Archive for Emergency

Left with Hope

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Umer

by

Umer A. Chaudhry

More than 125 years after his death and 150 years after he wrote his most famous piece of work, Karl Marx seems to have managed his return from Highgate Cemetery of London. His specter is no longer haunting merely Europe, rather it has expanded its reach to every corner of the world. All this when only a few years back it was declared and uncritically accepted that there can be no alternative to new-liberal capitalism, history was stated to have ended, and even the human capacity to observe and understand the world was questioned based on, amongst other things, the limitations of language. On the other hand, the world also saw, with the alleged ‘death of Communism,’ a sharp revival of the politics and militancy in the name of religion. Set against this backdrop, even the modest re-emergence of Karl Marx in the political and social discourse is highly remarkable. After all, the modern capitalist class structure, upon whose criticism Marxism proudly stands, did not collapse along with the Berlin Wall.

The return of Marxist discourse is not unaccompanied by a noticeable global upsurge in the political presence of the Left. The victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in the Himalayas early in 2008 gave a major boost to the Leftist political activists around the world. The history and strategy of the Nepali Maoists were critically discussed and appreciated with reference to all accessible records and statements of the Party via various Internet forums and meetings around the globe. The out-pouring of Chinese students in opposition to Free-Tibet protests in many parts of the world just before the Beijing Olympics compelled many to have their first look at the history of China and the Chinese revolution. The mounting strength of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales added by their increasing confrontations with U.S. Imperialism in Latin America became another source of inspiration for the world’s Left. The communist parties in India entered into a major struggle with the Congress Party, conducting mass demonstrations against the Indo-U.S. nuclear deals. Even in Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has maintained itself as the country’s second largest party and its largest opposition party. All in all, the global recovery of the Left, though not at a very grand scale, is apparent to every perceptive eye.

In Pakistan, the Left has also made a modest yet a noteworthy reappearance. It was mostly due to the movement against the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of emergency that the Left has been able to gain visibility at a larger scale. Many journalists expressed their surprise at activists robustly raising the traditional slogans of the Left during major rallies of the lawyers’ movement. Many lawyers, who had any past association with the Left, were instantly attracted towards the sight of the red flag and the octagonal Mao caps. Young students, out of curiosity, inquired about the new crimson element on the streets and got to know about the strong tradition of resistance and struggle that Left carries forward. They were even more astonished to know that Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, whose poetry also returned and was received with great appreciation, were also leading figures of the Left in their times.

Many people, however, are still not clear regarding why the Left engaged with the lawyers’ movement in the first place. It was not a knee-jerk reaction and obviously not an ignorance of the fact that the lawyers’ movement hosts a whole lot of forces, including the staunch right-wing elements of mainstream political parties- traditional foes of the Left. On the other hand, the Left participated in the lawyers’ movement to connect it with other anti-dictatorship movements that occurred in the past eight years, in order to help in building a larger movement for democracy, secularism, social justice, and rule of law – something running contrary to the goals of the religious right-wing. The Left made attempts within its capacity to build a movement that could address the basic question of the Pakistani State and society, and efforts were made to invite groups like Anjumen-e-Mazareen Punjab (AMP), Railway Workers’ Union (RWU), and the striking PTCL workers to the lawyers’ processions. However, it can be a criticism of the Left at the lawyers’ movement that it did not build any bridges with mass working class organizations, as was done during the anti-Ayub movement of the 60’s, though heavy focus was laid on traders’ organizations. The Left may not have succeeded in giving a more progressive and inclusive shape to the lawyers’ movement, despite all out efforts to do so. Notwithstanding, the Left stood staunch as to its goal and, at the very least, floated the right idea.

Nevertheless, a degree of confusion did exist during the course of the lawyers’ movement when many parties of the Left -including Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) and National Workers’ Party (NWP)- decided to join the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) and boycotted the elections early in 2008. One of the parties of the Left that did not join the APDM, a noteworthy exception, was the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), which held that the Left must unite itself as a secular-democratic force in efforts to distinguish itself as a progressive force in the democratic movement, refraining from partaking in an alliance that has known reactionary right-wingers as its leading faces. The APDM-Left, conversely, either argued that the APDM was not dominated by the right wing, or that the alliance helped them in expanding the scope of their political activity. Be that as it may, the Left managed to make unified calls for the struggle against the Army dictatorship and its political cronies during the vital days of the February elections; only to have been responded by threats by elements of the State as a witness to their efficacy.

