Shaheryar Ali

Cross posted at: Bazm-e-Rinda’n

Tariq Ali is one of the icons of progressive movement. He was one of the leaders of the 1968 revolution which gave birth to the “New Left”. Few Pakistanis have influenced global thought as did Tariq Ali. A Marxist with a very strong anti imperialist base Ali is part of the global of Anti globalization movement.

I have strong ideological differences with Ali on Left strategy .  But what he is saying is very important especially his understanding of Pakistani state and its dependent elites. University of California at Berkeley recorded a series “Conversations with History” featuring influential intellectuals.

One of them was Tariq Ali and whatever he says is very important.

Most of his talks about PPP shouldn’t be taken seriously because he had personal issues with Benazir Bhutto.He was one of the persons who thought of the idea of a non stalinist popular Socialist Party with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He contributed in writing the fundamental documents of PPP which are one of the most radical documents. His later differences with ZAB though were ideological but were also personal. He worked with Benazir Bhutto during Anti-Zia resistance but he never accepted the fact that people of Pakistan loved Bhuttos more than a pure Marxist intellectual . This attitude is hallmark of most Pakistani Marxists  and the result is their failure to either build a strong Marxist party in Pakistan or to intervene meaningfully in the PPP [with which they all have a twisted love-hate relationship]. Due to this reason most of them lack objectivity when they speak  about PPP even though their ideological stand is correct.

Take the following talk by Ali. He is criticizing Benazir Bhutto and the “family politics”. But in his personal grudge he falsifies facts. He says that Benazir Bhutto writes in her will [on which he tactfully casts doubt as well] that “My son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari” will head the party” than we hear the usual rant . He is just a kid studying some where bla bla and the party being a family fiefdom . Party shouldnt be a family fiefdom but lets get the Facts right.

Benazir Bhutto never left PPP to Bilawal Bhutto. Its absolutely rubbish and a total lie spread by the right and naive lefti friends like Tariq Ali who never bother to read that “will” which they curse all the time

Benazir Bhutto clearly wrote in the will that if she was no more than party consider Mr Asif Ali Zardari as a leader for the “interim period”. She clearly mentioned why she is suggesting his name. She mentioned because in a period of crisis  party needs a unifying figures to prevent split  [dangerous consequence Pakistan Na Khappey etc]. She made it clearly that its a “temporary arrangement” till the party’s Central Executive Committee decides who will be leader of the Party. It must be clear that for this decision she absolutely left No directive to party. She didnt left a will for her son to be leader. She never said that leader must be from her family.

When the will was read at the CC , it was the CC which decided that Asif Ali Zardari will be a “co chairman” and Bilawal Bhutto be the Chairman. The decision was unanimous. Benazir ’s Will just gave Zardari the leadership for 2/3 days. It was the party which decided in his favor after a lengthy discussion. Moreover  the millions of people who were surrounding Nodero were not ready to accept anyone else apart from Sanam Bhutto or Bilawal. The mood was such that most of the leaders of PPP were hiding  from the crowd who wanted to kill them for failing to save Benazir. If anyone of you was there he/she will know what i am talking about. If you watched Geo than forget it.

Now regarding Bilawal being a kid and studying somewhere Tariq Ali conveniently forgets he is in Oxford just like Benazir Bhutto and Tariq Ali. Tariq Ali himself was a student in Oxford when was leading the European youth revolution of 1968/69. He is forgetting his own “Street Fighting Years”. Before condemning fiefdoms , Mr Ali must remember he also “inherited” his  Marxism . He is son of veteran communist activists of CPI Mr Mazhar Ali [Nawabzada] and Tahira Mazher Ali [One who reportedly showed Mr Jinnah the pamphlet of Communist Party of India in favor of Pakistan as a young girl riding a bicycle] . Ali family was also aristocrats and it was this background which put him in Oxford just like Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and where he became president of Oxford Union [just like Benazir Bhutto]. Ali knows very well that most kids his age in Pakistan who were part of 68/69 ended up in Lahore Fort and lost their lives or ruined it. Only family wealth put Ali in Oxford and put him in  contact with European Left whose blued eyed boy he became.

Comrade when you were resisting the empire in westminister with Hollywood celebrities Bhutto’s were being murdered along with the working class workers of the party . Thats what made them leaders . So that you can write novels about them and make films on them and earn millions and than falsify facts.

Food for thought: If PPP is such a family fiefdom why it was not inherited by Murtaza Bhutto and what forces the people of Larkana not to vote for Ginwa Bhutto?? by all laws of society its the male who is heir of father. Benazir didnt inherited she won it. By her struggle by her jails by her contact. Same is with Bilawl, he will only be the leader if he earns it like her mother or will end up like Mumtaz Bhutto and Ginwa Bhutto.!!

Shaheryar Ali

Horrific reports coming from Gojra Punjab Pakistan, the Pakistani media maintained a criminal silence and blacked out the violence till People’s Party co-chairman and president of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari took strict notice of the Anti-Christian pogrom.

Gojra Violence

Gojra Violence

The banned sectarian organization Sipah-e-Sahaba, a violent criminal gang which calls itself “Army of Companions of Muhammed” was build by Pakistan’s secret agencies during period of General Zia-ul-Haq to create an Anti Shia mania in Pakistan to check the popular People’s Party whose leadership had Shia origins. The organization has been banned nominally but continue to work openly in Pakistan especially in Punjab where it enjoys government support.

Made up of ethnically Punjabi immigrants the organization which has its base in Sareiki speaking Southern Punjab, it is supported by the Lahore administration to terrorize the local seriki speaking landed aristocracy most of which is religiously Shia or Sufi minded Sunni-Barelvi sect and politically supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party. By creating ethnic and religious hatred the establishment keeps the popular demand of a separate Seriki province under control.

This organization was one of the first groups from Pakistan to join Al-Qaida, its various splinter groups are active with Taliban. It also participates in Afghan and Kashmir Jihad, one of the reasons for which it is protected by Pakistani establishmentAnotherhousetorchedbyMuslims

According to reports, this organization instigated violence using a mosque by alleging the blanket charges of desecration of Koran and blasphemy.

The Islamist organizations have frequently used these blanket charges to instigate violence. Almost every time these charges are false. No one has ever been convicted or punished in Pakistan after anti minority violence, the police, the courts and the government all are complicit in this evil tradition

The Right wing government of Punjab is continuously de-contextualizing the Islamic extremism problem in Punjab blaming the “mythological Indian-Jewish hand” in the terrorism. The anti minority organizations like Tehrik e Khatam e nabuat receives state funding to conduct its conferences by Shahbaz Sharif the latest darling of Pakistan’s pseudo secular intellectuals.

ImranTalibphotoWhen the violence started the police failed to protect the minorities, christian woman and children were burned alive. The mob refused to allow the fire brigade. During all this carnage Shahbaz Sharif’s police stood silent.

Latest reports suggest that Punjab police has refused to register cases against those who killed the innocent people. The christian protesters have blocked the railway line and refused to burry the dead till Punjab government registers the case.

It must be noted that chemical bombs were used by muslim mob to burn the christian houses. This technique has been mastered during burning of another Christian Village , Shanti Nager. The culprits never brought to justice.

Reacting to the fresh incident of violence against Pakistani Christians, Mr. Joseph Francis, the National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLASS), has said that the July 30 attack on Christian residents of Korian has “reopened wounds” of Christians which they suffered in the wake of 1997 attack on Shantinagar, a Christian village, as well as it has brought back “tragic memories” of Muslim violence in Christian villages of Bhamniwala and Sangla Hill.

his is the fourth biggest blasphemy-related incident of violence in seven months of this year,” Mr. Francis said, and pointed out the Christians were being subjected to atrocities, whose ancestors “had polled a casting vote for the creation of Pakistan.”

It must be noted that Pakistani media fails to report these incidents objectively. Most of the time a black out is maintained. According to ANS news women and children were amongst those who were burned alive. 2 churches were desecrated and copies of Bible were also torn apart.

Its time that conscientious Pakistani should raise their voice against the evil right wing Punjab government and the Blasphemy laws .

When these atrocities were being committed ats of heroism were also being committed. Pakistani communist Shabir Ahmad of Labour Qomi Movement risked his life and saved many Christians when mob was burning their homes. we salute Comrade Ahmad and the communist movement of Pakistan.

The issue in covered here, here and here and please see my earlier articles here and here as well

Pic: Imran , teenager accused of Blasphemy


Adam Paul speaks the rare truth, which Pakistani Liberals and “free media” want to hide. He ask simple question/. Why our great Army can’t defeat few thugs? Most of the information comes from the socialist activists [the region is very progressive, despite what our liberals think! No one supports Taliban there] in the region. A bold act for which we must salute Pakistani section of IMT who are raising Red Banner in Swat and Tribal Areas even in these circumstances

Sherry

With thanks : International Marxist Website

Pakistan: Malakand/Swat – a vale drenched in blood and misery, but whose war is it?

The media make out that the Taliban have genuine mass support in Pakistan, but in this article we see how they are actually promoted by forces within the state that see them as a useful instrument in terrorising the local people and as a means of maintaining their own corrupt rule. And we shouldn’t forget the role of US imperialism in promoting them in the first place!

Today fear and terror reign in the beautiful valleys of Swat and Malakand. After destroying the peaceful valley of Swat, now terror is creeping downwards at steady speed and has now engulfed all the nine districts of Malakand Division. Encouraged by the victories of vigilante hordes in the garb of the Taliban, the fundamentalist elements are harassing ordinary people in all parts of the region and beyond.

Malakand (in yellow) in the north western provinces of Pakistan. Map by Pahari Sahib.

Malakand (in yellow) in the north western provinces of Pakistan. Map by Pahari Sahib.

But who are the Taliban and what is the secret behind their success? The Taliban are actually the criminal elements of society joined together by the armed forces and secret agencies of Pakistan. With the complete support of the ISI and local administration they are marching forward without any real resistance.In Malakand if you ask a street hawker, a bus driver, a car mechanic or a college student “who are the Taliban?” He would first smile at your question and then would say that they are in fact nothing and that it is the agencies that are playing games here.

Why the one million-strong Pakistan army, equipped with the most sophisticated weapons, cannot lay hold of a few hundred miscreants is now an open secret in Malakand. They just do not want to capture them; rather they support them covertly.

In the army’s Operation Rah-i-Haq, heavy artillery and gunship helicopters were used but not to destroy the Taliban but rather to harass the local population which has fled in big numbers.

All this terror, bloodshed, curfews and civil war have brought upheaval to the people of Malakand, whose first real wish is for peace at any cost. In the last election, the people of Malakand rejected the Mullahs and voted for the PPP and the ANP (the Pushtoon nationalist party) in the name of peace and for a solution to their basic problems, but no solutions have been forthcoming. Meanwhile, the locally elected MPs never return to their hometowns and are living in luxury in Peshawar and Islamabad while the people suffer.

All this has become intolerable and the people of the Swat and Malakand areas came out in big numbers in mid-February to protest against this civil war. In small towns people came out in numbers of 10,000 to 15,000 and protested against the brutalities of the Taliban, the Pakistan Army and against imperialist aggression.

