Shaheryar Ali


Understanding the issue of Gay liberation in Islamic Republic is a theoretically difficult and problematic notion for a variety of reasons!  Whilst the level of historical development as with other post-colonial states, ensures incomplete modernization, the existing union with international capital, forces a post modern sensitivity through out urban centers of Islamic Republic. It is still theoretically problematic to assert the existence of either “Gay” community or Gay liberation in the country. The pattern of “Men Having Sex with Men” and their women counterparts remains largely “pre-Modern” in the sense which Foucault elaborates as an “aberration” rather than “specie” (as is the case in industrialized societies). The pattern which exists mostly in the Islamic Republic takes form of Man/boy, Senior/junior and Macho/effeminate polarities and enjoys a level of social acceptability in almost all parts of Islamic Republic especially outside major urban centers but it could be dominant pattern even in these. The practice does not seem to induce “gay label” on the participants, which is especially true for the dominant polarity (man/senior/Macho). A common binary opposition which has been defined in these contexts is the one based on “performance” (Active vs Passive) where the “active partner” appears to enjoy a level of societal approval as this role is understood to be enshrined in the “Masculine identity” in many parts of the country. This also seems to suggest the “gay” label is only extended to receiving partner. This is the argument that one listens most from the urban gay activists but have always been a problematic notion for me to understand. Urdu has no word for “Homosexual” or “gay” nor does any of the regional language. “gando” the word commonly referred to in this context denotes some thing else. It does not strictly or exclusively denotes a passive partner. In Pre modern pattern “bacha” and Londa” are more important in this context. One can argue the extant of specificity these terms have as londa in vernacular denotes simply a “lad”but has been used in sexual context as well. Mir the foremost Master of Urdu poetry said “ Mir bare saada hein jis sabab bimar hue! Ussi Attar ke “londe” se dawa lete hein! Moreover there are no words for “Top” in in Urdu as such apart from words coined by urban chatters. Which represent more of constructed jargon than language! Language has been understood as “house of being” so I am not very convinced about this binary opposition. The trap here is too fall for what West has taught us.  The discourse on these matters is heavily laden with orientalist connotations. What is very conveniently forgotten In this regard is the fact that the same sex relations historically were more socially acceptable in East than in West. The Baghdad which is frequently alluded too by our moslem romantics was not only rich in philosophy science and Jihad but also in hedonism. Mutawakil had herm of thousands of castrated Roman lads and one Caliph had to explain to a visiting Mufti who was astonished to see his highness surrounded by cute youth that “he has never untied his trouser cord for what has been forbidden”. The European travelers to Ottoman empire were horrified to observe the openness of same sex relation in baths of Consentinople. Europe of middle ages remembered the Arabs and muslims as “sodomites”. Literature is full of such episodes. One ironic example is that of a Austrian lad who went to a handsome Turk prisoner of war and was utterly disappointed on his refusal failing to understand how a Turk not be a sodomite! Kohat observed frequent same sex wedding in Raj. Photographs exist in private collections. The “modern gay scene” is limited to only a handful of people mostly exposed to European society and westernized or semi westernized families. They are not representative of most of the “People who have sex with Same Gender” (PSSG) in the Islamic Republic. In absence of gay community the efforts to “liberate gays” might reduce the “social immunity” which a wide number of PSSG seem to have in Islamic Republic.

The so called pride event in USA embassy has in my opinion exposed these people to risk of death, social alienation and torture. The behavior which is indigenous will now become “western disease” which needs to be eradicated. Any one who is properly integrated in Pakistani society (not the isolated modern or semi modern Islands in Islamabad Lahore and Karachi) knows that homoerotic behavior is a significant part of local discourse and is not noticed or bothered much unless it crosses over from its designated sphere ie It is not worn on ones face or pumped up as a pride event.  Rather is often a matter of laugh, taunt or dislike by friends and usually does not lead to much serious consequences. (Apart from few cases in recent past which are result of more Gay visibility and emergent homophobia). The strategy of modern gay liberation in a society where modern lifestyles have not been universally accepted can be counterproductive. The orientalist approach in this regard must be discarded. The movement must be integrated with movement to secularize the country. The queer activists need to integrate themselves to the wider political struggle in the country. They need to be part of the rank and file of the resistance movement.  Winning the respect and acceptance of their colleges and comrades they need to introduce the agenda of sexual liberation in the emerging political leadership of the country. Not only this, they need to become part of this leadership.

The example of 20th century has explained to us the limitations of the identity politics in general. Whilst African communists and ANC were able to end apartheid in South Africa at level of the bourgeois state, the segregation in the society has not been abolished. The overwhelming number of Africans still lives in abject poverty without any access to the social standards which a White South African enjoys. Xenophobia has emerged as a dangerous consequence of the discontent which the “liberated” Africans feel. Same could be said about USA where the historic civil rights movement apparently ended the legal segregation but failed miserably to achieve social integration. An African American has become president of USA but the socio-economic and health indicators of the most advance nation of the world demonstrate a divergence which is startling to say the least! The poverty and health indicators of parts of USA are comparable to African states. African Americans are still more likely to have no access to health care and are more likely to be in prisons than the white Americans.

