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Pakistan

 

End the State of Emergency! No Faith in the Generals, Islamists or the Bourgeois Politicians of the PPP and PML! For a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government!

 

 

General Musharraf Declares State of Emergency in Pakistan

 

On 3 November, President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency supposedly to fight terrorism and protect supporters of the main opposition party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Indeed on 30 October a suicide-bomber targeted the president himself and on 18 October, the day PPP leader Benazir Bhutto returned from exile, an Islamist suicide attack killed 140 people in the crowd that had come to welcome her. Officially, Musharraf maintains that general elections will be held in January 2008.

 

Yet the pretext of defending democracy hardly explains why, once the state of emergency was declared, the government appointed a new president to the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the recent re-election of the president. Nor does it explain the suspension of television channels; the arrest of thousands of non-Islamist oppositionists in the following days, including militants of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP); or police repression of protest demonstrations by lawyers and students and those later called by Bhutto and the PPP.

 

The Bush administration maneuvered to stabilize Pakistan while the military dictatorship has been completely discredited and the north-west regions bordering Afghanistan are controlled by tribal lords close to al-Qaeda. This involved a compromise between General Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto whom he had driven from the country:

 

The Taliban and its allies are gaining in strength and waiting to pick up the pieces from the civil war developing between the two most westernized, most modernizing elements of Pakistani society—the army, one of the few functioning institutions of the state, and the elite of civil society, including lawyers, jurists, journalists and students.

 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to engineer a marriage of these two factions by trying to orchestrate Bhutto’s return to Pakistan under a power-sharing agreement that Musharraf has just blown to pieces. (Washington Post, 9 November 2007)

 

By intervening in and occupying Iraq, the United States and Britain have permitted clericalism, religious conflicts and suicide attacks to grow. Before that, in neighboring Pakistan, the United States strengthened Islamist reaction on the fertile ground of a state born of religion.

 

An Artificial State Built on Religion

 

The founding of the Communist International aimed to unite the revolution of oppressed peoples, particularly in British-ruled India, and the proletarian revolution in advanced countries. However, in the 1920s, the Stalinization of the Communist Party of India ended in its submission to the local bourgeoisie and even the imperialist British bourgeoisie:

 

The Communist Party of India, pursuing its policy of unconditional support to the British imperialist war effort, openly and actively opposed mass struggle, and in doing so was the instrument of British policy in India. (Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Theses, 4 August 1944)

 

The paralyzing of the working class by the policy of the Stalinists permitted the growth of the bourgeois nationalism of the Congress Party of Gandhi, Bose and Nehru and of the Muslim League of Jinnah (the first Islamist movement of the 20th century, born of the initiative of British colonialism). Before abandoning direct domination over the subcontinent, Great Britain did everything it could to sow divisions. It was aided by the refusal of the Hindu Congress Party to make any concessions to the Muslim League, which stoked clericalism and separatism within the masses. Religious slaughters began. Aside from the independence of mainly Buddhist Burma and Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India were born of the 1949 Partition, i.e., a bloody and reactionary conflict between two fractions of India’s dominant classes. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus fled the Muslim majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal while millions of Muslims left their home province to seek refuge.

 

The war ended only in 1949. Pakistan (“Land of the Pure”), which emerged from it, was torn into two parts separated by 1,500 km of Indian territory. A new war with India broke out 1965.

 

The Path to Revolution Blocked by Stalinism

 

Between 1967 and 1969 students and workers rebelled against the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan. Socialist revolution was on the agenda but was betrayed by pro-Moscow Stalinists who supported the bourgeois nationalist Awami League (CPP) and their pro-Beijing splits, some of which even supported the military dictatorship as it was an ally of China. The workers’ and youth revolt was restricted by the new bourgeois party, the Pakistan People’s Party, founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir Bhutto’s father). Ali Bhutto was a former minister in governments of the strongly anti-Indian Muslim League (PML). Like many “Third World” populists of the 1960s, including Indira Gandhi who led India from 1966, Ali Bhutto did not hesitate to claim adherence to some sort of vague socialism.

 

In 1971, the PPP won the elections in West Pakistan though found itself in a minority nationally. Together with General Yahya Khan, the “democrat” Bhutto refused to recognize the parliamentary majority won by the Awami League through its electoral victory in the more populous east: 167 deputies out of 300. Faced with such a displeasing vote, the army killed hundreds of students from Dhaka University and launched a bloody civil war leading to a new war with India (which supported the Awami League), to military defeat, to Yahya Khan’s resignation and to the split between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

The PPP, the Army and their American Master Bolster Islamism

 

Following their separation both Pakistan and Bangladesh increasingly used the Muslim religion to contain social conflicts. In 1973, Bhutto’s constitution proclaimed Islam as the official religion and required the president and the prime minister to be Muslims. That same year the PPP government sent the police and army to put down workplace occupations in Multan, Karachi, Khot Lakhpat and Faislabad. In 1979, General Zia-ul-Haq established a special tribunal (Federal Sharia Court) to ensure conformity with the laws of the Koran and the Sunna; the obligation to fast during Ramadan; and the Hudood law, which punishes by death any blasphemy against Muhammad and reinforces women’s oppression. Among other violations of the Islamic penal code, adultery, prostitution and female homosexuality are classified as crimes punishable by prison and flogging.

