Archive for Extremism

War in FATA

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by Umer

1. Should there be a war on Taliban?

Yes, there should be. Taliban are a decease that can only be eradicated militantly, as we all know. Despite, Taliban have not acceded others the courtesy to declare war. They have done so already. Now that the war is on and the negotiations have failed, and such attempts are bound to fail again in future, repeatedly due the fault whoever, the opposition to Taliban is left with two options: fight or surrender. Let’s be clear on that. And surrender to Taliban is not an option, in my view.

2. What is the position of the Pakistan Army on Taliban?

The neo-colonial Army of Pakistan continues to play the “double game” of supporting the Afghan Taliban at one end (against India and for many other objectives) and fighting against the Pakistani Taliban and the Al-Qaeda at the other end. This is contradictory policy and, at one level, may represent two trends in the Army that tolerate each other to maintain organizational unity. The position of Pakistan Army on the menace of religious extremism is that of vacillation and contradiction.

3. Can the Pakistan Army wage a war against Taliban?

It depends. The conservatives in the Army are willing to fight against the Taliban, and the reactionaries are hell-bent to sabotage the war effort. The question of which side in the Pakistan Army will dominate will depend on a number of factors, including which side will get the political and foreign support. People are Hameed Gul, JI, and the Ex-Servicemen are busy in activism for a reason: they are counting of their protégés in the Pakistan Army.

All in all, the efficacy of the Army’s actions against Taliban are depends highly on the internal dynamics of the institution.

Moreover, the neo-colonial Army is a blunt weapon that must be kept under close sight. Political and social efforts has to (read with emphasis) accompany the military effort to corner the Taliban from all sides.

4. Should there be democratic oversight over the military operations?

Yes, definitely. Since Army is an institution that is conservative at best, it cannot be given the complete authority to carry the operations. As the conflict in tribal areas is also carried out in the political arena, with religious reactionaries lining up against the parliamentary parties, it is important for the parliamentary actors and the people of Pakistan to have access to critical information. A democratic over-sight, in my view, is highly necessary and must be demanded.

5. What is the local support of the parties in the war?

The support of the various parties engaged in the parts appear to be divided on the tribal lines. There are tribes that treat Taliban and even Al-Qaeda as their hosts and are aligned with them. There are tribes, like Salarzai at the Upper Dir, who have been at the forefront of raising lashkars against the Taliban. Interestingly, the anti-Taliban lashkars have pledged complete support for the government (they know well that one cannot argue for long in the combat zone. Therefore, it appears to be that there are locals on both sides.

There are reports that important members of the Awami National Party (ANP) are being targeted on daily basis. The law enforcement agencies having failed to protect the leaders of ANP, the Party has decided to organize lashkars headed by peace committees in order to defend themselves against the threat of Taliban. The entrance of ANP in the active conflict is a decisive factor in determining where the local support lies in FATA.

6. What should be the stand regarding the military operations?

The stance on the military operations is highly reliant on the characteristic of the Army. We cannot call for stopping the operations. This is not only surrender to the Taliban (who have only regrouped and reorganized in the times of peace), but also the dream-wish of reactionaries in the Pakistan Army and the political supporters outside the institution. At the same time, we cannot also give a blank check to the Pakistan Army. Just like any bourgeois institution, it has its vacillations and, over that, it’s a conservative institution at best.

In view of the above observations, I propose:

a) Grant conditional support to operations against the Taliban: there must be strong criticism of the vacillation of the Army and the sabotage conducted by the reactionaries.

b) Demand that the local lashkars, particularly those under the leadership of ANP, which is threatened the most, be provided with logistical and material support. These armed groups must be defended at all costs.

c) Relentlessly criticize and deface the reactionary propaganda against the war by people like Hameed Gul and his kin.

d) Demand the parliamentary over-sight of the military operations so that the sabotage of the reactionary wing of the Army comes to limelight.

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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!

Benazir Assassinated

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

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has gripped the nation with immense sorrow and grief. Benazir was the leader of one of the largest political parties of Pakistan, the Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP), and has twice been the Prime Minister of the country. She died when targeted by a spray of bullets while returning from a PPP rally at Laiqat Bagh, Rawalpindi, giving her a fatal wound in her neck. The assassin later blew himself up killing twenty people in the blast.

A strong sense of uncertainty was all pervasive as the news came out. As my internet at home was not working, I remained glued to the TV set only to listen to the repetitive broadcast by newsmen with little information. News was seeping in only at a snail pace , but there was no other media outlets available. There was news about riots erupting all around Pakistan that were targeting, as expected, the banners with the election symbols of PML-Q, the pro-Musharraf Party, installed at every lamppost in lieu of the approaching elections. Buses and cars were being burnt and the some PML-Q offices were also stormed.

