Archive for fundamentalism

Religion as a panacea for Baloch nationalism

Posted in Pakistan, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 28, 2010 by Umer

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Striking Quetta’s Civil Hospital on April 16, 2010, a young Baloch suicide bomber, Haq Nawaz Baloch, killed at least eleven people, including two top police officials and a television journalist. This attack was dissimilar from ones previously carried out by Baloch nationalist guerrilla fighters against government installations and its security forces. Thus the largely secular Baloch society was introduced to an uncommonly new phenomenon of religious extremism and one for which it is almost totally unprepared to respond.

Unfortunately we cannot regard this suicide bombing as a unique occurrence. Just three days before two teenage sisters were acidified in the Dalbandin town of Chagai District in Balochistan by unidentified persons riding a motorbike. The girls were punished for the “crime” of not observing strict Islamic Hijab. Hailing from an extremely poor family, the girls were rushed to a Quetta hospital. Their faces are burnt but due to the lack of proper medical facilities their medical treatment is unsatisfactory.

An underground militant group calling itself as the Baloch Gharatmand (Honored) Group had, days before launching the first staggering attack, circulated a leaflet warning women in the area that they should leave their homes without being accompanied by a male family member. According to the interpretation of the shadowy group, being unaccompanied by a male family member is “un-Islamic” and should therefore be “punished” by those who ignored the warning.

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Pakistan Aiding the Taliban

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , on July 5, 2008 by Umer

Veteran Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid explains how the US ally Pakistan has armed and financed the Taliban after the US invasion of Afghanistan; how the CIA pays Pakistan to arrest al-Qaeda operatives, but Pakistan uses the money to fund the Taliban resurgence in northwest Pakistan; and how the US and NATO’s failure to deal with Afghan civil society has led directly to the huge rise of the opium trade that funds the Taliban.

Please visit Democracy Now! for Audio, Video, and rush transcript.

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
and play play
until our arteries brust
don’t let the dust
swallow your brain
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 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

Why the Emergency?

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , on November 3, 2007 by Umer

Emergency My FootThe straightforward answer to the above question is: to set the score straight with the Judiciary. The declaration of Emergency, as has been made clear by the text of the proclamation, which also shows that General Musharraf is first and foremost the Chief of Army Staff, and his speech, is in reality a declaration of war against the Judiciary and the Constitution of Pakistan. This time around, the General has decided to play the game in a clear-cut way rather than engaging in any complex legal deliberations.

The proclamation of Emergency-cum-Marshall Law leaves no doubt about its key target: “some members of the judiciary” who are working at the “cross purpose with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism”!!! Although the General has completely flushed the constitutional theory down the drain, he has also expressed his misconceived perception that he is only hope left of the people of Pakistan against rampant terrorism and extremism. What rubbish! He is the one who should be carrying the burden of blame for the mounting religious militancy; for he towed the Imperialist line in the ‘war in terror’, not the members of Judiciary. If the members of the Judiciary were offsetting the role of the notorious intelligence agencies and calling for transparency in the system in the favor of fundamental constitutional rights, what was so preposterous about that – except for the fact that the higher-ups in these agencies find any interference from the ‘non-intelligent’ civilians extremely distasteful?

The upsurge of religious extremism is a threat for the people of Pakistan – conceded. However, that being said, the Military dictatorship of General Musharraf can never provide a solution to problem of raging religious militancy. One of the main reasons for the escalating terrorism in the name of religion is the “war on terror” which has victimized the innocent civilians of North Western Frontier Province at countless occasions. For the people of that devastated region, who see the army of their own country fighting against them, General Musharraf is nothing but a stooge of U.S. Imperialism.

But the thrust behind that declaration of Emergency is not the threat from religious extremism. Despite the recent events in Swat, the religious militants could have been fought well without any Emergency in place, or the Emergency could have been limited to those areas where the armed clashes were taking place. The real thorn in the way of General Musharraf’s authority was not religious militants, though it’s a good pretext to show to the International community. The real problem was the judiciary of Pakistan.

