After sixty-two years of its existence, Pakistan has gone from a 'nation' searching for a country to a country searching for a nation. Forty years after the 1968-69 revolution, the masses are still yearning for emancipation, perhaps more desperately than ever before.
"In the history of society there have been many methods of class rule. This is especially true of capitalist society, with many peculiar and variegated forms: republic, monarchy, fascism, democracy, dictatorship, Bonaprtist, centralised and federal, to give some examples."
Ted Grant (1913-2006) 1
"If we are not to mock at common sense and history, it is obvious that we cannot speak of pure democracy" as long as different classes exist; we can only speak of class democracy... Pure democracy" is the mendacious phrase of a liberal who wants to fool the workers... Bar capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor".
V.I. Lenin (1870-1924) 2
After sixty-one years of its existence, Pakistan has gone from a 'nation' searching for a country to a country searching for a nation. Forty years after the 1968-69 revolution, the masses are still yearning for emancipation, perhaps more desperately than ever before. The agony has intensified, the social and economic wounds are festering and lives of the working classes and the dispossessed are nothing but torment; anguish and anxiety have become the social norm. It is not surprising that The Economist in January 2008 wrote of Pakistan as "The most dangerous place on Earth".
In her 1991 book, 'Waiting for Allah', the correspondent of the Financial Times, Christina Lamb, described the conditions in Pakistan in the following lines:
"Twelve thousand more people will be born in Pakistan this day. Two thousand will be dead within a year. More of them will learn to use a gun than to speak the national language. Only a third will have access to clean drinking water and only 15% will have sewerage. A quarter will go to school. Many will become heroin addicts. This is a country killing its own future.
"It is in this moment, in which the day has not quite decided how it will treat mankind, that Pakistan is trapped. 'Islam in danger' was the cry raised to justify the necessity of dividing India and inventing a country for Indian Muslims. Today in their very own homeland Muslims need safeguarding from each other.
"(...) the needs of the masses will remain ignored because the gulf between the two groups is too wide. It would take a revolutionary to challenge the entrenched power structures. The only other way for these to be dismantled now would be for the country to break up".3
Since these words were written the conditions in Pakistan have greatly deteriorated; wars and insurgencies are raging in several areas. US Imperialism's 'war on terror' has become a curse for this country. After devastating Iraq and Afghanistan, the Imperialists are now bombing and killing in the North West and other regions of Pakistan. Suicide bombings, fundamentalist frenzy, bloodshed and destruction have made Pakistan a scary land for people around the world. There is no respite for the masses. In the first six months of this democratic government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party there has been an avalanche of attacks on the living standards of the already impoverished masses. The cost of basic needs has sky-rocketed. There has been a more rapid price hike of basic commodities in this period than any other period in the country's troubled history. Unemployment and poverty have surpassed all records. Health, education, water, infrastructure, transport and other basic facilities are in a despicable state. The life of common people is but an agonised existence. And still these miserable conditions continue to deteriorate.
After the 1968-69 revolution, the 1971 war with India, and the break up of the country, the PPP government under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ushered in a number of reforms. These reforms, introduced in various fields such as labour laws, land, education, health etc., were the most radical reforms in the history of Pakistan. On the one hand these reforms were the by-product of the 1968-69 revolution, while on the other hand they created a certain social base and support for the PPP and Z. A. Bhutto. However, in the conditions of Pakistan's capitalism their implementation and benefits to the masses remained very limited. The large scale nationalisations under the first PPP regime were also limited, as multi-national corporations were exempted from these takeovers by the State. Secondly, they were not given over to workers' collective democratic control. It was the civilian bureaucracy that took over the running of these industrial units. Although sections of the Pakistani capitalist class were hurt by these nationalisations, which included some Pakistani banks, insurance companies and other sectors, capitalism as a socio-economic system remained intact.
The radical land reforms introduced by the new government were also only partially effective. The landlords collaborated with the state bureaucracy and got away with large portions of their estates by cooking the books and other corrupt methods. In any case, the structures of the capitalist state and armed forces remained intact. To have their revenge on the PPP government, the capitalist infused inflationary trends in the economy that further minimised the benefits of these reforms for the downtrodden masses. The Oil shock of 1974 and the recession in the world economy further aggravated the crisis of the Pakistan economy. The failure of the reforms to deliver, the rising inflation, and increasing crisis, started a process of disillusionment and lull amongst the masses that were supporting the PPP government. The army, as soon as it came back into its standing, launched its adventurist aggression in Baluchistan in 1973-74, which exacerbated the national question and gave rise to instability and intensified the political crisis.
The Americans were also unhappy with Bhutto: to ascertain his mass support he had taken steps that had annoyed Washington. A right-wing alliance, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), was forged with the backing of the CIA. On the charge of rigging the March 1977 elections an agitation group named Nizam-e-Mustafa (System of Prophet) was launched, again with the connivance of the CIA. Finally the PPP government was over thrown and Bhutto was deposed by the military coup of 5 July 1977. This coup was led by the COAS (Chief of the Army Staff) Gen. Zia ul Haq. Bhutto's popularity again began to surge throughout the country. The dictatorship was threatened, so Bhutto was arrested and after a shadowy trial he was executed on the gallows. This judicial murder by the brutal Zia dictatorship was in reality the revenge of the Pakistani ruling class as Bhutto had given them some scratches with his nationalisations in the 1972-74 period.
General Zia's dictatorship
General Zia ul Haq's eleven year despotic rule was perhaps the most dreadful period for the masses of Pakistan. He used Islam as a battering ram to crush the left wing, PPP workers, trade union and student activists, and the poor peasants trying to struggle for a change.
One of the most brutal, murderous acts of the Zia dictatorship was the massacre of the workers of the Colony Textile Mills in Multan in January 1978. The author was a participant in this struggle. A close friend and one of the most militant leaders of the workers in Multan, Mohammad Shafi was martyred in this bestiality. There were thirteen thousand workers in the colony textile mills. It was perhaps the largest and most profitable textile factory in Pakistan. After the reforms of 1969 and 1972 the workers used to get annual bonuses in November or December every year, equal to about three months of their salary. The workers knew that in the year 1977 the production and profits on the mill were much higher than in the previous years, so they were expecting a higher bonus. But in July 1977, now that Bhutto had been overthrown and a Military dictatorship imposed, the bosses used the Martial Law regime to deprive the workers of their rights.
Due to the terror of the military regime several traditional trade unionists and the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agent) union had capitulated to the owners. They were even negotiating with the textile mill bosses for a far smaller bonus that year. November 1977 passed by, and December was coming to an end, but still no sign of any bonus! Anxiety amongst the workers began to rise; they had waited all year for this bonus to help make ends meet. The bosses were showing an attitude of contemptuous indifference while the discontent amongst the workers was turning into a wave of frustration and anger. Talk of taking some action was going round on the factory floors.
On the morning of 29 December 1977 the workers arriving for the first shift went to their machines but refused to work. The workers who had done the night shift refused to leave the premises and sat down in the compound of the mill. A 'tools-down' strike had commenced. There was no violence yet the strike was complete. The bosses sent in their goons and police to threaten the workers and break the strike. The workers refused. The persuasion of the trade union leaders also failed to get the workers to start work. These parlays continued for the next three days. On 2 January 1978 the daughter of the owner of Colony Textile Mills, Mughees A. Sheikh was getting married. The mill owner was a very close friend of Gen. Zia, who had flown in from Rawalpindi to attend the ceremony. This further aggravated the already tense situation. The news spread among the workers that the dowry being given to the daughter by the owner was worth at least ten times the bonus that was due for the 13000 workers of the Colony Textile Mills.
At almost midday the workers who were on a tools-down strike were moving towards the factory's main gate for their daily midday gate meeting. A rumour reached the ear of Zia ul Haq that the workers were coming to attack the wedding ceremony. Shaking with hatred and rage, the general stood up and contemptuously ordered the workers to be crushed, which was exactly what the agent provocateur and the bosses' goons had wanted. The police, who had cordoned off the mills for three days, and the paramilitary forces of the state, took up their positions then all hell broke loose!
The paramilitaries started firing directly at the workers who were gathering for a peaceful gate meeting. In a scene of indescribable horror workers screamed and stampeded over the bloodstained corpses of their workmates, crushing many others as they desperately tried to evade the carnage. Blood was everywhere, streaming from the bodies of the workers whose only crime was to ask for their basic rights.
The firing continued uninterrupted for three hours. By six-o'clock in the evening, when darkness had set in, the state forces had 'conquered' the textile mill workers.
In the factory compound and lawns the state forces had prevented the bodies of the injured from being taken to hospital. Those who tried to pick them up were hampered by the police. Dozens had died on the spot. Several injured had died due to excessive loss of blood because they were prevented from being rushed for medical treatment.
In the darkness of the night the state forces, without differentiating between the dead and the injured, brought up trucks and threw the bodies into them. Some were thrown in the huge factory gutter, while others were buried without coffins in the nearby village of BagaSher.
In spite of the terror of this ruthless state, hundreds of workers and students (including the author) kept on taking the injured to the hospitals and tried to save the lives of as many workers as possible.
Later on an effort was made to remove the bodies of the workers from the gutter and place them elsewhere, in order to arrange for their proper burial with their comrades and relatives present.
There are varying estimates of the casualties that occurred during this massacre. There were eighty bicycles standing in the factory stand, the workers who once rode them to work had gone for ever, never to ride back to their homes in the shanty towns. The press, under Martial Law, reported 18 deaths and 25 injured. Most workers thought that more than two hundred were killed. The workers action committee that had emerged during this struggle estimated that 133 were killed and more than 400 injured in this brutal, wanton slaughter by the military dictatorship. Instead of arresting the goons of the bosses, who had, along with the state forces, fired on the workers, along with the manager and the owner, Mughees A. Sheikh, who instigated this massacre, the regime didn't even allow a case to be made against them. In its callousness the state arrested and charged with murder the members of the Workers Action Committee, some of whom had been killed in the massacre. Those who escaped it were prosecuted by the state. Those arrested included Amir Ali, Nur Din, Mukhtar Shah, Mohammad Yousaf, Mohammad Sharif and Mohammad Ramzan.
But, even after this bloody massacre, the workers still had the courage to come out in protests and demonstrations, after which the administration had to release most of the arrested members of the Committee. Due to these protests, on 4 January 1978 the Martial Law administrator of Multan said that an inquiry would be held. The workers leaders' refused to join the inquiry in the local Martial Law head quarters, and demanded that if any genuine inquiry was to be held it should not indulge Martial Law authorities; the workers steadfastly refused to recognise the legality of the regime. They demanded that an inquiry should be held at the factory gates, conducted only by lawyers and judges who would be nominated by the workers of the factory.
The other industries that faced similar repressive acts in these months were: Premier Textile Mills, Lyallpur (now Faislabad); Sutlej Cotton Mills, Okara; Rustum Sohrab Factory, Shahdra (Lahore); and the ADC Workshop at Quetta. But, if we take into account the eleven long brutal years of this dictatorship, the acts of tyranny and repression of the workers continued throughout the whole period.
The nightmare of Zia ul Haq's dictatorship produced more martyrs, and even more zealous fighters, than perhaps any other period of the country's history. The most formidable challenge of a mass uprising that the Zia dictatorship faced was the historic movement of 1983, mainly centred in Sindh.
The MRD and Sindh
The main opposition parties had formed an alliance named the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). It included several small left parties, right-wing parties, nationalists, and even some smaller Islamist parties. The Pakistan People's Party was the main party in this alliance. This alliance was formed on 6 February 1981. Its programme was limited mainly to the restoration of civilian rule and constitution. However, the MRD movement could not take off due to the hijacking of a PIA plane by AZO (Al Zulfiqar), an organisation that based itself on armed struggle to overthrow the military dictatorship (although it was a successful operation, and was able to acquire the freedom of 40 mainly PPP and left-wing activists from the Pakistani prisons). At Kabul airport they had to shoot a military officer to press for their demands. Led by Mir Murtaza Bhutto, a PPP left wing leader and elder son of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, they wanted to use the armed struggle to stimulate and inspire a mass movement against the Zia dictatorship. However, in the immediate aftermath of the successful hijacking bid the movement didn't erupt.
