Pakistan: How to fight Terrorism?

On Monday night once again blood flowed in Quetta. At least 61 were killed and 117 wounded, many of them in a critical condition, when terrorists attacked a police training college in Quetta. Around 9:30 in the evening three terrorists entered the college where 700 trainees were present. They entered one of the hostels rounded up and then killed trainee cadets in the building.

After this killing spree two terrorists blew themselves up, while security forces claim that they shot down the third one. So far three different terrorist organizations have been blamed for this atrocity. These include IS, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and a group of Taliban led by Mullah Daud of the Hakeemullah Mehsud group.

IS is relatively new in Pakistan and has been trying to show its presence gradually, although government authorities have denied many times any presence of IS in Pakistan. The second organization which claims the attack has been involved in killing hundreds of innocent people in sectarian attacks on Shias in the past few years. In recent years many Hazaras, who also belong to the Shia sect living in Quetta, have come under attack and hundreds of them have been killed, including women and children. The Taliban have also been involved in many terrorist attacks in the past.

Hypocrisy of the state authorities

After this attack, a series of statements of condemnation has been issued by various government officials and politicians. Also those in power have once again vowed to curb this terrorism and to deal with it severely. People in Pakistan, and especially those living in Quetta, have almost learned all this dramatic response to such incidents off by heart. Crocodile tears are shed and various Army and Police officials appear on TV screens to say that “we have broken the backs of the terrorists; we are cleaning them up and they are weaker than before.” Similarly politicians in power claim they will deal with this severely and will adopt strict security measures in the future. All this routine posturing has become a sick joke for the victims and their families.

Just two months ago on 8 August a deadly terrorist attack killed around 94 and injured 130 in Quetta in which most of those who were killed were lawyers. First a terrorist attacked the President of the Lawyers’ Association of Quetta on the road, and when he was taken to hospital a large number of lawyers and family members arrived to enquire about whether he had survived or not. At that precise moment a suicide bomber blew himself up and killed as many people as he could. This attack was also claimed by two terrorist organizations which include IS and a group of Pakistani Taliban, Jamat-ul Ahrar. A similar response by the government officials was repeated then, as the Army Chief flew to offer funeral prayers for those killed and statements of condemnation were issued by the Prime Minister and others.

But with every incident we see how the rage and anger is increasing among the families of victims and common people who have seen these terrorist attacks continuing now for the last one decade. Quetta with a population of around one million, has a big cantonment with the Headquarters of the Southern Command of the Pakistan Army. The Commander of the Southern Military Command stationed in Quetta oversees more than 60,000 personnel. Along with that, there is the local police and other security forces that are operational in the city. Every few kilometers there are checkpoints for surveillance and searching of passersby. Even with this kind of security arrangement, the terrorists - who have no support in the local population - easily get through and carry out the deadliest of attacks. This clearly shows that sections of the Pakistani State sponsor these kinds of activities, otherwise this could not have been possible.

In a recent leaked report in the daily Dawn this can be clearly seen. This news has brought to the surface the rifts within the Army and civilian government. According to the same report, in a high level meeting civilian leaders accused the ISI [Pakistan Secret services] chief of supporting terrorist outfits in the country and propping them up for their own vested interests.

Role of imperialism

Reagan sitting with Afghan Mujahideen - Public DomainRonald Reagan sitting with Afghan Mujahideen - Photo: Public DomainPakistan is under constant pressure from the US, India and other countries to cease propping up these terrorist outfits. The report explains that even China, which has increased its Imperialist role here in recent years, is not happy with these tactics. China recently blocked a move in the UN by India to declare a ban on Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a fundamentalist organization working in Pakistan.

The Chinese are investing more than 51 billion dollars to build an economic corridor called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This will link Gwadar port in Balochistan with China through a network of roads and railway lines. It will give China access to the Indian Ocean through which its trade route to the Middle East will be halved. Americans consider it a threat to their strategic interests in the Middle East and especially in the Strait of Hormuz. In such a situation the Pakistani ruling class is trying to please both masters while splits in different sections of the state are coming to the surface.

Some bourgeois analysts claim that recent terrorist attacks are in fact an attempt to sabotage the CPEC in which India, in coordination with Afghans, is supporting the terrorists. In recent years India has built closer ties with Afghanistan at the behest of the Americans and to the detriment of the Pakistani ruling class which see Afghanistan as its colony.