 

During the 1970s, whether it was Bhutto or Zia who was in charge, Pakistan was used as a staging ground for Islamist guerrilla warfare in Kashmir against India and for the Afghan reactionaries who opposed the Daoud government attempting to modernize the country. In the 1980s, the United States and Saudi Arabia trained and funded networks of Islamist brigades, including the Saudi billionaire Bin Laden, the Afghan Taliban, the future founders of the Algerian FIS, etc. The Pakistani army and secret services, in particular the ISI, acted as intermediaries. In return, the United States permitted preparations for nuclear armament dubbed “the Islamic bomb” by Bhutto. Pakistan also felt reinforced when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996. In 1999, it provoked the “Kargil crisis,” a war against India that turned quickly due to the adversary’s military superiority and to pressure from the American and European imperialists.

 

Sanctions against Pakistan over the atomic bomb and the conflict with India were quickly lifted in 2001 when Musharraf officially supported the United States against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The United States once again armed and funded Pakistan (including $300 million in military aid in 2007). The Islamist parties (MMA, etc.) then took hold of popular discontent and increased their attacks as the military regime had dismissed the traditional bourgeois parties: the People’s Party and the Muslim League led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The United States and Great Britain are officially relying on these old bourgeois parties, which have demonstrated their commitment to the defense of private property and their subordination to imperialism, to replace a discredited Musharraf while being prepared to cover a military successor.

 

Yet whether there is a new general, Bhutto or Sharif, the new leader would face the same problems that wore out Musharraf.

 

Social Revolution in Pakistan and a Socialist Federation of South Asia: A Way Out of Reaction and the March to Barbarism

 

The working class has recently shown renewed activity through strikes in the steel industry, telecommunications, air transport and so on. It must make use of the temporary loss of hegemony of the ruling classes over the petty bourgeoisie, of the deep divisions within the national bourgeoisie and of the weakening of the state apparatus to strike out a path independent of the regime and its bourgeois opposition parties (MMA, PML, PPP). The policy of the “Trotskyists” of the Grantite IMT, who are members of the PPP, is in this respect as criminal as that of the Communist Party of India (and its offspring, the Communist Party of Pakistan). The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), linked to the United Secretariat of the “Fourth International,” another reformist tendency disguised as Trotskyist, advances a popular front perspective – a union of the “left” including nationalist parties (AT) and politicians from the PPP (MMKG). Any repeat of the “anti-imperialist united front,” i.e., limitation to a democratic revolution and submission to the national bourgeoisie, would only lead to disaster for workers and women as in China in 1927, India in 1949, Iran in 1953, Sri Lanka in 1956, Iraq in 1958, Indonesia in 1965, Pakistan in 1971, Iran in 1979, etc.

 

The working class must place itself at the head of the struggle against the imperialist domination of the country; defend the democratic freedoms threatened by Musharraf; take up the demands of all the oppressed and semi-exploited (youth, national and religious minorities, women, poor peasants, the self-employed of the cities, etc.); demand the separation of religion and state as well as equality for all citizens regardless of their gender or beliefs;  and undermine popular support for the parties of their exploiters, whether they are supported by the ulemas (MMA, etc.) or by the imperialist powers (PPP, etc.). Workers from the cities and the countryside, together with the students, will then be able to free the country from foreign rule, the backwardness of castes and tribalism and patriarchy. They will be able to give land to the peasants, impose workers’ control of industry, buildings and transportation, expropriate the banks and large enterprises, dissolve hypertrophied repressive bodies and arm the masses to protect their gains.

 

The proletariat can only accomplish these tasks by using its own instruments: workers’ councils and, above all, a revolutionary workers’ party committed to taking power alongside the proletariat of neighboring countries. Beginning now, the unions must unify into a single class-struggle confederation and build a workers’ party separate from all the parties of the capitalists and landowners. The workers’ and students’ organizations must establish connections with workers and youth in Iran, India, Nepal, Iraq, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and so on in order to prevent any threat to the future socialist revolution and to the workers’ and peasants’ government it will create; to put an end to fratricidal wars; to tear down the borders created by colonialism and religious divisions; and thus to open the perspective of the Socialist Federation of South Asia and the Socialist Federation of West Asia.

 

12 November 2007

 

Permanent Revolution Collective, DNK Austria