Written by Lal Khan in Lahore Tuesday, 22 December 2009

With thanks: International Marxist Website

After years of military dictatorships followed by sham democracy, the situation in Pakistan has reached such a point that the masses are yearning for radical change. Their suffering is immense as the people at the top continue to enrich themselves at the expensive of the workers and peasants, collaborating with imperialism as it rides rough-shod over the people of Pakistan. Everything is moving to an inevitable revolutionary explosion.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court in its verdict of 16 December, 2009 declared the notorious NRO null and void ab initio. The National Reconciliation Ordinance of October 2007 was promulgated by the then President of Pakistan General Parvaiz Musharraf. It was the outcome of a deal he had struck with Benazir Bhutto, life Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party in a covert meeting in Abu Dhabi. The deal was brokered by the United States and Britain. The aim was to create a new setup that could facilitate the imperialist war and other interests in this turbulent region.

According to this ordinance all cases of politicians including corruption, murder, extortion, kidnappings and other heinous crimes would be withdrawn. Some of the major beneficiaries are now in power including Benazir’s widower Zardari, now the President of Pakistan and some of his most sinister ministers. The other main beneficiary is the Muteheda Qaumi Movement, MQM, whose leader, an absconder resident in London for several years, and its other leading figures were facing charges of murder and other crimes. The MQM is a mafia-type organisation with neo-fascist tendencies and its main ideological baggage is based on ethnic conflict.

The present democratic dispensation is the product of such a nefarious design. After Benazir’s assassination in December 2007 Musharraf’s fate was sealed. The plan B came into action and Zardari having a long standing relationship with US officials was catapulted into the presidency with his firm assurance that he would be more subservient to the Americans than Musharraf or Benazir could ever have been. The Electoral College for this election are comprised of members of the National and provincial assemblies who were elected in the February 2008 elections, the results of which were tailor-made in Washington to serve the imperialist strategies.

Ironically this unanimity, or “reconciliation”, between all the parties in Parliament was prompted by a collective fear on the part of these representatives of the ruling class in the wake of the beginnings of a mass movement that they witnessed on the arrival of Benazir from exile in Karachi on October 18, 2007 and later after the explosion of the wrath of the workers, peasants and youth at the news of her assassination on December 27, 2007. After a long period of suffering, the oppressed in Pakistan had risen up in the hope that the leader of their traditional party, the PPP under Benazir Bhutto, would be a beacon of change and free them from the unrelenting misery and distress.

The Americans had already done their homework with the PPP leaders, who mainly come from the moneyed classes, to divert this outburst into a democratic election and façade of “democracy”. These leaders drowned the mass anger and revolt in sorrow and despair. They refused to call for a general strike for the elections to be held on the scheduled date of January 8, 2008 and blocked the movement. This gave an opportunity to the Pakistani state and its imperialist masters to regroup their forces and stave off the threat of a revolutionary upheaval.

The Military in Pakistan has ruled directly for more than half of the country’s 62 years of chequered history. All the military regimes were supported and propped up by US imperialism. During the “democratic” intermissions the plight of the masses continued to deteriorate. After the first decade (1947-58) of democratic regimes, such was the crisis that when Martial Law was imposed by Field Martial Ayub Khan there was even a sense of relief amongst several sections of society.

Ayub Khan had the impertinence to say in one of his initial statements “we must understand that democracy cannot work in a hot climate. To have democracy we must have a cold climate like Britain.” General Ayub told the first meeting of his cabinet, “As far as you are concerned there is only one embassy that matters in this country: the American Embassy.”

The Ayub dictatorship embarked upon an ambitious economic, agrarian and industrial programme in the 1960s, mainly sponsored by “US Aid” and the World Bank. Although Pakistan achieved its highest growth rates under Ayub, Keynesian economic policies failed to improve the lot of the masses. The aggravated social contradictions exploded into the revolution of 1968-69 that was fundamentally of a socialist character. [See Pakistan’s Other Story-The 1968-69 Revolution].

The failure of the existing left leadership to give a clear revolutionary programme and perspective to the movement resulted in the rise of the Populism of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Due to the absence of a Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionary party the revolution was lost. But it did shake the whole of South Asia. The ruling classes initially tried to impose Martial Law again. However, its failure to curb the tide resulted in the first elections based on the adult franchise in 1970 where the PPP became the largest party in West Pakistan.

Having failed to curtail the revolutionary wave that pierced through the ballot, ultimately the ruling classes resorted to a war with India, which led to the break-up of Pakistan and then Bhutto was given power who, forced by the pressure of the masses, initiated radical reforms from above, but only to exhaust the revolution brewing below.

Bhutto’s elected left reformist government was subsequently overthrown by a military coup led by General Zia ul Haq in July 1977, who later hanged Bhutto at the behest of US imperialism. The eleven-year brutal dictatorship of Zia was perhaps the most traumatic period for the working masses in Pakistan. In connivance with the Americans, Zia propped up and unleashed the beast of Islamic fundamentalism to crush the left. The continuance of that grotesque monstrosity is what produced the present day fundamentalist terror that is ripping apart the social fabric of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Zia Dictatorship began to crumble after another upheaval on the return from exile of Bhutto’s daughter Benazir in April 1986. The contradictions in the already weakened dictatorship were thus sharpened. General Zia’s plane was conveniently blown up in mid air in August 1988 – some have speculated that this may have been done at the request of the Americans, whom the megalomaniac and insane general had begun to “disobey” seeking his own personal agenda.