All this has only further complicated the situation and these tensions will grow as the CPEC nears its completion and the trade route becomes functional. This corridor will help to strengthen the stranglehold of Chinese Imperialists in the region and weaken American influence. But this so called “road to prosperity” will be built on the bones of innocent victims.

All this influence of the Chinese and Americans Imperialists is also affecting the politics of the bourgeois parties in Pakistan. The PTI, a right-wing party in opposition, has issued a call to block Islamabad indefinitely with a mass sit-in, starting from 2 November. They are demanding the resignation and putting on trial of the Prime Minister on accusations of money laundering which appeared in the Panama papers leaks. Although they do not seem to have garnered mass support for their demands, the differences within the Pakistani State, the rifts between the civilian government and the military top brass, and the contradictory interests of the Chinese and Americans can shape the outcome of this sit-in. A similar sit-in in 2014, however, continued for many months without any result in the end.

At the moment, the Americans are putting pressure on Pakistan to curb this terrorism and act against all their so called "strategic assets" or fundamentalist organizations covertly supported by the Pakistani State. The irony is that at the same time we see reports about US officials helping to create IS and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Even ground operations with support of Al- Qaeda, or its affiliated organizations, have been discussed by American government officials in recent years. The Taliban were created by the Pakistani State with the support of the American CIA to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden worked for the CIA for many years before becoming its enemy. Many leaders of terrorist outfits who are officially banned, or at the top of the list of terrorists, are roaming freely in Pakistan and holding public meetings. Mostly police and other security forces protect them and are on duty as their bodyguards.

Manoeuvres against the mass movement

These terrorist attacks have also been selectively used against mass movements which have threatened the Pakistani State. When Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, after many years of self-exile on 18 October 2007, more than two million people came out onto the streets of Karachi to welcome her. It was a public gathering beyond Benazir's expectations, as people were demanding employment, bread, clothing and housing. The Pakistani ruling class felt threatened by such a gathering. That rally, which attracted even more people as it moved towards to its final destination where Benazir was expected to deliver a speech, was cut across by suicide bombings in which around 180 were killed and Benazir herself had a narrow escape. She was killed two month later in Rawalpindi when a sniper’s bullet hit in her head amidst a suicide bomb. In a statement the Taliban claimed responsibility.

And yet we see public meetings of other right-wing parties which have never been targeted by such attacks. In 2014 a sit-in by a right-wing party, the PTI, continued for many months in Islamabad but no such incident took place. This shows that there is a method in this madness.

This also clearly expresses the strategy and tactics of the imperialist powers and various states like Pakistan who have used terrorist organizations for their own strategic interests. When the Taliban were being used by the American imperialists and the Pakistani State for their own thieving interests in Afghanistan they were proclaimed as "Our strategic assets". The leaders of the Taliban held meetings with the American president in the White House and were openly supported as waging a 'holy war". However, during the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 these "holy warriors" suddenly became terrorists.

At the moment we see a dubious policy on the part of the imperialists and the Pakistani State. There are now terrorists and holy warriors. Some sections of the imperialists and a wing of the Pakistani State are propping up these Islamic fundamentalists and using them for their strategic interests, while at the same time other sections are waging a war on terror against the same groups. In Pakistan this situation is clearer than before. The Army is involved in an operation called “Zarb-e-Azab” against these terrorists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, in which they claim that they have broken the back of these groups and cleared all of that area. At the same time we see thousands of madrasas (boarding schools only for religious education) operating in Pakistan which support this holy war. One such famous madrasa is Haqqania of Akora Khatak which, considered to be the founder of the Taliban and where Mullah Omar once studied, was given a grant of Rs 300 million (approx. $3 million) by the government of KPK province ruled by the PTI and JI in this year's annual budget.

This love-hate relationship of the Pakistani State is now an open secret while the common people are becoming victims of this dubious strategy. But the question arises as to how this can end and how people can get rid of this bloody menace.

Many bourgeois liberals claim there is a need to strengthen the security apparatus and step up the military operations against the terrorists. But we have seen time and again that the whole state apparatus has failed miserably many times and has clearly shown its inability to deal with this problem. The covert support of some sections of state has increased with each passing day, and they are hand in glove with those sections of the imperialist powers, such as the US, in supporting such elements. Courts of Justice, Police and other law enforcement agencies have also failed to curb these killings. Due to the impotence of the courts to sentence such criminals, a special law was passed in Parliament to establish military courts for such cases. This step, while highlighting the weakness of the State as a whole, also has been proven over time to be futile and terrorists keep on attacking wherever they like.

