Archive for Taliban

Few thoughts on debate over relgious extremism

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2009 by Umer

Over the past many months, the Left in Pakistan has discussed the issue of Taliban over and over particularly in the context of the extremist escalation in Frontier province and following military operation. The difference between members of the Left, with two sides, who are contending over the aforesaid issues is very apparent: one side is pushing a consistent military operation against the religious extremist operations while the other is demanding an immediate halt to the military operations and its roll back from affected areas in the Frontier. The polarity of opinions is known well to any observer and the Left in particular for they have read and heard the detailed arguments from both sides on more than a dozen occasions. Therefore, I don’t intend to present my approach to the question again. My stance, proposing a demand of military operation against Taliban and an opposition to surrender or cease-fire, is known well and shall be clear from the offset.

I want to talk about something different in this email. My intention shall not be construed to create further divide in the already small and dispersed Left of our country, but only a humble call for clarification. It shall be my greatest pleasure to be corrected. As a humble student of Marxism-Leninism, I am always willing to welcome criticism with firmness and my motivation behind the instant article is the desire for a higher unity built through consensus rather than further divisions.

The recent turn in the debate over the Taliban suggests that the difference between the leftists in Pakistan exist at a more fundamental level than we understand the case to be. There is a disagreement, though I am not sure about its sharpness, at the most basic level of the debate. There is usually little utility, in terms of strengthening unity through dialogue, in clashing over the conclusions where there is a difference over premises of the discussion. We have a disagreement over the premises and let’s recognize that to be the case. Unless we form a consensus over the premises, stand assured that an agreement over the conclusions will not result.

I shall be clearer. I sense that there is a difference between the leftists in Pakistan over the form of the political activism that we as a movement want to adopt. In the context of the debate over religious extremism, there is a difference over whether we want our struggle to take up an anti-fundamentalist political posture or not. This is where the disagreement lies. Should we openly adopt an anti-fundamentalist stance or not? I hold that we must. Others in essence are saying, I will follow by how they say this, is that we should not take an overtly anti-fundamentalist stand.

We all agree that the broad policy of the Left is governed by four broad guiding principles: anti-military, anti-imperialism, opposition to pre-capitalist remnants, and anti-fundamentalism. These principles are not mere words for our satisfaction but the foundations of our political activism. We follow these principles not only in our rhetoric but also in practice.

However, some comrades think that we should not be very openly taking a stand against religious extremism and fundamentalism, that we should not criticize Taliban in the workers’ quarters, that there is no use in finding allies and be building a campaign which targets Taliban or in combining an explicitly anti-Taliban agenda with other issues or, may be, that such an effort will result in unnecessary loss of our energy and resources. In essence, this boils down to the assertion that we should be anti-fundamentalist in words but not in practice. We should tackle them covertly and not overtly. Some even go the extent that an alliance between overtly religious parties is also possible or necessary for the Left. If that is the case, my dear comrades, than let me first request you to please give an end to your hypocrisy and say very honestly that you are no longer anti-fundamentalist. Be steadfast in saying that you don’t consider the issue of anti-fundamentalism to be at par with other three guiding principles of our struggle. Please, for the basic moral requirement of sincerity, give an end to this two-faced talk.

Various grounds are often given regarding why we must not criticize fundamentalism openly. Let me get to them briefly. The first contention against bringing the anti-fundamentalism to the forefront with other main principles and issues is that working class people, the constituency for socialism, will find no relevance in the debate over extremism. This is only based on an assumption that working class does not find any relevance in the political issues of the country. That is not the case. Even if that is the point, then we must struggle to engage the working class in the political struggle. How are we to do this while ignoring this flood of right-wing political and social propaganda and without emphasizing the issue and need of secularism? Any political activism in Pakistan that ignores the right-wing fundamentalism and extremism is not worthy of being termed as progressive. If we agree that political struggle needs to be taken to the working class, than criticism of fundamentalism has to be a vital part of our message that shall identify us from the right-wing. And when we criticize the religious right-wing, we must start with the Taliban for they are the most extreme manifestation of the religious right.

