unemployed. The government has done absolutely nothing to provide at the very least a social security net to those who have lost their jobs in the crisis. Small wonder then, when a recent survey by the Centre for Research and Security says that “70 per cent of the population is living just over, just on or just below the poverty line as defined at an income of $2 per day, and that 49 per cent of the population lives in absolute poverty.”

The PPP’s commitment to international finance capital and imperialist financial institutions such as the IMF can be seen from the recent meetings in Dubai between a contingent of the Pakistan Government and the IMF. IMF rules dictate that a country may receive up to 300% of its debt quota; the Pakistan Government has requested an amount that is 4 to 6 times of the quota—between 6 to 9 billion dollars. The conditions imposed by the IMF are as usual a stricter application of the neo-liberal agenda. The IMF “policy recommendations” (read directives) include an increase in the real interest rate. This will too obviously, lead to a decrease in real output, and will further accentuate the crisis of unemployment in the country. It is estimated that nearly 80 million people will starve during the current economic year because of rising food and commodity prices and unemployment.

This imposition of tighter market discipline, coupled with privatization of state assets will have suicidal repercussions on the economic environment in Pakistan. During the month of October alone, the inflation rate was above 25%; the inflation in food prices is just under 32%. The Government has failed to smash the power of hoarders, or the monopoly of wheat merchants over food prices. The miserable treatment afforded to oppressed nationalities is strikingly apparent when we fully appreciate the motives behind controlling inter-provincial movement of wheat.

Together, the joint issues of unemployment and inflation (stagflation) cannot be solved—and have never been solved through the free market—for they require supply side measures, such as an increase in the productive base and capacity of the macro-economy.

In conclusion, the elected capitalist government is and will continue to promote economic policies that will destroy the lives of millions of working people. They do not have the political will to call for the actual reforms that can take this country out of an economic crisis. The PPP of the 1970s proposed land reforms, nationalization of large scale industry, non-aligned foreign policy, control over flow of capital, large government investment in health care and education and so on. The truth is that the capitalist economic crisis cannot be bandaged by a few reforms. It is the structure of the system that must be destroyed to emancipate the people. Nonetheless, the present elected government is terrified even of such capitalist-democratic reforms that were once part of the program of their own party. The PPP has veered so far from its origins in the 1970s that if it looked at the mirror of its past, it would be terrified by its past open avowal of socialism.

Hence, we assert, and we would like every sane minded progressive whether within or outside the PPP to think about this extremely seriously, that the current PPP government does not represent the historical interests of the working people of Pakistan. Take the simple example of the appointment of ministers who have openly supported vani and other reactionary social practices. It demonstrates that the inability of the PPP to consistently stand even for capitalist-democratic principles. It is no doubt the largest party in Pakistan and it has spoken for the common man in the past. But any honest person, even within the PPP, can no longer turn away from the fact that the PPP is a party where the hegemonic and dominant ideas and social practice does not represent the same interests as the movement for the emancipation of the working class.
Right-wing forces stand for capitalism, discriminatory laws, and collude with imperialism. Right-wing struggles against anything that enables mankind to progress. They want to reverse the wheel of history. Though hiding themselves in progressive slogans, the right-wing has no problem with a dictatorship if it carries forward their regressive agendas. The right-wing has always been the foremost enemy of the rights of women, oppressed nations, and progress of the country. In Pakistan, the right-wing has historically aligned themselves dictatorship and Imperialism against the rights of the working classes.

The left-wing are all the forces that stand against this agenda. Left-wing struggles for the rights of the oppressed masses against the oppressors. Their major demand are peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms and independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most importantly the emancipation of the workers and peasants. We stand for progress of humanity for a system where the exploitation of humans by humans can be done away with. In Pakistan, the left-wing has always stood with and sacrificed for the cause of the working masses for their rights.

Therefore, the principles of a left-opposition are entirely different from those of a right opposition to the PPP. Most importantly, we continue to support the PPP in its struggle against religious extremism and military rule because these two objectives intersect with our party’s own analysis. And by doing so, we distinguish ourselves from the right-wing opposition to the PPP that acts in defense of fundamentalists and military dictators. Thus, we will neither join nor align with the right-wing forces as other leftists have done. In fact, we consider such an alliance a complete betrayal of socialism since it results in the complete silence by those organizations in relation to right-wing forces. Right-wing forces that are not only supportive of neo-liberalism (as is the current elected government) but also of reactionary and discriminatory laws against women, minorities and working people.