Zia further intensified his repression. But the movement did erupt in 1983. It was a widespread movement, but the betrayal by the right-wing leaders in the MRD restricted it mainly to the interior Sindh. Had the main urban centres joined in with same zeal, the Zia regime could have been overthrown, perhaps with revolutionary consequences. This isolation of the movement in Sindh made it easier for the state to increase the repression to crush the movement. But there was heroic resistance by the workers, poor peasants and the youth of Sindh against the dictatorship. In spite of the genocide carried out by the Pakistan Army in Sindh, this uprising was the toughest threat Zia ul Haq had to face during his eleven years of despotic rule. In this movement more than 1200 people were killed and thousands injured by the army in Sindh. They used military gunship helicopters, even in the smallest villages, to crush the resilience of the masses in the most backward areas of the country. More than 20,000 people were arrested and a large number of them were still languishing in jails when Benaizr came to power. Although this movement in the cities, towns, and villages of Sindh was unable to overthrow the Zia dictatorship, it had jolted the State apparatus. It had an enormous impact internationally and exposed the brutalities of the Zia despotism to the whole world. It was in reality this movement of 1983 in Sindh that had forced Gen. Zia to non-party parliamentary elections in 1985. This movement was the main revolt from below that had opened up cracks within the regime.
This brutal dictatorship introduced draconian medieval Islamic laws to carry out a general repression and intrude into the very personal and private matters of individual's lives. Public flogging was carried out on more than 80,000 people, inflicting an atmosphere of fear and terror upon society. Atrocious laws were introduced against women, which included the infamous Hudood ordinance that deprived women of the right to testify against rapists. According to these laws the testament of a woman witness was considered to be only half that of man. Even laws for stoning women to death for adultery were promulgated by this despotic obscurantist regime.
Student and labour unions were banned, and any political dissent was crushed with the brutal might of the State. One of the first acts of this dictatorship was to restore to the capitalists those industries that Bhutto had expropriated in the 1972-73 period. Through martial law the capitalists and landlords were back at the helm of society with a vengeance. It was basically the counter-revolution to crush the gains made by the toiling masses of Pakistan through the 1968-69 revolution.
But the main sponsor that propped up and perpetuated this draconian regime was U.S. Imperialism. Zia ul Haq was the main beneficiary of the geo-political situation that arose in this region after the soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
Zia-ul-Haq was an officer in the armoured corps, who had been trained in the highest American military training centre at Fort Bragg. He said his prayers to God, but his actions were subordinate to his real master, the United States of America. For example, in 1970 he headed a military operation in Amman in which 18,000 Palestinians were massacred. This operation, planned by bloodthirsty Israeli and US experts, was undertaken to save the US and Israeli agent, King Hussein of Jordan, from the revolutionary uprising of Palestinians in Amman. But it was Zia, then a Brigadier, who executed this brutal massacre. It did not run counter to his Islamic ideals and he did not hesitate to slaughter the Muslims 'over there'. In that period, the various Islamic revivalist movements were deeply connected to US imperialism.
The dynamics of governance under a dictatorship led Zia to rely in a cohort of like-minded and liable officers whom he would rotate out of office periodically, before they struck roots or gained too much influence. He plied these officers with gifts and favours, producing a new crop of millionaire generals who became part of the vested interest group that ran the country for over a decade.
"Zia used Islam with a cynical disregard, using state collected wealth taxes, (known as zakat), as largesse for political purposes. The immediate beneficiaries of these actions were the mullahs and the religious parties, specifically the Jamat-i-Islami".4
Zia ordered his military commanders to select and appoint Nazim-us-Salat or prayer leaders in their areas of control, who would ensure that people performed their daily prayers according to the prescribed ritual.
The active involvement of the army high command and intelligence services, particularly the ISI, in the conduct of the Afghan war, the ISI's direct and unfettered access to overseas financing from the CIA and private and official Saudi sources, and involvement in the making and breaking of domestic political parties and alliances gave the ISI a permanent role in foreign policy.
"Inflow of arms and drug money to finance the Afghan jihad produced its own blowback effects. Drug use skyrocketed in Pakistan. Drug smuggling became a major activity, drawing into its trap even the military, whose National Logistics Cell (NLC) trucks carried arms from the port of Karachi to the north and eventually to the Afghan frontier and sometimes commandeered by corrupt officials to carry heroin down to the airports and the seaport".5
As the fighting against the Soviets escalated and arms supplies began arriving from the West, the Middle East and even China, a new 'Kalashnikov Culture' was born in Pakistan. Even the ISI was not immune to the temptations of making money from the misuse of the arms supplies for the Afghan jihad.
Once the financial and supply networks had been set up, the ISI, and not the Pakistan Army, took on the principal role for the execution of the covert war in Afghanistan.
Direct collaboration between the CIA and the ISI also increased, particularly between the CIA Director William Casey and Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rahman, the ISI boss.
The CIA also succeeded over time in making some direct contributions to their own favourite commanders, including Abdul Haq, as did the Saudis. Among the conduits were Saudi charities, including those run by a young Osama bin Laden. The CIA did not shrink from direct bribery also, either directly or through cut-outs.
The British and French were also entering the bribery game by getting into the good books of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tajik commander, who reported to Rabbani in Peshawar.
Soon after President Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the US opened up the taps for aid to Pakistan, crafting a $3.2 billion plan for the next five years.
"Zia was now suddenly in the catbird seat, calling the shots on other issues too, such as the return to democracy".6
The covert aid via the CIA continued to flow at speed. Zia favoured the idea of a referendum that would give a semblance of legality to his rule and perpetuate power.
"Zia met a stream of objections to this idea from his own military commanders. At one formation commanders' meeting, various officers conveyed to him the 'shame that many officers feel in wearing their uniforms in public, since the masses had come to associate the army with dictatorship and harsh Islamic justice. Many of these officers were sub-martial administrators, who had to deal with summary punishments meted out by military courts, which included public floggings and lashings".7
In a speech to the nation on 1 December 1984, Zia spelled out the referendum plan and said that a 'Yes' vote would mean that the people had confidence in him and he would stand elected as president for another five years. But the question that was put to the people was not so direct. Rather, on 19 December, the people of Pakistan were asked to respond to a question that was carefully crafted to ensure victory for the only person whose name was on that referendum:
"Do you endorse the process initiated by the President of Pakistan, General Mohammad Ziaul Haq, for bringing the laws of Pakistan in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Koran and Sunnah".8
Estimates of the turnout were a fraction of the official numbers. Zia thus became a civilian president but retained his uniform at the same time.
Benazir Bhutto had been released from prison and had left the country in 1983 to seek medical treatment abroad for an ear infection.
Zia had tried to change the ethos of the army, making Islamic ritual and teachings part of the army's day-to-day activities. He had changed the motto of the army from Jinnah's 'Unity, Faith, and Discipline' to 'Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi sabeelillah' (Faith, Obedience to God, and War in the path of Allah) soon after taking over as COAS in 1976.
"Apart from elevating the status of the regimental maulvis or religious teachers, he allowed members of the fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat (preachers) to preach at the PMA (Pakistan Military Academy). It was routine for Tablighi Jamaat representatives to deliver the khutba (sermon) after Friday prayers at the PMA in Kakul till 1984. In 1985, the new commandant, Major General Asif Nawaz, forbade the Tablighis' entry, stating: 'This is a military academy, not a seminary!' I was visiting PMA, Kakul when this occurred".9
Jamat-i-Islami took advantage of the changing demographics and nature of the army by sending out directives to its members to try to sign up for the army by taking the Inter Services Selection Board examination.
On 17 August 1988, General Zia was killed in a plane crash near Bahawalpur in his special security C-130 air force plane. He was accompanied by a host of senior officers of the Pakistan Army, including the Committee of Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, as well as the US ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel and the US defence attached Brigadier General Herbert M. Warson. None of the 32 people on board the C-130 survived.
There was rejoicing in the streets of Pakistan. It was a jubilant mood across the country. The oppressed masses felt relief and freedom from the longest and the most vicious dictatorship in the history of Pakistan.
At the height of his power and tyranny Zia had perhaps entered into the domain of insanity. He was so far away from the realities on the ground that he started considering himself as a demigod. He was becoming too expensive even for his masters in Washington. Moreover he was defying them on certain important policy matters such as the Geneva agreement on the Afghan conflict and Pakistan's nuclear enrichment program. He had become a liability for the American's that they had wanted to shed off.
The masses detested him. His reliance on the backward sections of society to gain a social base had crumbled. The economy was in a mess and the country was paralysed by sectarian warfare, drugs and social unrest. A million people thronged the streets of Lahore to welcome Benazir, daughter of the leader that had emerged from the 1968-69 revolution, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After his assassination through the gallows he had become a traditional legend for the struggle of the toiling masses against oppression. The Pakistan State and army could not have stood up to the rising tide of the masses from below. They had no choice but to bring Benazir into the government to help quell the unrest.
The Americans and their 'desi' (local) strategists in Islamabad had already done their homework. Benazir had been released by Zia and allowed to go abroad in 1984 by individuals and forces sharing mutual contacts. There is little doubt that London and Washington were involved. Within a couple pf days she had flown from London to USA. There she met with US congressmen, senators and officials of the State department. Michael Galbrith, Benazir's close friend at Harvard was the main arbiter between her and an Imperialist power which was involved in the assassination of Bhutto, and whose daughter was now being groomed to replace him, when the masses rose again to overthrow this exploitative system.
The PPP leadership had gone to the extent of calling those party activists burning US flags at the mammoth rally of 10 April 1986 in Lahore as agents of the dictator Zia ul Haq.
It was no secret under whose influence Zia had been persuaded to allow her back to Pakistan in 1986, even permitting her to hold large rallies. But it also exposed the internal decay of his regime. Ever since Benazir's return to Pakistan in 1986 the General had felt the Americans were trying to oust him.
Benazir had been lobbying in Washington, where she had developed powerful backers and was getting herself prime coverage in the Western press.
The plane crash in which Zia and the army top brass were killed had a shattering effect on the confidence of the army and the State. After the somewhat tailored elections Benazir Bhutto took oath as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan. Her supporters let off fireworks and danced on the streets. Most did not know that their expressions would contort from jubilation to sullen anger in the short span of twenty months.
At the historic oath taking ceremony the tall, cold-eyed American ambassador stood aloof in the mirrored and wood-panelled room, carefully watching proceedings in which he had had a not unsubtle hand. Already starting to acquire his nickname as Viceroy of Pakistan, it was only when Ambassador Robert Oakley had called on Benazir for tea that the decision was made public that she might become Prime Minister.
Could Bhutto trust the superpower whose aid was so essential but whom she believed to be behind the removal and by implication the death, of her father? After all, she'd had a hard time stopping her supporters burning US flags in the election run-up.
ISI chief General Hamid Gul had been behind the propaganda campaign of the right wing opposition, creating the IDA (Islamic Democratic Alliance) which, in an attempt to denounce her Western background, air-dropped leaflets showing her dancing in a Paris nightclub and her mother clad in sequined Western evening dress waltzing with President Ford as evidence of their 'anti-Islamic' behaviour.
Benazir claimed there would be no vengeance, but not all her party felt the same. Some of them there had suffered indescribable tortures, and many had endured lashings and electric shocks while forced to exist in the midst of disease and their own excreta in beetle and rat-infested, suffocating cells in the notorious Lahore Fort and other torture centres of the state.
Only six months earlier a group of army officers had been beaten up in broad daylight in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, showing just how discredited the army uniform had become.
Benazir was reluctant to accept power-sharing in the broad-based government of national consensus that Gen. Aslam Beg (the army chief) and the president Ghulam Ishaq recommended. Some PPP leaders advised sitting in opposition, but given Pakistan's coup-ridden history, she did not believe they could rely on the prospect of a future election.