From 1988 to 1999 there was another democratic interlude, where Benazir and Nawaz Sharif alternated in short stints of rulerships. This period was marred by an orgy of corruption, incompetence, spiralling economic decline and chaos. General Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup by overthrowing Sharif. Musharraf then introduced a “quasi-democracy” in 2002 but the 9/11 episode in the USA once again made another dictator another main American collaborator. This time the façade was not against communists but we had the so-called “war against terror”.

Musharraf’s demise and the regime that ensued once again brought unprecedented agony and pain for the people of Pakistan. History has turned full circle. This vicious cycle of Pakistan’s political superstructure – dictatorship to democracy and back to dictatorship ‑ has brought no respite to society. Only the suffering has intensified. In reality this is a reflection of the ongoing social and economic crisis built into the foundations of this tragic country.

The Pakistani ruling class after its independence from direct British rule came onto the scene of history too late and with this came an inability to develop the economy. It was a weak class even at its inception. It could not produce enough surpluses for its profits and capital needed to tap the resources of the country and carry out its historical role of the national revolution that its pioneers had envisaged. It adjusted itself accordingly, and its survival depended on the one hand by being subservient to imperialism and on the other allying itself and compromising with the landed aristocracy created under the Raj. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as early as November 1947, less than three months after the formation of Pakistan, had sent his emissary to Washington asking for a $2bn loan. The response he got was a mere $10million of loose change.

The failure of Pakistan’s ruling elite is evident 62 years later. None of the national democratic tasks have been completed. Several agrarian reforms have failed to abolish feudalism. Pakistan came into existence not as a nation but as a state comprising different nationalities. National oppression continues and the national question has become a festering wound on the body politic of this country. The task of the formation of a modern nation state is far from being achieved and will in fact further deteriorate with the impending crisis. This state of incompleteness of the tasks has wrought havoc on the social and economic life of Pakistani society.

The social and political infrastructure is in a state of collapse. “National sovereignty” is a farce and hardly anybody believes in the state’s independence. Imperialist intervention and domination is on a greater scale today than it was in 1947, the year of Pakistan’s creation. Except for a few years under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, all the finance ministers have been employees of the World Bank or other imperialist financial institutions.

Now the US is even trying to control sections of Pakistan’s armed forces and intruding its military corporate contractors to take over “security” in several vital parts of the country. These include former Blackwater now XE securities, DynCorp and others. An embittered general described the strategic relationship as Americans using Pakistan as a “condom”. The conflicts within the army are also the result of this aggressive hegemony being thrust into the Military’s domain. This is already giving rise to bloody conflicts among different agencies and sections of the armed forces representing black money and other sections of finance capital. This conflict is being waged covertly at the present time. But if a desperate imperialism faces an impending defeat in Afghanistan and tries a partial US occupation of NWFP (Pushtoonkhwa), it could even trigger a severe crisis in the army already under strain from carrying out the CENTCOM instructions on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The fallout could have catastrophic consequences.

Similarly the severe crisis of Pakistani capitalism has failed to develop a parliamentary democracy. The Pakistani ruling class, in the wake of its economic failures turned to plunder of the state at an early stage. They pay less than 10% of total taxation revenues. The real burden falls on the working class who are forced to pay more than 80% of the revenues through indirect taxation. The capitalist class steals electricity and gas, while billions of dollars of bank loans have been written off. According to the figures presented before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a small section of these leeches’ annual corruption exceeds Rs. 500 billion (US$6.2bn). Most of this money is stashed away in western banking havens.

As this process started to become more and more evident, the army, the most powerful instrument of the state, started to become part of this evil nexus of plunderers and usurpers. The drug-funded and US/Saudi sponsored Afghan Jihad brought even greater loot to the coffers of the generals. Other institutions of the state and society including the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the media joined in this orgy of corruption. Hence, whenever there was a political crisis (conflict of the civilian plunderers) the military moved in to quell the rot. The dictatorships bred more corruption and as they began to lose their grip democracy was introduced ‑ the main reason being the growing danger of a mass revolt that is provoked by these repressive regimes.

Although even a bourgeois democracy is a progressive step forward as compared to military dictatorships, the exploitative system that the military rulers intervene to salvage remains intact. In Pakistan this crisis-ridden system again creates a political instability that reflects the burning economic turmoil. The army and state are not a class, but in the last analysis the economic and social conditions determine the nature of the regime that is needed by the ruling class to preserve the system of exploitation of labour. Comrade Ted Grant elaborated on this in 1949 “The state by its very nature is composed of a bureaucracy, officers, generals, heads of police etc. But those do not constitute a class; they are the instrument of a class even if they may be in antagonism to that class. They cannot themselves be a class.” (The unbroken thread, pp.235).