In Batkhela 15,000 people came out on the main road and demanded an end to all this brutality. In Swat and Shangla there were mass rallies during the curfew in which people rejected all the forces of black reaction. The Pakistani media, which is playing the most counter-revolutionary role, presented these rallies as being in support of the Taliban, which is a blatant lie.

The people of Batkhela reported to us that Jamat-i-Islami (JI), a neo-fascist Islamic fundamentalist party, tried to hijack these rallies as there was no leadership from either the PPP or the ANP present at that time, but in spite of this the people refused to follow them. The activists of the JI raised slogans of Jihad through their megaphones but not a single person in the rally of thousands answered them. The people present were fed up of the games being played out by the agencies at their expense and wanted to put an end to this madness and devastation but there was no leadership. These spontaneous mass rallies continued for several days, due to which the Pakistan Army and the ISI came under immense pressure.

On February 16, in order to provide a face-saving device to the Taliban and also to present these rallies to the wider public as pro-Taliban, a peace deal was brokered between the provincial government of Pushtoonkhwa and Sufi Muhammad, who is a leader of a banned outfit, Tehrik e Nifaz e Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM). Sufi Muhammad – who was living an isolated life in Amandra in his madrasah – was suddenly brought into the limelight and presented as some saviour of the world. He was given the responsibility to talk to the Taliban and “persuade” them to stop fighting.

The “drama” of the negotiations and the so-called “peace deal” thus unfolded and the media was used as a tool to promote it as the best way of solving the problems. However, due to the fear of the people’s resistance, a mock peace deal was finally brokered on the terms and conditions of the Taliban and the Pakistan Army and State capitulated. The Taliban came out of this appearing as all-powerful and victorious.

The National Assembly in a hastily gathered session approved this deal unanimously, which strengthened the false notion of this “power of the Taliban”. President Zardari could do nothing but to sign that agreement. But what is the result? Is there now peace in Malakand? No. Are the Taliban weaker than before? No they have regrouped and strengthened and moved on.

According to the deal the civil courts will be replaced by Qazi Courts. What are Qazi courts? Nobody knows what they are, neither the President, the Army nor Sufi Muhammad; nobody knows what they are except for the fact that the judge will be called a Qazi. Nobody knows and nowhere is it written how they will function. Actually similar deals were brokered in 1994 and 1999 and the same regulations were then imposed. Those regulations didn’t solve a single problem then and neither will they solve any now.

In the bourgeois media we see intellectuals and analysts discussing for long hours about the so-called differences between the regular courts and the Qazi courts and they are manufacturing a false conflict between the two, when in reality the Qazi Courts are essentially the same as the filthy and stinking corpse of the regular courts in Pakistan.

On Sunday, April 19, after the deal Sufi Muhammad held a public meeting in Grassy Ground in Swat which was attended by nearly 30,000 people. People came in such big numbers for two reasons. Firstly due to the terror methods they were forced to attend this meeting. Secondly, they were hoping that now that the deal has been struck Sufi would announce peace and lay down his arms. But he disappointed the people and said nothing about peace or laying down arms, but said that the fight would continue.

The speech was broadcast live on all TV channels and everywhere people keenly listened to it. However, it revealed the real face of an ignorant Mullah, the real face of fundamentalism to everyone. Cyril Almeida wrote in the Dawn on 24 April:

“With one speech Sufi has done more to galvanize public opinion against militancy than a hundred suicide bombings and beheadings.

“Suddenly, people have woken up to the fact that the great soldier of Islam is a dangerous kook. ‘He thinks we’re what?’ ‘He wants to do what?’ Yes, he thinks the rest of us are sick and what we really need is a dose of Sufi’s medicine.”

In his speech he declared Parliament, the Supreme Courts and High Courts as un-Islamic and also that democracy was un-Islamic. He went on to say that everything is un-Islamic except for himself and his sect.

This exposed the reality of the “Islamic System” which the fundamentalists have been harping on about for the last 60 years. They say that the Islamic System should be imposed on all Pakistani society, but they never actually what that is in practice. Zia ul Haq, the most brutal dictator of Pakistan who ruthlessly ruled for 11 years, was never able to chalk out a detailed plan for such an Islamic System. All the previous attempts to impose one have done nothing but change the names of a few posts and offices and the rest remains a capitalist system and a bourgeois state. All attempts to chalk out anything outside the bourgeois state have failed.

Now once again they stand exposed. Various fundamentalist parties and right wing politicians such as Nawaz Sharif scoffed at Sufi meekly and defended the bourgeois state institutions.It was said that after the restoration of the judiciary all the problems under the sun would be solved. Price hikes, unemployment, the civil wars in Pushtoonkhwa and Balochistan, and all the other problems would be solved The person who led the movement of Restoration of the judiciary is trying hard to balance between the conflict over Qazi courts and regular courts. .

In reality, nothing has been solved and the judicial system of Pakistan also stands completely exposed in the eyes of the public. In actual fact, the judiciary as a state institution has always supported reactionary forces to terrorise the working class. Ayesha Siddiqa a strong supporter of the lawyers’ movement wrote in the Dawn on April 4:

“The judiciary must show more resolve than it did after the introduction of Zia’s draconian Nizam-e-Islam regulations. Then, barring a few judges… the majority happily applied laws that trampled on all norms of justice and human rights. And let’s not forget that the legal community in general did not really resist Zia’s laws. None of the bar councils protested against laws that ultimately resulted in an increase in homicide and injustice.

“As the county confronts an expansion of the Taliban, the legal community seems unable to muster the courage to launch a movement against what has happened in Swat. It is surprising that some lawyers place a higher value on the restoration of judges than on questioning the Malakand agreement which poses a greater threat to the state.”

Efforts, albeit only in words, are being made to rescue the disintegrating state structures, but the rapidly deteriorating economic situation leave no ground for this rescue operation to succeed.

Meanwhile, the ISI and Pakistan Army are using the Taliban threat to terrorise the people of Pakistan and to continue their plunder. After the “peace deal” the Taliban have emerged strengthened and now they face no resistance before them. And the local administration on the instruction of the ISI is giving them complete support.

Tha administrative head of Malakand has strong links to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. Photo by salimswati.

Tha administrative head of Malakand has strong links to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. Photo by salimswati.

The main link in this game is the commissioner of Malakand, Syed Muhammad Javed Shah. He is the administrative head of all nine districts of the Malakand division. In 2005 during the Mullah’s (MMA) government in the province he was appointed as the administrative head (DCO) of Swat but the leadership of the ANP in Swat approached the then chief minister and requested his transfer. They complained about his close ties with Maulana Fazlullah and said that he is actually living in his Madrasah. Fazlullah, also known as “mullah radio” is the head of the Taliban in Swat. Ironically, now that the ANP is in power in the centre and province, this man has been reappointed as commissioner. The recent intrusion of the Taliban in Buner was actually due to his help. Buner is a strategically important district of Malakand. It is on the border of Swabi and Mardan and is also nearer to Attock Bridge, the bridge that separates the Punjab from Pushtoonkhwa. This district is also close to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route from China to Pakistan.

The people of Buner had formed a militia to counter the Taliban attack and were up in arms. Commissioner Syed Javed went to the people who had gathered in Kanda, on the border of Buner and Swat, and said, “It is my responsibility to stop the Taliban. You people go and rest in your homes.” After persuading the squad to dismantle he imposed a curfew and then during the night invited the Taliban to capture all key positions in Buner. In this way the Taliban achieved another victory without firing a single bullet.

On April 17, the Friday prayers in Fazlullah’s Mosque in Swat were attended by the DIG (the Chief of Police), the DCO (the district administrative head) and the Brigadier who is in charge of the Army in Swat. All these people came in the car of Commissioner Syed Javed. The spokesperson of the Army has denied this news.

On April 3, Commissioner Syed Javed came to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Batkhela where a few Taliban were to appear for trial. before the “honourable court” “He ordered the police to unlock their handcuffs and took them with him  without any procedure or signatures.

All this shows how the ISI dominates the state institutions, Parliament and the provincial and federal government. He has now brought a new banned outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyba to Malakand, where they have opened a new madrasah in Khar near Jolagram in the Malakand District. This fundamentalist organisation was formerly mostly present only in the Punjab and Kashmir.

Through the “peace deal” they have once again dashed the hopes of the people for peace. The Taliban, which is actually a gang of criminals, are now on a looting spree. Various mafia organisations related to smuggling of emeralds and rubies from the Swat mines, the timber mafia, gangs of kidnappers, drug smugglers and other criminal fugitives are using the Taliban militias for their protection. Abductions for ransoms have increased manifold since the so-called “peace deal”.

The Taliban have now increased their influence in Batkhela and other important cities and towns. At night they march through the streets in proper formation in groups of 60 to 70 with the most sophisticated weapons ever seen in the area. Their faces are covered and they can enter any home or beat anyone and sometimes abduct innocent people just for the purpose of terrorising the local population.

The complete support of the Army and State for these criminal gangs has left the people helpless in front of these beasts. The people are living a life of hell. With price hikes on the rise and unemployment and poverty increasing they cannot raise their voice for demands such as healthcare, education, food, clothing and shelter.

The recent release of Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Red Mosque in Islamabad clearly shows what the State and Army want. They want to spread this terror to the whole country. Already criminal gangs in the garb of the Taliban are grouping in the Punjab. In Lahore they have sent openly threatening letters to the Kinnaird College which is a top ranking girls’ college. In letters they have said that girls should not wear pants and they must obey the Islamic code otherwise they will spray acid on their faces. In Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab they have pasted posters inside police lines stating that that they will take revenge against the police if it takes any action against them.

Many new groups are emerging and more will emerge as the state structures are collapsing day by day. But who is organizing and financing them and is holding them united so that they do not fight among themselves? It is the same drug cartels and mafia groups set up by the CIA during the imperialist sponsored insurgency against the left-wing government in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Americans abandoned the region after the withdrawal of the Soviets but the hefty business of drugs and arms has continued.

In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on April 24, Hillary Clinton for the first time publicly confessed that the Taliban were created by the US. She explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. She said the following:

“But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,

“Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.

“They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.

“And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.

“And guess what… they (Soviets) retreated… they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow… because we will harvest.”

Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, created the Taliban out of the madrasahs in Pakistan with the collaboration of the American CIA. He is still one of their chief patrons.

The US imperialists are raising a hue and cry about the relations between the Pakistani state and the Talibans but there is little that they can do about it. Photo by Eric Draper.Although there is currently a conflict between the two agencies, they agree on one thing: that these fundamentalist outfits should be kept in some form in order to use them as reactionary forces in situations of revolutionary upheaval, so that they can use them for their own vested interests. The ISI wants them in order to continue with its own loot and plunder and America wants them as an excuse to continue their so-called “war on terror” and maintain the profits of the Military Industrial Complex in the USA.