Another debate that was waged with passion in the circles of the Left, which are accessible to intellectuals and students through Internet forums, was the position regarding the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Left that mingled with APDM called for an immediate stoppage of the military operation for the reasons that it targeted civilians, lacked efficiency due to double-dealings of the ISI and was conducted under the directions of the U.S. Imperialism. The CMKP, finding itself alone here as well, took a different stance. Vehemently opposing the civilian casualties, the double-dealings of the ISI, and the U.S. drone attacks, the CMKP argued that history and circumstances have led Pakistan to such a stage where extremism cannot be rooted out through peaceful dialogues and negotiations. Such means, it is believed, have a negative outcome as they allow the militants to get back on the offensive. Hence, it is essential to use force to deal with the threat of religious fanaticism. There are many other arguments, with varying degrees of sophistication, made for or against the afore-mentioned positions; what was most awe-inspiring was the level of thoroughness of some of the debates.

The aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks has appeared as a great challenge for Pakistan’s Leftists. To understand the predicament faced by them, it must be understood that the Left has always directed its efforts against the Military-Mullah alliance: the elements of quintessential mainstream politics in Pakistan. These two institutions have always stood in the path of even the smallest transition of our country towards democracy- both feed on jingoism and excessively anti-Indian hate-mongering, in order to conceal their retrogressive and narrow political stance.

The distressing tragedy of Mumbai was followed by astute chauvinist nationalism, employing the electronic and print media to further its cause. The image of retrogressive forces is being resurrected, in a planned manner, and zealous calls of “unity” are being given. This is responded to with indifference and total underestimation of the unjust and negative politics of the Army and religious fundamentalists. Television channels are opened for people like Hameed Gul to beat their jingoistic drums in the name of religion and false patriotism. The Left, in these circumstances, is left with no option but to end its year by placing a struggle on the cards against the politics of hate-mongering and jingoism. In this, so far with some formal engagement, the Left appears to stand united.

All in all, the politics of the Left has generated great interest fresh circles. The youth and the oppressed, thoroughly disgusted with military dictatorship, religious extremism and the mainstream parties of Pakistan, are eagerly seeking a new alternative on the political scenario. The Left appears as a major hope. The Left must maintain clarity with regards to its political position while becoming as accessible as possible towards those who are willing to struggle for the solution that guarantees democracy, progress, and social justice. The Left must stand steadfastly with its commitment towards peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms, independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most notably, the emancipation of the workers and peasants.

This article was published in The Friday Times on 26th December, 2008.

Advertisements

Kal Aaj Aur Kal

Posted in Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , on November 11, 2008 by Umer

Music by Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman of Laal, the Band.

Translation of Lyrics

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

by Aitzaz Ahsan

In the prime of our youth
We dreamt of hope

Testimonies of a new world
Anthems of a new tomorrow

A world in which no one
Suffered sorrow or knew of hunger

On this side there were multitudes
On the other the elite

On this side the hungry the naked
On the other the treasures of Egypt

On this side were mothers and sisters
On the other prisons and jails

On this side the third world
On the other the old imperial order

On the one hand [the sufis] Sachal and Bahu
On the other hand the clergy and tradition

On the one hand [the lovers] Heer and Ranjha
On the other hand dogma and oppressive relatives

On the one hand rivers of nectar
On the other the waves of drops of poison

The whole world was asking
Speak! whose side are you on?

We had already declared
That we are with the workers
We are with the needy
We are with the oppressed

And then when Che leapt forward
We all marched with him
And when Chou [En lai] raised his voice
Hand in hand we followed

We were not divided by religion
And we all become one

The history of the world is witness
Without justice there can be no democracy

If we have justice our country
Can be saved from utter destruction

Without justice all [democratic] institutions remain weak
Without justice all individuals remain oppressed

Without justice citizens are helpless
Without justice there is nothing but sorrow

Just think, in the history of the world
When has the law giver been imprisoned

Just for the ego of a dictator
Justice has been trampled

It seems that one force straddles the earth
Roaming the entire world

It seems like every power fall at its feet

It’s bombardment has resulted in rivers of blood
It has made religion extreme, and suicide bombers have grown