She had dinner with Beg, a meeting with Gul, and tea with the US ambassador, saying the right thing each time. The West stepped up its pressure, she made the front cover of Time magazine, and editorials of leading international bourgeois papers warned that she must be allowed to take over. Ultimately, perhaps, it was the fear of the volatile province of Sindh erupting and leading to the further break-up of the country which was crucial in persuading the army to accept her. But above all it was the fear of the mass movement of the working class.
The delay before she was given office, and the promises she had had to make, had only served to confirm the public perception that their rulers in Pakistan did not come to power through popular will but because powerful institutions decide that they should.
But she was to have less of a free hand than her father. She reassured the US that foreign policy would not change. She had agreed to keep on Gen. Beg as the army chief for three years, General Hamid Gul as the ISI boss and Sahbzada Yaqub Khan, Zia's Foreign Minister to continue.
The army was to have a say in the choice of Defence Minister, a portfolio she ended up nominally retaining, and the large chunk of budget given to defence would be maintained. Contrary to all her rhetoric, the lucrative land and scholarships given to army personnel and their offspring, as well as plum jobs heading public sector corporations on their retirements, continued.
Everyone wanted something. She was already receiving 60,000 applications a day for jobs. Political exiles were returning; her mother wanted her brother Murtaza back from his exile in Syria, but he was wanted in Pakistan for a hijacking.
The provincial election results had been disastrous, leaving Bhutto with no government in the largest province. Punjab, home to 60 percent of the population, was to be governed by Nawaz Sharif, the protégé of Zia, who had never had to struggle for his position.
"The ambiguous results of the 1988 elections, in which neither of the main parties had won a majority, had meant that independent MPs had become a very highly priced commodity, well worth the £100,000 investment it had generally cost them to get elected".10
Benazir had no qualms about adopting the class collaborationist policies that she had learned in the school of right-wing social democracy, mainly through David Owen etc. in Britain and the US democratic senators, during her exile. She also had discussions at the state department and offices of White Hall in London.
"We need winners", Benazir told a crucial meeting of the party hierarchy. "We have to be sure of victory." Party workers who had struggled and suffered for the fight to restore democracy over the last eleven and a half years would be denied tickets in favour of big names who were prepared to join the party even if they had formerly allied with Zia.
"Yusuf Raza Gilani, a minister under Zia, now the Prime Minister was one of those welcomed in, the past apparently forgotten in the rush for power. At one point the committee set up had even approached Jamat-i-Islami, the right wing religious party which had long been the PPP's most vicious enemy and had distributed sweets on the announcement of Bhutto's hanging." 11
Senior PPP members were unhappy albeit temporarily. "I'm not sure if power is worth it on this basis," confided Jehangir Badr one night in Lahore. "We don't know what we represent any more." How could they convince the electorate of Bhutto's assertion that 'the PPP is the only party of the poor and downtrodden.'
"(...) It was not just the old faithfuls who were being forgotten; policies were going by the board too. The party founded on Marxist principles had dropped its street socialism in favour of advocating free market economics and Thatcherite privatization. Ali Bhutto would not have recognized his party."12
PPP workers who not long before had burned American flags at rallies were forced to listen to praise for the country's main benefactor. Bhutto was to present the illusion of change to the people while reassuring the army, civil service, business community and important Western allies that if the party were to win power it would not upset the status quo. The US ambassador had already been quoted in the press, warning against radical economic policies.
When Bhutto became Prime Minister she found that everywhere she went she was mobbed by supporters waving petitions, demanding recompense for their sacrifices during martial law. Ministries in Islamabad would be under daily siege by people waving green, red and black party cards and demanding entry to see their 'People's Minister'.
Committed to cutting development expenditure but the victim of promises made to lure people into the party, Bhutto appointed the biggest cabinet in Pakistan's history and an entire battalion of advisers, more than seventy in all.
On 6 August 1990 Benazir's government was abruptly dismissed by President Ishaq, accused of corruption and maladministration. The State had been able to quash the hopes, derail the movement, and stem the tide of the people through a 'peoples' government. Now it ditched Benazir.
Once more the men in khaki had created a living victim the role Benazir Bhutto played best.
Pakistan's US backers were starting to get edgy. The plot was never meant to be so messy. Benazir was prevailed upon to back down, and made to notice increasing meetings between US diplomats and the opposition. On a trip to Delhi in autumn 1989, the US ambassador Oakley warned the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to expect a change of government next door.
In Pakistan the exuberance which had greeted Bhutto's assumption of office had rapidly dissipated. On few occasions in history has a ruler squandered so much goodwill so quickly. Like her predecessors, Benazir had quickly become obsessed with Machiavelli's axiom that 'the first rule of politics is to stay in power'.
Corruption, always a deeply rooted feature in Pakistani politics, was rife with the return of democracy and more blatant than ever before. Having been on the outside for so long, many of Bhutto's colleagues felt it was their turn to make money, receiving pay offs for passing on lucrative contracts.
Not a move was made to repeal Zia's repressive Hudood ordinance, under which women could be jailed for being raped, even though 3,000 women along with their children were languishing in Pakistani jails for 'crimes' against Hudood. The government had shrunk too from endorsing draft legislation to end the medieval practice of bonded labour.
Time and again the interests of masses who had voted Bhutto in were ignored, even insulted, in order to appease her own Parliamentarians and the mullahs, landlords, imperialist interest and capitalists.
Nawaz Sharif was selected by Zia's Punjab governor and former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ghulam Jilani Khan. First he was installed as the Finance minister in Punjab and later as the Chief Minister. Nawaz Sharif's father Mian Mohammad Sharif was from a small trading background and he had built an industrial enterprise and other financial assets in the typical style that upstart businessmen in Pakistan have been practicing since its inception, in connivance and bribery with the civilian and later on the military bureaucracy.
After Zia had ousted Bhutto in a coup in 1977 he had based himself on these obscurantist small businessmen and industrialists by returning their nationalized factories and small businesses. This strategy to build a social base mainly on the petty bourgeoisie went well with Zia's ruthless Islamisation process and attaining a support base for capitalism. Mian Mohammad Sharif, Nawaz Sharif's father was one of the first Industrialists who got his assets back after the imposition of Martial Law. He was obviously a die hard supporter of Zia and tried to involve the new Military rulers to push his business further.
He offered a generous shares partnership in his business enterprises to the new Punjab Governor, General Jilani. Like most senior officers, Jilani was also very much interested in his indulgence in finance capital. Under Zia's dictatorship the influx of capital into the army and the involvement of the officers of the armed forces became rampant. Mian Mohammad Sharif's offers were so generous that they surpassed even General Jilani's highest expectations. He felt an obligation towards the older Mian and wanted to repay him for his generosity by inducting one of his sons into politics under the canopy of Martial Law. As the story goes, of the many sons of Mian Sharif the one not involved in any worthwhile business, and who could be spared for politics was, Nawaz Sharif.
Supposedly Jilani liked the choice. Nawaz Sharif was mediocre, raw, and could be indoctrinated into any political ideology to give credibility to the Military regime; that didn't need much calibre, sharpness and creativity anyway. Nawaz fitted the bill almost perfectly. The money, the media, and the State were always there to project him as Zia's protégé. The military minds of those officers of the army running the Intelligence and other departments are, through design, not likely to have a consciousness or creative instincts beyond a certain constructed thought and imagination. Their policies are formulated by intellectuals and experts who themselves are based at the most on the philosophy of logical positivism and empirical outlook. The military mindset is made to be subservient. Control by discipline of fear and subservience is inculcated into their psychology; the whole chain of command is based on these lines.
In any case, the Army is not a democracy of any sort; even the level of Athenian democracy cannot be allowed within the structures of the bourgeois army. The senior commander doesn't have to consult with his junior colleagues. Command is final and unquestionable in Military operations. All the military institutions, even the likes of Sand Hurst in Britain and Fort Bragg in the USA, indoctrinate such ideas and training in the courses they run for officers from different countries of the world. Thus, as a result of their basic training, they also get along better with politicians of similar mindsets.
Sensing the potential of the hitherto controlled PPP government of Benazir Bhutto, the army high command and the ISI under Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul found it necessary to shore up the right-wing opposition and especially the Muslim League in the key province of Punjab, the largest and economically most prosperous province of the country.
Gul travelled to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, to help cobble together a coalition under the umbrella of the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI, or the Islamic Democratic Alliance), led, among others, by Zia's chosen young Punjabi politician, the affable Nawaz Sharif. Among the techniques reportedly used by Gul and Sharif to keep these meetings hidden was the designation of the encounters as meetings between Hamid Gul and Hussain Haqqani, a former Far Eastern Economic Review correspondent, who had signed up to be an advisor to Sharif and later became his official media advisor. He had orchestrated a filthy smear campaign of character assassination against Benazir Bhutto at the time.
Haqqani later was to switch over to Benazir Bhutto, who made him ambassador to Sri Lanka. Some observers of the scene accord Haqqani a prominent role in the formation of the IJI and in the Sharif government's operations. He is now the PPP government's Ambassador to the United States.
The titular head of the IJI was a PPP turncoat, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, one of the famous 'uncles' (or veteran colleagues of her father) that Benazir Bhutto had let go from her party on her return to Pakistan from exile. The aim of the ISI was to present a counter weight to the PPP in the Punjab, its traditional stronghold.
"The ISI chief and his deputy, Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed, reportedly geared up the IJI with threats that Bhutto would roll back the nuclear programme and damage the planned jihad against Indian occupation of Kashmir".13
Haqqani cites how Gul persuaded the Jamat-i-Islami head Qazi Hussain Ahmed, to join the coalition against the PPP (He does not mention his own role in this period).
In the elections of 16 November 1988, due to these intrigues and her own political/ideological retreat, Benazir had a victory of sorts but not a real mandate. But in the 1990 elections, with Benazir now discredited, the establishment and the ruling classes had developed a right-wing alternative, the IJI, led now by the State and Nawaz Sharif.
Not surprisingly, the IJI, with an IJI caretaker prime minister and pro-IJI ministers in power, was swept into power in November 1990, capturing 105 out of 216 seats in the National Assembly and control of all four provincial governments. The Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA), headed by the PPP, won 45 seats, the second largest bloc in the assembly. Thus, Bhutto was elected leader of the opposition. Despite loud complaints by Bhutto and others about irregularities, the election observers from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, funded by the US Congress, gave the results its seal of approval.
The caretaker Prime Minister, Jatoi, having done his duty, was dispensed with in the National Assembly as he vainly tried to become the regular Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif had been pre-ordained for that role. As Admiral Sirohey notes:
"As far as the JCSC was concerned, Mr Nawaz Sharif was the next Prime Minister... There was a very fortunate situation for the country when there was harmony between the President, the Prime Minister and the armed forces".14
The following two and a half years would prove how poor Sirohey's judgement was on political matters.
Sharif swept into the capital, flush with his success at the polls and having secured his base in the Punjab, where his brother Shahbaz Sharif was an activist chief minister. The PPP had been sidelined for the time being. He was the first businessman-cum-chief executive with a platform that was pro-business. He also believed that he had a mandate from the people that allowed him to reshape the economy and Pakistani politics. Very quickly, he brought into play a series of privatizing moves that garnered the support of the business community and began opening up Pakistan's highly controlled bureaucracy run economy. His own family assets had been taken over in nationalizations by Z. A. Bhutto. He was determined to recreate his business empire again and also to empower the new rapidly rising urban petty-bourgeoisie that had brought him to power in the 1990 elections.
In power Sharif knew that he could not do much for the general uplift of the oppressed toiling masses of Pakistan. Poverty alleviation and socio-economic reforms that could bring prosperity for the downtrodden of the country had no room in the capitalist economy; the fiscal crisis and economic crunch did not allow for that. Instead he embarked upon grandiose projects, more in comparison with the Mughal emperors', especially Shah Jahan, rather than the present day social democratic and liberal leaders who ape western methodology and end up in further deterioration of the conditions of the masses.
He announced the building of the Lahore-Islamabad highway, majestic airports at Karachi and Lahore, and several other such imperial projects for a country where the vast majority of the people were deprived of food, health care, education, tapped water and sanitation facilities. He idealised the economic miracles of the Asian Tigers and often boasted of turning Pakistan into a Singapore, a Taiwan or a South Korea.