In Pakistan the irony is that time and again the masses have risen up against the dictatorship, fundamentally to overthrow the yoke of exploitation and misery inflicted upon them by this vicious system of class rule. When they were allowed even to make half a choice through the ballot-box they propelled the PPP to power. Yet their hopes have been dashed time and again by the PPP in government in the short span of less than 40 years. The toiling masses have been loyal to their tradition for generations. The ruling class only allowed the PPP into the corridors of power to dissipate the mass upsurge. Above all the ruling class, the state and the imperialists have used the capitulating leaders of the PPP to carry through cuts, privatisations and other drastic anti-working class measures. They could not have achieved so much with the right-wing governments of Sharif, etc., but even under the dictatorships they combined caution with repression.

However, at least in the 1970s the PPP government did carry through some reforms for the betterment of the impoverished masses. In the later PPP governments since 1988 such was the crisis of Pakistani capitalism that there was no room for even minimal reforms. The PPP governments carried through right-wing policies and actions. Paradoxically, privatization and other policies of counter-reforms were introduced at the behest of imperialism by the PPP government in 1989.

The present theory of “reconciliation” initiated by imperialism is the most blatant and insidious form of class collaboration. Policies like the Public Private Partnership (PPP) are a deceptive and poisonous methodology to blunt the class struggle, deceive and corrupt the workers. Such privatization devastates the workers who fall into this treachery of “ownership” of factories from which they are themselves fired to sustain profits. The shares of “ownership” are turned into trash by the speculators on the stock markets and the impoverished workers become bankrupt and are forced into starvation and drudgery.

As the crisis worsens, the ruling class and the establishment come to the conclusion that the potential of a PPP government to carry out the policies to preserve capitalism have become exhausted, and they use the state to kick out PPP governments. If the Army is not in a position to carry out this act, then the other vital organ of the state, the Judiciary comes into play. After all, both are the sacrosanct pillars of the state.

As the PPP is a populist party it lacks democratic structures, with no democratically elected bodies and no revocability of the leadership. Hence an atmosphere of pusillanimity and conformity prevails inside the party where compromises and deals are the prerogative of the leader alone. The working masses have no alternative yet. Hence the right wing regime and dictatorships only prevail until the masses are in a state of disillusionment and despair due to the shattered hopes from the previous PPP government. At the same time the PPP leadership in its quest for power again, using the force of tradition tries to mobilise the masses. The slogans and programmes of every campaign are carefully calculated by the experts and advisors of the PPP leadership.

However, it is very difficult to control the masses once they are mobilized and are on the move. This forces the leaders to radicalise their slogans as the pressure from below mounts. Dialectically this further emboldens the masses and forces the traditional leaders to further move to the left and begin to defy the state. Sections of the state become terrified by this surge and in desperation resort to the most atrocious measures.

This was the dynamic and the intensification of the movement in the autumn of 2007 that led to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The experts who were promoting the interests of the status quo failed to handle this situation that was rapidly spiralling out of control. In ordinary times they try to use ideas and tactics, from left reformism to democracy, to the slogan of “food, shelter and clothing”. But they ensure that the party’s founding programme that calls for revolutionary socialism remains hidden from the rank and file and the workers and youth who are the main basis of support for the Party. It has in fact been buried by the leadership for more than two decades. Actually it is very awkward and embarrassing even to mention the word “socialism” in the meetings of the various tiers of the leaders.

Most if these present-day leaders have never read the founding documents of the PPP. This documents clearly states, “The ultimate objective of the party’s policy is the attainment of a classless society which is only possible through Socialism in our times”. The irony is that the initial revision of this programme was given the vulgar expression of a “multi-class party”. The latest version of this form of class collaborationism is “Reconciliation”. Often such discourses have led to the tragic assassinations of the most charismatic leaders of the PPP.

Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in his last book, “If I am assassinated”, had clearly warned about the catastrophic consequences of these class collaborationist digressions and even stressed upon the role of this ideological deviation in the imposition of Zia’s brutal Martial Law and as a cause of his own ordeal and assassination. Yet the next generation of the PPP leaders have not learnt anything from his last testament. And as the old saying goes, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. How tragically the subsequent events have proved this to be so pertinent. But for how long will the masses continue to adhere to this tradition?

The present PPP-led coalition government based on the theory of “reconciliation” has meant havoc for the masses. In just two years of its existence, price hikes, increases in unemployment, lack of healthcare and education, deprivation, shortage of electricity, water, flour, sugar, petroleum products, gas, etc., have been astronomical. The level of poverty has risen sharply. Wars are raging in large areas of the country. Terrorism, fear, uncertainty and insecurity stalk the land. Suicide bombings and terrorist carnage has turned society into a living hell. The Americans are using the Pakistan Army and the state to fight their wars for strategies and interests that have been given false names and objectives. The PPP is in government but they are not the ones calling the shots. In this caged rulership they are being used to execute policies to further the vested interests of the imperialists and the ruling elites.

