Archive for Punjab

Comrade Iqbal Bali: A Tribute

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by Umer

by Dr. Faheem Hussain

My dear friend and a great revolutionary, Mohammed Iqbal, affectionately know by all his friends and admirers as Bali, died on 19 June in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, following complications after major heart surgery.

Comrade Iqbal Bali

Comrade Iqbal Bali

How does one talk of this man so full of energy? For me it is impossible to imagine Rawalpindi without him. For the last forty years he was the moving force in all the demonstrations and meetings held in Rawalpindi to promote democracy in Pakistan. In this article I will talk about how I knew him and about some of his political ideas. The activities that I will highlight pertain basically to the period from 1969 to 1989 when I worked closely with him. I left Pakistan in 1989 and withdrew from taking active part in the democratic movement because of personal reasons and because of the collapse of the left and the trade union movement.

Bali’s political activism goes back to the days in the sixties when he was a radar technician in the Pakistan Air Force. He got into a lot of scrapes while in the air force as he stood up to officers who mistreated ordinary airmen and fought for the rights of the latter. Several times he was punished for this.

He moved to Rawalpindi in the late sixties when he was immediately involved in the 1968-69 student movement against the Ayub Khan dictatorship. At this time there was a rebirth throughout Pakistan of socialist and Marxist ideas inspired by the great Vietnamese resistance and the student movements in Europe and America against the war and for greater democracy. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was also riding this wave with his slogans of “roti, kapra, aur makan” (food, clothe and shelter). In Rawalpindi too there were many people discussing the concept of reviving a communist movement. Bali was part of a group of young idealistic people wanting to overthrow the oppressive capital social order in Pakistan. There were such groups consisting of intellectuals, students and workers springing up in all the major cities.

He worked with the People’s Labour Front (PLF), newly founded in Rawalpindi by Riffat Hussain Baba (now at PILER in Karachi) and Nazir Masih (Secretary-General of the Municipal Worker’s Union of Rawalpindi). (Sadly Nazir Masih, another great figure in the workers’ movement in Pindi, died many years ago). In its heyday the PLF was the main trade union federation for the major industries of Pindi and Islamabad, including the large Kohinoor Textiles Mills on Peshawar Road. The PLF played a leading role in negotiations for workers rights. There was many a heroic battle that should be recounted by others. During his PLF years Bali ran study circles with workers and wrote pamphlets and helped to distribute them and to paste them on walls around the city. He was always an activist who did not like long theoretical discussions and he wanted to immediately get into action.

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Pakistan’s Baloch: Life on the Margins of Punjab

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by Umer

On the 62nd Anniversary of Balochistan’s unsuccessful bid for independence.

Pakistan’s Baloch: Life on the Margins of Punjab

The Baloch have been living in a state of emergency ever since 1948, when their territory was incorporated into the nation of Pakistan. Under the thumb of Islamabad, their rights and autonomy have been deliberately ignored by the international community, which has its own agenda for the region. Balochistan declared its independence on August 11, 1947, three days before Pakistan.

By Karlos Zurutuza

Translated from the Spanish original by Daisann McLane

A woman walks slowly across the Dera Bugti desert, laden with wood for her cooking fire. She’s headed towards the town of Pir Koh. For several hundred meters, she follows the gas pipeline that extends north, towards the Punjab. She got lucky; it isn’t easy to find wood in the Dera Bugti desert. Islamabad also got lucky when it discovered natural gas beneath this rocky landscape. Thanks to the gas deposits, the Punjabis have been cooking, heating their houses in winter and producing electricity for half a century. But natural gas has yet to arrive in Pir Koh.

“What has Pakistan given us?” asks Ahktar Mengal, in his home in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital. “The Punjabis [Pakistan’s dominant ethnic group] have confiscated everthing: our property, our resources, and above all, our rights. Mengal is the tribal leader of the clan that bears his name, and also the president of the Baloch National Party (BNP). It’s difficult to find a house in Quetta that’s more under surveillance–and, as a consequence, more carefully guarded–than his.

“Why has the world forgotten us?,” exclaims the sardar (tribal leader) of the Mengal clan.

It’s possible that the world has, indeed, forgotten the Baloch people, but has anyone forgotten Balochistan? Let’s take a look. Obama needs it for his oil pipeline, TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), Iran and India need it for the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India), and so does Qatar. China’s constructing a gateway to the Persian Gulf at the port of Gwadar. Meanwhile Australia, Canada and Chile are extracting tons of gold and copper from Baluchistan’s enormous reserves, the second largest in Asia. The greedy scramble for Baluchistan’s treasures will probably heat up even more when the vast stores of petroleum and uranium hidden beneath its deserts are opened up.

“They didn’t even hire us to work on all these projects. The majority of the workers came from Punjab and other parts of Pakistan,” complains Bari, another unemployed 30-something from Quetta.

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Gojra violence

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2009 by Umer

Bloody incident of communal violence in Gojra

Around eight people have died, including one child, and many were injured in the violence that engulfed the Gojra, Punjab, since Friday. Following the allegation by some local Muslims on Friday that some Christians have desecrated the Holy Quran, a violent mob burned down 70 houses belonging to the Christians to ashes in riots that went on for two days. On Saturday, a violent mob attacked the Christians community which resulted in eight deaths and ten injuries. According to many eye-witnesses interviewed on various television channels, the attacks were conducted in a very organized manner. The government has completely failed to control the situation and take any stern action against the perpetrators of violence.

It is only a few weeks ago that a similar incident occurred in Kasur. On the same pretext that some Christians have disrespected the Holy Quran, houses and properties of Christians were burned down. They had to live under constant fear and harassment for weeks. The government has still not brought the criminals that inflicted the violence in Kasur to book. No inquiry has also been conducted by the government.