But hark! true law givers will return to the halls of justice
We will provide the people with bread, clothing, and housing

Flour, electricity, water, fuel will become available to the people
The unemployed will find employment and work of their choice

The state will be like a mother, it will care for all citizens
The army will be respected only when it stays at the border

March on, march on, tell the world,
that our steps cannot stop
March on, march on, tell the world, that our heads can no longer bow

The road ahead is not long, we can see our destiny
The oppressor is running scared, victory is our destiny

Victory is our destiny
Victory is our destiny
Victory is our destiny

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

Karachi Arrests: Personal Account

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on November 22, 2007 by Umer

On 20th November, around 180 journalists were arrested in Karachi while they were protesting outside the press club against the military dictatorship. They were released after a few hours of detention.

I am posting here a personal account of one of my friends who was amongst those arrested on 20th of November at Karachi. Her story is a testimony to the high spirits of the popular resistance movement against the military rule.

Long Live the Revolution!

Dear all,

First off, the funny part: All the journalists arrested (and later released) in Karachi yesterday have been charged with “rioting, creating [a] law and order situation, encounter, kidnapping and attempt to murder.” ATTEMPT TO MURDER!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Attempt to murder what? Musharraf’s hegemony? HELL yeah, baby! 😛
Okay, here’s what happened yesterday:

The rally

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) had called for a peaceful demonstration at 03:00 Tuesday (yesterday) outside the Karachi Press Club. The purpose was to demand the freedom of the Press, etc. Please note, all of us were totally unarmed, while the police surrounding the area were in complete riot gear with shields and motey dandey and bulletproof vests, helmets, knee pads, and whatnot. The entire area around the press club had been cordoned off.

The moment the rally got out of the Press Club, we were attacked (yes, “attacked”) by the policemen. There was a LOAD of brutal baton-charging, and one policeman hit ARY’s Aajiz Jamali so hard on his back with the shield, that the shield broke in two. :-S Women and men were hit indiscriminately and very VERY brutally — yes I can emphasize that enough. I’m skinny — I crawled around and got out unhurt. Everyone ran back towards the press club. Some of our office bearers and senior people had been picked up.

The demands and the negotiations

We all got out again and demanded that everyone be released. The policemen said they’d let everyone go if we went back inside the press club. We refused, and said we’d go in ONLY after our people were released. Negotiations followed, and it turned out that our people could not be released. We said fine, if you can arrest 10, you can arrest all the rest of us too. 😛 We gave in “ba-jamaa’at” giriftaariaN. The policemen tried to stop the women but we said we were standing by our male colleagues. They said there were no female police officials and we could therefore not be arrested. We reminded them that the people who had baton charged us were not female police officials, and if the male police waalahs could hit us, they could pretty darn well arrest us too. Khair, female police waaliaN were brought in, but we insisted that we will go in the same vans as our male colleagues.

In the van

Now this is the fun part! 😀 There were 27 of us in this van — seven women and 20 men. And boy did we raise hell!!! The van took us on a tour of the entire city, and we kept naarafying all the way. Passersby stopped to gape at us and then joined in the naareybaazi. In short, we conducted a State-sponsored anti-Musharraf rally. AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Yes, I can’t get over this — this IS funny!!! 😀 They took us to the Boat Basin police station, only to realise that it was full. Ditto for Gizri and Darakhshan. They were then told to take us to the Docks police station, but the driver did not know the way (YUP!!! :-D). He took us to the Jackson police station instead, where his bum was kicked, and the correct raasta explained to him by officials concerned. LOL! All this while, we weren’t making life easier for him by continuously naarafying, jeering and heckling. Yes we’re mean. 😛

At the Docks Police Station

We were “offloaded” and the women were told to go separately. We refused and decided to stick with our male colleagues. “We’re here as journalists, not men or women,” we told the police waalahs there. Since the Docks Police Station does not have a female lockup, they had to put all 26 of us in the interrogation room where we continued to party. 😛

At around 05:30 p.m. they came to the women and said that we were free to go. We asked if EVERYONE was free to go and we were told, “No, only the ‘laddiss’.” We told them to sod off — either EVERYONE leaves, or no one does.