The crisis of the state and society has reached such proportions that even the serious bourgeois analysts are terrified of the consequences. They confess today what they could not even imagine in the past. An article in The Dawn says the following:

“Pakistan’s biggest tragedy… has been the axis of trouble between America, Pakistan army and the religious parties… until and unless the axis is broken… the so-called democratisation of Pakistan will not bring peace or prosperity to the latter’s 170 million people, nearly eighty percent of whom live below the poverty line of $2 a day. The army has no incentive to break the axis of trouble (a legacy of the great game) because it thrives on the perpetuations of conflicts in the region and the largesse it receives from the United States. Pakistan had been cursed by the civilian and military leaders who are too eager to follow the US agenda…

“…Politics has been demonised to degrees that save for the incompetent and allegedly corrupt individuals like Mr. Zardari or Mr. Nawaz Sharif or creations of the establishment like Altaf Hussain (MQM) or Maulana Fazalur Rehman, few wish to navigate the treacherous and murderous waters of Pakistani Politics.”

In this crisis-ridden condition the masses have been persistently imbued with the illusion that the judiciary would be the source of their salvation. This notion has been instilled not just by the right-wing politicians, the Islamic fundamentalists, the corrupt and reactionary bourgeois media but also by the left parties and groups. The restoration of the so-called “free” judiciary has not only failed to give any respite to the impoverished millions but has miserably failed to solve even petty issues like sugar shortages, petroleum prices, etc., and has been exposed to be impotent and ineffective. Its ‘suo motto’ actions have proved to be deceptive and farcical. The masses in their experiences of life know that not only justice is ridiculously expensive but it is corrupt to the core. The article in The Dawn further elaborates and exposes the role and character of Pakistan’s Judiciary.

“An independent Judiciary is an oxymoron in current objective conditions. The so called revolt by some in the judiciary against Musharraf was the manifestation of the power struggle inside the establishment. The judiciary is as much part of the collapsing Pakistani state structure as some of the big media personalities. The ugly reality is that the business of that state and policies has become a mafia enterprise with usual mix of big money (read business, drugs, land) interests and crime. This criminal enterprise has the active support of the Americans who find it convenient to use a corrupt instrument that a puppet state is, be it military or quasi military…

“…Until and unless a movement emerges that appeals to popular sentiment and represents the people’s real aspirations to create a genuinely democratic state, Pakistan’s chance of survival in its current state are grim.” (The Dawn, 5 December 2009)

We have quoted this article at some length because it graphically exposes the gravity of the situation. And that exposure is in the most important and traditional paper of Pakistan’s ruling class. The present ruling class are crying hoarse about democracy. They equate every solution of every problem to “democracy”. The din has now escalated to a deafening crescendo. Yelling about democracy at the top their voices round the clock, on the television, in the newspapers, every political party with ideologies ranging from Islamic fundamentalism to the nationalists, to the liberal and so-called ‘secular democrats’, has been issuing an agonising, monotonous and annoying message for the masses. The PPP leaders are the most tedious and raucous. The masses being thrust in the abyss of misery, poverty and disease have become sick and tired of this democratic demagogy, constitutional and legalistic wrangles and all this hypocritical nonsense of “national” interests’ with its decayed and treacherous patriotism.

Democracy is not a social system. It is a methodology used in different varieties in different social systems in history. From that of the Roman republic to the Athenian model and from the Asiatic despotic democracy to the shura of Islam this method of rule has gone through various forms and shapes. The masses in Pakistan have only experienced the worsening of their misery and pain under this “democracy” of finance capital and free market economics. The genuine democracy of the workers and the toiling masses can only be accomplished by the overthrow of this yoke of dictatorship of the financial oligarchy. The conditions on the ground and what the masses think represent a death knell for the upholders of this system. In a recent British Council report of s survey on Pakistan called “Next generation”, the following inferences have been drawn.

The young respondents who participated in this survey are deeply disillusioned with only 15 percent believing that Pakistan is moving in the right direction; 72 percent feel they are worse off than they were a year ago. Given this level of despair it is hardly surprising that only two percent are members of any political party. Just half of them are bothered to get themselves enrolled in the voters list and only 30% voted in the last election. Only half of young Pakistanis enter primary schools and a quarter go on to receive a secondary education. Less than five percent get a higher education of any kind. The conditions in hospitals and other basic facilities are even worse. Seventy eight percent of the population is forced into semi or non scientific medication. They simply can’t afford proper treatment. But this despair and apathy is not going to last forever.

The masses are fed up with most political and ideological tendencies and ideologies on the horizon. All present “solutions” that are within the confines of this rotting capitalist system. The masses are fed up with the Islamic parties and religious fundamentalism. The surge in terrorism has eroded their support drastically, which was not much anyway. They pose no alternative. The pro American stance of the nationalists and their love for a free market enterprise seals their fate of getting a mass social base. Liberal democracy with its rampant corruption, its betrayals and lumbering of the economic crusade upon the shoulders of the population has repelled the masses. There is a widespread revulsion towards these political trends and parties. Meanwhile, the army is going through internal conflicts that have fractured its cohesion and discipline. The escalation of war will further ignite dissent within the armed forces. The judiciary is being rapidly exposed. It sacrosanct image imposed by the media will further erode as deprivation and want intensify. It won’t and can’t solve any problems of the masses.