Since, it is abundantly clear that the PPP’s economic policies, like those of nearly every other previous government, have not fundamentally changed in the lives of the poor – factory workers, landless tenants or small farmers, we communists do not hesitate to hold them to account on their promises to the poor. In sum, left-opposition to the elected government will support the capitalist democrats only insofar as they are in opposition to the mullah’s and the military and struggle against them tooth and nail to defend the humanity of the working class. For this the CMKP has launched a left opposition movement against the PPP by channeling the revolutionary anger of the masses not only against the neo-liberal policies but also against capitalism as a social system. We have already begun work against the privatization of the OGDC and have joined workers in dharnas, hunger strikes and protest marches. Furthermore, we have begun the publication of a new working class newspaper called Sadai Mazdoor. We hope to make it the basis of widespread working class resistance to capitalism. In this regard, we would call on our comrades and fraternal parties and most importantly our brothers and sisters in trade unions to strengthen an anti-privatization alliance. The democratic revolution can only truly be completed through a people’s movement of the workers and peasants of Pakistan.

The working people of Pakistan already know that with the world financial financial crisis, a new phase of struggle is ahead of us. They are looking straight down the barrel of hunger, poverty, and destitution. And while some may clutch at straws for hope (such as the current democratic government) they all know the real truth: mainstream political parties are all in one way or another tied to various ruling class interests.

It is for this reason that we call upon the working people to organize a workers party. A party that represents the historical interests of the working class. A party that proudly inscribes socialism on its banner. A party that will do what is necessary to emancipate people from the grip of brutal jagirdars, rapacious capitalists, murderous imperialists, and ignorant and reactionary mullahs. That is create a iron dictatorship against the small murderous clique of exploiting classes and a democratic government for the exploited majority. Without such a party that stands without apology to smash the class rule of the exploiters and establish the class rule of workers and peasants, the emancipation of the working people is a utopian illusion. This essential feature is what separates a party that represents the historical interests of the working class from a party that merely pays lip service to the poor. Such a party, a party that represents the historical interests of the working class, is the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party that stands on the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism.

To defend the lives of workers and peasants in the context of the world economic crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of people, the CMKP calls upon all progressives to join us in forming a iron chain against neo-liberal reforms dictated by the IMF. To stand against privatization, to stand against the destruction of health, education. To fight, and fight to the death this capitalist/imperialist system that drinks blood from the skulls of its victims, whether through wars of conquest or through economic genocide.

In the words of Habib Jalib

Haal ab tak wohi hain ghareebon kay
Din phiray hain faqat waziron kay
Har Bilawal des ka hai maqrooz
Paaon nangay hain sub benaziron kay

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War in FATA – The Marxist View

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2008 by Umer

Let us begin from the first premise: What is the class character of the various forces that are in combat with each other? What are their aims? The position of the party of the proletariat must be clear; it can not consist of half-baked slogans, semi-support for one group and semi-support for the other—no it cannot be anything of the sort. Such positions, if taken to the masses, can only befuddle their minds.

“In any given situation, says Prachanda,”it is best in general terms to divide the struggle into its component parts—the forces of reaction (that seek to pull back the wheel of history), the forces of the status quo, and the forces of progress.”

I will use Comrade Prachanda’s rule of thumb as the benchmark—it is simple to grasp and easy to understand.

The present status quo is composed of an alliance between international finance capital, the comprador bourgeoisie and a section of the Pakistan Army that benefits from international finance capital. I will henceforth refer to this historical bloc simply, as the “status quo”.

1- The Taliban:

The Taliban represent the forces of reaction; let us be clear that they are not fighting a war against finance capital, or a war for national liberation. Let us also be clear that they are not even fighting a war for oppressed religious minorities.

Under what circumstances can the party of the proletariat support them? None.

2- The Pakistan Government

That a complete transition to bourgeois democracy has been made is un-dialectical. I agree. However, that is not the question that we are addressing.

As long as there is a temporary alliance between the class interests of the comprador bourgeoisie and a section of the army—leading to the formation of a new historical bloc—-they will jointly wage a battle against the Taliban.