The US imperialists are raising a hue and cry about the complicity of the ISI with the Taliban insurgents but they cannot do much about it and have to finance the Pakistan army in this war of attrition. They have no choices left. In this shadowy war friends may be foes and foes may be friends and sometimes both friend and foe at the same time.

The corrupt regime in Pakistan is weak and already admitting the “deal” has been a failure. The army chief has called it an “operational pause” and has vowed to take on the militants once again. This is mainly due to the outrage against the introduction of the ferocious Sharia laws, supported by the liberal, democratic and secular leaders of the PPP and the ANP. It is also to appease the Americans who are in a hypocritical conflict with the Taliban. But the army chiefs know all too well that they in no position to resolve the internal conflicts within the army and the state. Hence they are hoping against hope. This conflict between black and “white” capital will continue to pulverize the region and spill more innocent blood of the oppressed peasants and workers, as long as the rule of capitalism remains.

However, the people of Malakand and Pakistan as a whole will not surrender without a fight. They have risen before and will rise again to counter these black forces. Their leadership has betrayed them once again. The PPP-led government has imposed a deal which even Zia could never have done. But this has exposed the true character of the leadership.

The masses are looking for an alternative leadership; they are open to ideas and seeking answers to their hundreds of questions. Nothing within the limits of this capitalist system can satisfy their needs. They have concluded one thing: that capitalism is horror without end. All the institutions of the capitalist system now stand exposed before the masses.

The comrades of the IMT in Swat and Malakand are patiently explaining the ideas of a socialist change to the masses and are beginning to get a response from the youth. They are working in extremely dangerous conditions, receiving death threats, but they have refused to yield and the struggle for revolutionary socialism continues even in these atrocious conditions of war and bloodshed.

The masses cannot afford food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education under this exploitative system where poverty and deprivation are rising by the hour due to this war. Without a socialist transformation not a single issue of the masses can be solved. Here barbarism is presently brutalizing society. Socialism or barbarism are immediate options, not ones for the future. This is the message of the revolutionary forces which are building their base in Malakand and throughout the whole of Pakistan. They pose this message at great risk to their own lives, especially in Malakand, Swat and Waziristan. The masses will inevitably rise once again as they did in the revolution of 1968-69 even in these areas, and the path they will follow will be none other than that of revolution. A genuine Marxist leadership can lead them to a socialist victory.

Aatish Taseer. [With thanks: Prospect]

My parents met in Delhi in March 1980. My Pakistani father was in India promoting a book he had written on his political mentor, the Pakistani leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. My mother, a young Indian journalist, was sent to interview him. Their affair began that evening. My father took my mother’s number, they had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and for a little over a week they disappeared together. My parents met at a time when they had both become politically involved in their respective countries. The state of emergency that Mrs Gandhi declared in 1975 had come and gone—she had returned to power and the terrorism in Punjab that would take her life was about to begin. In Pakistan the year before (the same year as the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the great hope of Pakistani democracy, had been hanged. And now, General Zia, the military dictator, was settling into the blackest decade Pakistan would know. My father had loved Bhutto. He had heard him speak for the first time as a student in London in the 1960s and was moved to his depths. The events of 1979 then ushered in a time both of uncertainty and possibility. Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, had entered politics; Zia had to be fought; and for this man of 36, touched by unusual idealism, his biography of Bhutto became his political entry point. My parents’ affair lasted little more than a week before my father left for Lahore, where he already had a wife and three small children. A month later, my mother discovered she was pregnant. For a young woman from an old Sikh family to become pregnant out of marriage by a visiting Pakistani was then (and now) an enormous scandal. During the week when she was considering an abortion, my father called unexpectedly from Dubai. She told him what had happened.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“What do you think I’m going to do?” she replied.

My father asked her what could be done to change her mind. She replied that they would at least have to pretend to be married and so they tentatively agreed to continue their relationship for as long as it was possible.

But by 1982 the relationship was over. My mother had begun work as a political journalist in Delhi and my father was fighting Zia in Pakistan. What I heard of him over the next two decades came only from my mother. We followed his progress across the border, through multiple imprisonments in the 1980s, to the restoration of democracy and Benazir Bhutto’s victory in 1988, to the failed governments of the 1990s, and his eventual switch from politics to business.fe-chaudhry-bhutto-court-11

In 2002, aged 21, I made a journey to Lahore to seek out my father, Salmaan Taseer. For a few years our relationship flourished, then fell apart. The reason for the latest distance between us was an article I wrote in these pages in 2005, after the London bombings. In response, my father wrote me a letter—the first he’d ever written—in which he accused me of prejudice, of lacking even “superficial knowledge of the Pakistani ethos,” and of blackening his name. That letter was the origin of my book Stranger to History, an account of a journey I made from Istanbul to Pakistan, in the hope of understanding the silence between us. It is a discovery of his faith, his country and the story of our shared but fractured history.

At the end of my journey I was, by chance, together with my father in Lahore on the night Benazir Bhutto was killed. I found to my surprise that the wheels of power in Pakistan had turned once more and my father, who had spent his youth fighting the military, had re-entered politics and was now a minister in General Musharraf’s government. Here was a lesson about life in Pakistan, for the compromises men had to make. But it was not ultimately in the drawing rooms of Lahore or Karachi that I came closest to understanding Pakistani society, but rather in the time I spent with a young feudal landlord, known as the Mango King, in rural Sindh.

***

Pakistan, a land of over 170m people, remains largely rural. People have often said to me, “You will never know the soul of Pakistan till you know feudal Pakistan.” Charged by the desire to see this feudal life, I asked a Pakistani newspaper publisher if he could help. He was a heavy man in a white salwar kameez, with short greying hair and moustache. My mother had put us in touch, and he did for me what I would have liked my father to have done: insist on my connection to Pakistan. By arousing my interest in the cultural bonds that exist between the two countries and in speaking to me of my paternal grandfather, an Urdu poet, the publisher gave me the other side of the romance of an undivided India on which my maternal grandfather and my mother had raised me.

We sat in his grand old Karachi house. He lay on a very high bed, smoking and making phone calls to people who might help me. Boxes and stacks of books lay on the floor. After a few hours of messages left, phone calls returned, lists made, lectures on safety and heat, the publisher looked up at me, scribbling as he spoke. “Can you leave tonight?”

“Yes,” I stammered. “I can leave tonight.”

I packed my bags in the early evening. I was to leave with Hameed Mahesari, the Mango King, and travel to his lands in the Sindh interior. It was well past midnight when a white car, with heavily tinted windows, drew up. As I approached, a passenger door opened, but no one stepped out. Instead, cold, air-conditioned air infused with a faint smell of cigarettes drifted out. I put my head into the car and saw a young man in the back seat, with a black moustache, fair skin and a handsome, slightly puffy face. He peered at me through a dense haze of smoke and gestured to me to get in.

The chauffeur drove off as soon as I shut the door. I turned to the Mango King, who lit another cigarette. He smoked continuously, slowly and deeply, looking out at the deserted streets. I could tell from his eyes and the thickness in his voice that he had been drinking.

“In the city I am a different person,” he said abruptly, “and, you’ll see, in the village I am a different person. One has to adjust. It gets pretty nasty,” he added. “People steal water. Typical vadhera.” A vadhera, or landlord, was what Hameed had become after his father died; his family were among the largest producers of mangoes in the country. “But things won’t change for another 50 years. There will still be feudalism.” I saw that he was drinking from a hip flask.

“Do you know why Sindhi society is a failure?” Hameed asked, in his abrupt way.

“No.”

“There’s no middle class. There’s us and there’s them. We had a middle class, but they took off when what happened?” I thought it was a rhetorical question and didn’t answer, but the Mango King’s gaze held me, expecting a reply.

“Partition,” I answered obediently.

“Exactly. But, you know, life goes on, one day to the next. My father trained me to be a farmer.” Hameed spoke in broken, disconnected sentences. After a long silence, he said, “Do you know why religion was invented?”

“Why?” I asked.

“A man can deal with everything but death.”

Hameed lit up again, but this time my eyes focused on a new discomfort: an AK-47 was placed between us, and the ribs of its magazine, its barrel, and bulbous sight shone in the yellow streetlight. I asked why the AK-47 was so popular.

“Three things you have to be able to trust,” Hameed answered. “Your lads, your woman and your weapon. It’ll never jam on you. Anyone can fire it and it’ll never jam.”

I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke a few hours later when I felt Hameed touch my hand. It was dawn, and we drove down a deserted country road, amid acres and acres of flat, empty fields.

“The estate begins here,” he said. The car swung left. “This, on both sides, is my estate.”

“How big is it?”

“Six thousand acres.” By the subcontinent’s standards, this was a large holding.

Then after a silence, he straightened his posture and, with pregnant solemnity, announced: “This is my territory.”

We passed several acres of a dense, low crop, then just before the house, like some last battalion of a great regiment or a vanishing tribe of horses, were the mango trees. Hameed stared in dull-eyed wonder at the dark green, almost black canopies, heavy with fruit and dropping low in a curtsy against an immense saffron sky.

When we got out of the car, I saw that Hameed was tall and well-built. His cream salwar kameez partially concealed a new paunch and, like the puffiness of his face, it was unattractive on a man of his looks.

Aatish Taseer and Gabrille Windsor

Aatish Taseer and Gabrille Windsor

A few men were stooped in greeting. Hameed waved, then stumbled through a doorway. We entered a walled garden of palms, ashoka trees and buoyant rubber plants. Hameed’s fluttering cream figure lurched down a narrow path that led to a low white bungalow. Darkness and a musty stench from thick, beige carpeting hit us as we entered. I couldn’t make out much in the dim light.

Hameed collapsed into a sofa, and stared vacantly at me, as if only now seeing me. I wondered what he thought I wanted with him. Among pictures of the family, and one of Hameed in a yellow tie, there were many books: a Hitler biography, copies of National Geographic, Frederick Forsyth, Jane’s aircraft almanacs, Animals in Camera and dozens on travel. I felt from the books, and the framed posters of impressionist paintings, a longing for other places.

“Did your father read a lot?” I asked.

“Yes,” Hameed replied. “He was the sort of man you could talk to about anything and he would always have the right answer.” The description suggested a nightmare person, but Hameed hadn’t intended it to sound that way. “I used to read,” he added, “but I don’t get the chance any more.” He showed me a book he’d recently bought. It was a guide to being a gentleman. “It says that a gentleman never adjusts his crotch in public.” Hameed chuckled and then we fell into silence. He sat there, looking neither at me nor at his men, but ahead into the gloom, like a man who had just lost all his money. A servant brought him some water and a new AK-47, this time with a drum magazine. He leant it against the leg of his chair, telling me it was Chinese; more than 100 countries produced them now. He asked me if I’d like to fire one.

“Yes,” I said, surprising myself.

“She wreaks havoc when she opens her mouth,” he smiled mirthlessly. He was prone to theatrical utterances and to clichés like “Different strokes for different folks” or “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” which he said as if they’d never been said before. The idea of firing the gun was forgotten for now.