Though Gay rights have been granted in Europe and USA, Homophobia in the society effectively nullifies these gains. Homosexuals still face discrimination, exclusion and violence in USA and Europe. The most problematic aspect of this is the fact that these legal reforms tend to discriminate on a class basis. Where more socially advantaged classes seem to get benefit from these reforms but those from under privileged classes suffer exclusion. From the perspective of a social activist who is interested in emancipation it presents itself as an existential dilemma , where one tends to stand at the same point where he started before the “victory”. The criticism we are offering to the “liberal” model here is frequently misunderstood and sometimes described deliberately by our liberal friends as “deference” of the Question of Rights! This essentially is not the case!  This is essentially is a criticism of the political approach which deferred the question of “Human emancipation” indefinitely in favor of certain legal protections which practically have favored a small minority of oppressed communities thus resulting in actual increase in discrimination and social segregation. This is a criticism of the fragmentation of progressive movement which plays one oppressed community against another! Jews vs Blacks Vs Hispanics in USA.  Women vs Gays etc and favors the dominant sections of society to effectively remain in control. This is the criticism of the approach which sees “reforms’ as the endpoint of the struggle rather than emancipation. Reforms are certainly desirable and should be encouraged but only in a context of a holistic political agenda which seeks to unite people in struggle for socio economic emancipation or we will keep having “victories” without effect and ‘changes” without change!

Though it has become a general fashion in the liberal intelligentsia to curse Marxist analysis , it’s simply astonishing to note  that it has been very accurate in explaining the complex perspectives totally missed and unresolved by liberal analysis. Global Economic Crisis and Arab Spring are just two most outstanding examples, while BBC published a leading middle east expert testifying that Egypt will not follow Tunis on the road to revolution , the masses were flexing their muscles as Marxists were telling us since last year. While a lot as been said about the politics in the Islamic Republic , the text unfortunately has a Derridian flavour of  ever “said” is “unsaid”. Whatever has been said for past few years by our great anchors, intellectuals, key opinion leaders turned out to be simply rubbish. One really feels in awe about the job description of these great men and women who get paid in million for saying and writing rubbish. On the contrary it’s again astonishing that since the day PPP government took office , Pakistani Marxists have been very successful in explaining the complex perspective with a relative ease. They were accurate in their description of nature of judicial movement, the futility of black revolution , the coalition between PPP and PML N, the imperialist nature of war on terror ,and the ” relationship of mutual deception between USA and Pakistan military establishment. The parent descendant relationship between establishment and Islamists,  the sharpening of national question by establishment etc. Now that every one is talking about the great vision of Imran Khan i had the pleasure to read this great piece on him by leading Marxist intellectual Lal Khan. The article explains in concrete terms the phenomenon of Imran Khan and so-called civil society. If one reads carefully it will be a treat as it provides one with tools needed to analyze the fluid political perspective of Islamic Republic. Whats he says explains Khan superbly:

Imran Khan is no Oedipus in this crime infested politics of a rotten state and system. His odd admixture of Islamic crusades, western liberalism and a redundant nationalism can only add to the prevailing political confusion. The ideology of Pakistani national chauvinism he propagates withered away in the paddy fields of East Bengal drenched in blood forty years ago. The justice he vows to impart is unaffordable in market economics. The corruption he decries is not the cause of the crisis but the need and product of debilitated capitalism. Black money and corruption run the economic cycle that is prodding the country. The British parliamentary system he espouses is still a monarchy and increasingly facing revulsion by the British masses. The Pan-Islamism he idealises is in contradiction with the Pakistan nation state that he harps upon. The American police system he wants to impose has bred more crime than anywhere in the advanced world. The US he wants to befriend on an “equal basis” will not stop leeching off Pakistan as long as capitalism exists here. (LK)

Shaheryar Ali


Pakistan: Passions without truths – the myth of Imran Khan

Lal Khan.

It is often said that history repeats itself, but the truth is that it never does so in exactly the same way; it repeats itself but on on a higher plane. The general consciousness of the masses in any society is neither static nor eternal. It is in a state of constant change, flux and motion. Betrayals and defeats push it back but with the new resurgence of the class struggle it rises to new heights.

However, the temperament and moods of different classes in society can vary according to the conditions and the epoch through which it is passing. In general terms the social psychology of the middle classes or the petit bourgeoisie is empirical and suffers from bouts of impatience reflecting its social and economic base. This, in times of crisis, puts it in a state of permanent insecurity, discontent and unrest, swinging from one extreme to the other – trying to ape the bourgeoisie in ordinary times and jump into the proletarian bandwagon in revolutionary situations.

While the toiling classes can endure hardships for long periods of time and from an empirical outlook sometimes they seem to be infinitely dormant and docile. There can be decades of lull and yet these working classes can explode into volcanic eruptions that can transform the politico-economic systems and change the course of history through revolutionary insurrections. Such periods are historical exceptions. Most bourgeois experts and intellectuals cannot contemplate these tremors in advance as they are mentally blocked from doing so by their philosophy of logical positivism and methods of so-called pragmatism.