Another argument which comes up is that help needs to come from the American imperialists through the use of drones. But we have clearly seen that the American invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq merely helped to spread this terrorism even more and have strengthened these forces of black reaction. Even in Iraq where there was no Al Qaeda before the invasion, it now has a strong base and even more bloodthirsty gangsters like IS have taken the lead. From various leaked reports it is now clear that the Americans helped establish forces like IS.

Now where should a common person in Pakistan look to in facing such terrorist organizations? In some areas in reply to attacks on Shias by sectarian terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, organizations are mushrooming which attack Sunni religious leaders. These Shia outfits seem to have links with the Mullah Regime in Iran. The Iranian ruling class uses the victimization of the Shias and their grief for their own imperialist interests and to counter the influence of the Saudi imperialists in the region.

The political parties in Pakistan have also failed to give any concrete programme to fight this terrorism. In the “rubber stamp” parliament, the statements of condemnation of such incidents are piling up to become a mountain heap of garbage.

In this situation the only way forward for the people of Pakistan is to think beyond the current rotten and failing state apparatus and the present political parties. The people of Pakistan will have to organize themselves to fight this terrorism.


In recent years we have seen a large number of attacks on schools and universities. In December 2014, terrorists entered an extremely high security area in Peshawar and attacked the innocent students and teachers of the Army Public School. One teacher was burnt alive in front of her students who were later killed mercilessly. Around 148 people were killed and 114 injured in this incident. The families of the victims, who were mostly children of Army personnel, are still demanding justice for these killings. Despite many claims and announcements of a National Action Plan, nothing has been solved yet and many more incidents like this have happened.

The only way forward for students is to organize themselves and to rise up against the ban on student unions. If elected student unions were organized in every educational institution, they could take responsibility for the security of their institutions. The management of educational institutions have failed time and again to prevent any terrorist attacks. By hiring private security companies and banning student gatherings in the institutions, they have only increased the difficulties and mental torture of the students. If student unions were present and totally responsible for their own security then they could organise the fight against such terrorist activities. Along with this, these student unions would be able to remove any elements supporting these terrorists or their ideology. This would end the spreading of such reactionary ideas and a better future could be built free of terrorism.

In Balochistan where recent terrorist attack was carried out, an Army operation is also going on against the Baloch nationalists. A large number of students and youth in Balochistan were involved in an armed struggle against the Pakistani State for their independence. It is clear that this armed struggle could not achieve its aims and is now being drowned in blood, in which nearly twenty-two thousand have been killed so far. Many Baloch nationalists have claimed that these terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalist organizations are a strategy of the State to divert attention from their freedom struggle. Also, these organizations are penetrating more and more, with State patronage, the Baloch population which has a long history of secular traditions. In those areas where not a single member of such organizations could be found some years ago, now they have huge mosques and madrasas. This clearly shows the strategy of the State to divert the movement in Balochistan along religious lines.

However, the limitations of the  armed struggle against the State are also now clear to the students and youth in Balochistan and they are drawing conclusions from this. It is important to link the struggle against national oppression with the struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation going on in other parts of the country. Some Baloch nationalists have committed crimes against this class solidarity by killing poor workers of other nationalities in Balochistan. This should be condemned and the tactics of the “armed struggle” as a whole should be abandoned. Although student unions responsible for security against terrorist attacks might need arms, but this is totally different from waging an armed guerrilla struggle against the State.

Students will need to work in coordination with labour unions to fight against terrorism and its root cause, which is none other than capitalism.

Labour movement

In recent years many government installations have been attacked, where due to the inefficiency of the security forces and law enforcing departments there have been large numbers of casualties. Whether it was a terrorist attack on Karachi airport in June 2014 or an attack at the hospital in Quetta on 8 August of this year, everywhere it can be seen that there is no basic strategy to deal with such attacks. In the attack on the airport two years ago it was claimed that eight workers of a private company for cargo handling Gerry's Dnata were killed due to freezing, after they ran to hide in a cold storage unit at the airport and couldn't be rescued on time. Similarly many workers at the hospital were killed in Quetta two months ago. This also raises the question of corruption and lack of interest of the management in these departments. The government is unable to provide the necessary basic infrastructure in hospitals required to deal with such attacks. Many dead bodies of cadets killed in the attack the other day had to be carried on the roofs of dilapidated old public transport vehicles by their families due to lack of ambulances.