The second argument is that the anti-fundamentalist activism will be highly unpopular. There is a level of truth to this argument and this should be entertained to reach the correct strategy and tactics to tackle the menace of extremism. There is general orientation towards fundamentalism in Pakistan particularly in the province of Punjab. However, this should not deter us. The Left does not test its argument on the touchstone of popularity alone, lest they are like other double-faced politicians. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels stood alone but did not compromise into appeasement. The Bolshevik Party took an immensely difficult position of demanding peace in 1914 at risk of complete isolation from all political trends. The Left in Pakistan has stood bravely at many occasions for peace in the region and has been humiliated for doing so. There are countless examples and one can go on and on. Instead of following popularity, our positions must emanate from an analysis of objective situation and shall seek the promotion of the interest of the working class.

Another point that greatly troubles our friends is that we might find allies in the liberal ‘civil society’ if we explicitly push the agenda of anti-fundamentalism. I am greatly perturbed to say that our friends think that these “low-character-elitist-women”, as they are known by the ordinary people for these ‘civil society’ women refuse to cover their heads, can make us even more unpopular. This is highly disturbing. Firstly, the popular morality is not a lamppost for us to take our activism forward. We want to change this popular morality, which is under the hegemony of religious patriarchs, and for this we have to take issue with them rather than stay silent about them. Secondly, this argument completely ignores the rightwing NGOS that have continuously received funding from orthodox Muslim countries. They are not targeted as elitist? So, are they fine? Secondly, as leftists, our contention with the NGOs, etc., is not based on their lifestyle decisions but because they receive donations from imperialism and attempt to diminish the responsibility of State in providing crucial services by substitution. Our comrades are more perturbed by the lifestyle of civil society rather than their connection with imperialism, which is clearly not different from the right-wing criticism of the NGOs (I hate to say this). And then they say they are not giving in; that our words should not be taken as a compensation to the rightwing!

The point very simply boils down to this question of principle: do we want to explicitly target extremism or not? Please, if you may, don’t cosmetically agree on this only as a matter of ritual but only if there is a will to do something about this. We will spend countless days and nights in going over our strategy and tactics, rest assured, but only if there is an agreement over the principle in the first place, only if we settle that we have to tackle this extremist menace immediately.

One last point: a few days ago a comrade proposed that we should either build schools or demand that schools be rebuilt and education be provided. Some comrades think that blowing up of schools in Swat is not a very big issue that demands our attention. However, since we worry greatly about popularity, according to one 1998 survey, education is the second greatest demand of people in Pakistan after clear drinking water. Very generally, any parent can tell you about their greatest dream: to have their children educated. And yet we think it’s a non-issue!

Comrades and friends, extremism in Pakistan is now raising its head like never before. Schools, colleges, CD shops, and cultural stations at every corner of the country are receiving threats on daily basis from those who want to reverse the social order. Victory of Taliban in Frontier is a great boost for extremists everywhere. These extremists are flexing their muscles at every major center. Can we afford to remain silent? The time to do something actively against the extremist menace is now.

So many deeds cry out to be done, And always urgently;
The world rolls on, Time presses.
Ten thousand years are too long, Seize the day, seize the hour!