To suggest—or to require—from contending class interests to always pursue their own course independently of other classes, even when there interests temporarily align against a common enemy is to reduce the class struggle into children’s playing field.

Yes, each class pursues a course of action, in the final analysis for its independent class aims and not for the aims of the allied class. But that does not imply that they will not ally against what they consider a common enemy. Contradictions are not immutable; antagonistic contradictions may metamorphisize into non-antagonistic ones and vice versa.

Coming back to the point—the Pakistan government at present is governed by the Pakistan People’s Party which historically represented the interests of the national bourgeoisie. That there has been a significant internal metamorphosis within the People’s Party, converting it into a party representing the interests of the comprador bourgeoisie is an important and objectively plausible hypothesis.

In either case, it is clear that they represent the forces that seek to maintain the present status quo as it stands.

3- The Pakistan Army

Does the Pakistan Army represent monolithic class interests? Or is it composed of different ideological strands?

If indeed, the Pakistan army is composed of different ideological strands, does this then imply that we can label its entire body under one caption: “Reactionary”. No it does not. Does it imply that we can label the entire Army as a force of the status quo? No it does not. Neither analysis is correct, in my opinion.

The Pakistan Army is composed of sections that represent the forces of the status quo, and forces that represent the forces of reaction. This corresponds to the historical evolution of the Pakistan Army over the course of the past 3 decades. During Zia’s military regime, the Mullahs were a part of the ruling historical bloc. As a result, a process of Islamization was conducted not only in the country, but within the Army as well. Professor Colonel Abdul Qayum was appointed as the Chief Advisor to the President, and was given the task of presenting a series of lectures on “iman, taqwa and jehad fi sabillillah” to young army officers. These three words became the motto of the Pakistan Army. Further, Abdul Qayum recalls in his book “Zia ul Haq and I”, that the process of Islamization was aimed at creating an ideologically Islamist army, though “a large chunk of officers resented and wanted a largely secular Army”. (Zia ul Haq and I, page 31)

Did the reactionary lobby within the Pakistan Army enjoy the same ascendancy within the ensuing 20 years after Zia’s death? No it did not. Does this imply that the reactionary lobby was annihilated? No it does not. The reactionary lobby continues to exist within the Army as a junior partner; however, the changing international situation and the corresponding crack in the hitherto existing historical bloc have changed the balance of forces not only in the country but within the Pakistan Army itself. During the course of the past 12 years the Askari Financial conglomerate has established itself as the leading financial body operating in Pakistan. Its interests are directly aligned with the interests of Imperialism. Therefore, it directly benefits from the dictates of imperialism.

Its ascendancy within the ranks of the Army corresponds to the emergence of the new historical bloc; the dethroning of the reactionary lobby within the Army corresponds to the fact that the new historical bloc has amputated relations with the forces of reaction. The dethroned forces exist and continue to agitate from within the ranks of the Army. Dozens of right-wing officers were forcefully retired during Musharraf’s period; hanged upon plotting his assassination thrice.

What should the Party of the Proletariat Do?

The Party of the proletariat has to decide its course of action given the situation. It cannot ask “what if” questions when the battle has already begun.

First, let me say at the outset that any moral headcount of the number of children and men being killed because of the war does no good to us. Casualty and injury are the byproducts of war; they are unfortunate but unavoidable. This is precisely why Marxist-Leninists have been the greatest advocates of peace; however, we understand that in order to make peace an objective reality the system of antagonistic classes that lies at the root of war must be eliminated. Any talk of peace without an objective appraisal of the situation and the balance of forces between the various classes amounts to pacifism. Furthermore, is it not juvenile to expect contending antagonistic class interests to “not get messy in war” when an opposing class has already taken up arms?
Second, as far as the operation and its logistical dynamics are concerned, it is obvious that the civilian government neither has the manpower nor the necessary skills to wage a battle itself. Military combat is an art and science; it is acquired through years of training. The only force capable of leading such an operation is the military itself. That the democratically elected government (both in the Federal capital and the Pakhtunkhwa province) supports the operation and has willingly given the military control of the operations (through a decision of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party) suggests that even if the hegemony of the operation lies with the military its armed action cannot be called “unpopular” by any stretch of the imagination. The election campaigns of both the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party were replete with positions in support of an active struggle against the “Jehadi’s”. The Pakistan People’s Party contingent was targeted on numerous occasions by suicide bombers precisely because of its support for the Lal Masjid operation.