At the present moment in time, apart from some sporadic struggles, Pakistan is passing through a period of relative lull as far as the mass movement is concerned, yet society is immersed in a terrible social and economic crisis that has pulverised it. This contradictory state of affairs gives rise to a political vacuum where there is no visible force on the wider political horizon that can present an economic and political way out of this misery and distress. Nature abhors vacuum, however. Hence we see peculiar phenomena that arise to fill this vacuum with rhetoric that touches upon the burning problems but has no real solutions to avert the impending catastrophe. The ostentatious nature of the petit bourgeoisie or the so-called civil society makes them feverishly attracted to these “liberators”. As a class it is the petit bourgeoisie that provides the social base for religious fundamentalism, vulgar liberalism, national chauvinism and other metaphysical and sentimentalist tendencies in periods of social stagnation. The latest episode of this series of petit bourgeois binges is the “rise” of Imran Khan.

He has been hyped up by the media and sections of the ruling oligarchy and the state as a substitute, in a situation where yet another attempt by the ruling classes to attack the working classes through a democratic façade is being foisted onto the masses. After the failure of direct rule and the loss of the cohesion of the army’s apparatus that would permit it to impose its rule once more, this weary and weak attempt to salvage a redundant system, shows the pathetic state of Pakistan’s ruling elite.

Looking at the democratic political circus in Pakistan one is reminded of the celebrated words of the 18th century British conservative politician Edmund Burke: “The tribe of vulgar politicians are the lowest of our species. There is no trade so vile and mechanical as the government in their hands. Virtue is not their habit. They are out of themselves in any course of conduct recommended only by conscience and glory. The calculators compute them out of their senses. The jesters and buffoons shame them out of everything grand and elevated. Littleness is the object and in means, to them appears soundness and sobriety.”

Imran Khan is no Oedipus in this crime infested politics of a rotten state and system. His odd admixture of Islamic crusades, western liberalism and a redundant nationalism can only add to the prevailing political confusion. The ideology of Pakistani national chauvinism he propagates withered away in the paddy fields of East Bengal drenched in blood forty years ago. The justice he vows to impart is unaffordable in market economics. The corruption he decries is not the cause of the crisis but the need and product of debilitated capitalism. Black money and corruption run the economic cycle that is prodding the country. The British parliamentary system he espouses is still a monarchy and increasingly facing revulsion by the British masses. The Pan-Islamism he idealises is in contradiction with the Pakistan nation state that he harps upon. The American police system he wants to impose has bred more crime than anywhere in the advanced world. The US he wants to befriend on an “equal basis” will not stop leeching off Pakistan as long as capitalism exists here.

He is playing the part of a right-wing populist trying to console a beleaguered people with the rhetoric of reforms that the system has no room for. The Balouch and other oppressed nationalities he wants to negotiate and patch up a deal with, have  since long rejected the two nation theory that Imran Khan is trying to resurrect as its new Messiah. He may be the establishment’s black horse, but who can be in the ring without the blessings of the hierarchy of the state.

The Chinese alternative of time tested friendship is a hoax. Whenever have they made a policy not coherent with their interests? China is today the biggest exporter of capital. And capital is invested to extract profit, not to be eulogised. The workers’ rights he talks about can only be slashed in the present day investment that is capital intensive. Revolutionary parties and leaders are not built by media “exposure” and pampering, but conversely the revolutionary victories are snatched from the jaws of the hostile and belligerent media by rousing the masses against it.

Imran Khan is offering everything to everybody, that means that the status quo is retained and the rich will get richer and the poor will be impoverished even more. That is the only possible fate under capitalism in decline. But the most insidious aspect of the mobs around Khan is that as in the lawyers’ movement the ideological differentiation is being scorned. The ideological divide between the left and right is not a theoretical synopsis. It stems from the nature of the class divisions in society and the struggle for the surplus of labour that is in the last analysis the struggle of life and death. As long as class exploitation exists the ideological fight will continue to rage on. It is a line drawn in the blood of the generations of the toilers. Imran khan is rousing the petit bourgeoisie with passions sans truth. Once the mass movement erupts again, no deception will suffice. Class war will have to be fought to the finish.

Indian Supreme Court


Shaheryar Ali

 “…people do not take arms, in an organized fashion, against the might of the state, or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason. Guided by an instinct for survival, and according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is encoded in our collective conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanization, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt    Supreme Court of India

