Archive for Pervez Musharraf

The Swat offensive

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

by Rashed Rahman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backwards, forward, twisted around

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

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

Beena Sarwar Karachi Hardnews

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

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

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

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

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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