However he signed agreements with Daewoo and other East Asian multinationals, along with multinational firms from the Sheikhdoms in the Gulf, giving them contracts to build these projects. But one thing he never forgot: these contracts must include financial kickbacks that would bolster his family fortunes and businesses. One of his close associates disclosed to the author in citing anonymity, an incident that showed the real lust for profit and plunder Nawaz Sharif had to boost his financial assets. The motorway project was started in his first stint of office in 1992. But he was deposed in July 1993.
On November 26 1997 Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, which is perhaps technologically one of the most advanced in South Asia with its spacious lanes and modernity. After inauguration he travelled from Islamabad to Lahore in a grandiose cavalcade with his coteries on this motorway. At the end the leading coteries were invited to a lavish dinner bash at the palatial farm estate of the Sharifs at Raiwind in the suburbs of Lahore. During this celebration one of the PML leaders after gulping a few doubles had developed some courage and told Nawaz Sharif that he had only built a road just 300 miles long, but a thousand years ago Sher Shah Suri had built 2000 miles long Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Peshawar. So what was there to boast about?
Sharif seemed to be taken aback and said: "Oh! He had made such a long road, then he must have made a lot of money out of it also!"
This anecdote somehow expresses the corrupt psychology of the Pakistani bourgeoisie and its new-found political representative.
Nevertheless, corruption soared during Sharifs stint in power to even higher proportions than in the previous regime. The economy was again in crisis and the social turmoil was rapidly exacerbating the tensions between the ruling elite and their representatives in the presidency, the army, and the Prime Minister's office. Ultimately Sharif was sacked by president Ishaq Khan, a right-wing bureaucrat who served most military dictators and civilian autocrats in power. But then Sharif used his father's motto, to never say good bye to a bureaucrat or a judge before he had pocketed the bribe given to him. Nawaz Sharif used this trick on the judiciary and was reinstated by a panel of senior judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 26 May 1993. But the conflict between the 'pillars' of the State continued and finally the Army Chief General Waheed Kakar got Sharif and Ishaq Khan both to resign on 18 July 1993.
The Return of Benazir
An interim government was set up and fresh elections were held on 24 and 27 October. The final results were a narrow win for the PPP with Sharif blaming the caretakers for tilting in Benazir's favour by publicizing the list of defaulters on governmental loans. The disarray within the State had once again forced the elites in Washington and Pakistan to bring her back to pre-empt the danger of another mass upsurge that could have gone out of control and threaten the system.
Benazir in her second term as Prime Minister had her own party stalwart, Farooq Ahmed Leghari, as the President. He was a vicious feudal lord and had his private prisons where the poor peasants and youth who dared to question the tyranny in his estates in South Punjab were incarcerated and tortured. Several were killed, but the state could not impose its writ in his region due to his connections in the bureaucracy and the armed forces. Leghari had also been a minister in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's cabinet. After Bhutto was deposed in a coup in 1977 Leghari was the first feudal lord who lodged a case against the PPP government's (1971-77) land reforms and got some of his land distributed to the tenants through a judicial order under the rule of Zia.
Benazir was over the moon on his election as a president. At the time the Marxists had written in Jeddojehad (The Struggle) that he will be the person to depose her again in a much more vicious manner. That happened soon. The only person who had faced Leghari in the region both in the elections and in the unrelenting struggle against his atrocious subjugation of the oppressed of that region was Comrade Rauf Khan Lund. He stood on a PPP ticket against Leghari's when the rest of the PPP stalwarts had beaten a retreat in fear of the wrath of Leghari and the state power he controlled.
Apart for contesting elections against the Leghari, Comrade Rauf has been organising rallies, leading agitations and revolutionizing youth and workers against the feudal aristocracy and their client state in this vast hinterland that borders with Baluchistan and Sindh.
This time round Benazir tried to be more compromising with the Army, the ISI and the ruling elite. She overstretched her policies to foment a closer relationship with the USA. On the economic front she continued with the pro-capitalist neo-liberal policies that Nawaz Sharif was pursuing. During her 1995 visit to Washington she tried to appease both the Americans and the Army. The already exorbitant expenditure on 'defence' was further enhanced. The armed forces added Orion anti-submarine air craft, air-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, radar equipment and parts of the cobra helicopters to their arsenal as a result of this visit. But the working classes continued to suffer. Conditions of the masses continued to deteriorate. Another social turmoil was brewing.
The privatisation process had begun during Benazir's first government of 1988, starting with the MCB (Muslim Commercial Bank). Now the agenda of the Imperialist institutions was being pursued even more thoroughly to appease the ruling classes and the establishment. Nawaz Sharif's government had taken the privatisation and other anti-working class measures quite ahead. There were several struggles in that period.
There was student unrest and strikes in several sectors of the economy. The bosses, with the backing of the state, also intensified their attacks in this 'democratic' dispensation. One of the most cruel and mean attacks was the assassination of Comrade Arif Shah, the leader of the Punjab Labour Federation with a membership of 65,000 workers. This attack was planned and executed by the capitalists owning the industries on Sheikupura road in the suburbs of Lahore. Comrade Arif Shah's body was pierced with 33 bullets from the Kalashnikov rifles of the hired goons of these pious businessmen. There was a widespread grief that engulfed the whole region. There was an outburst of protest demonstrations and road blockages. Arif Shah was brutally murdered on 20 January 1995, and the PPPs democratic government couldn't even arrest the perpetuators of this heinous crime. The PPP never again won elections from Arif Shah's constituency. But this murder also destroyed the Punjab Labour Federation, one of the largest and most militant trade union organisations in Punjab. It was also a big blow to the development of the forces of revolutionary Marxism. But again the revenge of this murder was to destroy the system of the bosses who had engineered Arif Shah's murder.
The assassination of Murtaza Bhutto
Meanwhile Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir's estranged brother, had returned to Pakistan. He was more radical and tried to push the PPP towards its original left path, but the media tried to make this a soap opera, a rift within the Bhutto clan, personal rivalries in the family, etc. The main reason for the state's fear of Murtaza was the radical impact his presence was having on the PPP. Frustrated by the betrayal of the PPPs then leadership he formed a separate faction of PPP and an alternative party, and a great many youths were being attracted towards him because of his left radical stance; in the past he had waged an armed struggle against the State. On 20 September 1996 when Murtaza was returning to his Clifton home in Karachi, his caravan of vehicles was stopped and directly fired upon by the police.
He was mortally wounded and lay dying on the street for quite sometime. He breathed his last on way to the hospital. Various conspiracy theories have been circulating ever since. The inquiry commission has yet to finalise its report. With the changes in the corridors of power the inquiry has been delayed and diverted.
It was in reality a revenge killing of a revolutionary who had taken up arms against the state. The connivance of other individuals in this brutal assassination is very much possible; perhaps the truth will never come out before a revolution in Pakistan. Several of his close friends and comrades were also assassinated in this atrocious target killing. The whole country was shocked by his sudden death; there was palpable grief and sorrow amongst the masses every where. People were wailing on the streets, in the city squares, in shanty towns, and in the villages.
Mir Murtaza was a friend and comrade of the author. We had wide ranging discussions on Marxist theory, political strategy and organisational methodology for a socialist revolution in Pakistan. Most of these discussions took place in Karachi and Lahore. There was agreement on most theoretical and political issues. Mir had a firm belief that a social revolution was the only way out of the agonising problems the masses were suffering from.
The tragedy for the masses was all the more painful and melodramatic because he was assassinated by the state forces while his sister was the chief executive the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Apart from the grief of her murdered brother she had to face deposition from power by Farooq Leghari, her most admired and trusted party stalwart, who had become the President of the Islamic Republic.
The crisis in economy, the rampant corruption and social tumult aggravated the contradictions between the ruling troika the President, Prime Minister and the chiefs of the Army Staff. Farooq Leghari finally dissolved Benazir's government on 5 November 1996.
This orgy of democracy continued. The musical chairs being played by different sections of the ruling class would have been amusing had the plight of the masses been not so grim.
The elections of February 3 1997 brought Nawaz Sharif to power. The conservative State had once again rejected the appeasement of Benazir and brought their favoured representative of capital, back into the corridors of power, this time with a heavy mandate of 137 seats for the PML out of a total of 217. The PPP got only 18 national assembly seats, none from Punjab. But this mandate proved to be too heavy for Sharifs political acumen.
Using this mandate Sharif tried to enhance his powers. He had the support of the Islamic fundamentalists, good working relations through shadowy deals with the generals, and he was at least superficially subservient to the Americans. Benazir's PPP had badly discredited itself by going too far in class collaborationist policies and the masses were restive and put in despair by the role of the PPP government. Nawaz Sharif thought he held all the cards; but he couldn't handle them when the crunch came.
On 11 May 1998, India tested three nuclear weapons at Pokhran, following it on 13 May with another two tests. This was greeted with great public acclaim at home and was presented overseas as India's attempt to counter China and Pakistan's aggressive designs. US intelligence had failed yet again to predict the test. Now it was time for the Pakistani rulers to decide whether or not follow suit. The Indian gambit was to force Pakistan either to acknowledge that it had been unable to weaponize its nuclear programme, or to go for a test and suffer the consequences of its action. Either way, relative to India, Pakistan stood to lose.
The Secretary General of Finance, Mueen Afzal, reportedly opposed Sharif's desire to proceed with the test, regardless of the economic consequences, Sharif must have known that Pakistan was facing a severe financial crisis, with dwindling reserves and a potential default against its obligations to foreign debtors should it face sanctions after going openly nuclear.
Publicly, Pakistan played coy during this period, leading many to speculate that the Prime Minister, who was not known for making tough decisions rapidly, had managed to avoid this one too and thus saved Pakistan from the aftershocks of testing.
Then on 28 May 1998 Pakistan responded to the Indian tests with five tests at Chagai.
Within thirty seconds the black granite of the Ras Koh Hills at Chagai turned white as a result of the tremendous heat of the explosion. Pakistan had matched the Indians five to five. "Today we have settled a score!"15
Prime Minister Sharif now thought he was a national hero.As he attempted to establish total control over the government and the country, he found Army Chief Karamat lacking the desirable enthusiasm for his various ideas. Among the many steps that Sharif took was the 15th Amendment, which would enforce Islamic Law throughout Pakistan and raise the government's actions in that regard beyond the reach of the courts. Hassan Abbas, author and former police officer, refers to this as Sharif's dream of a 'caliphate', he wanted to use the army to run the civil administration also, drawing it closer into his embrace, but failed to get the amendment through. Karamat recalls being bombarded with new ideas of army involvement in civilian administration at almost every meeting he held with Sharif.
Among the suggestions that came from Sharif was to use the army to patrol the GT (Grand Trunk) road, conduct surveys of schools to determine how many were actually operating with staff, and helping the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) monitor its customers' meters to ensure there was no pilferage.
Sharif, after removing the Chief Justice and the President Farooq Leghari, went on to remove the Army Chief Gen. Jehangir Karamat. General Pervez Musharraf was made the new chief due to the tribal and ethnic squabbling between the other senior Generals.
But the crisis ridden Pakistani capitalism was jolted with the severe blow of sanctions after the nuclear tests. Sharif played the role of nationalist in the audience of the bourgeoisie, land lords and the petty bourgeoisie. He further consolidated his support of the Islamic fundamentalists and the right wing. He was being praised by the intelligentsia, and sections of the military elite and civilian bureaucracy. Even the ex-Stalinist left was praising him as the progressive bourgeois leader the country had been needing for almost half a century. Some of these left intellectuals got posts as his advisors, to help him complete the 'national democratic revolution'. Other ex-left leaders compared him to Sun Yat-sen the leader of the 1911 bourgeois revolution in China.