Eqbal Ahmed on Talibanization and Imperialism

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by Umer

From Ammar Querishi:

I have seen that a number of our friends/colleagues are not clear about our stance on both anti-US Imperialism and anti-Talibanization. As a result, we have been entering into lot of discussions on various aspects. In order to resolve this this discussion, I am sending the following four weblinks to different articles by the late Eqbal Ahmad on US Imperialism and Talibanization. These pieces were written more than 10 years back ( Eqbal passed away in 1999 in Islamabad). All are refreshingly poignant even ten years later although some of them are so chllingly prescient. The first article deals with the rule of Taliban, the second deals with the much-touted concept of strategic depth and its implications for Pakistan. The third traces the roots of violence in a historical context. The fourth piece ( which is an excerpt from his conversations with David Barsiman which later appeared as a booklet titled Terrorism: theirs and ours) is a scathing criticism of US imperialism. However, it also talks about Osama bin Laden’s relationship with US ( this was before 9/11 but after bombings of US embassy in Africa) and points to/predicts the future direction of relationship between these two entities. All these articles are laced with Eqbal’s trademark coruscating witticism.

1) In a land without music ( Dawn, July 1995)

2) What after strategic depth (Dawn October 1998)

3) Roots of violence in Pakistan and other parts of Muslim World

4) Terrorism theirs and ours

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.

War in FATA – The Marxist View

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2008 by Umer

Let us begin from the first premise: What is the class character of the various forces that are in combat with each other? What are their aims? The position of the party of the proletariat must be clear; it can not consist of half-baked slogans, semi-support for one group and semi-support for the other—no it cannot be anything of the sort. Such positions, if taken to the masses, can only befuddle their minds.

“In any given situation, says Prachanda,”it is best in general terms to divide the struggle into its component parts—the forces of reaction (that seek to pull back the wheel of history), the forces of the status quo, and the forces of progress.”

I will use Comrade Prachanda’s rule of thumb as the benchmark—it is simple to grasp and easy to understand.

The present status quo is composed of an alliance between international finance capital, the comprador bourgeoisie and a section of the Pakistan Army that benefits from international finance capital. I will henceforth refer to this historical bloc simply, as the “status quo”.

1- The Taliban:

The Taliban represent the forces of reaction; let us be clear that they are not fighting a war against finance capital, or a war for national liberation. Let us also be clear that they are not even fighting a war for oppressed religious minorities.

Under what circumstances can the party of the proletariat support them? None.

2- The Pakistan Government

That a complete transition to bourgeois democracy has been made is un-dialectical. I agree. However, that is not the question that we are addressing.

As long as there is a temporary alliance between the class interests of the comprador bourgeoisie and a section of the army—leading to the formation of a new historical bloc—-they will jointly wage a battle against the Taliban.

To suggest—or to require—from contending class interests to always pursue their own course independently of other classes, even when there interests temporarily align against a common enemy is to reduce the class struggle into children’s playing field.

Yes, each class pursues a course of action, in the final analysis for its independent class aims and not for the aims of the allied class. But that does not imply that they will not ally against what they consider a common enemy. Contradictions are not immutable; antagonistic contradictions may metamorphisize into non-antagonistic ones and vice versa.

Coming back to the point—the Pakistan government at present is governed by the Pakistan People’s Party which historically represented the interests of the national bourgeoisie. That there has been a significant internal metamorphosis within the People’s Party, converting it into a party representing the interests of the comprador bourgeoisie is an important and objectively plausible hypothesis.

In either case, it is clear that they represent the forces that seek to maintain the present status quo as it stands.

3- The Pakistan Army

Does the Pakistan Army represent monolithic class interests? Or is it composed of different ideological strands?

If indeed, the Pakistan army is composed of different ideological strands, does this then imply that we can label its entire body under one caption: “Reactionary”. No it does not. Does it imply that we can label the entire Army as a force of the status quo? No it does not. Neither analysis is correct, in my opinion.