My fatigue deepened just as the Mango King had a second wind. He ordered wine and offered me dinner. Wine is unusual in the subcontinent, whisky and soda are more standard, but this, like the cigars and brandy, and the guide to being a gentleman, seemed like a recent feudal affectation. I turned down the suggestion of dinner as it was already dawn.

“Yum, yum,” he said, looking at the feast that was now being laid out before us. There were several kinds of meat, rice, lentils, bread and more wine. Hameed rolled up his sleeves to eat and I saw that there were cigarette burns branded into his arm. The cutlery was Christofle, scattered stylishly among the oven-proof crockery and dinner trays.

***

When I awoke a few hours later, I was lying under a wooden fan. Next to my bed there was a copy of Time magazine and a guide to nightlife in Thailand. The room, despite the air-conditioning, was suffocating. It was about 10am and the house was quiet. I stepped into the drawing room and felt a wave of compressed heat. The room could not have been more badly designed for the fierce temperature beyond its sliding doors. It was low, like a garage, heavy with carpeting and velvety sofas, and without ventilation. I stepped out onto a white tiled courtyard but soon retreated. It was dangerous heat, the worst I’d ever experienced: sharp, unshaded, asphyxiating. It could make you sick if you went unprotected into it. Yet to be back in the room, in its stale air, was hardly better. Outside, buffaloes lay in the shade of trees; I could just make out villages of straw dotted around the Mango King’s lands; and slim, black women, in bright colours, with white bangles all the way up their arms, walked along the edges of mud paths.

After tea, breakfast and a shower, I came into the main room to find that Hameed was up and inspecting weapons. “You can’t get this on licence,” he said cheerfully, as the man brought out an Uzi. Hameed was freshly bathed, his eyes alert, his manner sprightly in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible the night before. The deadened glaze had gone from his eyes and his mind made connections easily. He seemed to sense that I might be a little surprised at the gun parade. “A lot of people in Karachi don’t like farmers,” he said. “They say they’re feudal, but my feeling is that there are good and bad people in every field.”

Still squinting through sights he said, “Can you imagine? Even I was kidnapped… I was 12 and when I came back I was 13. It was from 1984 to 1985, for six months. I was chained for the last two. My father wouldn’t pay the ransom. When they called he started abusing them so they only called once. After that, they dealt with my uncle.” The kidnappers had picked him up outside his school in Hyderabad.

His point, it seemed, was not to emphasise the violence in his life but to make clear that he had paid his dues.
Hameed drank heavily; he had suspicious cigarette burns on his arms; he played with guns; and yet what might have seemed like cause for alarm was presented instead as emblematic of the feudal life. The violence he had experienced, and perhaps inflicted, became like a rite of passage.

“Was it traumatic?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but you get used to anything.”

That evening the Mango King suggested I go with him to Mirpur Khas, a nearby town, to meet a lawyer who was working on a case he was fighting. The sun at last was loosening its grip on the day and the land, stunned and silent for many hours, came to life with the screeching of birds and the movement of animals.

Driving out of the Mango King’s gate, I noticed that under the name of the estate, it said, “Veni Vidi Vici.”

“We used to send mangoes to the Queen of England,” Hameed said proudly.

“You should start again.”

“No,” he smiled, “but we send them to Musharraf.”

In the car, the Mango King and his lieutenant discussed feudal revenge. The lieutenant was a muhajjir or immigrant from India. His family came to Pakistan from Jodhpur in Rajasthan after partition. The feudal life needed men like the lieutenant. He was dark and bald, with the aspect of a grand vizier, and after the Mango King’s father died, he served the son as an adviser. They talked about how another feudal owner had killed the Mango King’s friend in an argument over 350 acres. Hameed said that the other landlords still teased the dead man’s son for having been unable to exact revenge.

“Don’t the police ever get involved?”

“Not in these things. The people come to me with their problems and family matters. If you’re the landlord, you’re politician and policeman too. The landowner’s word is law.” Then, pausing for a moment, he said, “In the end, it’s not even about land. It’s about who gets to be head honcho.” He put it well: land at least was stabilising; this was about arbitrary power and Hameed was also vulnerable.

Salman Taseer with Friends

Salman Taseer with Friends

His lieutenant had been back to Jodhpur just once, in 1990, and from the moment he heard I was Indian, he could speak of nothing else. He craned his long neck forward and asked if I saw much difference between India and Pakistan.

“Not much,” I said, meaning to be polite. “There’s more feudalism here.”

“But between human beings, on a human level?”

“No, not really.”

“But there is!” He smiled.

“What?”

“In Pakistan, the clothes people wear are much better. There’s far less poverty. India makes its own things, its own cars, but then you don’t get Land Cruisers. In India, you get Indian needles. In Pakistan, we get Japanese needles!”

In India you now got Japanese needles too. The lieutenant had visited before economic liberalisation, but that was not the point. What struck me was how this man, who would never come close to owning a Land Cruiser, could talk of such things as core human differences. The poverty around him was as bad as anything I had ever seen, yet he spoke of expensive cars. It was as if the mere fact of difference was what he needed. It hardly mattered what the differences meant: that was taken care of by the inbuilt rejection of India. In the confusion about what Pakistan was meant to be—a secular state for Indian Muslims, a religious state, a military dictatorship, a fiefdom—the rejection of India could become more powerful than the assertion of Pakistan.

“What other differences did you see?” he asked.

“It’s hard to say as there’s so much change within India. There are more differences between the north and the south than there are between north India and Pakistan.”

The lieutenant was not to be put down. He wanted to get something off his chest. “The other difference,” he began, “was that while men here wear flat colours, the men there are fond of floral prints, ladies’ clothes.” Hindus weaker, more feminine, and Muslims stronger, manlier: this was the dull little heart of what the lieutenant wanted to say and a great satisfaction came over his face as he spoke. This was the way he reconnected with the glories of the Islamic past when the martial Muslims ruled the “devious Hindu.”

“Were you scared when they kidnapped you?” I asked Hameed, hoping to hear the rest of the story.

“The first 15 minutes were scary, but then it was all right.”

After four months he had tried to steal a kidnapper’s gun and use it on two of them, but just as he picked it up, the third returned and wrested it from his hands. That was when they chained him as punishment.

I thought he wanted to say more, but his lieutenant interrupted: “Tell me,” he said, “why do you wear a kara?” He was referring to the steel bangle on my wrist.

“My grandmother is a Sikh and wanted me to wear it.”

“Your mother’s Sikh and you’re Muslim.”

“No,” I said, not wishing to annoy him, “my mother’s Sikh and my father’s Muslim.”

“Yes, yes, so you’re Muslim.”

“I’m nothing.”

The lieutenant seemed to ask the question in the most basic sense. He could tell I wasn’t a practising Muslim, but he wanted to know if I was Muslim somehow.

“Come on, you’re Muslim. If you’re father’s Pakistani, you’re Muslim.”

“If you say so, but don’t you have to believe certain things to be a Muslim? If I don’t believe, can I still be Muslim?”

He looked at me with fatigue. It was almost as if he wanted to say yes. It was as though, once acquired, this identity based on a testament of faith could not be peeled away, like caste in India. And I felt that if I could know the sanctity of his feeling of difference in relation to non-Muslim India, and the symbolic history that went with it, I would be as Muslim as he was.

“It’s his decision,” the Mango King laughed.

The lieutenant fell into a moody silence. “It’s hotter in India than it is in Pakistan, isn’t it?” he started again.

The Mango King groaned with irritation.

“It’s the same!” I said. “You see too many differences.”

Perhaps sensing that he had created bad feeling with a guest, he said, “Sikhs have a very sweet way of speaking.”

“They speak just like we do!” Hameed snapped, and the lieutenant retreated with a sad, stung expression.

Pakistan’s economic advantage, the manliness of Muslim men, Land Cruisers and Japanese needles, even an imagined better climate: these were the small, daily manifestations that nourished a greater rejection of India, making the idea of Pakistan robust and the lieutenant’s migration worthwhile. Hameed didn’t need the lieutenant’s sense of the Other. He was where his family had always been, sure of himself and, if anything, he felt the lack of the Hindu middle class that had once completed his society.

***

On the way into town, Hameed explained the legal dispute. It was a complex story in which the laws of the country—British law with Islamic accents—came into conflict with feudal family agreements. Hameed’s aunts had inherited a parcel of land, which they wanted him to inherit, but as his cousins (with whom he’d had gun battles) contested this, a spurious sale was organised, by which the land would come indirectly to Hameed.

The section of town we entered in moonlight had old-fashioned whitewashed buildings. Outside the lawyer’s office there was an open drain from which a vast peepal tree grew, its roots threatening the foundation of both street and building. The man inside the pistachio green room was like a caricature of a small-town lawyer. He was squat and smiling, with dimples and greasy hennaed hair. His office contained a glass-topped desk, green metal filing-cabinets and shelves stacked with volumes of Pakistan Legal Decisions.

He had been briefed about the case and, after offering us tea and soft drinks, he began: “You have two options, either of speaking the truth or… I’ve heard, sir,” he said, a smarmy smile lighting his face, “that it is hard for you to tell a lie.”
Hameed looked at him. “No, there’s no such problem.”

“Another situation is that we don’t tell the truth,” the lawyer said, shaking his head mournfully, as though drawing some pleasure from the foreplay of an illegal act.

“Please leave truth and lies aside,” Hameed said. “Let’s just do what favours us.”

The lawyer, bowing from the waist, grinned. “Are both women educated?”

“Yes, a little.”

“English-speaking?”

“Yes.”

The lawyer nodded sadly, feigning gloom.

“What difference does it make?” Hameed barked.

“Because we could say the transaction was a fake,” the lawyer sputtered. “The ladies did not understand what they were doing. We could make the plea that they didn’t know what was in the documents when they signed them.”

“But then wouldn’t I end up looking like a fraud?”

“No,” the lawyer said, “you weren’t present. We can say the ladies never sold the land and received no monies.”

Hameed looked as lost as I was. “Does the judge accept bribes?” he asked. “Can’t we just bribe him?”

“He does in some cases but not others,” the lawyer said, as if delivering an official statement. “But the other party can bribe too so it doesn’t matter.”

“Can’t we give them a little danda?” Hameed said, using the word for “stick” to mean a beating.

The lawyer smiled serenely.

“Can the property be put in my mother’s name?” Hameed asked, then mentioned she was a German national, which created other problems.

“Why don’t you get married?” the lawyer suggested.

“I have to find the right girl,” Hameed laughed. “When I do I’ll get married.”

We stood up to leave and the lawyer rose too, bowing.

Outside, Hameed lit a cigarette. Turning to me, he said bitterly: “Bloody feudal family disputes.” He seemed a little depressed and lonely.

In the car his lieutenant tried to convince him to get married. He said it would strengthen his position.

“If we lose in the court, how soon can they take control of the land?” Hameed asked, thinking aloud.

“We’ll go to a higher court,” the lieutenant said.

“And if we lose there?”

“They can take control of the land, but then we’ll bring it back to the lowest court on some excuse. Whole lifetimes go by and things remain unresolved.”

Hameed fell silent.