The Kargill War
But the economic and social crisis that flared up created instability and chaos. Foreign currency accounts were ceased and other drastic measures were taken. The masses had again to bear the burnt of the nationalist adventure Sharif had undertaken. Living standards fell sharply and the economic chaos created even greater social convulsions. On a macro-economic level the country was on the verge of default and the International financial and economic rating corporations were listing Pakistan as a proverbial failed state. This economic meltdown clearly shows how and why, in this epoch of globalisation and the crushing domination of Imperialist monopolies, the nascent bourgeois cannot carry out or complete the national democratic revolution on a capitalist basis.
As if Sharifs nuclear blunder was not bad enough, the army generals launched another terrible misadventure at Kargill in Kashmir. This was the Kargill war provoked by the Pakistani Generals 'to straighten the line of control and to have a strategic superiority in the area by capturing some hilltops higher than the Indian positions.
This also meant that by capturing these Kargill heights the main Indian highway to Dras, Srinagar and Leh would be threatened. The Kargill operation was started in February 1999 and although Sharif was briefed, it was decided and conducted under the army chief Pervez Musharraf. Not only did the Indians gave them a bleeding nose, they also prepared for a major retaliation of the other fronts. The so called peace process initiated by the Americans was seriously threatened.
Facing defeat and further escalation of the war, Sharif was sent to plead for Clinton's help to resolve the crisis. The Americans, already annoyed by the nuclear explosions, further humiliated the Pakistani rulers. This war created greater contradictions once again between the army and civilian rulers. The basic factor of the continual recurrence of conflicts between different sections of the state and the ruling classes was the incapacity of the capitalist system to stabilize the economy, political superstructure and society. And all the rulers wanted to govern through this historically obsolete system. Hence all of them were short lived and had to be deposed in disgrace for corruption and other charges. Crimes like corruption are inevitable in a system that is not in crisis because of corruption but its organic and intrinsic crisis breeds corruption.
The social status and existence of these rulers inevitably forces them to indulge in corrupt practices, which further aggravates the crisis and end up in their own overthrow.
At the helm of power Nawaz Sharif, with his limited intellectual capabilities, could understand none of this. Even more he had become a megalomaniac, having artificially unchallenged authority in the corridors of power. In this state of mind he now decided to remove Musharraf. He was in for a shock.
Shahbaz Sharif, the prime minister's brother, arrived in Washington in September 1999. On behalf of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz wanted a public statement from the US against a coup, something that the US found hard to construct in the abstract. But they did provide a tepid statement from the State department.
That statement did not do the trick; especially when things within Pakistan had taken a turn for the worse between Sharif and Musharraf. As reported in Dawn:
"Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on Thursday dismissed reports of differences with the government as disinformation... Mr. Musharraf was speaking after chairing a meeting of top military commanders."16
Musharraf conveyed through Shahbaz that he did not want to become chairman if it meant giving up his job as army chief.
The next day, Musharraf had lunch with Sharif, at the Sharif's Raiwind estate, Musharraf recalls a tableau that had been repeated earlier with previous chiefs, including Asif Nawaz:
"It was very pleasant. Here, Aba Ji (Nawaz Sharif's father) is telling me, that 'You are like a son to me. These two don't dare say anything against you. If they do, tell me.' So Nawaz Sharif says, 'Why should we do this? He is like a brother to us'". 17
Then there was an exchange of gifts and the two families went to Makkah to get their sins absolved at official expense.
Within a month or so, however, Nawaz Sharif was to make his move against his 'brother' while Musharraf was out of the country in Sri Lanka on an official trip. Musharraf was due to arrive back on 12 October. His flight was delayed, but when they came close to Pakistan, the captain of the aircraft was informed that they could not enter Pakistani airspace and needed to go to a neighbouring country, with the exception of Dubai.
Short of fuel, the plane was diverted eventually to Nawabshah. But then events on the ground overtook this saga in the air and Musharraf's generals acted in his absence; they took Sharif into their control and got the plane to land at Karachi.
The Hollywood style drama in the air ended in the middle of the evening and a visibly rattled Musharraf took charge of the country, going on the air in his military uniform to announce that he was taking over the government. Moving with deliberate speed, Musharraf took on the relatively neutral title of Chief Executive, and explained the 'rationale' behind the coup in words only too familiar to those Pakistanis who had survived previous martial law regimes.
Musharraf took power through the fourth 'bloodless' coup of the army in about half a century of Pakistan's existence. He called himself as a 'reluctant coup maker'. Musharraf may or may not be a reluctant coup maker, but the Army and the State were certainly reluctant to execute this coup, at least this time. Not that the generals had developed any democratic credentials, nor had the lust for direct power and plunder diminished amongst the military's top brass. Their assets and share in the country's economy under the so called civilian rulers of the previous regimes had continued to expand. They controlled the foreign affairs and other vital policy making during these regimes; the weak bourgeois governments of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif had gone all the way to appease the military high command.
In reality, it was because of the intrinsic weakness, lagging cohesion, and internal contradictions of the government that the army had become so reluctant to come to the forefront and face the masses. Musharraf declared himself as a chief executive, rather than a chief Martial Law Administrator as was the traditions of the dictators of the past.
The Musharraf regime was a debilitated dictatorship from the beginning. Hence the repression was selective and controlled. This regime had started to induct 'civilians' much more rapidly in the government, and at the same time intruded military officers into the civilian departments to filch their share of the loot that they would have plundered in martial law administrations. This was aimed on one hand to bribe the army in dubious ways and then use the civilian politicians to give the regime a democratic image. Like every dictator in the past he praised the democratic form of government and innovated his own hilarious interpretations and definitions of democracy. Most chattering classes (intellectual petty bourgeoisie) were cautiously welcoming the reluctant coup maker and his new regime with a liberal cosmetic make up.
Most anti Nawaz Sharif politicians were jubilant at the opening of this opportunity for them to be the perpetrators of more plunder. Even Benazir welcomed the change, although not with much enthusiasm from her exile in Dubai. But the workers and the toiling masses were mostly indifferent. They had enough of the decades of bourgeois democracy, in which they only experienced their living standards fall, the pain of poverty and unemployment increase, and the miseries of life aggravated. Hence this 'reluctance' didn't have to face much resistance.
The traders, shop keepers, and other middle layers of the society who were the main support base of Sharif perhaps had drawn faces but didn't dare to come out. The main businessmen, the bourgeoisie upon whom Sharif relied and represented were searching for back door deals with the new regime. Their assets and bank accounts were more important than any section of the right-wing replacing the other. The Islamic fundamentalist, in liaison both with the army and Sharif, obviously chose for the greater benefactor, the army, to sponsor them and continue the protection they needed for their money making through drug trade and other criminal means. They in turn were facilitating, the 'hawks' in the army to pursue the policy of 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan and Kashmir. This policy of 'strategic depth' was initiated by the ISI and it continued under every civilian and military regime without any hindrance or interference from any democratically elected rulers.
These people's rulers never depended on the people, nor ever pursued a path to ameliorate the grievances and miseries of the impoverished masses. The class interest of these 'peoples representatives' conjoined them with the Army and America, who were their demigods due to their belief that US Imperialism and the army were the real arbiters of power. The policy of 'strategic depth' was designed to orchestrate a semi insurgency in Kashmir to substantiate the expansionist designs of the Pakistani ruling classes whose main stalwart was the army itself. In Afghanistan it was to make this relatively weak country into a satellite of the Pakistani state.
But the Indians, being a larger 'Imperial' power, retaliated with counter-aggression and the overt and covert conflicts continued to destabilize the whole region. This policy continued after the advent of Musharraf. The war lords, drug barons, Taliban and other warring fundamentalist factions were another factor that further aggravated this orgy. Now the dominant US Imperialism was intruding with its own interests of oil and strategical needs. Musharraf tried to portray himself as a liberal, a radical bourgeois reformer on the lines of Turkey's Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. His first pictures sent out to the media were holding two white terriers and his daughter wearing a sleeveless shirt. But his 'modernism' was as artificial as Zia ul Haq's 'fundamentalism'. The deals and agreements between the US multinationals (particularly UNOCAL) and the warring warlords and Taliban were breached and betrayed several times. This was the history of such deals for more than two centuries. The US Imperialism had abandoned the Islamic fundamentalists after the soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. They had deserted a country which was in a conflagration of bloody strife between different warring Islamic factions, instigated by the Imperialists themselves and fuelled by the local and financial interests of regional powers and the black economy in the garb of Islamic obscurantism. Those reactionary outfits, whose aid and sponsorship was cut by the Americans, instilled a poisonous hatred among the fanatic recruits from the Madrassahs. They created a new 'Satan' after 'communism' in the form of US Imperialism as a target to whip up frenzy amongst the beastly fanatics.
All this was to further the economic gains of the Islamic bosses and their local sponsors through the nefarious means of drug and arms smuggling. US Imperialists reciprocated with almost exactly the same response, as they also needed to externalize their own exploitation of the US and European workers by fabricating a myth of another evil, Islamic fundamentalism, after the fall of Stalinism.
Even if 9/11 would not have happened some other similar disaster was bound to take place in one form or the other. The theory of the 'Clash of civilisations' needed such human destruction with the traumatic effects around the world to promote its ideology and evil designs. The inferno ignited by the Americans in Afghanistan was bound to spread and the strategists of Imperialism were hell-bent on utilizing it to impose US hegemony and the cruel exploitation of cancerous capitalism. It is entirely false that the main centres of power in the Pakistani State were supporting the Taliban against US dictates. It is true that there were short interludes in which, in the absence of US, the ISI went ahead more than designated, but that was when the attention of Pentagon and the CIA was diverted elsewhere. It is also true that after the departure of US from the scene the ISI and the so-called rogue elements of the state built up their own networks and infrastructure in this internecine war of constantly changing loyalties, deceit and treachery.
Musharraf's 'U turn' on the threat of being 'bombed into the stone age' by Richard Armitage, the US under secretary of state, was a fallacy. It was no surprise for anyone knowing the history and nature of the Pakistani state and capitalism that it was utterly incapable of standing up to US Imperialism. Only during Z. A. Bhutto's initial period of governance, and when the US had engineered his demise, did the government gave some occasional outbursts of anti imperialist sentiment. Musharraf made a big thing out of this in order to somewhat improve his credibility, with a strange rather contradictory message of being a saviour and subservient imperialist ally. In his memoirs Musharraf quotes Gen. Aziz Ahmed, on visit to Washington at the time of 9/11 saying that Armitage had said that, "not only that we had to decide whether we were with the America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists then we should be prepared to be bombed back into Stone Age".18
During Musharraf's last US visit Armitage denied it in the American media in his usual bullying manner. The truth probably was closer to the report on terror attacks by the Kean/Hamilton commission.
US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain brought him a copy of the official list of seven demands. The US asked Pakistan to:
- Stop Al Qaeda operatives at its borders and end all logistical support to Bin Laden.
- Give the United States blanket over flight and landing rights for all necessary military and intelligence operations.
- provide territorial access to US and allied military intelligence and other personnel to conduct operations against al Qaeda;
- provide the United States with intelligence information;
- continue to publicly condemn the terrorists' acts;
- cut off all shipments of fuel to the Taliban and stop recruits from going to Afghanistan; and,
- if the evidence implicated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued to harbour them, to break relations with the Taliban government.19
In effect, the United States wanted carte blanche to proceed against whomever they thought had attacked it by establishing extra-territorial rights in Pakistan, among other things.
On Kashmir, Musharraf was churning out one solution after another. Even by bourgeois standards they seemed ridiculous. Most were just extravagant flights of thought, especially those in the late hours of the night when he hit the bottle. The peace process with India was the victim of a similar discourse. The Indian counterparts were no less absurd. The 'cunning fox' of Indian politics Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who seemed to be all over the place, turned every issue into a romantic saga. His hypocrisy was evident, but neither he nor Musharraf could control the main bastions of state power, either in India or Pakistan.