Given then that:

1- The war has already begun, and that it is pursuing a course of its own, independent of our subjective desires.
2- The Pakistan People’s Party (the party of the centre) and the Awami National Party (the party in the province) are openly and actively pursuing the war.
3- The Taliban have violated the terms of the peace negotiations and are plotting suicide bombs almost every week.

It is a matter of secondary importance (although not unimportant) then whether the hegemony of the operation lies with the elected government or with the army. Our support for the operation should be based on whether or not it seeks to annihilate the forces of reaction or not. Our Party supported the Lal Masjid operation at a time when even a partial transition to democracy had not been made. It supported the operation for its class aims; the routing of the forces of reaction by the forces of the status quo. A similar mode of analysis must be utilized to analyze this operation. Instead of falling into the abyss of pedantics we must support the operation since it takes on a head-on collision with the forces of reaction; forces which have most consistently been the enemies of progress, reason and science.

The proletariat cannot stand aloof in times of war; it does not impose pre-conditions on the bourgeois democrats for its historical struggle against pre-democratic forces. It supports every measure that challenges the forces of reaction and criticizes every move towards reconciliation. It is the most militant and consistent representative of progress; it can under no circumstances show any sympathy for forces of reaction either in the name of peace or under the guise of half-baked slogans. We must support any attempt, however imperfect, by the ruling status quo to annihilate the reactionaries. The criteria for support or opposition must be the class character of the contending forces and their goals in the broader historical context. The criteria for support must be: Does this in the broader view of history advance the cause of the proletariat by annihilating or making a dent in the ranks of all or at least one of its class enemies?

In my view, the present operation does indeed advance the cause of the proletariat by taking a head-on battle with the forces of reaction. Yes, it has many imperfections, like all political battles which are seldom in line with pedantic.

We must support the operation.

Celebrating Jalib: Main Nay Kaha

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by Umer

“Main Nay Kaha” is a satirical poem by the famous leftist poet Habib Jalib called “Musheer” (Advisor). Jalib wrote it in response to a conversation he had with Hafiz Jalandari during the time of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship. It remains just as fresh and valid today.

This poem has been put to music by Laal (Shahram Azhar & Taimur Rahman) a new Pakistani music group dedicated to resistance music and poetry. Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman are also political activists of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party and their poetry, music, and activism constitute an integrated whole the essence of which is always revolutionary. The CMKP has been an integral part of the lawyers movement and the movement for democracy in Pakistan.

The music video contains real images of events in Karachi, London, and Lahore during the tumultuous period between December 27th and February 18th. The song and video were recorded on a shoe-string budget of one session each.

This video and song are connected to a documentary on a journey through a life-changing period in the history of Pakistan. The journey begins in Pakistan on the eve of the assassination of Benazir and the ensuing grief, violence, and carnage. The film maker travels to London to discover a group of young activists organizing protests against Emergency rule. Following these activists full circle to Pakistan, the documentary captures the events around the 2008 elections. The film thus captures a moment in the life of Pakistan, from Benazir’s assassination to the elections, through the lens of young activists. The documentary by Widei Films will also be released shortly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPsr1RnEfWo

Credits:
Habib Jalib – Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha
Shahram Azhar – Vocals
Taimur Rahman – Music
Mahvash Waqar – Backing Vocals
Taimur Khan – Director Producer
Dita Peskova – Assistant Director
Jamie Mill – Recording Director
Laal & Taimur Khan – Music Producer
WIDEi Films – Production Company

CMKP Condemns Bhutto’s Assassination

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2007 by Umer

Karachi, Dec 29: Heinous horrified assassination of PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto, a most popular leader and former prime minister, has once against testified the magnitude of the tyrant savage system controlled by military establishment. What she fell prey to the suicide bombing and so-called Islamic militancy were the culmination of the politics of Islamisation and Jihad that where put into motion by the military Zia regime and still being done by a section of establishment and supported by a group of fanatics. The objective has been just to brutalise the society and thwart the democratic aspirations of the people, to prolong the undemocratic rule. This has also showed the fault of the existing socio-economic and political system that needs its elimination through sincere and protected struggle. Moreover, nobody is safe under military-dominated rule.