“You just get married quickly,” the lieutenant said, trying to arrest the gloom that grew in his master, “and then you’ll have a wife and an heir and at least they won’t be able to say ‘he’s all on his own.’ Your strength will improve greatly.” Strength was the right word: it was all that could make sense of the landscape around the Mango King. In the absence of a credible state, crude power, loose and available, was all there was. “Find a good relationship and get married. Aren’t I right?” the lieutenant asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“People are scared of my house,” Hameed replied. “Girls run away from it.”

“Why?”

“You know my pool in Karachi, right?”

“Yes,” I said, half expecting him to say it was having its water changed.

“Well, I had a party,” he said, “and a guy drowned in it. And my cousins said that I paid money to the police and to the guy’s family. Can you imagine? You have a party and a guy dies in your pool. It’s terrible. And they say it’s because I’m feudal. I think the guy was on drugs or something.”

***

That night I sat with the Mango King on his veranda drinking whisky-sodas and talking. Though occasionally I felt his pain, I didn’t understand his world; I didn’t think it was a world that could be made understandable to someone who wasn’t obliged to work by its arbitrary laws; its brutalities were its own.

It was India’s middle class, its growth and energy, more than anything else that set the two countries apart. The power of the middle class in India dismantled the old feudal structures. In Sindh, the cost of realising the purity of the Muslim state was the departure of the Hindu middle class. The muhajjir population that arrived in its place had not been able to replace its social function; the bonds that had held together the diverse society of Muslims and Hindus had not arisen among the co-religionists. And, without its middle class, Sindh was not merely unchanged from 1947, not merely feudal: it was lawless, divided within itself; town and country were divorced from each other; and even men like the Mango King knew insecurity; the society was dismembered.

The lieutenant, who had been sitting quietly on the edge of the veranda, now whispered slyly to me that he was a Rajput. This was another reference to the Hindu caste system, in this case a high caste. But the lieutenant didn’t know he spoke of caste. When I said to him that Islam, with its strong ideas of equality, forbade notions of caste, he became defensive and said that this was a matter of good and bad families.

“If you can have Rajputs, then you can have choodas,” I said, using the derogatory word for “low caste.”

“Of course you can have choodas,” the lieutenant replied.

“Would you let your daughter marry one?”

“Never.”

“Even if he was Muslim?”

“Even if he was Muslim.”

On the one hand, there was the rejection of India that made Pakistan possible, and on the other, India was overwhelmingly at play in the deepest affiliations of Pakistanis, sometimes without their knowing it. It made Pakistan a place in which everything just existed because it did, eroded haphazardly by inevitable change. The country’s roots, like some fearsome plumbing network, could never be examined to explain why something was the way it was, why the lieutenant, perhaps centuries after conversion, still thought of himself as a Rajput. And though I, with deep connections on both sides, could see the commonalities, they were not to be celebrated: we spoke instead of difference.

Before I went to bed, Hameed came to the end of the story of his kidnapping. Finally, after six months, the kidnappers gave him a bus ticket and released him in the Sindhi town of Sukkur from where he made his way back to his father’s house in Hyderabad. His hair had grown longer and when he got home, the watchman didn’t recognise him. Hameed said no ransom was ever paid.

When he was released they danced in the village. He went to get a passport photo taken, and the man in the shop had baked a cake for him. These were the details that remained with him after two decades. The whisky worked on Hameed, at once deadening his eyes and bringing up unprocessed emotion. He’d gone to get a passport picture because he was going to Germany to see his mother for the first time in 14 years. His separation from her was another secret in the life of the Mango King; I had a feeling it was related to the father who always had the right answer for everything.

The next morning I left the Mango King’s lands for Hyderabad. He was still asleep when I walked out and even at that early hour, the small, musty house was filling with heat.

Shaheryar Ali

The way we think is the bases of every thing. . The way of thinking is what legitimizes one thing and condemns others. A particular “way of thinking” has been dominant in human societies since antiquity. It’s this way of thinking which has resulted in evolution of Religion, conventional Morality, hierarchical society and Patriarchy. Since the olden times certain philosophers have revolted against the “main stream” way of thinking, which essentially was based on a dichotomy of “thought” and “observation”. The constant friction between both and their advancement and evolution to this day is the main source of what I call “conventional way of thinking”. Its based on different , often contradictory understanding of concepts. Different ideas of Logic, Rationalism, empiricism and Idealism make this way of thinking.

Many philosophers of olden times revolted against way of thinking, they highlighted the ideas of “contradiction” “continuous flow”, “unity of opposites” and limitedness of apparent. They were often not accepted as “philosophers” but were called “Sophists”, “mystics”, poets and “insane” etc. Xeno gave a critique of motion, declared that a “flying arrow is at rest”. He was mocked for denying “motion”, he infact was criticizing the logical way of thing which looks at “Time” and “Space” as a fixed mechanical concept, showing that with there way of thinking “motion” can be shown to be a logical absurdity. Xeno’s paradoxes resulted in development of advance mathematics and with appearance of Quantum physics, his ideas about motion once again got new fame. Heraclites, Parmenides and others like them also revolted against “liner way of thinking”. In modern times Hegel developed “dialectics” and proposed it as “new logic” it was a celebration of contradiction, continuous motion, unity of opposites and mistrust of apparent.

Marx gave it a materialist touch in form of “dialectical materialism” which resulted in a first ever organized critique of the established way of thinking and its social manifestation. With dialectical thought emerged the critique of Morality, Family, Patriarchy, State, false consciousness, etc etc. Marx libertarian ideas were destroyed by the totalitarian and dogmatic regimes of Stalin and Mao. Against this back drop emerged the youth rebellion after 2nd world way whose expression in cultural arena was movements of “free love” and in politics “civil rights movement”, “Anti war movements”,” new left movement” and “revolution of 1968’ etc. These were the greatest challenges to conformity and established way of thinking. Most of it is now remembered as “Counter-Culture”.

During all these movements certain Hindu mystics emerged on international scene who associated with “peace” and “free love” movements. One such figure was OSHO. One of the most controversial figures of our times he has been maligned a lot. Osho should be called “anti mystic”. He challenged the conventional thinking, belief system and morality. His main ideas revolve around the quest of freedom and how conventional thought has actually brought all evils in the world. An excellent conversationalist, Osho has been called “Wittgenstein of religious thought”, his work is deconstructive, and he shows contradiction of conventional morality, thought and religion.

He was very popular in Pakistan during the cultural fascism of Zia. Rebel youth was attracted to his un inhibited talk on sex and freedom. After his fall from grace his ideas were largely forgotten but have seen a re emergence lately all over the world even in Pakistan. Osho was a trained philosophers, his talk is an expression of a sharp sense of humor and simplicity of expression. Those who have an interest in philosophy can see that in his simple lines he is usually commenting on some very serious philosophical problems.

This video is a short talk by him in which he speaks about concept of God and philosophical concept of contradiction. Its an excellent attack on organized religion, logical thinking and some politics

In this video Osho is criticizing philosophy, its an excellent attack on Idealism. [All proponents of non conventional way of thinking have condemned philosophy, from Xeno to Marx, Derrida and Deleuze want to destroy the whole tradition of western metaphysics as main cause of tyranny]

Few days back world celebrated Darwin’s 200th birthday. What do ideas of Darwin mean? The religious thought has taken a u turn on Darwin from total and violent rejection to cooption. Osho here puts things in perspective, those who have read Kant will enjoy his talk on “perfection”. Rediscovering Osho now will reveal a lot of new things, one need to be bit non judgmental and listen to him not considering all the package that we have inherited.

Shaheryar Ali

Yvette Rosser is a famous historian from Texas USA. Her field of expertise is South Asian History, especially the “education of History” in South Asia. She has wrote extensively on “Politics of Historiographies”  in SouthAsia. A scholar with Post-modern turn she is critical of traditional left, especially in India. She has written an article on Pakistani text books. How hate and prejudice is cultivated in young Pakistani minds. Recently this subject got a great media attention in Pakistan, with General Musharaff’s rhetorical “change in curricula” policy, which like all  of dictator’s policies proved to be nothing more than  a propaganda stunt.

The much “condemed” changes largely remain ineffective  and the Pakistani text books remain bigoted and prejudiced. Many Pakistani scholars have worked on this subject, Some of which are acknowledged in this article, Others are Dr KK Aziz and Mubarak Ali who have systematically worked on “Murder of History” theme in Pakistan.

Pakistani Textbooks: Politics of Prejudice

Yvette Rosser

All students in Pakistan are required to take courses called Pakistan Studies and must pass standardized tests based on that curriculum. Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject in all secondary schools and colleges. There are numerous textbooks published under this title for the 9th class to the BA level. In general, the curriculum is a composite of patriotic discourses, justification of the Two-Nation Theory, hagiographies of Muslim heroes, and endemic in the discourse, polemics about the superiority of Islamic principals over Hinduism. The rubric in these textbooks must be learned by rote in order for students to pass the required exam.

Many students in Pakistan with whom I have spoken not only dislike this required course, but openly mock it. A student at a women’s college in Lahore told me that “Pak Studies classes were usually scheduled at five or six in the afternoon” and “hardly any students attend,” choosing instead to spend their time studying for “important classes such as Math or Urdu or English” which are held in the mornings. “Besides,” the student continued, “we’ve covered the Pak Studies material year after year, it’s just the same Lucknow Pact, Two-Nation Theory. . . we don’t have to study for the test, the Ideology of Pakistan has been drilled into us.”