It is now important that workers’ unions organize themselves to fight these terrorist activities. The government is hell bent on breaking the unions and weakening their power, but at the same time it is unable to provide them security and essential needs to live. It is important that the unions should be well organized and take the responsibility for security themselves. This should be linked to the demands for increasing the role of unions in the affairs of their departments where they can decide on the use of funds and security measures.

Even in private industries we have seen terrorist attacks. In recent investigations of the incident in Baldia town, the factory fire of 2012 it is being considered a terrorist act in which nearly 300 workers of the factory were burnt to death, including women and children. Although no one has been punished yet after four years and the investigations are never ending, it is clear that the workers will have to organize themselves to prevent such attacks in the future.

At the moment less than one percent of the workers in Pakistan are unionized. This has not only increased the exploitation by the capitalists, but has also left them at the mercy of various terrorist organizations. Whenever workers come out for their rights and protest for these demands, they are threatened not only by the Police and other state officials but also by local gangsters supported by terrorist outfits.

It is important that the working class in Pakistan organizes itself to fight against these terrorist threats which are also used by the capitalists to exploit the workers. Many examples can be cited where terrorist organizations have started out  as strike breakers at the behest of capitalists in various industrial sectors. With the patronage of the industrialists and the local Police they prospered to take on strong unions and build yellow unions in the industries. From this they moved on to the political plane, carrying out their activities more ruthlessly connecting with much more serious elements of the state.

It is important that workers are organized in unions and decide themselves about what actions should be taken to guarantee their security and against any terrorist attacks. Any elements supporting the ideology of these terrorists should be dealt with seriously and strict action taken against them. Some fundamentalist organizations, like Jamat-e-Islami which support Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist activities, have infiltrated the labour organizations in the garb of raising the demands of the workers. Experience has proved that in all the movements in which they participated, in the end these organizations always supported the attacks of the State and the capitalists on the working class. These should be strictly dealt with and measures should be taken against such infiltration.

Only with unionized workers and through class solidarity of the working class can this terrorism and all its sponsors can be eliminated.

People’s Committees

It is clear that due to the inefficiency and covert support of the State for this terrorism, people will have to organize themselves to fight it on a local level. People's committees free from any influence of the State authorities need to be built up to fight against these forces of black reaction. In recent years to stop the Taliban, the Army organized many people's militias to fight these fundamentalists. The problem was that all these militias under the supervision of the Army were controlled by tribal leaders and huge landowners who had their own vested interests. It is important that Committees formed to fight this terrorism would also have to fight against such landowners, tribal leaders, local politicians and members of the ruling elite. In many cases these same people have links with the terrorist organizations and are involved in their funding. Some might have differences with any one specific terrorist organization and use people to rally around them to fight that organization. But in the end their prime motive is to defend their own property and privileges. It is therefore important that people's committees be controlled by workers and peasants, while all elements supporting these fundamentalists should be removed. These committees at local level need to discuss not only the security of their area and the measures that need to be taken, but they also need to discuss how to fight against the ideology of these terrorist organizations.

Such committees would also have to fight against the influence of the state authorities and local Police which are covertly supporting these terrorists. With the passage of time it is becoming clear that these terrorist attacks will increase and the only way of ensuring the security of their families, is that the people themselves need to take revolutionary steps. It cannot be left to corrupt state departments or private security companies - who pay inhuman wages to their employees - to secure us from these terrorists.

All this raises the need for a political party, which not only supports these measures but also exposes the real causes of this terrorism and fights to put an end to them. We have seen that the decay of capitalism globally is destroying the fabric of society everywhere. In the Middle East it is clear that these rivers of blood and tears cannot be stopped through any military intervention or imperialist war. Only by removing capitalism and fighting against all the imperialist powers through a class war can this bloodshed be brought to an end.

The present wave of terrorist attacks is a by-product of the policies of the ruling classes around the globe. To end this, it is necessary to put an end to the cruel and corrupt ruling class and their rotten state. This can be only done through a socialist revolution. This will be the revenge for the killings of thousands of innocent people who have lost their lives because the society in which they were living was unable to give them security. It is important that after every terrorist attack we do not just shed tears for the killed, but we move forward with a firm resolve to build the forces for a revolution to overthrow the capitalist system which breeds terrorism.

(Lahore, 26 October 2016)

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