For the last few years Pakistan has experienced a lot of debate on the doctrines of liberal democracy, the role of judiciary and civil society. These tenants were repeated in the form of mantra again and again by the network of corporate controlled media monopolies and a section of western funded NGOs who have chosen the label of civil society for them. The major emphasis of their resistance model for Pakistan was strengthening of a section of Pakistani establishment represented by superior judiciary. Instead of focusing on the new “democracy in transition” these groups choose to support an institution which had a long history of collaboration with military junta in Pakistan. Over-emphasizing the cleft which emerged between Chief Justice of Pakistan and the ruling section of Pakistani establishment as “change of heart”, they put their full force behind the unelected institution which had a clear right wing agenda. As the “Black Revolution” took hold over Pakistan things started moving in the direction which was being predicted by a minority of analysts including our selves. The superior judiciary instead of attacking the legal barriers which prevent the subalterns of Islamic Republic from achieving the status of “equal in front of Law” re-affirmed those very legal standards which form the basis of legal and cultural apartheid in the Islamic Republic. This was made clear by their re affirmation of Objective Resolution, Two nation theory and infamous and murderous Blasphemy law. In a move highly unusual for British legal tradition the superior judiciary even restrained the parliament from reviewing the infamous Blasphemy law. The total lack of interest in the state sponsored reign of terror in Balochistan clearly defines the superior judiciary of Islamic Republic which was presented as Liberal Messiah by the liberal spokespersons of establishment. The court has never questioned the colonial and post-colonial policies of Islamic Republic in Balochistan, her continuation of Divide and Rule the province applying on the Pashtun section of the population especially the Frontier Constabulary which has been accused by Independent Human Rights groups and Left wing activists of implementing a silent genocide of the Baloch people. “Dr. Nandini Sundar In comparison the supreme court of India has recently passed a judgment which is land mark to say the least. In the judgment of “Dr. Nandini Sundar and others Vs State of Chhattisgarh and Union Government” The supreme court of India declared the state government sponsored “Salwa Jadum” as unconstitutional. The honorable court also prohibited the deployment of local tribal community as SPO (special police officers). The Indian state of Chattisgargh was deploying the British policy of divide and rule and arming the local tribal as militia against the Nexal and Maoist rebels to stop the Left Wing insurgency which is affecting many states of the Union. These Left wing insurgencies have been declared as “single most important threat to Union of India by the Union Government” and multiple operations have been launched. Despite this the honorable court has disregarded what which judiciary of Islamic Republic considers as “National Interest” which prevents them from interpreting the law in “pro-people” way. The Supreme Court of India remained within the scope of Law unlike our Judiciary which has been criticized by president of Supreme Court Bar Association for exceeding its mandate in giving decisions which only have political implication and no pro-people value. The Indian Supreme court in one of its best decision compared the situation in Dantewara, portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness”. It then squarely contextualizes both the neo-colonial nature of the Indian state and the fundamental tenets of classical liberal democracy, all the while sticking to the law in its entirety. There is a lesson for Pakistan especially the activists, to understand the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, one cant carve out an Independent pro people judiciary from core of a totalitarian state , it can only come from a process. The difference is the stated objectives of two states, one committed to liberal secular and socialist state and other to an Islamic utopia. “What is important but obviously outside the scope of a judicial review is the cause of violence, the paramount question in the discussion on violence is “exclusion”. Its exclusion which leaves no other option for a human other than violence. When one is reduced ans dehumanised to extant of non human and non entity he transforms to what he is being “described as” the monster, the lesser being the evil incarnate. This is true for the Nexilite, the failure of communist party of India to address the question of revolution and its persistent failure to distance itself from the discourse of Indian Bourgeois and the failure of development of a genuine revolutionary socialist party in India pushed new untouchables of Indian Union to depths of heinous violence. But the Irony is that even the most deplorable violence committed by these groups testifies the genuine need for change. The desperate cry of the people for solution to emerge from the very heart of darkness!!. The very fact that a superior court which in final analysis is nothing but an instrument of state build to maintain the rule of the privileged classes hints at the cause of violence must be seen as signal to ruling classes of India that India is not as shining as portrayed in global posters! But for some one who is used to judiciary of the Islamic Republic its very refreshing. The case of Baloch resistance is similar, the despicable violence being committed against the immigrant working class in Baloch areas, the murder of Punjabi, Siraiki and Kashmiri labourers and chokidars is clearly the result of dehumanisation which Baloch has suffered. The failure of Bloch nationalist leadership, their ambiguous stand on right of self determination, their alliances with Punjabi chauvinists and Islamic Republic’s ruling elite had left no option for these young men and women to loose human Essences! I say human essence because Emanuel Levinas in his post-Holocaust studies has recognised the “first philosophy”, the duty to protect the other, and the first thing human perceives before even cognition is to recognise the need to protect other! , Baloch are killing because it’s what we want them to do. Its what we demand from them, They are the Jew, RAW agent, Infidel , the Jahil out of religion of peace out of the reign of submission , the rebel of Islamic Republic , Rebel to cause of Islam. The sons and daughters of Ignorance. Their daughters are not worth anything, Shazia Marri can’t be Aafia Siddiqi. If brother of Marri take up arms its heinous, it’s despicable yet its understandable! When a court of law recognises the plight of those who are abandoned to violence its heartening, its a living experience like creation of Adam from clay!” If only we can open our eyes and start the process unless it will be a never ending series of black revolutions which but the results will be counter revolutionary. Below is the report by Asia Human Rights Commission on the said judgment An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission. INDIA: Supreme Court – ‘Salwa Judum’ is unconstitutional by Rolly Shivhare “People do not take arms without reason” — Supreme Court Salwa Judum The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Dr. Nandini Sundar and others Vs State of Chhattisgarh and Union Government indicates that the country’s judicial system is alive, and a citizen can hope for justice from it. In the decision rendered on 5 July 2011, the Supreme Court declared the Chhattisgarh government sponsored Salwa Judum to be unconstitutional. The Court prohibited deploying members of tribal communities as Special Police Officers (SPOs) in any counter-insurgency operation by the state against the Naxals or Maoists, or against any extremist leftist groups operating in the state and/or region. The Court’s decision to prohibit civil militias is a landmark step in protecting marginalised communities from ongoing human rights violations. In essence, the judgment underlines that certain duties of the state cannot be subcontracted out, and further, that the state has the unalienable duty to protect its citizens. The Constitution of India mandates law and order to be the state’s responsibility. When the protector becomes the violator however, it is a threat to democracy. This is exactly what is happening in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is one of India’s three states–the other two being Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir–where the government formed private militias to combat anti-state movements. When this was challenged publicly as well as in the court, the government argued that it is its constitutional privilege to adopt modes it sees fit to deal with Naxalite and Maoist activities within the state. In essence, the government was arguing that it has a right to perpetuate, indefinitely, a regime of human rights violations, by adopting the same modes deployed by Maoist and Naxalite extremists in combating them. It is this argument that the Court has thrown out, holding it as unconstitutional. The government of Chhattisgarh had deployed 6500 tribal illiterate people as SPOs in the state. The government provided arms to these men and women and let them fight the leftist extremists, an act which within days turned neighbour against neighbour. The state took refuge in the century-old Indian Police Act, 1861, which provides for the appointment of SPOs to perform duties as guides, spotters and translators. SPOs can work as a source of intelligence, and sometimes are also allowed to carry firearms supplied to them for their self-defense. However, in Chhattisgarh, the government appointed SPOs to fight Maoists and Naxalites. It must be noted that the government even recruited minors as SPOs. In actual fact, the government created a division in the community. By identifying persons as either with the extremists or with the government, neutral space in the community was reduced. SPOs, like the Naxalites and Maoists, used their new power for everything, from settling private disputes to silencing political opposition. According to media reports, the number of cases of rape, murder, and other atrocities increased. The Supreme Court judgment noted that the Chhattisgarh government was appointing SPOs without following any legal process, and without evaluating the capacities of appointed tribal youth in undertaking counter insurgency activities. In 2010 the number of SPOs was 3000, but this year it increased to 6500. Unfortunately, these are the persons who become the first target of the Naxalites/Maoists. The Court also held that appointing a civilian as an SPO was a threat to his life, and in violation of article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life, with dignity. It must be mentioned here that this is one of the best judgments of the Supreme Court. It begins with a comparison of the situation in Dantewara, portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness”. It then squarely contextualises both the neo-colonial nature of the Indian state and the fundamental tenets of classical liberal democracy, all the while sticking to the law in its entirety. As far as Chhattisgarh is concerned, it is rich in natural resources, with 32 percent of its population made up of tribal people, who believe the trees and rivers to be their Gods. These tribal people are forcibly evicted from their ancestral land however, so that their land can be given to private companies and state interests for their gain. When such communities resist eviction, they are tortured to the extent where the only choice left for them is to take up arms. This was humanly acknowledged by the Court when it stated that …people do not take arms, in an organized fashion, against the might of the state, or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason. Guided by an instinct for survival, and according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is encoded in our collective conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanization, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt. A milestone in Indian democracy, this heartening judgment sees the Supreme Court render a brilliant exposition of the rule of law in the context of the violence unleashed by the Maoists, which has completely distorted the mindset of the state administration. Moreover, the judgment does not end with Chhattisgarh; it has wider implications where similar myopic and irresponsible tactics are employed, like in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir. About the Author: Ms. Rolly Shivhare is a staff member of Vikas Samwad, a partner organisation of the AHRC, working in Madhya Pradesh. The author is currently interning at the AHRC’s office in Hong Kong and can be contacted at Courtesy: Asian Human Rights Commission About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong based group was founded in 1984