In a press statement, Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) Pakistan Chairman Sufi Khalik Baloch condemned the brutal murder of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, while urging to expose and punish all those involved in such crime against humanity and decency. He added that at such a sad moment, he shared the shock and grief equally with the leaders and workers of PPP as well as her family. He paid tributes that she died bravely as she was conscious of the threat under the cover of religious extremism, although the fact is that she became the target for the dislikeness of domestic cliques that are counted in the politics of Pakistan. He hoped her blood could not go in vain but help strengthen democracy and socio-economic rights of the people.

So will our fist strike again!

Posted in Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2007 by Umer

What horror the face of fascism creates!
They carry out their plans with knife-like precision.
Nothing matters to them.
To them, blood equals medals,
Slaughter is an act of heroism…
How hard it is to sing when I must sing of horror.
Horror which I am living,
Horror which I am dying.

So wrote Victor Jara in his immortal poem Estadio Chile, moments before his death by the hands of one of the most brutal dictatorship that the world has ever seen – the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile; a tyranny sponsored, as ever, by the U.S.A. While repeating Jara’s words again, I remain convinced that the social-realist literature makes immensely more sense to people who have gone through the experience that the particular literary piece is talking about. I have read the quoted verses of the Jara’s last song countless times, but never before it generated so much strength and meaning for me as it does when I read it today.

The unforeseen and sudden death of Benazir Bhutto led to some of the most agonizing moments of my life. My first reaction when I heard the news of Bhutto’s death over the phone from a friend was utter disbelief – it has to be a rumor. But the news was soon confirmed as I switched on my TV set and messages started pouring in on my cell phone. What happened was horrific. For the first time in my life, I felt shocked to the extent that I was wordless.

To my young mind concerned with the good of my people, the assassination of Bhutto brought immense confusion and horror. As I stayed glued to the TV screen, there were a number of questions that cropped up, but I could not find an answer to any of them. It was like my thinking half died with Benazir. What will happen next? How will the powers that rule Pakistan use this event to their favor? What will happen to our struggle for democracy and social justice? How will people respond to the sense of insecurity that the assassination of Benazir has created? How will this event contribute towards the prevailing threat of religious extremism? Somewhere between all these questions was also a deep sense of sympathy for all those who once witnessed and mourned the death of great leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and President Salvador Allende. I was living through the ordeal that they once went through. I could comprehend what it is to deal with political uncertainty and insecurity and what it is to live under the shade of fascist terror.

Confusion, however, is temporary, particularly if your mind is equipped with the tools of Marxist theory and revolutionary practice defines the motto of your life. So, I started explaining to myself what might be there behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in order to reach a conclusion about what needs to be done.

In my view, as I have written elsewhere, the murder to Bhutto resulted in collusion between the Islamic Extremism and the pro-Taliban lobby in the ruling establishment of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was not as much a threat for the former for the lack of effective power as she was for the latter. The pro-Taliban lobby in the armed forces knew very well that their defacement would be construed as the disgrace of their institution internationally and, therefore, enjoyed a strong cover through this blackmail. They also knew well that Benazir Bhutto, with a history of opposing the military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq that killed her father and with the patronage of Washington, will not miss a chance to publicize the activities of the remnants of Zia era in the international arena. Had that happened, the armed forces would have lost the much needed international image with which they justified its continuous rule over the people and resources of Pakistan. Benazir became, as Aitzaz Ahsan correctly pointed out, a threat for the establishment of Pakistan.

The retributive struggle against the death of Benazir, therefore, has two main forces to blame: Islamic Extremism and Armed forces. Without ending the power of Army, the pro-Taliban elements within the Army responsible for the assassination of Bhutto can not be brought to justice. The struggle for democracy is now not just a struggle against Pervez Musharraf, but a struggle to bring the clandestine activities of intelligence wings of armed forces under public scrutiny. Army must no longer benefit from the privilege that it has been enjoying since the colonial era. People should not merely throw the Army out of power, but must conduct its post-mortem to see where the problem lies. Our struggle is no more about the separation between Army and politics, but about the subjugation of the former to the latter.

At this point in the history of my country, I humbly will call upon all my people to heighten their effort for democracy and resistance against military dictatorship and religious extremism. It’s time to refurnish long lost popular unity built on the foundations of democracy and social justice. It’s time to refresh our resolve for a better world. It’s time to renew our commitment for people’s rule. It’s time to live, for slavery is no better than death.

