As if there were not already excruciating misery for the working classes in Pakistan, the massive rise in electricity tariffs and the prices of petroleum products will wreak havoc on an already impoverished populace of this tragic country.
This tyrannous attack lays bare the callous and brutal character of the ruling classes and the current Sharif government. The victims of the natural disasters, from the havoc of the floods to the catastrophic earthquake in Baluchistan in which almost a thousand perished, belong to the oppressed classes. The scourge of fundamentalist terrorism also devastates predominantly the poor and the deprived. The victims of state repression and those convicted by the law are also those who cannot afford to buy justice and don’t have a social status that provides connections with the bureaucracy, unlike those from the moneyed classes who end up getting off scot free for some of the most heinous crimes due to their capacity to buy off state officials.
This unending list of the miseries and agonies for ordinary folk does not end here. Their repression and exploitation is being intensified by every new regime with a remorseless avalanche of social and economic attacks. The recent exorbitant and vicious price rises are a continuation of the brutal acts of economic terrorism practiced in this country for generations. This terrorism was already pulverising the lives of the sorrowful inhabitants of the land long before fundamentalist terror and the turmoil of mafia warfare came into the limelight. After sixty six years of so -called independence the conditions of the people of Pakistan have continuously worsened. But in the last few decades the dim flame of hope for a better future amongst the masses has flickered and been extinguished.
The social and economic conditions of the masses are harrowing. Eighty two per cent of the population has to resort to non-scientific medication. Forty four per cent of the children being born have stunted growth. Almost half a million mothers die every year due to obstetric complications and a lack of health facilities. More than half the children, mostly girls, do not get to go to school. The oppression of women and their social harassment and suffocation is at its worst. The oppressed nationalities are being subjected to state terrorism. The poor peasants are in chains and the odious bonded labour is in practice in blatant defiance of the laws and regulations. Unemployment is rising by more than a million annually. And if these statistics were not enough, the latest UN report on care for the elderly places Pakistan last in the world.
The incumbent regime of the Muslim League came into power not as a ray of hope but due to the despair of the masses and the extreme disillusionment with the previous PPP led coalition regime. The PML on the other hand is the traditional party of the Pakistani ruling classes. Hence, it is no surprise it is a regime of the rich for the rich and by the rich.
The same is true for the bourgeois democracy as this is a useful tool to continue to inflict economic disasters upon the masses. None other than Allama Sir Mohammed Iqbal highlighted the fact that the Muslim league represented the interests of the reactionary elite. Probably in his last letter to Mohammad Ali Jinnah almost a year before his death, Iqbal astutely pointed out the real class character of the Muslim league. In this letter dated 28th of May 1937 he wrote, “The (Muslim) League will have to finally decide whether it will remain a body of representing the upper classes of Indian Muslims or the Muslim masses, who so far, with good reason, have taken no interest in it. Personally, I believe that a political organisation, which gives no promise of improving the lot of the ordinary Muslims, cannot attract our masses. Under the new constitution the higher posts go to the sons of the upper classes; the smaller ones go to the friends or relatives of the Ministers. Our political institutions have never thought of improving the lot of the Muslims generally.”
Ever sine the inception of Pakistan, Iqbal’s analysis has become ever more true. Even the military dictators adorned the Muslim League Shirwani to attain a civilian garb for their despotic regimes. The present regime and its predecessors are inflicting these tyrannous measures not because they are sadistic (which is true) but are compelled by the necessities of the system that they represent and benefit from. The ruling classes have miserably failed to build a modern industrialised Pakistan. Rather the uneven and combined patterns of development have led to an overall deterioration in the situation and this crisis is woven into the rotting social fabric of this country.
They, the ruling classes, cannot survive financially and politically if they don’t evade taxes, steal electricity and plunder the state. Their very existence has deep roots in the morass of corruption. The shutdown of the US government, the lingering slump in Europe and Japan and the crash of the growth rates of Brazil, India, China and the other so- called emerging economies, expose the organic and acute crisis of capitalism on a world scale. Pakistani capitalism has never had any healthy growth in its history. It is a story of the obstinate deterioration and decay of society. A malaise has set in and the intensification of this crisis gives rise to chauvinism, bigotry, religious terror and fanaticism and other evils that are eroding human existence in this society.
The masses are being chastised to perpetuate the rule of a system that has become historically obsolete and economically redundant. But the buck is not going to stop here. The only prospects are of a further aggravation of this crisis and that means more attacks and the pillaging of the oppressed classes as they will be burdened more and more with spiralling domestic and external debts, a rapidly depreciating currency and colossal deficits. The question is for how long and to what extent the masses are going to tolerate and endure this rancorous coercion. Leaders soaked in parasitic capitalism dominate the present political arena. The ex-lefts capitulated decades ago.
Does this mean that this society is destined to the fate of barbarism, the elements of which are already dangerously obtrusive and palpable? The only resistance against such an Armageddon will have to come from the working classes however atomised these may be at the present moment in time. Once the proletariat enters the arena of history, it will also then be able to carve out the party and the leadership necessary to transform society.