Written by Marie Frederiksen Tuesday, 08 March 2011

With thanks: International Marxist Website

“I really believe the revolution has changed us. People are acting differently towards each other.” These are the words of Ms Kamel, 50, one of the many women who were out on Tahrir Square, actively participating in the revolution.

Cairo, February 4. Photo: 3arabawy

Arab women have once again shown that women play a decisive role in revolutionary events. In Egypt women have been participating actively in the revolution, in the same way that they played an active role in the strike movement in the few last years, in several cases pressurizing the men to join the strikes.

In earlier protests in Egypt, women only accounted for about 10 per cent of the protesters, but on Tahrir Sqaure they accounted for about 40 to 50 per cent in the days leading up to the fall of Mubarak. Women, with and without veils, participated in the defence of the square, set up barricades, led debates, shouted slogans and, together with the men, risked their lives.

Another view on women

Probably the most important motive force so far has been ordinary people’s striving for respect and dignity (something that was also clear in the Russian revolution and in France in May 1968). The dictatorial regimes, the police and the bosses don’t treat people as human beings, but as animals. That goes for all workers and poor, but especially for women.

Women’s perception of themselves has been changed through the struggle. “We have suffered the taste of teargas, but we are not afraid. The women who are afraid to leave the house, even they see us and gain courage,” explained English teacher Riham Muntaz, 25, to the newspaper The National on February 14. (Women make their power felt in Egypt’s revolution 14.02.11)

The idea that men and women should be different was removed during the revolution. Mozn Hassan, the director of the Nasra Feminist Studies Centre in Cairo said, “No one sees you as a woman here; no one sees you as a man. We are all united in our desire for democracy and freedom.” She explains that it was the freedom women experienced at Tahrir Sqaure that made them return again and again bringing along their friends, sisters and mothers.