The water is transparent
White between our fingers
it flows
“El Fascismo-el Fascismo”

-Take your guitar
Chilean
and play play
until our arteries brust
don’t let the dust
swallow your brain
Strike!
the women
will give birth to grenades.

– Andrée Appercelle, To Chile, To Allende

The task that the history sets out for us is difficult but it’s crucial. Without struggle and unity, we will perish, and history will never forgive us. Hope, we can not loose. Struggle, we can not put down. And when we move forward, let the verses of Victor Jara, ready to embrace death for his cause, give us strength and courage:

To see myself among so much
And so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.
What I see, I have never seen
What I have felt and what I feel
Will give birth to the moment…
So will our fist strike again!

Who Assassinated Bhutto?

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on December 28, 2007 by Umer

While there is no doubt that this question can only be dealt speculatively at present and a fair and thorough investigation is very necessary – something that the present regime is not capable to offer – I will only try to discuss what is already on the table.

Shortly after the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, the Government of Pakistan pointed its finger at the terrorist organization famous for crimes of international terrorism – none other than Osama’s Al-Qaeda. The Interior Ministry claimed that “Benazir was on the al-Qaeda hit-list”. This claim by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan was strengthened by Al-Qaeda’s main commander in Afghanistan and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid when he told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location that “we terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen”.

While the Al-Qaeda connection can not be over-ruled, my understanding is that there are usually a number of forces acting behind an event such grave and gigantic as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It surely is easy for the powers that be to lay the entire burden on Al-Qaeda alone, but such accusations should not be bought at their face value. There has to be more to it than Al-Qaeda alone. There are a number of if’s and but’s with regards to the efficacy of Benazir’s struggle against religious fundamentalism even if she was to come to power, knowing that she would have faced incredible difficulty in establishing a working relationship with Pervez Musharraf. Moreover, if we follow the logic of Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, Musharraf was a far greater asset of U.S.A. than Benazir in the “war on terror” – if an American asset was the target of Al-Qaeda.

In my view, it was the collusion of a number of forces that resulted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. One can not deny the strong penetration of pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda organizations in various cross-sections of the armed forces after years and years of cooperation at a common front. The nexus between the Taliban forces and the Pakistan army became visible when it was found that the two attempts to kill Musharraf were the result of a conspiracy involving Al Qaeda (Abu Faraj al-Libi, now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre), the Jaish-e-Mohammad and junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force. In other incidents targeting political figures, involvement of junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force was suspected.

These pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda factions in the armed forces had the greatest to loose by having Benazir in the office of Prime Minister. She would have uncovered these elements in open, jeopardizing not only the pro-Taliban individuals but also the institutions of armed forces. After the first attack on Benazir shortly after her arrival at Karachi on October 18th, resulting in a tragic bloodbath, she told the French Magazine Paris-Match about those who wanted her dead: “They are dignitaries of General Zia’s former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism.”

Why were her words not taken seriously by the Government? I confess I do not have a clear answer to this question. This might be to save the face of the institutions of armed forces. At many occasions during the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, arrangements were made to evacuate the Pakistani intelligence officials stationed with the Taliban militia primarily to safeguard the armed institutions from bad press. This time around, the gross negligence on the part of the Government in providing Benazir with adequate security and incapacity to carry out proper investigation of prior blasts by the Government can only be interpreted as cooperation accorded to the assassins by turning their backs to maturing conspiracies.

The Lost Leader

Posted in Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , on November 20, 2007 by Umer

by Robert Browning (1812-1889)

[ This poem is a criticism of Wordsworth’s sympathy for conservative ideals that he developed later in his life.
The following verses also encapsulate what the people of Pakistan may have for some of the political leaders – the likes of Benazir Bhutto – who, while ranting continuously about principles of sovereignty and democracy in public, are always ready to enter into obnoxious deals with the dictators at the behest of Imperialism. It’s better for them if they realize that the true power, the power to write history, lies not with the despots but the people.]

I.

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley, were with us,—they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the free-men,
—He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

II.

We shall march prospering,—not thro’ his presence;
Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more foot-path untrod,
One more devils’-triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life’s night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him—strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!