The Pakistan Army is composed of sections that represent the forces of the status quo, and forces that represent the forces of reaction. This corresponds to the historical evolution of the Pakistan Army over the course of the past 3 decades. During Zia’s military regime, the Mullahs were a part of the ruling historical bloc. As a result, a process of Islamization was conducted not only in the country, but within the Army as well. Professor Colonel Abdul Qayum was appointed as the Chief Advisor to the President, and was given the task of presenting a series of lectures on “iman, taqwa and jehad fi sabillillah” to young army officers. These three words became the motto of the Pakistan Army. Further, Abdul Qayum recalls in his book “Zia ul Haq and I”, that the process of Islamization was aimed at creating an ideologically Islamist army, though “a large chunk of officers resented and wanted a largely secular Army”. (Zia ul Haq and I, page 31)

Did the reactionary lobby within the Pakistan Army enjoy the same ascendancy within the ensuing 20 years after Zia’s death? No it did not. Does this imply that the reactionary lobby was annihilated? No it does not. The reactionary lobby continues to exist within the Army as a junior partner; however, the changing international situation and the corresponding crack in the hitherto existing historical bloc have changed the balance of forces not only in the country but within the Pakistan Army itself. During the course of the past 12 years the Askari Financial conglomerate has established itself as the leading financial body operating in Pakistan. Its interests are directly aligned with the interests of Imperialism. Therefore, it directly benefits from the dictates of imperialism.

Its ascendancy within the ranks of the Army corresponds to the emergence of the new historical bloc; the dethroning of the reactionary lobby within the Army corresponds to the fact that the new historical bloc has amputated relations with the forces of reaction. The dethroned forces exist and continue to agitate from within the ranks of the Army. Dozens of right-wing officers were forcefully retired during Musharraf’s period; hanged upon plotting his assassination thrice.

What should the Party of the Proletariat Do?

The Party of the proletariat has to decide its course of action given the situation. It cannot ask “what if” questions when the battle has already begun.

First, let me say at the outset that any moral headcount of the number of children and men being killed because of the war does no good to us. Casualty and injury are the byproducts of war; they are unfortunate but unavoidable. This is precisely why Marxist-Leninists have been the greatest advocates of peace; however, we understand that in order to make peace an objective reality the system of antagonistic classes that lies at the root of war must be eliminated. Any talk of peace without an objective appraisal of the situation and the balance of forces between the various classes amounts to pacifism. Furthermore, is it not juvenile to expect contending antagonistic class interests to “not get messy in war” when an opposing class has already taken up arms?
Second, as far as the operation and its logistical dynamics are concerned, it is obvious that the civilian government neither has the manpower nor the necessary skills to wage a battle itself. Military combat is an art and science; it is acquired through years of training. The only force capable of leading such an operation is the military itself. That the democratically elected government (both in the Federal capital and the Pakhtunkhwa province) supports the operation and has willingly given the military control of the operations (through a decision of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party) suggests that even if the hegemony of the operation lies with the military its armed action cannot be called “unpopular” by any stretch of the imagination. The election campaigns of both the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party were replete with positions in support of an active struggle against the “Jehadi’s”. The Pakistan People’s Party contingent was targeted on numerous occasions by suicide bombers precisely because of its support for the Lal Masjid operation.

Given then that:

1- The war has already begun, and that it is pursuing a course of its own, independent of our subjective desires.
2- The Pakistan People’s Party (the party of the centre) and the Awami National Party (the party in the province) are openly and actively pursuing the war.
3- The Taliban have violated the terms of the peace negotiations and are plotting suicide bombs almost every week.

It is a matter of secondary importance (although not unimportant) then whether the hegemony of the operation lies with the elected government or with the army. Our support for the operation should be based on whether or not it seeks to annihilate the forces of reaction or not. Our Party supported the Lal Masjid operation at a time when even a partial transition to democracy had not been made. It supported the operation for its class aims; the routing of the forces of reaction by the forces of the status quo. A similar mode of analysis must be utilized to analyze this operation. Instead of falling into the abyss of pedantics we must support the operation since it takes on a head-on collision with the forces of reaction; forces which have most consistently been the enemies of progress, reason and science.