The conflict and contradiction between the two countries was and is the pivotal base for the existence of some of the largest armies and arms spending in the world. From the kick backs to the involvement in the economic and financial structures of these countries, very strong vested interests have developed in the evolution of the two states. Hence every initiative of Musharraf was torpedoed by sections of the same forces that he was supposed to be commanding. The story was not much different on the other side. The problem that had now emerged was that both were nuclear armed states and a war would always bring the danger of a nuclear conflict. That would mean the mutual annihilation of both countries, along with the assets of the ruling classes, and possibly the elite itself would have perished in the ensuing Armageddon. The imperialists had two contradictory interests in this game of war and peace: on one hand their relatively heavy investments in India; they wanted to preserve these from any turmoil and war that could damage their assets. Hence they did their utmost to prevent the rulers of India and Pakistan from engaging in total war. This was shown in the aftermath of the so called terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building on December 13 2001.
As Steve Coll reported in The New Yorker:
"Little was known about the attackers, but India suspected the Pakistan government and its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was behind the attack. Since the late 1980s, ISI has covertly funded and armed violent Islamist groups in Kashmir. By 2001, two of the larger jihadi groups Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad- had developed ties to Al Qaeda. After the December 2001 attack, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered the Indian military to mobilize for war. India and Pakistan's looming confrontation became the first nuclear crisis of the 21st century and it posed a very modern problem the impact of stateless religious networks with millenarian ideas".20
Indian military officials sought to respond, on the assumption that the militants had Pakistani backing. Some 700,000 Indian troops were placed in Kashmir and the Indian Air Force was poised on Pakistan's borders. The Indian Navy moved into battle positions in the Arabian Sea.
There was a sudden outburst of war hysteria in India. Sabre rattling began. Troops were put on high alert on both sides. The poison of Hindu Chauvinism and Indian nationalism was churned out by the press and television and had engulfed large sections of the Indian society, especially the petty bourgeois. The Pakistani ruling classes and the state were forced to respond, although much weaker, and besmirched in its own scandals and quagmire of crisis, they had no other option. Pakistan's modest forces and weaponry were rushed to the borders. The war hysteria had now gripped the South Asian sub- continent.
War seemed imminent. The Pakistani media, intelligentsia, and media's response was no less pernicious. A wave of Pakistani chauvinism and Islamic fundamentalism was unleashed. They were seething for revenge. The diplomatic efforts to resolve this stand- off failed miserably. The White Hall in London and state department in Washington intervened forcefully but to no avail. Even the imperialists were now jittery over the rapidly deteriorating situation. But then at last the saviour from an ultimate destruction intervened. He was one of the main bosses of IBM, a multinational with substantial investments, mainly in India. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of India from the Hindu obscurantist party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) ultimately caved into his threat of immediate removal of investment and flight of Capital from India.
At the same time the imperialists had vested interests in the continuation of antagonisms and hostility between the two major powers of the subcontinent, albeit in a controlled scenario. The British had already left behind the thorny issues of Kashmir, water distribution, boundary disputes etc. when they departed. They wanted to continue the policy of divide-and-rule from afar. This discord gave them an important leverage to maintain their economic exploitation and further their imperialist interests. The United States, apart from its strategic interests in the region, wanted to exploit the labour, mineral resources, and the direct financial plunder of both countries. But another aspect is that one of the main sources of the looting of the wealth of these countries is the exorbitant profits from the sales of armaments and weapons of mass destruction to them. The ruling classes, the Sate, and other local brokers have their own fortunes tied up with this extortion through the sale of arms. The cost of these devices of devastation has increased several times more than the cost of most commodities extracted, grown and produced in India and Pakistan. Therefore the enmity must continue, but in a controlled fashion; it must not be allowed to escalate into full-scale war. Thus there is a very clear common denominator between the interests of Imperialism and the national bourgeoisie of the subcontinent. The policy they have to maintain can be summed up as: they cannot afford to start an all out war, and they can't sustain a durable peace. This pendulum-like swing between war and peace goes on and on, while more than 1.5 billion inhabitants continue to suffer the agonies of hunger, poverty and disease that makes life a continual misery for succeeding generations; it is not an accident that the South Asian subcontinent, with 22% of the world's population, endures 40% of the world's poverty. Meanwhile, the delicate balances and equations that are set in societies in such intense turmoil and turbulence are so tense and acute that any major crisis can escalate into full-scale war. Such a scenario in two nuclear states with jittery rulers can bring about death and destruction on a scale more horrific than anything ever experienced in human history.
On the domestic front, in spite of the celebrated macro-economic figures, the conditions of the masses under Musharraf continued to deteriorate. The regime got a lot of laurels from the World Bank and other Imperialist institutions. These institutions have had a tradition of sending their employees or chosen representatives to become finance ministers of Pakistan. Apart from Dr. Mubashar Hasan, every finance minister of Pakistan was either an employee, or was selected and sent by the IMF and the World Bank. This started right from the very inception of the country; after Musharraf's take- over, Shaukat Aziz was brought over for the job. He was a banker at Citi Corp. and was selected by the IMF. He was even elevated to the post of the Prime Minister while retaining the portfolio of finance. Consequently, the masses were even further subjected to poverty, unemployment, disease and worsened infrastructural conditions of life. Yet the laurels showered upon the Musharraf/Aziz economic management were not seen for more than a decade. The chorus of praise from the offices of IMF and the World Bank in Washington was echoed by most of the bourgeois economic experts of Pakistan. The development and growth of economy under this regime has been expressed by another Pakistani expert, Shuja Nawaz, who is the editor of 'Financial Development', the multilingual quarterly of the IMF and the World Bank. In his recent book 'Crossed Swords' he wrote the following:
"Musharraf could point to the economic progress under his regime. Earlier, Sharif had introduced privatization and the ascendancy of the business class a good start for the hitherto moribund government-controlled economy, but he had allowed it to be tainted by corruption. Musharraf's regime continued the pro-business trend, under his finance minister and then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz. Its economy began growing at a rapid pace, hitting 7% average GDP growth. Pakistan managed to escape the strictures of the IMF and began attracting investment flows from expatriate Pakistanis and the Middle East. It benefited enormously from the flow of US aid following the global 'War on Terror' launched by the United States following attacks on its soil by Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda from bases in Afghanistan".21
Although he rightly attributes corruption to Sharif, under Musharraf the corruption and plunder perpetrated by the ruling classes continued unabated. In an article in Dawn, some of the figures of bad loans and bank write-offs emerged:
"Pakistan borrowed from external sources $15 billion during last four years and the government banks and financial agencies wrote off loans worth Rs 33 billion in three years...These figures were placed before the Senate by the minister of state for finance Omer Ayub. The massive write-offs on an ascending scale began with Rs. 5.6 billion in 2003, and went on with Rs 10.42 billion in 2004, Rs 9.908 billion in 2005 and Rs. 19.338 billion 2006 (...)
"The industrial sector was the major beneficiary with Rs25.82 billion. The trade sector's write-off was Rs3.21 billion and the agricultural sector got away with Rs2.83 billion. The total number of borrowers who got such write-offs, he said, was 11, 220 in 2003, 17, 869 in 2004, 45,249 in 2005 and 19,378 in 2006. Eleven investors from the industrial sector got away with a write-off of Rs12.37 billion in 2003 (...)
"In addition to the Rs33 billion loan write-off, they also got subsidies totalling Rs24 billion, which makes a total of Rs 57 billion.
"Trading in Pakistan is said to be substantially profitable, particularly in imported goods. That is why most industrial houses have opened their own trading houses for foreign goods and services. Yet they got a loan write-off of Rs.21 billion...
"Many farm lords obtain loans with no intent to repay and eventually get it written off. What is striking is that along with a loan default of Rs33 billion which was written off in three years, they also got subsidies of Rs24 billion to make it doubly profitable. Clearly, the outflow of public funds is a continuous process under any 'system' of government. Such loans were given by government banks and financial institutions, often under political pressure or to reward some politicians, and often written off following the same kind of political bargaining. Many of the sitting members of parliament are beneficiaries of such write-offs. They include Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain and his family members. The loans were also given to the friends and relatives of senior officials in Islamabad who controlled the banks, and later written off under their influence (...)
"At its peak, the non-performing loans were around Rs250 billion. Some of the borrowers had no intention to repay, or planned to repay one or two instalments and then default, as they were a large company.
"(...) Industrialists prefer to borrow money from banks while keeping their own money in banks on a long-term basis and earning large profits.
"The country's foreign debt, which had gone down to $35.47 billion in the year 2004, has risen again to $40.172 billion which includes some foreign liabilities. In the year 2006 Pakistan borrowed $3.014 billion. This has happened in spite of the record home remittances of overseas Pakistanis of $6.5 billion and the record overseas direct investment of $6.4 billion. In addition, Pakistan borrowed dollar 3.64 billion last year." 22
As we have seen in this work, even during the period of a relatively healthy boom in the world capitalist economy in the 1960s, the high growth rates under Ayub failed to raise the general social conditions and develop society in relation to the economic growth. How could Pakistani capitalism have developed society under the high economic growth rated under Musharraf/Aziz regime, when the world economy was itself in crisis and booms were only artificially propped up by heavy credit financing and a series of bubbles that were going to pop? In March 2001 the US economy, the largest in the world, was facing a virtual negative growth rate scenario. The sickness of Pakistani capitalism had worsened in spite of the fact that a rosy picture of the macro-economic statistics was being presented. Shuja Nawaz again praises the Musharraf/ Shaukat Aziz economic management:
"One of the biggest challenges faced by Musharraf when he took over was the sorry state of the economy. Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves at the time were around $300 million, with foreign direct investment (FDI) around the same figure. Relative political stability, the inflow of remittances from expatriates after 9/11, the opening up of the economy to private foreign investment, all contributed to a healthier economy, with foreign exchange reserves rising to around $13 billion. Workers' remittance rose from $1.1 billion in 2000 to $4.3 billion in 2005. FDI meanwhile rose to $2.2 billion, according to the World Bank.
"A key role in this was played by the steady management of money supply and interest rates by the State Bank, giving businessmen some sense of stability. According to the government, the GDP rose from around 4.1 percent in 2000 to 7.8 percent in 2005. Military spending, though, showed a decline from 4.1 to 3.4 percent of GDP. But the US and other financial assistance following Pakistan's alliance with the United States in the 'War on Terror' yielded immediate gains; between 2001 and 2006, some $10 billion had come in through open channels to Pakistan".23
US aid was mainly spent on the so called 'war on terror'. Rather than dousing the flames of this insurgency it further fanned them up. The destabilisation and turmoil resulting from this horrendous misadventure has resulted in unimaginable suffering for the poor masses, especially in the FATA region. And yet this aid gave a glossy shine to the macro-economic statistics. Similarly, the reliance on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), that is the world-wide cornerstone of neo-liberal economic development, hardly brings any respite to the plight of the workers and the downtrodden masses. Not surprisingly, the policies initiated by this monetarism or Reaganomics has brought disastrous consequences for the working classes.
These policies of privatisation, down-sizing, deregulation and liberalisation enforced by most post 1980 regimes at the behest of capitalism, have resulted in further impoverishment of the masses. And the main aim of these policies was to create a more 'feasible' climate in which to attract the FDI.
Shaukat Aziz and Musharraf were always bragging about these rapacious economic policies. They were perhaps more aggressive in this crusade than their predecessors. They used massive credit financing to bloat the economy and boost the growth rate. But as elsewhere, this resulted in rather debilitating the economy and the piling up of public and state debt. This led to a consumer boom in property and certain other sectors, although this consumerism was confined mainly to Pakistan's relatively small middle class. The vast population was almost excluded from this cycle and there was a negligible 'trickle down' effect. But expansion of these selective sectors had a negative impact on infrastructure. The already weak infrastructure was creaking under the burden of this consumerism. This gave rise to contradictions between commodity consumption and the infrastructural facilities. Poverty intensified and the gap between 'haves' and 'have-nots' further widened, while the banks accumulated massive profits and the corporate sector rejoiced at these 'reforms'. Speculators had a heyday. The Index soared and the stock exchange casino became the most profitable venue of investment.
This socio-economic malaise expressed itself in sporadic strikes, a rise in terrorism and crime, and increasing chaos and anarchy. The middle classes were in desperation and vacillating vigorously. Musharraf's pro-imperialist stance and the absence of a left resistance on a class basis gave room for the Islamic fundamentalists. In the 2002 elections the Islamist alliance MMA (Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal) got more seats in the parliament than in any other elections. Although their votes were less than the number of seats they got, in Pakistan's history they had never managed to get as many before. This reflected a degree of stagnation in society.