They tried to confiscate our cellphones, and we refused en masse. So while cellphones at the rest of the police stations were taken away, us “Docks waalahs” still had ours on us. 😀

We also took over the SHO’s rest room, because the “prisoners’ restrooms” were filthy and the doors wouldn’t lock. We made them bring water for us, etc etc, didn’t tell them our home addresses for the FIR, bugged them every way we could. 😛 Faiz saheb’s kalaam was sung, nareybaazi huee. Some PPP waalahs brought us food, tea, diet coke and jaali ciggies, for which we’re thankful to them. 😛

A lot of people visited us, and we are sincerely grateful for their support. Special thanks to Ayesha Siddiqi from the People’s Resistance for staying with us for a whole bunch of hours together. A majority of the CMKP Karachi DC camped out outside the gates of the police station, as did Nasir Mansoor and Sherbaz Khan from the LPP, and Dr Riaz and all. The HRCP visited us too, as did members of Peoples Resistance, including Dr Awab Alvi and Sophia (I’m sorry I’m missing out names here). From what I heard from the other police stations (people were spread out — some, including two women, were at the Clifton police station, some at the Artillery Maidan police station, Frere police station, Darakhshan too, I think), journos there were having as much fun as we were having at the Docks Police Station.

Ten people who had been taken to the Shershah police station were brought over to Docks, bringing the total at our camp to 36 — the more, the merrier! 😛

The Release

At around 09:30 p.m. they said all of us were free to go. We came to know, however, that four of our senior office bearers could not be traced. It was mutually decided that no one would leave any police station, until those four people were released with us. The police waalahs threatened to physically throw everyone out, and they were told to “try.” 😛 The missing people were then “miraculously” traced out within 15 minutes, and everyone rejoiced. We left the Docks police station the way we’d entered it — naarafying and partying. 😀

All of us “criminals” from all the police stations then congregated outside the Clifton police station, where we raised hell again. We then proceeded to the Karachi Press Club, where we partied again — yes, that’s what us Karachi’ites do best — and we do things with a bang! : )

Lesson learnt yesterday: Unity = Victory.

Comrade Ziyad asked me yesterday about why we were not mistreated at the police station. The answer, comrade, is: they dared not mistreat us because we stood united.

Also, from what we were told by the new information minister, Nesar Memon, the decision to arrest journos was taken independently by the Sindh government — no such orders had come forth from the provincial level. Now I’m wondering how or why a caretaker government would take such a major step.

Moreover, there are people who’re going around saying that the police resorted to violence only after journos hurled stones at them. This is WRONG. Stones were hurled, yes, but only AFTER the police started beating us up like cattle. A friend of mine rolled up her placard and started hitting a police waalah on the head with it — after his lathi hit her really hard. Serves them right, I’d say. But let the records show that the stone-throwing was a REACTION. Anyone would do it if you saw your friends being beaten up this way for no reason — and we’re all friends here. No matter how cut-throat the competition between publications and channels, no matter how hard we try to outdo each other professionally, but when push comes to shove, we journos are all friends and we stand united!!!

Oh and naaras that journos came up with yesterday:

Mukk gya tera show Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!

Kalla baetha ro Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!!! 😀

Inquilaab Zindabad!

In Solidarity,

~ UZi

Also present at the CMKP Discussion Forum

Letter by former NSF members

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on November 14, 2007 by Umer

gg.jpg

This is a letter by former members of the National Student Federation (NSF) of Pakistan.

Letter to the Working People

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on November 13, 2007 by Umer

A letter to the working people

Click the image to view the complete text in clear format.

Start your protest

Posted in Pakistan with tags , on November 11, 2007 by Umer

Are you finding it hard to motivate the students at your educational institution to protest against the Martial Law?

An easy way to encourage your student-colleagues to protest is to collect the news about the protests taking place at various campuses across Pakistan (LUMS, FAST-NU, Quaid-e-Azam University, Punjab University, etc.) into a pamphlet and distribute them in massive quantities. You can find plenty of news on the Internet. This should also include something like “are we to stay silent while others are resisting injustice?”

You will find that these pamphlets can be the spark to set fire to a prairie. Do this as soon as possible. Such pamphlets are already in circulation and have proven to be very successful in activating the students at various colleges and universities.

In case you want a prepared copy of the pamphlet, contact theemergencytimes@gmail.com asking them to send you a copy of The Emergency Times.

Hurry up!

Time is running fast.

We must do away with the Military Dictatorship now.