The proletariat cannot stand aloof in times of war; it does not impose pre-conditions on the bourgeois democrats for its historical struggle against pre-democratic forces. It supports every measure that challenges the forces of reaction and criticizes every move towards reconciliation. It is the most militant and consistent representative of progress; it can under no circumstances show any sympathy for forces of reaction either in the name of peace or under the guise of half-baked slogans. We must support any attempt, however imperfect, by the ruling status quo to annihilate the reactionaries. The criteria for support or opposition must be the class character of the contending forces and their goals in the broader historical context. The criteria for support must be: Does this in the broader view of history advance the cause of the proletariat by annihilating or making a dent in the ranks of all or at least one of its class enemies?

In my view, the present operation does indeed advance the cause of the proletariat by taking a head-on battle with the forces of reaction. Yes, it has many imperfections, like all political battles which are seldom in line with pedantic.

We must support the operation.

Complete Unity over Fighting the Doctrine of HATE

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , on July 14, 2008 by Umer

The recent military operations by Frontier Corps (FC) on the religious extremist groups around Peshawar led to a series of debates and discussion amongst the CMKP members regarding the position to be adopted on the question of Taliban and religious-extremists. The conclusion of the debate has been summarised by Ali Jan that is being presented as follows with minor  editions:

1) First and foremost, we agreed upon the fact that religious extremism is an extremely retrograde force that has to be fought to DEATH. This means: MOBILIZING ALL THE RESOURCES AT OUR DISPOSAL TO MOUNT A RELENTLESS STRUGGLE ON ALL FRONTS – POLITICAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND MILITARY – TO END THIS MENACE. The process of the decline and eventual death of religious extremism will invariably lead to the creation of greater democratic spaces for democratic politics, and will create an even greater space for socialist politics if Communists are able to be at the forefront of this struggle. We should therefore wholeheartedly support the death of this doctrine of hate in complete unity.

2) THE MILITARY OPTION: Some commentators feel that the military option is a bad one IN GENERAL; such an opinion can only arise if one holds one or a combination of the following views:


a) THE VISION OF THE TALIBAN IS ANTI-IMPERIALIST AND WE SHOULD SUPPORT THEM INSTEAD: Such a position is a result of complete confusion over the meaning of Imperialism. Imperialism is in essence a set of fundamental economic relations between the ruling classes of the core capitalist countries and those of the periphery. I recommend the article by Samir Amin entitled ‘Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism’ (available at the Monthly Review website) for all those who believe that the Taliban represent an Anti-Imperialist force. In short, only a political culture based on the broad unity of the popular forces (especially the working masses) with the aim of breaking or at least mitigating the exploitative relations of Imperialist capitalism can be called Anti-Imperialist. The Taliban’s project of exclusion based on religion, their dismal treatment of women is absolutely antithetical to the forces needed muster an Anti-Imperialist Movement. They are opposed to modernity in all its forms and are stuck in primordial and medieval times. THEY ARE ANTI-WEST, ANTI-MODERN but NOT ANTI- IMPERIALISTS!

The TALIBAN have to stop being the TALIBAN for any alliance with them!

The confusion on this point is confusion between form and content: people feel that just because the Taliban are ‘Fighting’ the American and NATO forces, and since America and NATO represent Imperialism, on face value, anyone fighting it is Anti-Imperialist. By the same token, we can call German Fascism Anti-Imperialist since it fought British and French Imperialism, or why it did so and with what vision becomes immaterial. Likewise, the Taliban have only in mind a tribalist, anti-modern, medievalist and highly repressive STATE rather than a State that can fundamentally alter the subordinate relations between oppressor and oppressed nations, which is the essence of Imperialism.

b) WE ARE NOT CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE TALIBAN: This amounts to complete capitulation and we might as well give up all hopes of democracy, let alone socialism and hand over control to the Taliban. The Taliban can go on wreaking havoc on the helpless citizens of NWFP and the Tribal areas, slitting throats and burning down schools and all we can say is that their should make peace deals. Of course, talks should be pursued, but only with those who recognize the democratically elected government of the country, do not go around breaking peace deals, disarm and resort to peaceful propagation of their ideas. Since the ideology of the Taliban does not recognize the state to be “Islamic” and calls for a JIHAD against them, we doubt that they would disarm and become peaceful, as they have proven time and again.