The Judiciary of Pakistan, which proudly terms itself as the ‘watch dog of the constitution’, has emerged as an anti-authoritarian institution over the last eight years due to its internal drive to find coherence in law. It has revealed almost all the hypocritical facades that the present Military regime built around itself. They shattered the myth of economic prosperity and efficient governance while exposing the corrupt privatization policies and tried to do justice with the victims of the infamous intelligence agencies. Finding it hard to tolerate the Judiciary, General Musharraf decided to mend it so that it can get back to old track of serving the Military Might.

General Musharraf tried to re-structure the institution of judiciary on March 9th this year by suspending the Chief Justice of Pakistan, but was met with a surprise. His attempts were frustrated by the massive popular protests led by the legal fraternities all across Pakistan. With the help of popular forces, the Judiciary emerged as a more independent institution even though it posed no major immediate threats to the existing Military dictatorship. Nevertheless, General Musharraf must have realized that the upcoming elections will present a number of constitutional questions – all to be decided before a court no longer in his pocket. And when the constitution could not provide any adequate way out for the General – the constitution was to give some democracy after all – he simply decided to do away with it. No constitution, no judiciary.

Moreover, the timing of the emergency is that crucial moment when a critical decision from the Supreme Court deciding over fate of General Musharraf’s election to the President’s office was due. “The Supreme Court was going to rule against him,” told Aitzaz Ahsan, the arrested president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Aitzaz Ahsan, and now there is no good reason to doubt his judgment. The Constitution of Pakistan could no longer provide a room to accommodate Musharraf as the President of Pakistan. As Aitzaz Ahsan puts it, “Constitutionally he [Musharraf] had no right to run as president while staying a general. This is the end of the road for him.”

It is also to be noted that Judges of Supreme Court immediately denounced the emergency orders, which suspended the constitution of Pakistan. Seven of the 17 Supreme Court judges signed a declaration calling the state of emergency illegal. As expected, they were all kidnapped by the Police and taken away.

With a constitution – which despite all its inadequacies proved to be an anti-authoritarian instrument when in right hands – out of the picture, the politics of Pakistan is plainly about power. It is the People versus the Military. Who will win, only time can tell? But, there is no reason to be a cynic. Let’s hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

Emergency declared in Pakistan

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on November 3, 2007 by Umer

General Pervez Musharraf declared a state of Emergency in Pakistan today (Saturday) ahead of the critical Supreme Court decision over his election to the President’s office in uniform. Along with the declaration of Emergency, the General has also instituted a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), suspending Pakistan’s Constitution, and ordered the Army to storm into the Supreme Court building to detain the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, as the Supreme Court of Pakistan had declared the state of Emergency illegal. Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the valiant leader of the Lawyers’ Movement, has also been arrested. According to news, more “high profile arrests” are expected to take place. Earlier today, all independent news channels were blocked across Pakistan.

The blatantly off-handed, treasonous, and unconstitutional attacks by General Pervez Musharraf on the judiciary, media, and people of Pakistan have brought the true dictatorial character of the present regime into the lime-light. It has now been proved beyond doubt that Pakistan can never progress into any form of democracy without getting rid of the military from politics. All attempts to enter into any ‘compromise’ or ‘deal’ with the military can only hinder the struggle for democracy.

Strengthening the military rule is not a solution to the mounting religious militancy in the Pakistan, though the General is expected to cite the recent security threats offered by the religious extremists in the North Western Frontier Province as the primary excuse for the declaration of Emergency. Such an excuse is simply bogus. The military rule is only capable of inciting more terror and more militancy in Pakistan, if anything. The General wants to portray an image of Pakistan as a State severely threatened by religious fundamentalism in order to justify his action before the International community.

It is up to the people of Pakistan to show that General Musharraf can only aggravate the recent crisis that Pakistan is facing. Military dictatorship is not a solution, and never was.