The PPP government is being targeted by the media. The Muslim League’s and Sharif’s party is facing a downward economic spiral. The only outcome of the policies of the present PPP government is that they are repaving the way for the right wing. If the Sharifs fail the right will bring in another alternative. But even the removal of the PPP government will not quell the rot. The crisis will further aggravate. Even if the ruling class and the Americans try to install a new military dictatorship it will be a very dangerous move for the system itself. It’s not the same military and it’s not the same times. Even Musharraf’s dictatorship seemed to be a picnic compared to the strong dictatorship of Ayub Khan or the brutal and ferocious military rule of Zia Ul Haq.

A new dictatorship may be very repressive to begin with but would be very fragile and would not last long in the present conditions. Bourgeois democracy has failed to deliver. The system is rotten to the core. It cannot take society forward. The extreme crisis of the system reflects the elements of barbarism raising its ugly head in several parts of Pakistan. Without a socio-economic transformation the country is doomed. Its breakup is not the most likely perspective but if at all it should happen, the bloodshed and devastation would be unprecedented. Its existence in the present form will be a continual aggravation of crisis and instability. The only way forward is the overthrow of this system through a socialist revolution.

There are innumerable left groups and parties. But they are miniscule and confused. They unite to break up into more sects that merge and then reunite again, without considering the ideological and theoretical basis or clear perspective and aims. They unite for ‘revolution’ without agreeing upon even the basic character of the revolution.

The PPP’s present leadership has been discredited to the extent that their regaining of social base in the coming period is unlikely. According to the Forbes magazine, Zardari is amongst the ten richest heads of state. He has even more wealth than the Queen of England. But that is not the end of the PPP. In spite, and despite, of its leadership the masses will not let go of their tradition without a fight. This time there is a far greater possibility that the leadership will be challenged as the party yet once again fills up in the wake of a fresh movement of the masses. But this time the challenge will come on an ideological basis. The Socialist foundations will come to haunt the present corrupt leaders and their cronies. There will be a huge ferment in the ranks.

The perspective of the movement is not just the only hope for the survival of this society but it is a reality unforeseen in the doom and gloom of those whose ideas were defeated by historical events. New generations have grown up since the fall of Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are yearning for change. Once they enter the arena of struggle a revolutionary wave will spread across society. Its reverberations will be felt among the trade unions, students, youth and the poor peasants. It will have an impact in the PPP as we saw the impact of the masses in the psychology of the leadership in the autumn of 2007.

If an organized Marxist tendency is quantitatively and qualitatively developed in time then another accidental leadership or demagogic individual being prepared by the state will not be able to hijack the PPP and divert and betray the movement again. A massive upheaval that would erupt out of such atrocious conditions and smash seemingly formidable obstacles will be even more forceful and militant than what we saw in 1968-69. The Marxists, if they are present as a substantial force armed with firm ideological understanding and profound methodology of revolutionary socialism, at the onset of such an upsurge will be able to illuminate for the workers, peasants and youth a clear path and a destiny they have yearned for generations. The victory of revolutionary socialism in Pakistan would not just destroy barbarism, but would have revolutionary repercussions far beyond these artificial borders.

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We are publishing here the analysis of Lahore attacks as “state crisis” of Pakistan. Our readers know that we have been persistent on our position that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of “organic decay” of the post-colonial and Neo-fascist state of Pakistan. We have always maintained a sharp distance from the elitist perspective in vogue in certain secular/ex-left quarters of Pakistan on war on terror which is nothing but a blind drum beating for United States imperialism. We have also been critical of “pro jamat and pro Sharif Left” who is blindly following the Petty-bourgeois and bourgeois agenda in Pakistan. This analysis by International Marxist Tendency is a must read by all progressive Pakistanis. Its one of the most important pieces of work which has emerged on the present situation in Pakistan.

Pakistani section of IMT also held its annual congress in Lahore which is the largest congress of communists in Pakistan. The advance theoretical work which has emerged from this congress is very encouraging. We render our solidarity to the revolutionaries of Pakistan.

Shaheryar Ali

Lahore Terrorist mayhem shows crisis of Pakistani state

IMT correspondent in Lahore

Monday, 30 March 2009

At half past eight this morning (March 30) terrorists used machine guns and grenades to launch a savage attack on a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore. The police and special forces remain locked in pitched battle with the attackers who are hidden inside various buildings at the site, as emergency services are scrambling to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.

Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.
Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.

According to private television channels at least 20 policemen are dead and 150 injured. Two militants have also been killed according to Rangers personnel. “The number of killed is at least 20,” police sub inspector Amjad Ahmad told AFP outside the police training ground in Manawan. However, given the murderous crossfire as police attempted to flush out the terrorists inside the building, the death count may turn out to be much higher.

The incident took place as trainees were participating in a morning parade. Eyewitness accounts estimate some 10 militants carried out the attack, and at least 11 explosions have been heard so far. According to reports, some of the attackers entered the academy wearing police uniforms.