The revolution also changed the relation between the sexes. “(…) In the square, you had people from different classes, both men and women, mixing, talking and debating. They [men] were seeing that women are strong, that they can look after themselves. They were seeing women work hard for the revolution, leading protests, and their response [not groping] is their way of saying, ‘I respect you’,” explained Ms. Hassan. Sexual harassment has been a large problem in Egypt. More than four out of five women have been sexually assaulted at some time, and the police has used this also to intimidate women, but it has been completely absent in the struggle against the Mubarak regime.

Women’s liberation through class struggle

Arab women are now showing the way forward. The right-wing bourgeois parties have used the oppression of women in many societies where Islam is the main religion to campaign against the so-called “Muslim world” and legitimize the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately in this they have had help from intellectuals and so-called left-wingers that have been complaining about the “Muslim view on women”. Other left-wingers has swung to the opposite side and even made concessions to religious forces in the Arab world. The Arab revolution shows that as Marxists we were absolutely correct when we insisted that the struggle for women’s rights is part of the class struggle and that these two are inseparable.

The Arab masses have shown that the class divide is the only decisive division. In the united struggle of the masses neither religion, gender or race play any role, and prejudices are overcome in practice. Marx explained, “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. When the material conditions are no longer tolerable for the great majority and the masses are forced to fight for better conditions, through this struggle their consciousness and ideas are changed dramatically.

Freedom to what?

The Egyptian women who have come out massively onto the streets did not do so in the name of some abstract women’s liberation. They took the streets in order to create a better life for themselves and their families.

English teacher Ms. Muntaz explains how she struggles to make ends meet. “I get paid 400 [Egyptian] pounds a month… I have no health insurance, if I need an operation I have to pay for it myself. I have no contract, no job security. We want a better life for us and for our children. We deserve a better life.”

The struggle of the Arab masses has just started. The Arab women have shown enormous courage and have shown that the struggle for women’s liberation only can be carried out as part of the struggle for a general liberation of the whole of the working people. They will realize that genuine women’s liberation does not flow from formal freedom and formal democracy, but that it requires a real social revolution.

Ahmad Rashid rose to prominence after the Marxist-leninist insurgency in Baluchistan. He was part of the marxist nucleus which was fighting in Baluchistan. Another young man in this group was Najam Sethi who along with Tariq Ali are considered first of the “New Left” in Pakistan. Those who introduced Trotsky’s writings for the first time in Pakistani Left wing (which was hard core Stalinist and Maoist in those days). Both Rashid and Sethi soon quit being revolutionaries and emerged as seasoned political commentators and analysts operating in the “Post-marxist” paradigm. Amongst them Rashid is more academic, his work on Taliban and United States policy towards Afghanistan and central Asia is considered authoritative. He is perhaps the most objective analyst on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the following article he puts Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti’s murders in perspective . While its fundamental to criticize the role of military establishment the abject surrender by Zardari regime should never be underestimated. Its the vacum being left by the weaker “political establishment” which is being filled in by the proto-fascist elements.  This sense of proportion is lacking in most progressive analysis coming from Pakistan but Ahmad Rashid’s highly analytical mind superbly achieves this balance. This is without any question one of best writing on recent crisis of Islamic Republic.

Shaheryar Ali


Ahmad Rashid : New York Review of Books Blog (With Thanks)

The assassination on Wednesday of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Minorities, killed in broad daylight in Islamabad by four gunmen, is one of the most shameful acts of political violence committed by Pakistani extremists. That it comes just two months after the murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab and one of the country’s leading liberal voices makes it all the more chilling. Yet the government and state’s reaction to the two killings has been even more shameful—raising the disturbing possibility that extremism is still being used by the security services in its efforts to oppose Western policies in the region.

The 40-year-old Bhatti was a Roman Catholic and the only Christian member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Yousf Reza Gailani. It was a death foretold. Taseer had been assassinated for his courageous struggle to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has been used to persecute minorities—a struggle to which Bhatti had also dedicated himself. Bhatti made a videotape some months ago that he wanted released to the BBC if he was killed. In it he said he would carry on the campaign to amend the blasphemy law.

“I will prefer to die for the cause [of defending] the rights of my community rather than to compromise on my principles,” Bhatti said in the tape. “The forces of violence, militants, banned organizations, Taliban and al-Qaeda, want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan and whosoever stands against it, they threaten him.”

Bhatti knew his life was in danger; he had been threatened repeatedly in recent weeks and had asked the government to provide him with security and a bulletproof vehicle. But even after Taseer’s murder, the government did nothing. Like Taseer, he ended up riddled with machine gun fire—though it is unclear whether a security detail might have helped, since Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard, a highly trained police officer. In both cases, the killers have come from a culture that has grown increasingly intolerant in recent years, abounds in conspiracy theories, and wrongly interprets Islam solely in terms of jihad and violence.