Moreover, it must be clear to the government that no PEACE DEAL be made with any group engaged in violence; NOR should any peace deal be made that subordinates itself too to the interest of these religious-militant groups (I have in mind primarily the Taliban, but we know that there are a number of other groups, some even hostile to one another that are operating). This means that if the condition put forward by these groups is the implementation of ‘TALIBAN STYLE SHARIA’ then the government should reject such a peace outright. We already suffer from ‘Zia-style Islamization’ as it is, we can’t slip further. Also, part of the Awami National Party (ANP) vote is also for a more tolerant version of Islam, if not secularism, and the ANP should stick to desires of its constituency. The Taliban, who hold little popular support compared to the ANP, MUST NOT be allowed to force the government to capitulate through bullets and bomb jackets.

As for the view that we are incapable of fighting the Taliban, well, ITS NOT TRUE because our establishment has helped create these monsters and knows how they think. The speed with which Mangal Bagh resumed talks with the government after the operation showed that our Army knows how to fight this war. It is true that the government MAY not want to completely eliminate these elements, since they have always acted as ‘dogs on a leash’, nurtured by the government and mobilized against progressive forces. However, since 9/11 a split occurred between these groups and U.S. Imperialism. The Pakistani client state, under pressure from US Imperialism, reluctantly decided to act against the monsters it had created in unison with Imperialism. In that situation, the manner in which the operations in the tribal areas and Swat was carried out was problematic; all the Taliban got away and innocent people were massacred, many innocent people were picked up and sold to the Americans as Taliban. We even mentioned that close to 900000 people have been displaced from SWAT alone.

However, this was to point out precisely the conduct of the war hitherto fought and not a call to stop military option altogether. It was to show that the Musharraf government was unable to eliminate the Taliban due to sheer incompetence and also due to the presence of religious extremists inside the Military Intelligence and Establishment who want to keep the Taliban alive; As a result, Musharraf simply went on to score cheap points with the Americans by attacking this or that village, capturing many innocent people and selling them to the Americans and the entire exercise became a grotesque ‘numbers game’. This is the reason why the Pakistani forces, initially viewed as liberators by the local population, quickly became enemies and it even led to increase in support for the Taliban, who found useful recruits in the hapless victims of the Army’s excesses.

This is why when we talk of MILITARY ACTION we do not mean F-16s, drone attacks, or heavy firing on villages, we mean precisely a low- intensity warfare that the government is currently engaged in; using locally recruited Frontier Corp (FC) units aiming to isolate the Taliban from the local population and eliminating them. The DIALECTIC of attacks on the population and support for the Taliban can only be resolved by ensuring local popular participation and the use of the FC troops is a welcome sign. This must be couples with a political, social, and cultural assault on the Taliban’s ideas. The seminaries that produce such extreme views must be reformed, their funding should be monitored, and a long-term process of incorporating the Tribal areas into the mainstream political culture should be initiated.

The legitimate question is, will the same government that helped create the Taliban be willing to do all those things?

We have already mentioned that there are two trends in the Establishment right now: Those with the Taliban and those who want to eliminate them. While the government has been nurturing these elements in the past, they elements now seem to be aggressive enough to warrant an attack from the government itself, albeit reluctantly. The People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP) has already given a detailed program of Madrassah (religious seminaries) reform, disarming of these groups, and incorporation of FATA into the mainstream political process, as well as heavy investment in infrastructural development in those areas. WE CONCEED THAT THE GOVERNMENT will not be able to complete all these tasks to the end, given its class nature. However, given that A CONTRADICTION HAS ARISEN BETWEEN THE EXTREMISTS, OUR STATE
AND IMPERIALISM AND CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THIS STATE DO WANT TO ELIMINATE THESE GROUPS, what progressives need to do is to mobilize people on the basis of holding the government to its words of eliminating religious extremism through struggles on all fronts. IF WE MANAGE TO MOBILIZE POPULAR SUPPORT FOR THE PPP’s program, they will be forced to carry the struggle without reluctance but if we simply hide behind the idea that the government WON’T ELIMINATE THEM IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO. THEY WILL, IF WE FORCE THEM TO DO SO!

