Over 200 people attended a recent meeting in Rawalpindi for the launching of the book Kashmir's Ordeal, by Lal Khan. Among the speakers were Alan Woods, editor of Marxist.com, trade union leaders from the Rawalpindi-Islamabad region, leading figures of the revolutionary youth movement in Kashmir, and Member of the National Assembly, Zulfiqar Gondal, who all came to discuss the way forward for the workers, peasants, and youth of Kashmir.
On Tuesday, March 21 over 200 people filled the meeting hall of the Rawalpindi Press Club for the launching of the book Kashmir’s Ordeal, by the well-known Pakistan Marxist leader and theoretician, Lal Khan. Among the speakers at the launch was comrade Alan Woods, the editor of Marxist.com and several of the main trade union leaders of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad region, as well as leading figures of the revolutionary youth movement in Kashmir and Member of the National Assembly, Zulfiqar Gondal.
The meeting was chaired by comrade Irshad, the leader of the electricity and water workers' union. The first speaker was the deputy general secretary of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation, who made a very effective and revolutionary speech. He said that this book has opened up new avenues for a revolutionary solution to the Kashmir problem.
He was followed by comrade Qamar Zia, President of the Kashmir People’s Student Federation, the student wing of the PPP in Kashmir. He pointed out that all the methods and policies of the ruling elites of India, Pakistan and Kashmir had failed to solve this traumatic problem. “Experience has shown that the independence and emancipation of the oppressed masses of Kashmir cannot be solved within the geographical boundaries of Kashmir. The Kashmiri masses need the support of the workers and peasants of the whole Subcontinent to win their liberation,” he said.
In his speech, which was enthusiastically received, Alan Woods outlined the international context for the Kashmir problem. He explained that after the collapse of the USSR, US imperialism was trying to impose its will on the entire world. Bush’s visit to the Subcontinent was part of this global plan. “The Americans would like to establish their influence in India, which is a huge market. That is why Bush fell over himself to please the Indian ruling class, even accepting unconditionally India’s right to develop nuclear weapons. But when he came to Islamabad he lectured Musharraf like a headmaster lecturing a little boy.”
“Does anybody think that Pakistan is an independent nation?” comrade Alan asked. “It is not an independent nation. It is a glorified American base! Of course, the Americans cannot afford to alienate Pakistan too much because it needs its support for the war in Afghanistan. But America is no friend of Pakistan or India or Kashmir. As somebody once said: great nations do not have friends, only interests. And America is pursuing its selfish interests on the Subcontinent, as everywhere else.”
Comrade Woods said that the USA wants peace – peace under American control. It would like to have the Kashmir issue resolved. But imperialism cannot solve the Kashmir issue any more than it can solve the Palestinian question, he said. It was British imperialism that created the Kashmir problem by the cruel partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. We have been paying a heavy price ever since.
“Neither the Indian nor the Pakistan ruling class has any interest in solving the Kashmir question”, the speaker continued. It is very convenient to them to have an external enemy in order to divert the attention of the masses from their real problems, which have not been resolved in decades of so-called independence. On the other hand, the generals on both sides like to play with toys – but toys that are very dangerous and very expensive. So when the Pakistan generals or their Indian equivalent go to the National Assembly to ask for money for their new tanks and rockets, they point to Kashmir by way of justification. Then the coffers are immediately opened.”
This is a very serious point, bearing in mind that 40% of Pakistan’s budget goes to arms expenditure, while a mere 0.2% goes on education and a similar figure on health. The burden of militarism weighs heavily on the shoulders of the masses of both India and Pakistan. “There have been four wars fought over Kashmir. What have they solved? [cries of “nothing!”]. Wars cannot solve the problem of Kashmir. Many ordinary Pakistanis and Indians die, both countries suffer and the people of Kashmir are worse off than ever.”
Comrade Lal Khan gave an inspiring speech outlining the revolutionary policy for the solution of the Kashmiri question. He said: “Kashmir has been a bleeding wound on the body of the Subcontinent. The ruling elites of India and Pakistan have abused this issue to subjugate the masses of the whole region. But the reality is that thousands of years of history of Kashmir suggest that the main factor has been the class struggle. The only solution is to link the struggle of the oppressed masses in Kashmir to the class struggle in the Subcontinent and beyond.”
Member of the Pakistan National Assembly, Zulfiqar Gondal had the audience roaring with laughter when he jokingly corrected something that Alan Woods had said: “Comrade Alan stated that the Pakistan generals went to the National Assembly to ask for money. Actually, this is not the case. They do not come to the National Assembly to ask for anything: it is the National Assembly that goes to them!”
The meeting, which was overwhelmingly composed of workers, trade unionists and revolutionary youth, was characterized by tremendous enthusiasm for the revolutionary socialist message.