As leaders worldwide—from the Pope to Hillary Clinton to Nicolas Sarkozy—strongly condemn Bhatti’s murder, the reaction of the Pakistani government has been vapid. No action has been taken or promises made to curb the freedom of violent extremist groups, who have hailed both murders and who have meanwhile been staging daily street demonstrations in Lahore to demand the death sentence for Raymond Davis, the American CIA agent who is now in Pakistani custody after killing two Pakistani men believed to be agents for the army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). (Davis was part of a secret team working in the country; the exposure of his activities puts further strain on the uneasy alliance between the US and Pakistan.)

For its part, the army has so far failed to express regret about either Bhatti’s murder or Taseer’s. The army chief General Ashfaq Kayani declined to publicly condemn Taseer’s death or even to issue a public condolence to his family. He told Western ambassadors in January in Islamabad that there were too many soldiers in the ranks who sympathize with the killer, and showed them a scrapbook of photographs of Taseer’s killer being hailed as a hero by fellow police officers. Any public statement, he hinted, could endanger the army’s unity.

Behind this silence lies something more sinister. For decades the army and the ISI have controlled the extremist groups, arming and training them in exchange for their continuing to serve as proxy forces in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But in recent years, the army has lost control of them and they are striking targets of their own. Yet the army has refused to help crack down on its rogue protégés—despite the fact that extremists have increasingly attacked the army and the ISI itself, and at least 2,000 military personnel have died at their hands in the past five years. This is all the more ominous in view of the resources the military commands: half a million men, another half a million reserves, 110 nuclear weapons (according to US media estimates) and one of the largest intelligence agencies in the world, the ISI, which has an estimated 100,000 employees.

If the army has now surrendered any willingness to take on the extremists, the political establishment had already given up long ago. Prime Minister Gailani and President Asif Ali Zardari head the Pakistan People’s Party, the largest national party in the country—some would say the only national party left. Zardari, as the husband of slain leader Benazir Bhutto, is no stranger to extremism himself, and his populist base has traditionally voted for the party’s anti-mullah, anti-army and pro-people policies. Unfortunately those principles were abandoned by a series of corrupt and ineffectual leaders, and the PPP today is not even a shadow of what it once was.

Zardari has backtracked on foreign policy goals such as improving relations with India and Afghanistan, as well as on domestic efforts to curb the power of the extremists and impose new taxes—on almost everything that may have helped Pakistan move towards becoming a modern state. There is no doubt that the army has tried to thwart the civilian leaders at almost every turn—but rather than resist or resign, the politicians have just been brow beaten into compliance and abject submission.

As a result, there is a vicious double game playing out in the streets, fueling the tensions that resulted in Bhatti’s death. The security agencies have unleashed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT)—the largest and most feared extremist group in Pakistan, which was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks—on to the streets of Lahore. The group has been banned by the US, Britain and the United Nations and supposedly by Pakistan too. LT stalwarts have been demonstrating daily outside the US consulate to ensure that Raymond Davis—who was apparently charged with monitoring their activities—hangs. By giving free reign to such banned groups the security agencies may have inadvertently signaled to all extremist groups, including the sectarian groups who hate Christians, that they are free to take the law into their own hands. What is behind this complex and mind-boggling strategy? It is all part of a wider cat and mouse escalation between the US and the Pakistani military. The army wants to control any future peace talks that the US may have with the Taliban, so that the army’s aims for a future pro-Pakistan Afghan government in Kabul are met. Its leaders also want to make doubly sure that any long-term American arrangements do not leave Pakistan’s rival India in a stronger position in Afghanistan.

So far the US seems unmoved; and it has already circumvented the ISI to start indirect peace talks with some Taliban. One consequence is that the military are allowing extremist groups considered anathema to the US on the streets. This is also why Davis is not being freed, and why US-Pakistan relations are at their worst in many years. In the meantime, the army and the government continue to receive about $3 billion a year in US military and economic aid.

On March 3, Senator Bob Corker, who recently visited Islamabad, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he found Pakistan “the most disheartening place in the world to be, where you are talking the type of relationship that we have.” He added, “I think that in many ways we get played like a piece of music” by the Pakistanis.

The ISI may well be playing the Americans, but it does so at the cost of steadily ceding ground to the extremists. Right now Pakistan is becoming a place where there is an army without a country.