The location of the attack is significant, since Manawan is close to the road that leads to the Indian border. Clearly, the implication is meant to be drawn that the hand of India is behind this latest outrage. In the same way, some sections here tried to pin the blame for the recent killings of Sri Lankan cricketers (also in Lahore) on India, allegedly as retaliation for the Mumbai atrocity.

However, there is a far more likely explanation, and it points an accusing finger at a source far nearer to home. Yesterday the Pakistan authorities conveyed their “concerns” through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.

“We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn on Saturday. A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an “appropriate level”.

What did Obama announce that so worries Islamabad? The US President announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, the passage of legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and a commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no “blank cheques” for Pakistan.

What does this mean? It means that, although Washington sees Pakistan as a vital piece in its strategy to fight the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ambiguous role of the Pakistan authorities and in particular the role of the Pakistan secret services (the ISI), a shadowy state within a state, which is well known to have close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is secretly protecting and encouraging terrorist organizations for its own sinister purposes.

The response of the Pakistan foreign office was guarded because this is an explosive issue and one that lies at the heart of the crisis in the Pakistan state. Sources in the foreign office stated: “There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking.” They have good reason to keep silent!

American frustration was shown by recent declarations by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an “existential threat” to Pakistan itself. Gates was merely saying what everybody has always known: that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with jihadi terrorist groups “for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,” as he told Fox News Sunday.

“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,” Gates said. “They can count on us and they don’t need that hedge,” he said, citing the ISI’s links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The Pentagon chief’s comments came after President Barack Obama on Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

“He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we’re in it until we’re successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,” Gates added.

America is losing in Afghanistan

It is now an open secret that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. Western casualties are constantly rising. Obama is trying to extricate the US forces from Iraq in order to reinforce the US military presence in Afghanistan. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: “The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. […] And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.”

Obama is now exerting intense pressure to extract more troops from its unwilling European allies. Washington is also demanding more civilian experts and police trainers. But no matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the likelihood of victory remains a mirage. With every bomb dropped on an Afghan village the hatred of the foreign invader grows more intense. The government of Kabul is seen as a puppet government of collaborators and corrupt gangsters. On the other hand, the Taliban have an endless supply of recruits from Pakistan, plenty of money from opium smuggling and secure havens in the tribal areas across the border with Pakistan.

This explains the public attacks on the ISI from Washington, which have provoked angry denials from the Pakistan State Security. The fact is that the ISI was actively encouraged by Washington to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in the past, when these reactionary bandits were used to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This encouraged sections in the tops of the Pakistan army (and especially the ISI) in the belief that they would have a free hand in Afghanistan, which, in effect, would be under Pakistan’s control. They developed the notorious theory of “defence in depth”, which meant that Afghanistan would serve Pakistan as a kind of fallback position in the event of another war with India (a subject these elements are constantly obsessed with).

Ever since the US imperialists have changed the line and declared war on their former allies, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the ISI and other reactionary elements in the Pakistan General Staff have not concealed their displeasure. They have never abandoned the theory of “defence in depth”, nor their ambitions in Afghanistan. They have never broken their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather the fanaticism to get rich by dirty means.

As Pakistan’s economy collapses and the masses are faced with poverty and hunger, prominent citizens of Pakistan are growing fabulously rich on the proceeds of the black economy, especially the lucrative drug trade. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists are really gangsters and lumpens, linked to the drug mafia and transport mafia that trades in human misery. This is big business on a vast scale, which involves massive corruption that leads all the way up to the top – including the tops of the army. This is the cancer that is gnawing at the entrails of the Pakistan state and destroying it slowly from within. That is why Gates talks about an “existential problem”.

A few months ago, a Pakistani general, Ameer Faisal Alvi, a serving officer in the Pakistan army’s campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan, and head of the elite Special Services Group (Commandos), sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, general Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, denouncing the fact that generals of the Pakistan army were actively collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a result, he was dismissed from the army. After this, he sent another letter to the Chief of Staff, in which he named the generals concerned. It was an act of personal bravery for which he paid a high price. On November 26, 2008 he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Islamabad.

Splits in the state

This explains why the rulers of Pakistan are afraid to talk about certain matters. The rottenness of Pakistan capitalism has extended to the highest levels of the state, army and government, to the extent that it threatens complete breakdown. Last week a US think tank predicted that if something were not done soon, the state could break down in six months! All these events are a striking confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the state that was put forward in the recent congress of The Struggle.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto was an indication of the sinister forces at work in Pakistani society. The western media falsely portray this as the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism”, when in reality these terrorist organizations are small minority groups composed of lumpens and bandits manipulated by the powerful drug mafia and the state. Although it was a lumpen fanatic who pulled the trigger, the real murderers of Benazir Bhutto were the ISI. There is no doubt that the same people were behind the Mumbai atrocity and the killing of the Sri Lanka cricketers. And there is no doubt that the same invisible hand is behind today’s bloody events, which are meant as an answer to the threat from Washington.

