Pakistan: New wave of struggle

On 10th September, 2000 the PPP held a workers convention at Lahore. The last such convention was held 28 years ago. The PPP chairperson Ms. Benazir Bhutto, who has been declared a "proclaimed offender" on corruption charges by the present military regime, is presently based in London and hence could not be present. The convention was held to reinvigorate the PPP's dwindling support. The party's social base and active support have been severely eroded due to its dismal performance during its last two tenures in power. The right wing policies of these PPP regimes resulted in a sharp decline in the living standards of the masses. This resulted in disillusionment and demoralisation specially amongst the advanced workers and the party activists. But with the advent of the right wing regime of Nawaz Sharif in 1997 and the present military dictatorship in October 1999, the attacks on the masses further intensified at the behest of the IMF.

At this stage the oppressed masses are looking for a way out of the misery they are suffering due to the severe crisis of the present capitalist/ feudal system. More than 12,000 party activists and workers converged from all over the country at the convention in Lahore.

They were hoping to find a radical solution of their problems from the party. But the majority of the speakers toed the official party line and tried to water down the sentiments and hatred of the masses against the regime and the exploitative system. Left wing leaders and activists were denied the chance to speak. However when the convention was coming to a close the pressure from the activists became so intense that they forced Ghulam Abbas, a former MP and popular left wing leader of the PPP onto the stage and the party bureaucracy had no choice but to give way. Ghulam Abbas, a student leader in the past, is famous for his fiery and revolutionary speeches. In this speech he condemned the military dictatorship and exposed the massive corruption of military generals involved in shady deals and the kick backs they received in arms deals. He explained how the army was involved in drug trafficking and black money. He also called for elections of army officers and of the military Chief from the ranks. Comrade Abbas attributed the misery, poverty and disease to the severe crisis of capitalism which has plagued Pakistani society. He also attacked the party leaders who were representing and belonged to the landlord and capitalist classes.

During the earlier speeches of right wing PPP leaders, the party workers had been asked by several speakers to raise their hands and take an oath of loyalty to the party leadership and accept Benazir Bhutto as the life chairperson of the PPP. In his speech Ghulam Abbas said: "We the workers and the poor have taken oaths of loyalty to the party and its programme in 1967 when it was founded and remained loyal to it ever since. It is the leadership of the party who has time and again betrayed the Party and its founding revolutionary programme".

Then he asked the leaders sitting on the rostrum to rise and raise their hands to take an oath that they will not betray Party activists, workers and the PPP 1970 manifesto (which calls for a Socialist Revolution). His speech stunned the convention and the leaders sitting on the stage were in a state of shock, their faces pale with the fear of a left wing resurgence in the Party.

The workers on the floor had tears in their eyes. They were hearing what their hearts wanted to say for such a long time. The speech of comrade Ghulam Abbas was punctuated by the slogans of "Revolution, Revolution - Socialist Revolution", "Down with Capitalism" and the whole convention was emotionally charged. His speech changed the whole course and mood of the convention and shattered the attempt of the bureaucracy to water down the mass sentiment and to stop a new wave of radicalisation surging in the Party. Immediately after the convention the President of PPP district Rajanpur (South Punjab), a left winger, Ch. Sarwar Abbas, was arrested by the police. He was charged with raising slogans against the military dictatorship and being a threat to public order. He had led a large and very vocal leftwing delegation from the South Punjab to the convention. On the night of 12 September at 02.30 hours the police surrounded and raided the house of Ghulam Abbas at Lahore. They climbed on the roof and then forcibly entered the bedroom of Ghulam Abbas by breaking the front door. Although no physical resistance was offered still the Punjab police exhibited its notorious brutality. Ghulam Abbas and Ch. Sarwar Abbaswere first taken to a police station and then to the infamous Kot Lakhpat prison.

The news of these arrests created a stir. The workers and students thronged to the court building where the bail petition was to be heard. The international pressure mounted and there was widespread condemnation of the arrests, with messages being sent from as far as Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Argentina and several other countries. Ultimately the regime had to give in and comrade Ghulam Abbas and ch. Sarwar Abbas were released on bail on the eve of 15 September.

Nevertheless, on 14 September another case was registered in Rajanpur against six PPP leaders who were known for their socialist views. They were indicted on the charge of spreading hatred against the armed forces in the speeches made at a regional PPP convention at Rajanpur on 28 August. One comrade, Jam Nasir, has been arrested and is in prison. Those accused include Rauf Khan Lund, the general secretary of PPP district Rajanpur and a well known national left wing figure in the PPP. His outspoken Marxist revolutionary views are gaining popularity amongst the rank and file and the youth. He has defied the dictatorship and publicly opposed the right wing, anti-working class policies of the PPP leadership. Rauf Lund also led the mass peasant revolt which erupted in Southern Punjab during the cotton crisis in September 1999. His house has been raided. The other accused are Abdul Qadar Shaheen, Ch. Sarwar Abbas, Mirza Tariq and Rana Shaukat. All these comrades have gone underground and are trying to evade arrest. This is the first political repression by the regime where those being subjected to state brutality are not even accused of corruption charges and are being prosecuted simply for articulating their point of view.

All these comrades wish to express their revolutionary gratitude to all the comrades around the world who have sent messages and organised activities in their support and solidarity. This is the beginning of a new wave of struggle against the present military dictatorship. Rauf Lund and other comrades accused have issued a statement vowing to fight state terrorism and have pledged to continue the struggle to its ultimate destiny - A Socialist Revolution in Pakistan and throughout the subcontinent.