Such a reaction was all the more expected. After all, a leader of one of the largest political parties of Pakistan was killed in cold blood. As one of my friends, Taimur Rahman puts it:

In the PPP the people of Pakistan saw a mainstream political party that spoke about the rights of poor people. The slogan of roti, kapra, makan (bread, clothes, housing) galvanized millions against the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan in the late 1960s. The democratic reforms undertaken by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto challenged the interests of the traditional ruling class of Pakistan.

The death of Benazir Bhutto resulted from the strong stance she took against Islamic fundamentalism while being soft on rule of Pervez Musharraf. PPP had also decided to run in the upcoming elections on January 8th and many were expecting Benazir to be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, irrespective of their opinion with regards to her ascendancy. The strong possibility of the rise of a secularist Benazir into power made her a mortal threat for those in the State who harbored sympathy for Islamic Fundamentalists, with whom the notorious intelligence agencies, such as the ISI, were closely knitted since the Cold War and the Afghan War. Benazir Bhutto become a symbol of resistance against Islamic Extremists – both residing inside and outside the State. She stood secularism and modernity against militant retrogressive and conservative trends.

The ruling dictatorial regime of Pakistan has proved its utter incapability in controlling the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism, which is linked with elements within the State due to historical reasons. Benazir had made it amply clear to everyone that she might be in danger of suicide attacks before coming to Pakistan. However, her return at Karachi was greeted by two suicide bombings that killed more than 150 people. After that incidence, Benazir reiterated that certain elements in the ISI want her to be eliminated. Yet, no concrete steps were taken by the government to curb the threats to her life. PPP was blamed instead for organizing mass rallies in the face of threats of suicide-bombing attacks in order to cover up the serious breach of security.

I have often pointed out elsewhere and on my blog that dictatorship incapable of remedying the menace of Islamic Fundamentalism. Islamic Fundamentalism can only be defeated by democracy. To this point, the message sent by the team of Pragoti.org seems to hit the bulls eye:

No less than a democratic authority with punitive powers to act on extremism and with the capability of asserting the sovereign will of the people is required in Pakistan. Bhutto’s assassination must force democratic and progressive forces in Pakistan to get their act together in eliminating fundamentalism and extremism in the country.

Revisiting Religious Fundamentalism

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2007 by Umer

As long as they have no real competitor for the embodiment of the aspirations of the downtrodden masses, and as long as the social effects of globalization are with us, the fundamentalists will also be part of the picture, with ups and downs naturally. (Gilbert Achcar, Eastern Couldron: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq in a Marxist Mirror, 2006, p. 227)

Imperialism succeeded in pushing back the Left through an expensive smear campaign against the Leftist forces trough out the world – a campaign that was not limited to mere words, but involved systematic suppression of Communist Parties. However, it could not eliminate the roots of the Left, which lie in the misery and poverty that Imperialism inflicts due to its inherent nature. Thus, in the absence of Left, it was all the more expected from the people to be attracted to any force that gives voice to their grievances, even if they do not provide a coherent program as an alternative to capitalism and Imperialism. This phenonmenon may not be the reason behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, for no one denies the working of Imperialism behind their birth, but it surely constitutes as a major cause in their continued existence (even without the enormous U.S. and Saudi funding that they received during the Cold War).

Hence, Imperialism is thoroughly incapable of defeating fundamentalism – fundamentalism breeds on the grounds of the New World Order. This is a job for the Left – a job that will fall naturally on their shoulders as they sincerely challenge the modern system of exploitation.

Gilbert Achcar is a very interesting author to read on the history and politics of Islamic fundamentalism. I will recommend all those who are interested in the subject to have a look at his works (Google him, there are a number of articles available online).

Here is an interested article about Achcar: Eleven Theses on the Resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism

Combating Religious Extremism II

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , on October 22, 2007 by Umer

In view of the criticisms that I received for my previous post with the same subject, I will try to elaborate on my meaning. It is difficult for me to reproduce the criticisms in this weblog due to their sizes, but they can be found here: from Hassan Nasir; and from Usman Ahsan. I have not replied to Usman’s criticism specifically. However, the basic contents of both the messages were more or less the same; and I find myself in agreement with Usman when he writes that “the extreme reactionary tactics of the religious right have there basis not in the loss of power but loss of allies”. This, I think, is the correct formulation.

Here is my reply addressed to Hassan Nasir:

I don’t think that the extremist elements are on the verge of extinction politically. As I mentioned in the essay, the extremist elements are making some savage and brutal attempts to maintain the influence that they used to hold over powerful circles. A force showing such brutality can not be expected to be ‘on the verge of extinction’ at the political level. The religious extremist elements might have gained some support amongst the people, but being alienated from the reins of power to a large extent can cause more anxiety amongst their members. It is this alienation from the power-bearing circles that my essay primarily referred to.

As for the recruits, the numbers were much higher in the preceding decades when the Imperialist powers and the Pakistani State funded the religious seminaries all across Pakistan that churned out thousands of ‘holy warriors’ every year. However, previously they were more focused around Afghanistan and now Pakistan is the center of their attention.

