The Karachi regional conference of The Struggle took place on Friday, February 29, 2008. It came after the recent elections in which comrade Riaz Lund contested and secured the highest vote in this Karachi constituency since 1970 for the PPP.
There were 350 delegates attending the meeting, the largest ever attendance at a Karachi regional conference of The Struggle. There was a mood of both immense anger against the dictatorship and its fascist toady the MQM, who had blatantly rigged the elections to steal comrade Riaz Lund's election, but also of immense enthusiasm for the struggle.
Comrade Lal Khan opened the conference with a lead off on international and Pakistan perspectives.
The three Marxist candidates who contested the elections, comrades Manzoor Ahmed (44,000 votes), Riaz Lund (46,800 votes) and Ali Wazir (whose election result has been withheld) also spoke at the meeting. The following are the transcribed excerpts of the three speeches.
Comrades from the PTCL, PIA, Karachi Port, Steel Mills, Postal Department, Road Transport, Hospital Workers, Electricity workers, Municipal workers and other major industries participated in the conference along with a big number of unemployed revolutionary youth and students.
Comrade Riaz Hussain Lund Baloch
"I want to share my personal feelings and experiences which I gained in the election campaign. In the beginning the masses thought that we were just the part of the Pakistan People's Party with the same agenda, but when we started the campaign on the basis of revolutionary ideas their attitude changed very much.
"We contacted the trade union leaderships and the workers and showed them that we were fighting for a change of this capitalist system and working for their demands. We approached all the layers among the masses and we succeeded in introducing our ideas among the workers.
"We organised meetings in the factories. The workers in the factories now can see a clear-cut difference between our Tendency and the official PPP position. We see how the genuine party workers support us and our ideas. A clear example can be seen from this successful gathering here today in our region, where large numbers of proletarians and party workers are present.
"I wish to express my appreciation to all those comrades who took part in the election campaign. They worked very hard and even went to the masses in those dangerous areas where the fascist MQM dominates. We pasted our posters with radical slogans all over the constituency and I am glade to tell you that we got more then 1500 votes in one of those areas where no PPP worker could enter in past. This was all due to the power of resistance among masses against the vicious MQM.
"We lost the elections due to the bogus results that were achieved after the engineered rigging, but the masses see us as the real victors and we will base ourselves on this huge support to transform the situation in all our areas.
"Long live socialist revolution."
Comrade Ali Wazir
"The Pakistan army began operations in South Waziristan when the election campaign started. The Taliban and military are not attacking each other but are consciously aiming their weapons against the people of Waziristan. They burnt the houses of the ordinary people and provided no alternative shelter for them in these harsh weather conditions.
"I want to share an example of their brutality with you. During these operations two little girls were killed because no one agreed to give them any protection. Their home was burnt and their parents killed during this operation.
"These are the kind of things we witnessed. I want to portray to you how difficult it is to live in these areas where none of the basic needs are available. Also, due to the military operation, the polling stations in the Mahsood areas were moved to the nearby district of Taank.
"I must admit that I entered the election campaign very late and just a few days later Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. We launched our campaign on the basis of our ideas and revolutionary slogans: on education, employment, water, health, peace.
"The positive thing was that youth was with us and against the fundamentalists. I was attacked by my opponents for being a ‘communist and socialist' and on that basis they asked the people to vote against me. In one meeting I replied that I want to remove the miseries of my people and that is why they call me a communist. So I admitted that I am a communist. The youth gathered there also loudly announced ‘yes we all are communists'.
"You must bear in mind that this area was the launching pad of the American sponsored Jihad against the USSR in Afghanistan.
"The state, the army, the ISI [Pakistan Secret Services] and the Taliban have no solutions to the problems of the masses. To give you an idea of how fraudulent the result was, the Taliban kidnapped the presiding officer and falsely registered a large number of votes against me.
"I assure you that situation in Wana will be different in the coming days. We now have mass support in the area. So we will fight, and we will win."
Comrade Manzoor Ahmad
"Comrades, was the parliament our target or was it something else? If election to parliament was our aim then we were defeated. But if our goal was bigger than that then we were not defeated. We were much more successful than in the previous elections held in 2002. In 2002 we only had one comrade contesting and this time there were four in the race [including a close sympathiser of The Struggle]. The ISI knew us well and that is why they rigged the elections.
"In these elections we can see how they carried out a calculated, engineered, selective rigging. In the Punjab 40-45 seats were consciously given to the PML(N) so that the PPP would not be able to get clear cut majority. If the PPP had won a clear majority then there tune would have to be different.
"The National Reconciliation Ordinance [the famous "deal" between Benazir and Musharraf] was broken on October 18 and the deal was dead at that time. The aggressive mood of Benazir Bhutto was increasing day by day. She clearly said that if the January 8 elections were to be rigged then we would be on the streets along with the masses the following day. After not doing this for 20 years she attacked privatisation in her last speech.
"For 40 days after the assassination the PPP leadership suspended their election campaign. This was a blunder. It led to people saying that the PPP was a party without leadership. In Faisalabad, Zardari addressed a huge crowd and as a result the PPP won 6 seats in this area where in the past it had only won one seat. This shows that if the PPP had organize a full-fledged campaign the results would have been much more favourable for the PPP.
"The local PPP leadership, the PML(N), PML(Q), JUI, and some other left groups were all distributing money against us. On January 16 there was a big crowed, a huge mass gathering which was bigger than all the processions of the PML(N) put together. Even Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif both visited Kasur. 140 million rupees were made available by the others to purchase votes and on polling day each vote was purchased for up to Rs. 2000.
"I want to share with you an example of rigging that took place. One of our comrades was polling officer in the constituency. He told us how before polling day they came to his house and offered him any amount of money he wanted in exchange for 3 copies of his ballot paper pad. They also threatened him and said that other agents were helping them.
"In spite of all this, we won an extra 19,000 votes compared to our 2002 election result. The masses have shown their confidence in us once again but we have to remember the quotation of comrade Ted Grant that: ‘Sometimes successes are more dangerous than defeat.'
"It is needless to mention here that due to our election defeat in the area the labour movement has gone into depression and this setback was the biggest blow for them after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
"The Pakistani state, the ISI as well as American imperialism, were also heavily involved in this manoeuvre, in this so-called election defeat. When I came back from Venezuela after meeting with Chavez, all these forces were conscious of our potential
"Comrades some peoples lose after success, but we have won after defeat. If we were already a point of reference in Pakistan after winning 29,000 votes in 2002, then we are an even more important point of reference after we won 150,000 votes.
"We have faced up to the dark forces of reaction including the ISI, the fundamentalists, including the Taliban and Jamat-e-Islami, the Fascists, American imperialism and we have to continue fighting against them.
"We have to work even harder now and base ourselves on the work we did during the election campaign. We must use this to win more workers and youth to Marxism and mobilize the masses in struggle."