The idea that the fundamentalists enjoy massive support in Pakistan society is a blatant lie and a slander against the people of Pakistan. These reactionary gangs were originally created by US imperialism under the brutal Zia dictatorship and were nurtured, financed, armed and trained by the Pakistan state. Without the backing of the ISI they are nothing. That is why the US imperialists are now demanding that the Pakistan government take action against the ISI.

This is very easy to say from the safety of an air-conditioned office in Washington, but not so easy to put into practice on the streets of Islamabad. The ISI is entrenched after decades of a pampered and privileged existence. It is linked by a thousand links with corrupt government officials and politicians at the highest level, to organized crime on a grand scale, to the drug and transport mafia, to the religious fanatics in the madrassas that turn out brainwashed fanatics prepared to act as the murderous instruments of reaction, and to the murky underworld of jihadi terrorism.

Another section of the state has different interests. They are in the pockets of US imperialism, whose interests they serve like a dog licking the hand of its master. They bow and scrape before their bosses in Washington, who treat Pakistan as if it were America’s backyard. The conflict at the heart of these two antagonistic wings of the ruling class is explained by antagonistic material interests.

As far as the working class of Pakistan is concerned, there is nothing to choose between these two rival groups of gangsters. The Pakistan Marxists will fight US imperialism and oppose its criminal actions in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Pukhtunkhwa. But we will do so with our own methods and under our own banner, which is not the black flag of fundamentalist reaction but the red flag of socialist revolution.

Only by taking power into their own hands can the working class overthrow the rotten, diseased state of the exploiters and build a new state – a democratic workers’ state in which the lives and destinies of the people will be determined by the masses themselves. That is the only way forward to lead Pakistan out of the present nightmare and into the realm of socialism and freedom.

Lahore, March 30, 2009

Today in the historic city of Multan there was an inauguration ceremony of the latest book written by famous Pakistani Marxist intellectual and IMT activist Dr Lal Khan.The book is called “Pakistan’s Other Story: The Revolution of 1968-69”. This book is one of the most important texts to have emerged from Pakistan. It for the first time has put the positions of traditional left of Pakistan under a Marxist critique and has identified flawed ideology as the main reason for the failure of revolution of 1968 which resulted in emergence of Pakistan’s Peoples Party. In this event my dear friend read his paper on the book , the paper raises some important points regarding the history of philosophy and the errors committed by Communist Parties. We are publishing this paper which is an important read for all progressives from Pakistan

Dr Lal Khan is editor of Asian Marxist Review and have wrote 29 books. He was part of the revolutionary resistance against fascist General Zia-ul-Haq . Orders of “shoot at sight” were issues against him by the military high command but he was able to leave the country. He returned after Benazir Bhutto restored democracy.

Shaheryar Ali

Pakistan’s Other Story: Strategies of  Subversive Historiography

Dr Ahmad Arslan

pakistan_1968-69_bookIt’s really a great honor for me to be here today on the inauguration of the book by Dr Lal Khan. A lot has been written and said on the book which is called “The Other Story” of Pakistan. A lot have been said on the content of the book, its political importance and the narrative of the Revolution of 1968/69 but I would like to highlight yet another side of this book. What does it means in the field of Historiography and general history writing in Indian subcontinent. Not only this book highlights the “other side” of Pakistan, it in itself is the “other side” of History writing. Challenging the established discourse in history writing, not only the one which is termed as “bourgeois” but also the one which has long held the claim to be a pro people one .The book is not only a critique of events it is also a critique of history writing.

The general trends within the left wing history writing in the Indian Subcontinent have utilized Historical materialism in understanding and describing major turning points of Indian history and the associated social changes. This has been often hailed as well condemned as a ‘Marxist Historiography”. Marxist Historiography in Indian subcontinent is not a monolithic tradition; its not only the most advance methodology of history writing its also one of the most diverse. On one side it has contributed a lot in understanding the ancient history of India and has challenged a lot of European myths regarding “stagnation of History in India” and on “Asiatic Mode of Production” it has also provided the tools to understand history of forests in India and development of more contemporary schools like that of “Environmental History” .etc.

In more contemporary times the writing of history has been controversial even within the Marxist historians. The dominant school of Marxist historians in Indian subcontinent have increasingly come under an academic attack from new left historians who have demonstrated that their work is plagued by the “Nationalism” of Indian national congress. Eqbal Ahmad, Hamza Alvi and Ayesha Jalal have put forward a brilliant critique of Indian Nationalism and the history writing which evolved around it in order to legitimize it. Hamza Alvi is critical of Communist Party of India for failing to develop an independent position in India and putting all its eggs in Nehru’s basket. He is also critical of the Soviet Historians who went out of length in trying to prove the bourgeois character of All India Muslim League. Ahmad has analyzed and criticized Gandhi for “spiritualizing” the Indian politics and the analysis of “communalism” by the self proclaimed Marxist historians of India who have rested all the blame of partition on MA Jinnah . In his critique Congress and Gandhi emerge as the main proponents of Partition. Jalal has selected Jinnah for her work and demonstrated that contrary to the ideological myths in India and Pakistan Jinnah never perused Pakistan as an ideological objective rather it was just a political tactic used by him to gain political leverage.