Textbooks in Pakistan must first be approved by the Curriculum Wing of the Ministry of Education in Islamabad after which they are published by the provincial textbook boards located at Jamshoro in Sindh, Quetta in Balouchistan, Lahore in Panjab, and Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The social studies curriculum in Pakistan, as both product and propagator of the ”Ideology of Pakistan,” derives its legitimacy from a narrow set of directives. The textbooks authored and altered during the eleven years of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule between 1977 and 1988, are still in use in most schools. They are decidedly anti-democratic and inclined to dogmatic tirades and characterized by internal contradictions.
When discussing General Zia’alasting influence on the teaching of social studies in Pakistan, a principal at a woman’s college in Lahore told me a joke which she said was well known among intellectuals in the country, “General Zia– May He Rest in Pieces.” Indeed, after his airplane exploded in the sky, the pieces of his body were never found, along withthe American ambassador and several other top brass generals on board the fatal flight. The casket in Zia’s mausoleum near the beautiful FaizlMosque built with Saudi money in Islamabad, purportedly contains only his false teeth, jawbone, and eyeglasses. The remaining weight of his coffin is compensated with sandbags. There are, however, bits and pieces of Zia-ul Haq’s body politic littered across the Pakistani psychological, educational, political, and military landscape.
During the past three decades, the Pakistani military3 has helped to empower a vast cadre of politically motivated, religiously conservative Mujahideen, evidenced by the accelerating crisis in Kashmir, the war like situation in Kargil, airplane hijackings, and the Talibanization of madrass education. This continuing move towards Islamization is accentuated against the ominous backdrop of nuclear testing, missile development, failed diplomacy, and sporadic tit-for-tat acrimonious exchanges between India and Pakistan. The social studies curriculum in Pakistan employs a very narrow definition of Islam in the construction of Pakistani nationalism.
Islamizationis a controversial term with a variety of interpretations. There are subtle distinctions among usages of words such as Islamization, Islamic nationalism, Islamic Republic, Islamizing, that represent the manipulation and implementation of religious terminology and symbols as political tools. Both Maududi of the Jaamat-I-Islami and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran saw Islamizationas a model for the world-wide community of Islamic Ummah, distinct from Islamic nationalism, which is “essentially a Western, non-Islamic, secular, and territorial concept that emphasizes patriotism and love of one’s nation-state, its sacred territory, political institutions and symbols”.5 A more thoroughly Islamized Pakistan, which would finally fulfill the true Shariat-ruled mandate inherent in the creation of an Islamic Republic was how General Zia constructed the meaning of his Islamization campaign, which he propagated and popularized as the inevitable evolution of Pakistani nationalism. Zia institutionalized a kind of paranoia about parading Islamic symbols, which were seen as essential for the survival of the nation-state. Unfortunately some of the strategies that Zia and his fundamentalist mullah supporters appropriated and propagated were based on narrow, medieval interpretations of Islam, which resulted in gender-biased attitudes and policies and militarized exhortations to take up arms for the sake of jihad.
The “Ideology of Pakistan’quot; is based on Islamic nationalism. Islamizationis what Zia called it, but not coincidentally. He was consciously pushing for stricter adherence to external expressions of religion, placating conservative forces, exerting social control, influencing social norms. Pakistan’s ideology of “Islamic nationalism,” still has a dynamic and powerful hold over the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Professor Mir Zohair Husain wrote in a personal communication:
Just because Zia used the word ‘Islamization’ time and again, doesn’t mean that he was successful in his so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani political and economic institutions. While Pakistan’s governing elite may have been relatively liberal, pragmatic and secular, the majority of Pakistanis were always devout Muslims, and Pakistani culture was always ‘Islamic’ [and] thus didn’t need any further ‘Islamizing.’ If Zia’s so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani society had actually occurred, Pakistanis would never have elected two relatively liberal, pragmatic, and secular Muslims to run Pakistan four times in 11 years in free and fair elections based on adult franchise–Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990, 1993-1996) and Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993, 1996-1999). General Pervaiz Musharraf, who usurped power on October 12th, 1999, is also a liberal and pragmatic Muslim, who has said that he admired Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey [who] is denounced by devout Muslims all over the world for being a secular dictator who tried to Westernize Turkey. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not ‘actually working to establish an Islamic-dominated state.’ A ‘Muslim-led government’ is by no means the same thing as an ‘Islamic-dominated state!’ Most governments in the Muslim world are led by Muslims, but they are not Islamic regimes based on the Islamic Shariah (like Iran or Afghanistan [under the Taliban]).
Husain’s observation, contrasting the elites with the more “Islamized common” people highlights the irony of Zia’s efforts. Though this impetus to Islamizethe outward manifestations of social and political institutions was itself a reflection of a world-wide movement towards religious conservatism and fundamentalism within the Islamic community, the results of twenty years of Zia’s Islamization indoctrination programme has given rise to more women in burqas, a generation of Pakistani girls prevented by social conventions from riding bicycles, and militant mullahs preaching political jihad from their Friday pulpits. Though certainly, these expressions are part of the international trend among Muslims toward religious conservatism, Zia latched on to that and used it. The Islamization of Pakistan initiated during the eighties brought an end to the liberal secular ambience of the sixties and seventies, inherited from the sophisticated and educated father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, when some women still wore saris to weddings and elbow-lengthsleeves were the norm in a hot climate, and girls still rode bicycles to the market. Middle-aged Pakistani women remember when hijab and traditional headgear was an anomaly.
Men in Pakistan have also adopted more Islamic expressions in their outward attire. Prior to the pressures exerted by Zia to Islamize all facets of society, Pakistani men who sported long beards and short pants could be seen on their way to pray at the Mosque, they were respected as either sincere Tabliqi practitioners or elderly gentlemen who had performed Haj. Now, as friend in Sindh told me, ‘Most of the men who dress up as mullahs are quacks and crackpots. Every dacoit, shopkeeper, middle class businessman, and rickshaw walawants to look like a mullah.’He added, ‘Twenty or thirty years ago Pakistani men were not judged by the length of their pants or their beards.’ Once social and political conventions become codified by conservative religious dictates, it is extremely difficult to break or oppose those newly imposed norms that quickly become sacrosanct and in fact, required of ‘true believers’. External expressions of Islamization, such as traditional Muslim fashion–beards and caps for males, burqas, purdah, or at least long-sleeved clothing for females–are also potent symbols of patriotism, proving one’s personal commitment to the Ideology of Pakistani.
Since the deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the popular media in the West has begun to pay attention to the vitriolic anti-American narratives that are pervasive in textbooks in several Islamic countries, including allies such as Saudi Arabia. For years, objective Pakistani scholars have warned that the textbooks in Pakistan were fomenting hatred and encouraging fundamentalism. For several decades now, textbooks in not only Pakistan, but many Islamic nations have promoted a radically restrictive brand of Islamic exclusivism, and exported that perspective to other nations as in the case of Pakistani born Taliban and their negative impact on Afghani society. In March 2001, an article I wrote appeared in The Friday Times, a weekly newspaper published in Lahore, Pakistan. In that article I warned of the imminent blowback of America’s foreign policies, in the 1980’s in South Asia.6 Unfortunately, the dire predictions became front-page news on September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani government will hopefully take some action to tone down the jihadi rhetoric that characterizes not only Islamic educational institutions but also the government sponsored social studies curriculum.
In the minds of a generation of Pakistanis, indoctrinated by the “Ideology of Pakistan’ are lodged fragments of hatred and suspicion. The story manufactured to further Zia’s ‘Be Pakistani/Buy Pakistani’ worldview is presented through a myopic lens of hyper-nationalism and the politicized use of Islam. According to Dr. Magsi, a psychiatrist at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, ‘When Civics classes teach negative values’ the result is a xenophobic and paranoid acceptance of authoritarianism and the denial of cultural differences and regional ethnic identities.’ In the past few decades, social studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used as locations to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy makers have attempted to inculcate towards their Hindu neighbors. Vituperative animosities legitimize military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality. Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site for negatively representing India and othering the Subcontinent’s indigenous past.
The teleological nature of the civic responsibility to create patriotic citizens finds a malleable tool in the social studies curriculum where myth and fact often merge. The many textbooks published in Pakistan under the title Pakistan Studies are particularly prone to the omissions, embellishments, and elisions that often characterize historical narratives designed for secondary level social studies classes. During the time of General Zia-ul Haq, social studies, comprised of history and geography, were replaced by Pakistan Studies, which was madea compulsory subject for all students from the ninth standard through the first year of college including engineering and medical schools. Curriculum changes, institutionalized during Zia’s Islamization campaign, required that all students also take a series of courses under the title Islamiyat, the study of Islamic tenants and memorization of Quranic verses. Committees formed under Zia’s guidance began to systematically edit the textbooks. The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a directive in 1983 that textbook writers were
To demonstrate that the basis of Pakistan is not to be founded in racial, linguistic, or geographical factors, but, rather, in the shared experience of a common religion. To get students to know and appreciate the Ideology of Pakistan, and to popularize it with slogans. To guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan’the creation of a completely Islamized State.7

Pervez Hoodbhoy and A.H. Nayyarpublished an article, ‘Rewriting the History of Pakistan’ in 1985 when Zia’s policies were in full swing. They commence with a near prophetic comment regarding the inevitable and eventual blowback from General Zia’s efforts to Islamize the educational system, ‘the full impact of which will probably be felt by the turn of the century, when the present generation of school children attains maturity.’8 Nayyar and Hoodbhoy explain that the UGC’s directives centered on four themes:

1. The ‘Ideology of Pakistan,’ both as a historical force which motivated the movement for Pakistan as well as its raison d’être

2. The depiction of Jinnah as a man of orthodox religious views who sought the creation of a theocratic state

3. A move to establish the ‘ulama’ ‘ as genuine heroes of he Pakistan Movement

4. An emphasis on ritualistic Islam, together with the rejection of interpretations of the religion and generation of communal antagonism 9
The broad expanse of South Asian history is a tabula rasaupon which Pakistani historians and policy makers have created the story of a new nation replete with cultural roots and ancient socio-religious trajectories. This manufactured view of the past narrates Pakistan’s emergence as an independent country: in just seven short years, under the enlightened guidance of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, the father of the country, Pakistan rose from the strife and oppression of religious communalism in Hindu dominated India to join the comity of modern nations. Nayyar and Hoodbhoyexplain, “The ‘recasting’ of Pakistani history [has been] used to ‘endow the nation witha historic destiny’.”10The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from and often in direct contrast with interpretations of history found in India.
In the early seventies, Z.A. Bhutto in a precarious political position, governing a drastically diminished territory, strove to win the support of the religious sectors of the population. He had the textbooks altered to placate these factions. An integrated Pakistan, one strong Islamic nation that could overcome separatist movements and prevent another splitting such as the creation of Bangladesh, was the mandate. To appease the conservative clerics, such policies as the declaration that Ahamadis11 were “non-Muslims” were enacted under Bhutto. Textbooks laid even greater stress on the Islamic perspective of historical events. Islamiyat was made a required subject up until class eight. The use of the phrase, “The Ideology of Pakistan” had already been inserted into social studies textbooks during Bhutto’s first term, and pre-Islamic South Asian history was obliterated. Despite all this, Bhutto gets no credit for Islamization, textbooks calling his efforts ‘too little, too late.’
The military coup that ended Bhutto’s second term and eventually his life brought his protégé General Zia-ul Haq to power. Islamization began in full measure. Non-Muslims, such as Hindus in rural Sindh, were madeto vote in separate electorates. Blasphemy laws were often used selectively against non-Muslims. The phrase “Ideology of Pakistan” was installed with vigor and the textbooks were rewritten by committee to reassert the Islamic orientations of Pakistani nationalism according to General Zia’s socio-political decrees. It has now been over a decade and a half since Zia was assassinated yet, the textbooks he caused to be authorized have survived four democratically elected governments, and the supposed de-jihadization campaign of General Musharraf, the propagandistictone of the historical narrative is still taught as absolute truth to the youth of Pakistan. Zia is depicted as benevolent and religious minded, a discourse that remains in the textbooks published through the 1990’s during the two tenures of his protégé, Nawaz Sharif. BenazirBhutto was too preoccupied withremaining in power to concern herself about the revision of curriculum, even concerning the dismal representation of her father in textbooks. Once a historical character or event is divinely sanctioned and anointed with religious significance, altering that discourse is difficult, almost apostasy.
From their government issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backwards, superstitious, they burn their widows and wives, and that Brahmins are inherently cruel, and if given a chance, would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims and Shuddras, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears.12 In their social studies classes, students are taught that Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the Subcontinent and only through Islam could the sinister ways of Hindus be held in check. In Pakistani textbooks “Hindu” rarely appears in a sentence without adjectives such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative.

Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse — prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth ———” Foucault

The non-existence of women is the most important problem that has plagued the discourse in the Muslim countries. “Representational discourse” is in itself a discourse of exclusion, the “woman” and “woman hood” are representational entities, the Woman has always been be represented in the discourse , she never had her own voice. The famous existential philosopher Simone de Beauvior whilst writing her seminal feminist work “The second Sex” reached the conclusion : “No Human is born a Woman”.

In fundamentalist ‘Islamic’ context this representational discourse acquired a legal status where woman was judged to be unworthy of testimony. De-humanization of woman reached its peak under the USA sponsored Islamization of the Muslim world. General Muhammed Zia ul Haq and the theologians brought the “Law of Evidence” according to which the testimony of the woman was to be considered half of that of man. The traditional reading of Islam brought about the concept of “Naqis ul Aqal” “semi compos mentis” for the Woman. An animal which is not capable of making independent decisions, is source of Sin and lust and hence must be covered in a black veil, to protect the piety of Men, whose place is within the 4 walls of the house and who cant leave it without a male relative escorting her.

“Zina” (or fornication) became the ultimate focus of the project that aimed to suppress women’s sexuality with the fear of stones and lashes. “Chador or Char divari” became the official state doctrine for “woman” with approval from Mansoora! [Pakistan's self-styled Vatican, headquarter of the Jamate Islami]

The Progressive left led a heroic struggle against the Neo Fascist Zia ul Haq, resulting in one of the most brutal crackdown against them, hangings, torture,murders,exiles, lashes—. Fahmida Riaz , Kishwar Naheed stood up against this tyranny , the result was the emergence of a radical feminist discourse that was modernist and progressive and which challenged the Islamist discourse on woman.

Fehmida Riaz is a true artist who never compromised , she was victimized by Zia ul Haq and his political Son Nawaz Sharif but she stood firm. Chador aur Char Divari is one of the most important poems ever written in Urdu. It traces the origins of Islamist exclusionist discourse and de constructs it. It asserts the “humanity” of woman , her independent will and voice and her challenge to the tyrants.

Translation follows

Four Walls and a Black Veil
What shall I do, Sire, with this black veil?
Why do you bestow on me this great favour?
I am not in mourning that I should wear it
To show the world my grief.
Nor am I sick That I should hide my shame
In its dark folds. S
Stamp my forehead with this Dismal seal?
If I am not too impudent, Sire
If you assure my life, may I tell you, Most humbly:
There lies, in your perfumed chamber, A corpse that stinks.
It begs for pity. Cover that shroudless corpse.
Not me. Its stench is everywhere. It cries for seclusion.
Listen to the heart-rending screams
Of those still naked beneath the veil.
You must know them well, these maids:
The hostage women of vanquished peoples,
Halal for a night, exiled at dawn;
The slave girls who carried your blessed seed
And brought forth children of half status only, yet
Was it not honour enough for them?
The wives who wait their precious turns
To pay homage to the conjugal couch;
The hapless, cowering girl-child
Whose blood will stain your gray beard red.

Life has no more tears to shed; it shed them all
In that fragrant chamber where, for ages now,
This sacrificial drama has played
And replayed. Please, Sire, bring it down.
The curtain. Now. You need it to cover the corpse.
I am not on this earth merely as a signet
Of your great lust.

These four walls and this black veil—
Let them bless the rotting remains.
I have spread my sails
In the open wind, on the wide seas,
And by my side a man stands,
A companion who won my trust

An exceptionally bold critique of the traditional values about woman
in Islamic societies, A historicist reading of the poem
can lead to accusation of Blasphemy!.Another of the crime
which was being done by Islamist regimes all over was the destruction
and denial of woman's sexuality. She was being ordered to lie
passively beneath the man, her husband as a religious duty. 
The woman who denies the advances of her husband was the subject
of curses by the Angeles of God,  the Aroused man
was like a solider of God with sword in hand, any
expression of sexuality by her was Sin ,her perfume could destroy
the piety of Men,her voice can make them mad and put them on
path of Sin and lust.Any awareness of sexuality could make her a
"Rebel out of control". In Arab world the mutilation of female
children in name of "circumcision" is the politics of orgasmic
control.By doing so these women are deprived of "sexual pleasure"
for ever, making them just an instrument for pleasure of the male.
Any pleasure on behalf of her is a Sin."Modesty" and "Asexuality"
were another of Islamists doctrines,challenged by Fehmida Riaz.
French Kiss is a lovely poem by Riaz, an expression of 
female sexuality and her humanity.

 

Deep Kiss

Deep myrrh-scented kiss,
deep with the tongue, suffused
with the musky perfume
of the wine of love: I'm reeling
with intoxication, languid
to the point of numbness,
yet with a mind so roused
an eye flies open
in every cell.

And you! Sucking my breath,
my life, from its deepest,
most ancient abode.

Kiss.
Wet, warm, dark.
Pitch black!
Like a moonless night,
when rain comes flooding in.

A glint of runaway time
fleeing in the wilderness of my soul
seems to be drawing closer.

I sway across a shadowy bridge.
It's about to end, I think,
somewhere ahead,
there is light.

Breaking the Silence----Fahmida Riaz

Shaheryar Ali

These are the days of unprecedented decline of Journalism in Pakistan. The rapid capitalization of the Media Industry has snuffed out the already feeble Journalistic standards in Pakistan. These are the days where one of the most highly paid journalist who has the reputation of being a scholar and “researcher” does programmes on end of days, which are nothing but a nauseating combination of sensational Hollywood movies, the Evangelicalmillennial fever and half baked conspiracy theories linked with Islamic Apocalypse . These are the days where we read personal columns full of ideological rant, wishful thinking and petty sensationalism and conspiracy theories as “Lead News stories” on front pages of Urdu Dailies . Ansar Abbasi, Rauf Kalasara and Saleh Zafar being on top of this “great journalism” In this situation its really pleasant to have Nadeem F Paracha around. At least he talks about “old fashioned politics” which has completely died in Pakistan and is replaced by “de-politicized trade unionism” like Lawyers movement, journalist movements etc. The moral buffs of journalism and academia are lamenting the decision of lifting the ban on student unions saying it caused “violence”. Nadeem.F.Paracha has remind them the forgotten history SA Dawn ,Pakistan

SMOKER’S CORNER: When doves cried

BY NadeemF. Paracha

The violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions, but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. I’m afraid those bemoaning the revival of student unions in Pakistan have only little knowledge of the subject’s history; especially when they suggest that student unions and student organisations were the root cause of violence in colleges and universities. The truth is that violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. The early roots of the violence that gripped the country’s student politics in the 1980s can be traced to a crucial event that took place in 1979 at the University of Karachi. The year’s student union elections saw an alliance of progressive student groups, led by People’s Students Federation (PSF), National Students Federation (NSF), Liberal Students Federation (LSF) and Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) defeating the powerful Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) on a number of important seats at KU. This is when the first ever incident of students using AK-47s at the university occurred when soon after the 1979 union elections, some IJT activists opened fire on a progressive students’ rally on campus. Emboldened by its mother party, the Jamat-i-Islami’s growing influence during Zia’s martial law regime, the IJT started devolving from being a democratic-conservative student group into a group with increasingly violent tendencies. The PSF, under tremendous pressure from arrests and harassment by the Zia dictatorship, too became a lot more violent, but for different reasons. Many of its members were jailed, tortured and even flogged, sometimes simply for raising a Jeeay Bhutto slogan. However, it was at the Peshawar University that some PSF leaders saw IJT members receiving AK-47s and TT pistols from Afghan traders who had started to arrive into the NWFP after the takeover of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. These IJT members then got the same traders to meet the IJT workers arriving from Karachi. And since arms from the United States had also started to pour in for the so-called anti-Soviet mujahideen groups, many of them were sold at throw-away prices by Pakistani middlemen and related Afghan traders to the visiting IJT workers. The pressure-cooker situation then saw the PSF activists getting in touch with the same Afghan traders in Peshawar who had been supplying arms to the IJT. A group of PSF activists from the University of Karachi bought themselves a cache of AK-47s and TT pistols as well. This group was led by the notorious PSF militant Salamullah Tipu, a former member of the NSF, who later joined the PSF. Then in 1980 an NSF worker was killed in a clash with the IJT. When a major’s jeep arrived at the University of Karachi, members of the PSF, NSF and the BSO, aggravated by the military regime’s support for the IJT, set it on fire. The next day Tipu and a group of PSF militants emerged on campus, roaming in a car with a PPP flag (a crime of sorts in those days), and shouting anti-Zia and Jeeay Bhutto slogans. A senior IJT leader whipped out a TT pistol and fired at Tipu’s car. He fired twice, but missed. Tipu braked, rushed out of the car with a recently bought AK-47 and fell the IJT member with a burst of bullets. In response to growing IJT violence and government harassment, a senior NSF leader, Zafar Arif, pleaded for a new alliance of progressive student groups. In 1981, a meeting was held at Zafar Arif’s home and the United Students Movement (USM) came into being. The new progressive coalition included the National Students Federation, Peoples Students Federation, Democratic Students Federation, Baloch Students Organisation, Pashtun Students Federation, and the newly formed, All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation. A two-pronged strategy was chalked out by the USM. The first involved the alliance to work as a new united electoral group against right-wing student parties like the IJT in student union elections. The new alliance also decided to take the IJT head on in other matters as well and for this the USM planed to arm itself as much as the IJT had already done. Whereas the IJT was aided in this pursuit by its Jamat-i-Islami connections with mujahideen commanders like Gulbadin Hykmatyar, the USM had to struggle to generate funds. Groups of the PSF, NSF and the BSO travelled to the NWFP and Balochistan again and brought back caches of AK-47s and TT pistols. The USM’s strategy also included working against the government which was believed to have let lose intelligence agents suspected to have been working with certain IJT members. Then, as expected, unparalleled violence erupted on the day of the 1981 student union elections in Karachi that saw the progressive student groups sweeping the elections in most Karachi colleges. Advisers to the Sindh government under the governorship of General Abbasi warned the regime that even though the Jamat-i-Islami had been supporting the Zia dictatorship, the 1981 and 1982 student union elections proved that the IJT’s influence was receding. The advisers also warned that student violence may turn outwards against the government.Just before the 1984 student union elections in Karachi, the government announced the banning of student politics, citing violence. The truth was, the decision was based on reports that anti-government student alliances like Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (in northern Punjab) and the USM (in Karachi) had gained great electoral and political momentum and might in the future be in a position to initiate a students’ movement, the sort that helped topple the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1968-69. The regime’s plan to repress progressive student groups and its encouragement of the IJT had successfully managed to generate the reasons the regime wanted to use to prove the “violent nature of student unionism”. In reality it was a resurgence of progressive student groups which became the reason to clamp down on student politics.