The Islamists had demagogically started to champion the anti-imperialist cause. With the US aggression raging in Iraq and Afghanistan there was very strong anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. The PPP and other 'secular' and nationalist parties failed to come out in a clear confrontation with imperialist aggression; hence the field was left open for the Mullahs. But even then they could not muster the support that was potentially there. The masses had perhaps seen through the hypocrisy of the religious-imperialist conflict; the million man marches called by the MMA attracted not more than a few thousand. There was no apparent threat to Musharraf. The state agencies had been in action and kept on manipulating and manoeuvring the willing politicians into various agreements, deals and alliances. So pathetic were the dominant political leaders that they had lost the will to struggle and build up mass resistance to a much weaker dictatorship compared to those in the past.
Even negotiations between Sharif and the regime were going on through the back door.
Firstly, their economic policies hardly differed from those being pursued by the Musharraf regime. Secondly, they were looking for short cuts. The PPP had been out of power for some years now and the right-wing leaders wanted to jostle back into power to resume their plunder. Most political parties participated in all the electoral and political facades that the regime had set up to proclaim its democratic legality. From the local bodies to the parliamentary elections of 2002 almost all the main stream parties participated and Musharraf used this for the perpetuation of his own rule.
It was not just American support that kept Musharraf in power; that could have been turned into its opposite as soon as a mass movement erupted. It was the compromising attitude of the bourgeois-dominated opposition that gave him the greatest leverage. But the rise in social contradictions, aggravating economic crisis below, and pressures of the 'war on terror,' started to have their impacts.
The regime was now suffering from intense decay and was in constant decline. This increased pressure on Musharraf and his western backers. The 2005 communications strike, the PIA engineers and several other strikes in vital sectors of the economy further alarmed the ruling classes.
London and Washington started efforts to broker a deal between Musharraf and Benazir in the autumn of 2006. Instead of going to the masses to build up a movement to overthrow the regime, the PPP leadership was busy in different manoeuvres and deals with the dictator. The so called 'charter of democracy' was signed between Sharif and Benazir in London. But its fate was sealed at its inception. Both were trying to play out each other and calling for democratic politics, while totally side-lining the real issues and the economic woes of the people. The larger Imperialist brokers now came into play and a grand coalition between Musharraf was being manufactured to stave off the impending threat from below.
The Lawyers' movement
Most movements were mainly on petty issues, problems of political super structures, gender questions and similar trends which were more related to the middle classes. These movements were mainly inspired by the mushrooming television channels and the media. They were organised by smaller and medium parties with an important role within the NGO's (Non Government Organisations). These were correctly dubbed by the media as 'civil society' activities, as the left-right divide had been abandoned and this petty bourgeois class collaborationism cliché became fashionable amongst the middle class activists; the huge deprived and downtrodden majority of the population, the 'uncivil' society, was quite indifferent to these mobilisations.
One of the largest and more significant of these 'movements' was the lawyers movement for the restoration of the Chief Justice and 60 other judges sacked by Musharraf. This was a movement with demands that suited the media barons and the civil society. They were asking for the independence of a judiciary in a society where the overwhelming majority of the population was deprived of the right to have food, and who could never afford the astronomical amounts of money in fees needed just to enter the corridors of the palatial Supreme Court building.
Musharraf was more perturbed about the media rather than these movements, but such was his crises-ridden regime that he was jolted by the coverage they received. The caravans and rallies had the attendance of a few thousands, but nevertheless the ideological and political left-right divide was obliterated by the all important 'civil society.' At the same time, some of the PPP lawyers were the main leaders of the movements, the whole emphasis was on their 'non-political' character.
This in itself was absurd: a non political movement was trying to fill a political vacuum against a dictatorship.
A number of left groups, NGOs and sects also entered the fray, putting in all their efforts for meak bourgeois demands.
Musharraf's main political support came from the ethnic neo-fascists, the MQM (Muttheda Qaumi Movement). They used violence and terrorism against the lawyers' movement.
The conflict between the judiciary and the army was after all a clash between two vital pillars of the state. The basic task of the creation and existence of both these institutions was the preservation and protection of the rule of capital from the wrath of the masses. As the crisis worsened the Musharraf regime panicked and aggressively tried to suppress acts that could have been detrimental to the integrity of the whole system. At the same time the judiciary, through suo-moto actions and other decisions, was only trying to vent the steam rising from below. This conflict clearly reflected the crisis within and between the different institutions of the state.
There was very little room for a revolutionary programme in such movements. However, the right-wing and liberal forces, including a section of the PPP leadership, were justifying the dictatorial acts of Musharraf by giving him tacit support. They were all guilty of supporting a dictatorship, however weak it might have been. After this capitulation they didn't have the nerve to stand up against him and call for a successful mass movement. However, the lawyer's movement was a big fish in a small pond; in a political vacuum it seemed larger than life in spite of its modest size.
The masses had yet to enter the arena of politics in their millions. When at last they did, they came out in a numerical strength and force that cut across all the other prevailing political and social movements and trends.
In the midst of the raging crisis and increasing instability the imperialists speeded up their efforts to craft a set up that could serve their aims in a more subtle manner. These efforts of Washington and London ultimately led to the clandestine one-to-one meeting between Benazir and Musharraf in July-August at one of the palaces of the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Both sides publicly kept on denying the 'deal'. The main crux of the deal was that Musharraf, being rapidly discredited amongst the masses and his edifice of power in jeopardy due to his support for American capitalist-imperialism, needed a coalition partner who could had the confidence, and could contain, the hopes and aspirations of the masses.
The Assassination of Benazir
Benazir was the most obvious person to play that role. They were trying to do the impossible. The return of Benazir, the elections, and the transition of power were meticulously planned. The PPP leadership's handpicked subservient party apparatus, at different levels, was given instructions to organize a big but controlled welcome rally. The ethnic MQM (Muthahidda Qaumi Movement), an ardent ally of Musharraf that controversially had mass support in Karachi, was roped in by the regime to facilitate the process. The civilian bureaucracy was also mobilised. All was set and the Americans thought that their plan would work.
Then came the 18th of October 2007, the day of Benazir's return to Karachi after yet another exile. The PPP leaders were taking bus loads of people for the reception at Karachi. They had been assigned this task and its results would have been an important factor for getting party tickets in the forthcoming elections. A substantial crowd was needed to prove the popularity that the party had claimed to the Americans. Most political pundits, TV commentators, intellectuals and newspaper columnists had written off a mass movement and the possibility of the resilience of working classes to rise and struggle for the real issues. The 'uncivil society' was now in the arena. According to some estimates between two and two and-a-half million wretched souls had converged upon Karachi Airport from across the country. The downtrodden, the dispossessed, the deprived, the exploited; all those suffering the miseries of this system came.
They came with their dirty and torn clothes, wearing broken plastic slippers, sweating, tired, faces drawn yet there was a gleam in their eyes that exuded both anger and revolt towards the system that had made their lives so dreadful. They had perhaps come for a glimpse of Benazir the daughter of Zulfiqar Bhutto, who had called for a transformation of life and society a socialist revolution! The hope and tradition of almost four decades had passed to the new generation.
Benazir, when she came out of the airport was flabbergasted by the mammoth crowd. The sheer size of the welcoming rally had torn the deal to shreds and the designs of the imperialists were shattered. In reality these teeming millions had come to show her a glimpse of themselves, their poverty, misery, tragedies and deprivation.
The state, whose warring factions had been drawn into a fragile compromise to abide by this deal, was baffled.
One of the significant aspects of this welcoming rally was the burning of US flags in front of Benazir's truck as it came onto the main Shara-e-Faisal road. It was the Marxists in the PPP, activists of the PTUDC (Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign) and other revolutionary youth organisations orientating towards the traditions of the masses, who were torching the imperialist symbol. These incidents of the burning of US flags about every half a kilometre were shown on some major TV networks, but most preferred to ignore them. Perhaps they didn't want to disturb the 'deal' and the 'plan'. But the rogue elements in the state wanted to do just that. Their first act was a huge explosion near the Karsaz crossing on the Shara-e-Faisal. More than two hundred perished in the blast, and thousands were hurt. Benazir escaped the explosion and was whisked away to her residence in state protection.
The masses were still not deterred. The election campaign began and it took the shape of a militant movement. The zeal of the masses was turning her towards some radicalism at least. She was bound by the deal and the connection with the Americans. Yet the masses turned out to her rallies with a vigour that instigated her into more and more radicalism. This was too much a take for the conservative sections of the Pakistani state. It was not, what she was saying in her speeches. It was what she had become to symbolize for the masses.
Twenty one years previously, on April 10 1986, on her first main return to Pakistan from exile, more than a million had turned out at the Lahore airport. She had two stints of power. She had failed to satisfy the aspirations of the masses. Yet in spite of that the tradition of the 1968-69 revolution was alive once again. Reaction had to act more decisively. The friction within the factions of the state had turned red hot. As a result, on 27 December 2007, Benazir was killed in the crossfire of the war between these factions of the state. This time the mass upsurge was not of hope and aspirations. It was a burning vengeance. Government offices, businesses, banks, police stations and other symbols of capitalism and the state were burnt down within hours of the news of her assassination. This happened in most cities and towns across Pakistan. The country came to a standstill. Not a wheel turned.
The fury of the masses had forced the state to retreat. How could they have faced the molten lava from the volcanic eruptions of the wrath of the masses? The Musharraf regime declared three days mourning; it couldn't do much else anyway. The mobs roamed the cities, towns and villages in several parts of the country, but the neo-fascist goons of the Islamic Fundamentalists and the mafia thugs of the MQM were no where to be seen. They had just disappeared as if they had never existed. The Army, Rangers and police patrols rolled in much later. Even then they were terrified of the people. The mass reaction had struck like lightning.
The PPP/ right-wing coalition
But the movement was rudderless. Had the PPP leadership called for a General Strike and demanded elections on the scheduled date of 8 January 2008 the subsequent history would have been different. But the PPP leadership was abiding by the 'deal'. They turned the grief and anger into sorrow and despair. Zardari became the functional co-chairman. The party activists and mass support was articulated into praying for the emancipation of her soul, rather than to guide them to the path of struggle. The imperialists were in close contact with the PPP leaders during these events. They were the real decision makers at such a crucial juncture. The leadership compromised with the regime at every step; both were being directed by the Americans. The PPP leadership once again dumped even the slogan of socialism in the garbage of bourgeois democracy. Democracy was posed to be the best revenge. Yet the aspirations and needs of the masses yearned for the revolution to be the only revenge. The elections were postponed till the 18th of February. The PPP leaders abandoned even the rhetoric of 'Food, Shelter and Clothing' and other issues of class struggle that the movement had thrown up. They embarked upon the Utopia of national reconciliation. The section of Islamic fundamentalists, the nationalists, the ethnic fascists, the right-wing bourgeois parties and the PPP populists were to be united into a great national reconciliation. How else to diffuse and dissipate the class struggle?
Meanwhile the Americans and the state machinery went into full action to prepare the most meticulous rigging in the history of Pakistan. If the elections were held on 08 January after those traumatic events, the PPP would have won a two thirds majority. But the elections of February 18 were a different story. The mass upsurge had been pushed back into pacification and demoralisation by the democratic counter-revolution led by right-wing PPP leaders. The movement had ebbed, and once again the field was open for the bourgeois politicians who resumed the orgy of money-laundering and corrupt politics. The most profitable business was now in full swing.
The election results were tailor-made for the needs of US imperialism. Nawaz Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz had come back from a visit to Washington few days before the elections. Even the fundamentalists through the Sharifs PML(N) (Pakistan Muslim League [Nawaz]) had conveyed their co-operation with the new set up. The Nawaz league were given an extra quota of about fifty seats in these fabricated results. It is not accidental that the 'international community', imperialist media, the national media, the EU and other western observers, the NGOs and above all the civil society hailed these elections as free and fair.