While all three of these historians attempt to give an “advance” critique of  the more established Marxist history and politics now  branded as “Nehruvian Socialist” school from a Marxist left perspective, their critique is silent on “Muslim Nationalism” which emerges as a winner of a sort in their attack on Congress. The result is that though more advance, their analysis remains incomplete. Lal Khan first in his book “Partition and how it can be undone” and now in his book “Pakistan’s Other Story” have put all three positions ie those of Congress, Muslim Nationalists and Communist Party of India under a class critique. The result is emergence of a pro- people perspective on Partition and the later democratic struggle of the people in both nation states establishing essentially the people as “others” of States and Party. The historiographical implications of this work are:

1) What is the relationship between Party and the Working class

2) In any Marxist analysis primacy should be given to the interest of working class or the interest of Party

3) The interests of Party and that of working class is same or can it be demonstrated that at various critical turns of history a clear conflict of interest exists between the Party and working class evident by even a simple empirical analysis of events.

In his work Lal Khan has tried to demonstrate this “conflict of interest” between the working classes and the party which claimed to be its Vanguard. First of this critical point is the “Second great imperialist War” where the struggle of colonial people against imperialism was sacrificed resulting in nationalist degeneration of revolution all over the world. Second time this conflict of interest is demonstrated on Partition where all 4 apparently conflict engaged parties , the British, The National-Socialists, the Muslim Nationalists and the Communist agreed on partition of India on religious grounds. The people got genocide and a continuous communal and sectarian violence which got new and more murderous turn with the emergence of Taliban. The fact that it has been identified as main cause of state crisis and terrorism in Pakistan by even non Marxist academics like Dr Robina Saigol demonstrates its simple and empirical nature. Third time this conflict of interest is demonstrated at time of revolutionary explosion of 1968 when masses took to street and demanded end of the oppressive system for ever but the party from France to Pakistan helped the ruling classes to diffuse the revolution, this resulted in emergence of second wave social democracy in Europe and populism in colonial countries like Pakistan.

By demonstrating this Lal Khan provides the historiographical frame work for analysis of Pakistan Peoples Party as a phenomenon with it roots in the discontent which emerged from desire of the people to become masters of their destiny and the position of communists who analyzed the situation to be “non revolutionary”. Why this “distance” occurred between the interests of people and the Party? Lal Khan sees it in the Stalinist degeneration of Marxism, its conversion into a dogmatic nationalist ideology; the result was that the party instead of being vanguard of working class became a pawn in game of foreign policy wars between USSR, China and USA. Most of the revolutionary movements were abandoned in colonial countries to further foreign policy state interests of either USSR or China, weather it was Second World War or revolution of 1968.

The implications of this kind of politics on history writing have been extensively studied by academic Left wing in universities of advance capitalist countries. The communist historians as result of this turn engaged in down playing of resistance all over the globe. The rebellion of peasantry, Dalits, soldiers; trade unions in India during the time of communist collaboration have been suppressed in historical texts. The Spanish civil war was reduced to the status of a war of Artists, writers and poets. Communist historian as eminent as Eric Hobsbawm recently again repeated this position on Spanish Civil War. The movement of 1968 becomes a petty bourgeois reaction of students and lumpen proletarians with only cultural implications, ie development of counter culture, rock and pop music and sex revolution. In Pakistan it’s explained as labour unrest and part of United States agenda against Ayub Khan and China.

Legendary French historian Marc Ferro in his book ‘Uses and Abuses of History” have traced this change in communist historiography under Stalin and Mao where “party” replaced “class struggle” as the motor of history. While Marx and Marxist historiography have always understood class struggle to be the motor of history, later the position was put forward that because party is vanguard of working class, its positions represents the “correct class position” hence Marxist historiography became an attempt to historically justify various positions of communist Parties instead of documenting the class struggle. The result was this kind of history writing against which Lal Khan’s emerges as a Marxist critique.

With this Lal Khan’s methodology appears closer to Subaltern Historians who developed under the traditional communist historians but who  have put their histories under critique for ignoring the struggles of the “others” the peasants, students, Dalits, Women, Gender non conformists in developing an essentially pro people critique of upper classes as well as traditional progressives who were insensitive to natives and “others”. Though Lal Khan has highlighted the “others” and their struggles, he differs from the Subalterns by projecting his analysis into the future, thus in the book the suppressed struggle of 68 becomes essentially a symbol for a future 1968. Thus Lal Khan is writing history for the future and in this regard his work can be compared to writing of Trotsky when he wrote Results and Prospects after revolution of 1905 thus developing the theory of permanent revolution which echoed in April thesis and resulted in Glorious Revolution of 1917. Thus Lal Khan’s is “history of a revolution for a future revolution”. This in its essence a subversive task A radical approach towards history writing one which essentially links past to a future goal , A revolution which will be logical conclusion of tragedies of Partition and failure of 68.

Thanks for your patience

Dr Ahmad Arslan is a Marxist political activist and intellectual based in Multan , he associates himself with the working class tradition of PPP and is a medical doctor by profession. He has an interest in Marxist philosophy, History and Literature.