Dr Lal Khan is a Marxist political worker and analyst based in Lahore Pakistan. He was a hero of the student movement against the Islamic-fascist General Zia ul haq , sentenced to death he escaped to Europe where he joined the International Marxist tendency. He has lived and worked in India as well. A very well read man he is the editor of Asian Marxist Review. He has wrote many books amongst which “Partition and how it can be undone”, Kashmir;s ordeal the Marxist Perspective and “21 century Socialism” are worth mentioning. He has written an article on the situation in Pakistan which is worth reading as it disscusses some important issues which are being confused in Pakistan.

Pakistan – unravelling of the democratic farce Print E-mail
By Lal Khan in Lahore
Thursday, 15 May 2008
The resignation from the federal cabinet of fifteen ministers belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) PML (N) has exposed the fragile nature of the present ‘democratic’ set-up.

The ‘coalition’ based on the so-called “grand national reconciliation” has split just after 41 days in power. This coalition government was cobbled together under the auspices of US imperialism and the Pakistan state to stave off a looming crisis that threatened the whole system. But now this fragile coalition has collapsed ‑ another failure of the Pakistan ruling classes and imperialism. The Economist of May 10 gives a pessimistic picture of the situation:

“Pakistan is in a mess again. It is teetering on the brink of food riots, industrial lay-offs and strikes against daily 12- hour nationwide power cuts. The economy is slipping. Capital flight has taken nearly 5% off the value of the rupee against the dollar in the past few weeks. The war against extremists in the tribal badlands is going nowhere. Instability has returned to haunt politics.”

Ever since the return of Benazir on October 18 last year there have been mass upheavals and turbulence throughout society. Events have been unfolding in an explosive and unprecedented rapid pace.

Such was the severity of the upheavals that sections of the state decided to assassinate Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007 in Rawalpindi in an attempt to quell the rising tide of the masses, who had come out in a mass movement to challenge this rotting capitalist system. Food, shelter and clothing were their demands. They were yearning through this upheaval to get rid of the poverty, unemployment and misery into which they were being thrown by Pakistani capitalism. The wrath of the oppressed masses was evident in the reaction to the assassination of Benazir as the lava of mass anger and resentment poured onto the streets and Pakistan was virtually paralysed for more than 48 hours.

However, the PPP leadership refused to call a general strike against the postponement of the elections from the original date of January 8 of this year, which was done at the behest of US imperialism. The results of February 18 elections were meticulously engineered to suit the ruling classes and US interests. The PPP was made to win, yet it was the highest loser. Had the PPP got a two-thirds majority ‑ which was a foregone conclusion ‑ the rising tide of mass upheaval would have put such tremendous pressure on a PPP government that it would not have been able to fudge the basic demands of the oppressed who were supporting it.

Before, during and in the aftermath of the elections the State Department officials played the main role in manufacturing this right and left wing coalition set-up. The US ambassador in Pakistan, Ms. Anne Peterson, has been the most active and enthusiastic politician in this country ever since then. She has been interviewing every minister and has been dictating every little detail in the moves of this government.

The PML(N) finance minister immediately flew to Washington to get fresh economic instructions from the World Bank and the IMF. In spite of all this, the coalition has collapsed. The immediate “issue” was the restoration of the judges sacked by Musharraf.

On the other hand, the different factions within this retrogressive and redundant ruling class are vying for power. They are in conflict with each other as they all wish use this newly gained political power to get their huge loans written off and plunder whatever is left of the state and exchequer. In the brief history of Pakistan all regimes have indulged in this orgy of blatant corruption and nepotism.

But the real issue has been the unprecedented price hikes, the high rate of inflation, and the rise in poverty levels that have shaken society. In the first twenty-eight days of this new democratic set up, hailed by almost every body from US imperialism to the ex-left NGO’s, there have been more price hikes than in the last five years of the preceding regime.

Pakistan’s economy is now in a free fall. The highest ever inflation, trade deficit, current account deficit and worst ever macro-economic indicators are evidence of the rot and the terminal sickness of Pakistani capitalism. The economy is teetering on the verge of a sharp steep recession compounded by a global economic crisis. The rot is far greater than just the budgetary overruns and current account deficit. Pakistan’s economy faces high inflation, a global financial, oil and food crisis, energy shortages, capital flight, stagnant exports, falling foreign exchange reserves, a rapidly depreciating currency and decline in investment levels. The main brunt of this capitalist crisis has once again to be faced by the already impoverished toiling masses of Pakistan.

According to the officials of the World Food Programme more than half of Pakistan’s nearly170 million people are now short of food due to a surge in prices. According to the WFP survey, the “food insecure” had risen from 60million to 77million in March. But since installation of the present PPP led government food insecurity has risen at a horrendous pace.

The WFP report says: “There is a very big gap between the increase in prices and increase in wages… the purchasing power of the poor has gone down by almost 50 percent.” And that was in March. UNICEF says that 200,000 Pakistani children die annually because of unsafe drinking water, dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid and gastroenteritis. Out of the 137 poorest countries Pakistan’s GDP percentage spending on education stands at number 134 and health at 137! Yet Pakistan is the 11th largest importer of arms and weapons of mass destruction.

The impact of this severe socio-economic crisis has implications for the state and politics. The widespread violence, civil wars and bombings ravaging Pakistan’s social fabric are a graphic example of this. Similarly, different institutions of the state are rotting and in a state of a rapid internal decay because of this crisis. Ultimately the intense instability of society is a reflection of this crisis. Imperialist exploitation and capitalist lust for more and more profits, further exacerbates these contradictions and intensifies turmoil.

The network of the media, the state and the politicians, under the patronage of US imperialism, tries to distract the masses from the real issues by raising and fabricating a series of non-issues. One of the main non-issues raised by these people has been the question of the Judiciary. In a country where 90% of the population does not have the money to buy food, how can they buy justice through the exorbitant fees of the lawyers and the courts?

The conflict between the judiciary and other institutions of the state are symptoms of the failure of Pakistan as a nation state. The mass upsurge after October 18 last year had cut across these movements and all the “civil society” gimmickry and had brought the real issues of deprivation, poverty and exploitation to the fore.

However, after using the masses, the PPP leadership betrayed the party’s own founding programme yet again and started playing the absurd game of “national reconciliation” to preserve the present exploitative system. Nationally they patched together a coalition with the right wing, especially with Sharif’s PML (N), the traditional party of the reactionary ruling classes. This coalition also included Islamic fundamentalists in the form of the JUI(F) and the ANP, the right-wing Pushtoon nationalists. The fact is that the unanimous vote of all the parties in parliament for the PPP’s prime ministerial candidate, Yusuf Raza Gillani (a former minister of the Zia dictatorship), was an indication of the fear of the ruling classes due to the threat they faced from the oppressed masses.

In the Sindh regional parliament the PPP leadership went a step further. They included 13 ministers in the cabinet from the MQM, the neo-fascist outfit based on urban Sindh. This organization has been responsible for the assassination of hundreds of PPP activists in the last two decades. In Balouchistan, where there are 63 members elected to the provincial assembly, 62 have joined the PPP led government in Quetta. In the NWFP (Pushtoonkhwa) the PPP is in coalition with the right-wing Pushtoon Nationalists, the Awami National Party. On 13th of May this so called liberal, progressive coalition government announces the imposition of Sharia law (the Islamic code) in different areas of the province. In Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan, the PPP is in a coalition government led by the PML (N).

The meaning of all these coalitions is that the PPP leadership wants to use them as an excuse, a shield behind which to hide, in order to carry through policies of aggressive capitalism. The PPP’s federal privatisation minister, Naveed Qamar, has announced the privatisation of 10% of shares of Pakistan Steel Mills. This was the most contentious privatisation in which the previous regime was defeated by the militant struggle of the workers led by the PTUDC. Now the PPP government wants to sell the Steel Mills off in several instalments. The PPP regime has also asked the Privatisation Commission to meet its $21billion annual privatisation target by June 30 of this year.

In reality the new PPP-led democratic regime is continuing the policies of the previous right-wing government. But the Pakistani economy and society is in a much greater crisis and these policies of so-called “trickle-down economics”, as dictated by imperialism, will only worsen the crisis.

In this worsening crisis, on the one hand there will be more turbulence and turmoil, but on the other hand another mass explosion is also a strong possibility. The workers in telecommunications, the railways, Water & Power and several other sectors of the economy, have started to move in protest demonstrations and rallies against these policies of the PPP-led regime. These protests will intensify in the coming period and a movement can explode on the industrial front as a reaction to the deceit and betrayal they have suffered on the electoral plane.

Although the Americans and other bourgeois strategists are trying to patch up the PPP-PML(N) rift, the crisis refuses to ebb. Even if they succeed, this artificial coalition would break down with an even greater bang sooner rather than later. Napoleon once remarked that you could do anything with bayonets except sit on them. The crisis is so intense and Pakistani capitalism is so rotten that the crisis is bound to get worse in the coming weeks and months.

This crisis will also provoke splits within the PPP itself. Although there is no real left wing in the top leadership of the PPP, the masses orientating towards the PPP are asking questions, getting angry, and yearning for change. And there is no solution without a socialist revolution. This was the main theme of the PPP’s founding documents written forty years ago. The leadership has breached that programme and manifesto more than once.

In spite of all this, the masses have clung to their traditions with utmost loyalty and innumerable sacrifices for three generations. How many times are they going to tolerate such betrayal again? Pakistan and PPP have entered a crucial period. For the masses capitalism has become intolerable. They are looking for an alternative socio-economic system. The advanced layers amongst the youth and workers are moving towards revolutionary conclusions. The social basis of fundamentalism is in sharp decline Nationalism is in a blind alley. Democracy on a capitalist basis is failing the masses.

If we look at the reality of the experience of this “democracy” for the toiling masses of Pakistan, Lenin’s definition in his brilliant work Proletarian Revolution and renegade Kautsky is extremely  pertinent. Lenin wrote:

“If we are not to mock at common sense and history, it is obvious that we cannot speak of ‘pure democracy’ as long as different classes exist; we can only speak of class democracy.

” ‘Pure democracy’ is the mendacious phrase of a liberal who wants to fool the workers. History knows of bourgeois democracy which takes the place of feudalism, and of proletarian democracy which takes the place of bourgeois democracy…

“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor”.

The cohesion and discipline of the military has been seriously affected by the influx of finance capital. A military dictatorship, although not ruled out, could not sustain itself as in the past. The options for the ruling classes are vanishing rapidly. The forces of revolutionary Marxism, although modest, are gaining strength. It is no accident that on May Day 2008 there were twice the number of demonstrations led by the PTUDC as compared to last year.

For the liberal intelligentsia, civil society and ex-lefts, however, it is all doom and gloom. Pessimism and scepticism are luxuries for the few. We revolutionaries and the proletarian masses cannot afford such extravagant luxuries. For the masses it is now a struggle for survival and existence. This struggle can erupt into a revolutionary movement sooner rather than later. A strong Bolshevik-Leninist organization with a correct programme, strategy and Marxist leadership can become a mass revolutionary party and lead the oppressed toilers of this land to a socialist victory. And the revolutionary repercussion of such a victory shall spread far beyond the existing frontiers.

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