I hold that “the struggle against religious extremism is strongly tied with the struggle against the present military dictatorship”. It doesn’t sound counter-intuitive to me. The competition between the religious groups and the Left-secular forces is to gain support amongst the people – people who, we hold, harbor feelings against the military junta and US Imperialism. Now if the Left/seculars are to abandon their anti-imperialist and anti-military slogans, they will simply be leaving the doors open for the religious clergymen to gain popular support. People usually don’t care much whether you are wearing a red hammer and sickle badge or a green turban so long you talk about agenda. The agenda of the people can be represented in a much better way by the Leftist forces, and the religious forces are no match. If the Leftist/seculars abandon their struggle against military, as some have already done, it will only give more legitimacy to the Right as an anti-imperialist and an anti-military force fighting for the cause of the people.

The program of the Left is distinct from that of the religious parties, who claim to be anti-military and anti-imperialist, and that of the military, who claims to be secular. We need to oppose both and wage a simultaneous struggle for secularism, democracy, and against imperialism, as you also pointed out.

I agree with your possible results and the historical pattern that you pointed out (also add the collaboration between Benazir Bhutto and Ghulam Ishaq Khan after the death of Zia-ul-Haq).

Combating Religious Extremism

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , on October 20, 2007 by Umer

The recent bombing in Karachi on October 19th, one the deadliest terrorist attacks which killed around 136 and injured 290, has led many young Pakistanis to think about the future of their country, and, more importantly, their responsibility in shaping the future of their people. Such questions being raised are all the more expected after what we been through in Pakistan particularly during the last few. Aspiring for a positive outcome, one must effort to avoid cynicism and hopelessness in those who finally managed to think beyond their own individual selves.

After pondering over some of question marks that emerged from the Karachi carnage, I have drawn some observations which will, hopefully, be my small yet positive contribution to the larger debates and discussions about the future of Pakistan.

First, the religious extremist elements are one the verge of extinction in Pakistan. This may sound surprising, even preposterous, but, as history informs, the dying forces make the most savage and brutal attempts for a comeback right before their ultimate destruction. The religious extremist groups were in more powerful position during the preceding decades. However, now they are loosing power every day and they are feeling frustrated over that. As the religious extremists are pushed to the end of their life line, they are going to make some last attempts to ensure their survival – attempts that will necessarily be extreme.

Second, the most challenging job in eliminating a force which is regressive and reactionary, much like our extremist fellows, is serving the final blow. It is the most difficult to give the final shove, to force a man to let go of the end of the life line his life depends upon. Therefore, if we think that religious extremism is on the threshold of destruction, it must be recognized that it is more complicated to deal with it at present than it was in the past.

Third, people tend to attract to the extremes of religion primarily in order to seek an explanation for their economic and social grievances. Therefore, any attempt to remove extremism from our society must address these predicaments, and must, at least, provide an alternate and more satisfying explanation of the economic and social ills that come to define the life-cycles of the ordinary population. Therefore, there must be a more coherent and more agreeable theory that can explain to a common man the riddles behind his pain and suffering in a much better way than the account provided by the clergymen.

Fourth, the present status quo in the country – the military dictatorship – can not be relied upon to give the final death blow to religious extremism. This is because they are extremely incapable of alleviating poverty and suffering, which in a way serve their selfish interests, while affecting more and more people in Pakistan as the days go by. Moreover, they are also con not of give any explanations for the misery of the common man and continue to assert and reassert that all is going well when all is not going well. Furthermore, the ruling powers are also benefiting from the presence of religious extremism in Pakistan for it provides them with an opportunity to show to the rest of the world that they are best men to control the reins of power in Pakistan.

Fifth, religious extremism can not be curbed without a large scale engagement of people of Pakistan. It is only through a massive popular movement that the extremist elements can be shown the exit door. Through such a movement, people will not only challenge the alternate explanations for their sufferings conditions, but also, and more importantly, the status quo which turns a blind eye. Therefore, the struggle against religious extremism is strongly tied with the struggle against the present military dictatorship.

Sixth, and last, there is huge vacuum that needs to be filled without which one can not expect the large scale involvement of the people in the state of affairs of Pakistan: the lack of a proper public intelligentsia. It is usually not the case that people will by themselves understand the futility of the sermons of clergymen to come to terms with the progressive agenda. There is always a need of those who can share the necessary public knowledge with the people and lead them out of the abyss of the conservative and reactionary propaganda.

Our present intelligentsia, with minor exceptions, has thoroughly failed to construct a coherent theory to address the plight of the common man and to provide an ideal to substitute the unjust political, social, and economic structures. There is no good reason to expect that our intelligentsia will be able to change their attitudes as a collective in the recent future. To be very straight forward, those who have decided their occupations are to live in the comforts of the ivory towers are more or less useless for the people of Pakistan. What Pakistan needs the most, and what the situation demands, is a new breed of intellectuals to guide the people to a meaningful change – those who consider it their duty not only to interpret the world, but also to change it.