2) THIS IS AMERICA’S WAR: Well, YES and NO. The Americans were once part of the nexus that nurtured these elements but now there is a contradiction. Also, its not just Imperialism’s war, it is now our own. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT WHILE IMPERIALISM is conducting this war for its own interests such as oil, gas and a neo-liberal (read: neo-colonial) regime by conducting indiscriminate bombings and massacres, we must do it on our own terms and our own tactics as explained above. WE MUST REJECT ALL AGGRESSIVE MANUEVERS BY IMPERIALISM such as the threat to attack our regions, and clarify to the people that Imperialism created this monster and it will only increase it if it stays. Again, the response should not be to fold our arms and say, “Well, It is Imperialism’s war and we can’t support it”. SADLY, IT





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.

Who Assassinated Bhutto?

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

While there is no doubt that this question can only be dealt speculatively at present and a fair and thorough investigation is very necessary – something that the present regime is not capable to offer – I will only try to discuss what is already on the table.

Shortly after the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, the Government of Pakistan pointed its finger at the terrorist organization famous for crimes of international terrorism – none other than Osama’s Al-Qaeda. The Interior Ministry claimed that “Benazir was on the al-Qaeda hit-list”. This claim by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan was strengthened by Al-Qaeda’s main commander in Afghanistan and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid when he told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location that “we terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen”.

While the Al-Qaeda connection can not be over-ruled, my understanding is that there are usually a number of forces acting behind an event such grave and gigantic as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It surely is easy for the powers that be to lay the entire burden on Al-Qaeda alone, but such accusations should not be bought at their face value. There has to be more to it than Al-Qaeda alone. There are a number of if’s and but’s with regards to the efficacy of Benazir’s struggle against religious fundamentalism even if she was to come to power, knowing that she would have faced incredible difficulty in establishing a working relationship with Pervez Musharraf. Moreover, if we follow the logic of Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, Musharraf was a far greater asset of U.S.A. than Benazir in the “war on terror” – if an American asset was the target of Al-Qaeda.

In my view, it was the collusion of a number of forces that resulted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. One can not deny the strong penetration of pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda organizations in various cross-sections of the armed forces after years and years of cooperation at a common front. The nexus between the Taliban forces and the Pakistan army became visible when it was found that the two attempts to kill Musharraf were the result of a conspiracy involving Al Qaeda (Abu Faraj al-Libi, now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre), the Jaish-e-Mohammad and junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force. In other incidents targeting political figures, involvement of junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force was suspected.

These pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda factions in the armed forces had the greatest to loose by having Benazir in the office of Prime Minister. She would have uncovered these elements in open, jeopardizing not only the pro-Taliban individuals but also the institutions of armed forces. After the first attack on Benazir shortly after her arrival at Karachi on October 18th, resulting in a tragic bloodbath, she told the French Magazine Paris-Match about those who wanted her dead: “They are dignitaries of General Zia’s former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism.”

Why were her words not taken seriously by the Government? I confess I do not have a clear answer to this question. This might be to save the face of the institutions of armed forces. At many occasions during the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, arrangements were made to evacuate the Pakistani intelligence officials stationed with the Taliban militia primarily to safeguard the armed institutions from bad press. This time around, the gross negligence on the part of the Government in providing Benazir with adequate security and incapacity to carry out proper investigation of prior blasts by the Government can only be interpreted as cooperation accorded to the assassins by turning their backs to maturing conspiracies.