Dr Ayesha Siddiqa is one the most brilliant academic of Pakistan. Daughter of noted Urdu novelist and recipient of prestigious Adam Gee Award for literature Jamila Hashmi she rose to popular fame with the publication of her book “Military Incorporated” a brilliant theoretical contribution on Pakistan Army. She also stands out for distancing her self from anti government rhetoric of most liberal intellegentsia of Pakistan. She has frequently drawn attention to Pakistan’s collaboration with Islamist militancy. She along with Hassan Askari Rizvi was first to point out the principle contradiction in present bourgeois state set up. The conflict between  President Zardari and GHQ. Amongst the liberal academics she was also first to question the Lawyers Movement’s intentions and changing nature of Judicial activism in Pakistan referring  to it as “Judicial populism”. Yet the  persistent capitulation by president Asif Ali Zardari and his failure to give face to liberal and progressive political legacy of PPP has forced almost all of his well wishers to question their perspective. General Zia’s railway minister is Mr Zardari’s prime minister , son of Zia’s governor has  just left the government in an embarrassing situation. The unfortunate irony is that he was not stopped when he was changing the direction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the favour of Pakistan Army. The conflict exploded in form of Raymond Davies incident. His prime minister publicly declared Zulficar Ali Bhutto’s socialist educational policy as wrong. PPP’s secretary information Fauzia Wahab criticized very core of Bhutto’s economic policy and lectured every one of privatization and economic liberalism and that when even Sarkozi was forced to condemn it after Global Financial Crisis. When Salman Taseer was murdered in cold blood in Islamabad his home minister who had long ties of Begum Shafiqa Zia and Chaudharies of Gujrat commented “I would personally shoot a blasphemer” . This despite the fact that Benazir Bhutto was strongly against Blasphemy law and so far  we believed that Mr Zardari was too. His Law minister , one reputed to enjoy his trust   pledged  to support the infamous ziaist Blasphemy Law even if costed him his life. His home minister Mr Rehman Malik also speaks language of IsI when it comes to Balochistan. He too is reputed to be a Zardari’s partisan. Yet another his  confidant is Mr Jamshaid Dasti who has strong ties with Sipah e Sahaba. It’s a total right-wing regime on whose top is sitting Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party , the largest socialist Party of Pakistan which is member of Socialist International as well. One simply fails to understand where is party’s co-chairman? Why there is a complete capitulation to right? Why all of chairman’s confidants  are Ziaist? I have frequently drawn parallels from history Zardari should start looking at pictures of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of 1977. He too became hostage to “loyalists”. Those who were sitting on his right and left during negotiations with PNA. Those too were his most vulgar of partisans those who led him to capitulate to right. Those were first to ditch him after 5th July. Zardari should always remember Kosar Niazi

Shaheryar Ali

By Ayesha Siddiqa ( with thanks: Express Tribune)

Rehman Malik has yet again scattered his pearls of illogic by saying that the interior ministry was planning to impose restrictions on artists, journalists and students on scholarships travelling to India. They will now have to seek a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry. Initially, it sounded as if he meant everyone visiting India. It seems so reminiscent of the Zia days. More important, I wonder what the president has to say in his defence when he had reminded a year ago some civil society members that, they were constantly pestering him to revoke the blasphemy law and improve relations with India. Creating space in the religious discourse and improving relations with regional states is critical for Pakistan’s own growth and development. Since the end of the 1980s, every government seems to have realised this logic. Or was it a different Asif Zardari than this one who seems to have gone in hiding and so allows his interior minister to shoot himself and the entire nation in the foot? Or is it that the president is too scared to implement what he had reminded the civil society members of? We know that his party is completely divided on supporting Taseer and may be in a greater fix on improving ties with India. Such restrictions on artists , students and journalists are ridiculous and give the country an image of a state with an iron curtain just like the one that the former Soviet Union had during the days of the Cold War. Everyone has the right to travel around freely. Unless the government employs these people, they are private citizens who sell certain services and it gives the country a good name when they perform abroad. The government may or may not have any contribution in training these artists or making them famous. In any case, why should the government care about its citizens making a fool of themselves while they are abroad when it has no qualms about great names like Mehdi Hassan living a life of poverty and in ill-health. Let’s be honest, it was only after Rahat Fateh Ali made his way to a bigger market in Bollywood that he got noticed in Pakistan and outside. Why such a show of aimless ego when the government doesn’t care about the thousands of Pakistanis that travel or live abroad? Or will Rehman Malik impose a condition on all Pakistanis travelling abroad to seek an NOC just because some are found to be involved in crimes in other countries? After all, people may or may not engage in activities in the future that would eventually put them in trouble or embarrass them. But they do not necessarily become the government’s responsibility. In any case, if Mr Malik is so peeved about the state’s honour and wants to regulate the behaviour and personal lives of citizens, he may also look into disciplining the numerous militant organisations that create trouble abroad. This might help the state’s image more than anything else. The interior ministry does not even have the infrastructure and system to impose such a law. Such restrictions at best will ensure that Pakistani artists don’t get invited abroad. The interior minister is possibly trying to make the establishment happy. But then, isn’t he supposed to take his cue from Asif Zardari? Or is it that the president himself has changed the way he used to think about peace and stability in the region and changing relations with neighbours? I am also reminded of Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s first visit to the UK as a foreign minister. The Pakistani high commissioner gathered a few individuals from think tanks and some journalists for a dinner meeting with the foreign minister. Later in the evening, the foreign minister rose to give his speech. He passionately spoke about his desire to make his first trip to India and improve relations with them. It all sounded good except that the defence, air and naval attaches sitting on my table did not see eye to eye with him. Clearly, their brief was different from Qureshi’s. It was not too long before he also started following the brief from the GHQ rather than from his party’s leadership. Now it appears that other ministers have gone the same route. A similar restriction was introduced under Zia’s rule which was fought back and removed through the efforts of Benazir Bhutto. It would help if someone saw the illogic of the above decision. Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2011.

Christ of Saint John of Cross  :  Salvador Dali

“Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned him to be deserving of death.”

Mark 14:63–64

Jesus of Nazareth was convicted by Sanhedrin, the Jewish priest court for the crime of Blasphemy. Today he is God of largest section of humanity.

Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered for the crime of Blasphemy—-

Shaheryar Ali




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