The correctness of the results was given 'universal' acclaim. But even if one has a slight understanding of the election process, the rotten infrastructure of the electoral machine, the voting lists and the whole mechanism in Pakistan, free and fair elections can never be conceived in the present set up.
The end result was that the PPP was proclaimed as the victor and the largest party in the parliament. Yet the truth is that the PPP's Pyrrhic victory was a defeat for the masses which supported it, both in terms of the actual results and the ramifications of these elections on the policies of the new PPP government.
The PPP right-wing leaders had given up the two-thirds majority results in favour of a coalition government because the policies necessary to sustain the existence of the decadent capitalist system would have invited the wrath of the masses. The PPP leaders were too terrified to confront the masses and take the responsibility of government on its own in such a situation, so they opted for a coalition government even before the elections were actually held. But the right-wing parties let the PPP lead the coalition government and face the music; they were only too happy to wait in the wings for the PPP to meet the fate of a disgraceful deposition once again, and let the power fall into their laps at a time when the masses might be pushed into greater demoralisation and become too apathetic to fight the attacks of the ruling class.
The magnificent movement of the masses that took place in the autumn and winter of 2007 had shocked and jolted the ruling classes so vigorously that the PPPs nominee for Prime Minister, Yousaf Gillani, was elected unanimously. That was perhaps the first and last display of this hypocritical and treacherous unity of the Pakistani ruling classes against the proletariat and the toiling masses.
The fissures in the Pakistani state had not coalesced after the assassination of Benazir, rather the cracks had widened and the contradictions further sharpened. The warring factions of the state had not given in but had just lain low, waiting for the storm of the mass upheaval to pass over. After the formation of the coalition government the major partner, the PML(N), withdrew its fifteen ministers just 41 days after the start of the new government.
Of course, this new government proved to be another disaster for the masses right from the start. The coalition government included the Islamic fundamentalists JUI (Jamiat Ulema Islam), the Pashtoon nationalists ANP (Awami National Party), tacitly to begin with the ethnic neo-fascist MQM, Independents and others. When the PML(N) left the government, the Economist of May 10 2008 gave a rather pessimistic picture of the situation:
"Pakistan is in a mess again. It is teetering on the brink of food riots, industrial lay-offs and strikes against the daily 12 hour nation-wide power cuts. The economy is slipping. Capital flight has taken nearly 5% off the value of the rupee against the dollar in the past few weeks. The war against extremists in the tribal badlands is going nowhere. Instability has returned to haunt politics."24
The attacks upon the masses which the Musharraf regime had shrunk from implementing, due to their fear of an upsurge from below, were now unleashed by the new 'peoples' government. In the first six months of the regime it managed to accumulate the highest ever inflation, trade deficit, current account deficit and payments on interests of foreign and domestic loans. All those macro-economic figures that the right wing Musharraf regime had been able to contain, mainly by fudging statistics and other manoeuvres of economic trickery exploded to expose the real face of the Pakistani economy. Of course this could have only been done by a government with a democratic people's mandate that every body on the top in every field had hailed. The rupee had plummeted on the exchange rate market and this greatly inflated the amounts of balance of payments and the import bill. Nawaz Sharif's economic Guru, Ishaq Dar, upon whom the PPP leadership was relying for an economic miracle, had been pulled out just in time to expose the 'economic managerial capabilities' of the 'mixed' economists of the PPP. But what happened below was atrocious. There was an unprecedented price hike, rise in unemployment and poverty, power cuts and prolonged load-shedding of electricity, and a rapid decline in the already adverse conditions of life. The toiling masses were bewildered and in an agony of shock. The despair worsened. Not only did the policies of the previous government continue unabated, but they were now being executed much more aggressively and with cruel indifference to the suffering and deprivation of millions. After a brief interregnum the suicide bombings and terrorist attacks came back with a vengeance. There were now more suicide attacks and bomb blasts in Pakistan than in Iraq. According to a column in daily The News:
"On average terrorist violence is killing 10 Pakistanis a day. Imagine 11,129 innocent Pakistanis have already lost their lives. Over the past 9 months 4,141 innocent Pakistanis have been killed. Last year Maulana Fazlullah of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) actually seized 59 villages in Swat and established a parallel government... In the NWFP at least 20 of the 24 districts have strong militant presence... The government pays Rs. 300,000 to who dies in a suicide attack while death worshippers among us pay Rs. 1,500,000 to who ever is willing to wear a suicide jacket. Guess who has more recruits!"25
The Americans, frustrated by their failures in the Afghan insurgency, had been making incursions into Pakistan's tribal areas, using drones, fighter aircraft, and heavy bombing, resulting in huge 'civilian' casualties, mainly women and children. As the demise of Musharraf was approaching, the Americans intruded with land forces to attack the tribal hamlets, killing many innocent civilians. This was a provocation to demonstrate that the Pakistani rulers had been pushed into submission. The rising casualties of the army in this insurgency in Pakistan's northern areas have overtaken those inflicted in the1965 war with India.
These catastrophic events have had petrifying impacts on the morale and composure of the Army. The dissenters, especially in the middle and lower ranks, were running high and the number of deserters was growing. Yet the Americans wanted even more action from the Army. But Musharraf was trying to restore morale and control the fractious tendency in his army, so he wasn't going to push it as hard as the Americans would have liked. In their frustrations the neo-cons in the United States were getting annoyed with him. He refused to co-operate or accept on equal terms their stooge in Afghanistan, Hamid Karazai. Their plan to bring Benazir as a balancing force against Musharraf had back-fired. But the imperialist hard liners had little choice; they had to continue. This new democratic façade and the rapid decline of Musharraf provided them with a new opportunity. Zalme Khalizad, the extreme right-wing neo-con and close friend and partner of both Zardari and Karzai, started to egg Zardari on for the presidency of Pakistan. Musharraf resigned and in another relatively quiet and hustle free affair Zardari became the civilian President of Pakistan.
Zardari and economic corruption
The result of the so-called elections, already fixed in advance with bribes and blackmail to the electoral college of corrupt politicians, was a foregone conclusion. It was decided in Washington and executed in Pakistan. In Pakistan the presidential election is the only electoral procedure in the constitution where the candidates don't have to declare their assets. The neo-con's victory was exhibited by Karzai being the guest of honour at the oath-taking ceremony of the new President!
Zardari today is the second richest man in Pakistan.26
Nawaz Sharif is not far behind. The Sharif family is the fourth richest.27
Perhaps he needs just one more stint as the head of state to make it to number one. And these are the people proclaimed to be the victims of incarcerations, repression, imprisonment etc. What victims?
The Presidency of Zardari is not a solution or an end to the turmoil afflicting the Pakistani society. It is the beginning of yet another period of conflagration and social convulsions.
Such reliance of imperialism and the degree of slavishness the present rulers have undergone is unprecedented, even in Pakistan; subservience to imperialism has been the common characteristic of almost every regime in its history. Above all, this shows the immense crisis of Pakistani capitalism. One of the major reasons for this crisis is rabid imperialist exploitation, and to survive Pakistani capitalism needs even more consistence from imperialist institutions. As long as capitalism remains the economic and social system in Pakistan the stranglehold of imperialism will be tight and secure. This is tolerable and even profitable for the ruling classes, but it is playing havoc with the lives of the masses of the country. Without the overthrow of capitalism in Pakistan the yoke of imperialism can never be broken.
According to the standards of bourgeois economics Pakistan was facing a default on its balance of payments in September 2008. That meant it could be declared once again, after the 1998 nuclear explosions back log, a failed state, at least in economic terms. It was once again one of the few clients of the IMF pleading for a bail-out. The Americans, with their own economic problems, couldn't pump in any more cash. The ADB (Asian Development Bank) did give a paltry $500 million, barely enough to keep it breathing; the regime needed at least $15 billion to stabilize the financial crisis. The PPP led government, perhaps for the first time, decided to end subsidies on fuel, electricity, food, fertilizer and other basic necessities by December 2008. Thus the IMF demands were fully met for the first time by any regime in Pakistan. It also announced the privatisation of the remaining assets.
The first resistance began in the Oil and Gas sector with a strike in the Qadirpur gas field in Sindh. The Forex reserves were falling at about $800 million a month, mainly being sucked up by the trade deficit. The record remittances of $ 6.5 billion sent by Pakistani workers abroad were taken up by the debt and interest payments on foreign loans. On the other hand the foreign investments in different basic sectors are fleecing the economy.
According to the Dawn Economic Review 22-28 September 2008,
"Recent large payments of arrears of some Rs. 100 billion by the federal government to oil companies explicit liabilities cash flow streams from the federal budget have gone up from Rs. 16.2 billion in FY06 to Rs. 63.10 billion. Contingent liabilities of the federal government have meanwhile gone up from Rs. 69.9 billion to Rs. 156.2 billion. The budget has become more of an exercise in public relations... The assessment of the State Bank is that the budget overstates revenue and understates expenditure... Total expenditure was budgeted at Rs. 1,555 billion, but according to the revised estimates, it turned out to be Rs. 1,948 billion, an excess of 25.3 percent. Current expenditure was budgeted at Rs. 1,056 billion, but this was Rs 1,516 billion, as per revised estimate, an excess of 43. 6 percent".28
The IPPs (Independent Power Producing Plants) installed by multinational corporations after agreements with the previous PPP government in 1995, have been sending back to their headquarters an average profit of $1billion per year. If the amount of about $15 billion would have been invested by a workers' state in a planned economy, Pakistan would be having a large capacity of electricity to export. Now the government has paid these IPPs the sum of $33 million just in dues for them to restart producing electricity. The price was raised by 31% plus 15% GST on the night Zardari was sworn in as President. Eiteslat, the Arab multinational that bought the PTCL during the Musharraf regime, obviously with huge kickbacks, has been able to earn profits equal to the equity raised to buy Pakistan's telecommunication sector. After the privatisation of the remaining assets, how could the economy function and be sustained in the long run? The bourgeois economists have just no real answer.
Such is the doom and gloom of the capitalist strategists in Pakistan that they have lost confidence in their own system as the economy takes an uncontrollable downward spiral. Even if we look at the official figures of Pakistan's economic growth indicators it gives a depressing picture, and in Pakistan official figures are not even believed by the serious economists of the bourgeois itself. The estimates for the fiscal year 2008-09 have been made by Shahid Javed Burki who is one of the World Bank directors and former finance minister of Pakistan.
|Pakistan's GDP growth: Past and Future30|
|2004-05||2005-06||2006-07||2007-08||2008-09||% of GDP|
|Commodity Producing Sector||9.5||5.1||6.0||3.2||4.2||44.9|
|Electricity and Gas||-5.7||-26.6||2.5||-14.7||-8.0||1.5|
|Sources: Pakistan:Economic Survey, 2007-8 and Dawn estimates for 2008-9 |
(Dawn Economic Review, Sept. 29 - Oct, 05 2008, Shahid Javed Burki)
Although these figures show a gradual decline their impact, along with the fiscal crisis and balance of payment, is much larger. Even Burki's estimates, especially in agriculture, are more wishful thinking rather than an economic perspective. All sectors of the economy are in crisis and agriculture is probably the worst effected.
According to the year 2000 Agricultural Census, only 37% of rural households own land, and 61% of these land owners had less than five acres. Much of the direct gains in income from crop production, particularly irrigated agriculture, go to higher income farmers. Hence the growth in agricultural sector further widens the rich-poor divide in the rural areas. The increase in growth rate of the agriculture is negated in another report in Dawn that deals with Pakistan's main cash crop-cotton.
"The news is that we are going to miss the cotton production target of 14.11 million bales for the year 2008-09, for the fourth year in a row, in spite of a better plant plantation and the growth of greater number of bolls. 'The general crop condition is much better than last year. Yet we will not achieve the output target for the year'. Dr. Qadir Bux Baloch, Agriculture Development Commissioner (ADC) at the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Live Stock told Dawn...."
The report continues,
"The smaller domestic crop than expected means that the textile industry's dependence on imported fibre will rise. This short crop size last year compelled the industry ... to spend $1.291 billion to import 4.6 million bales during August 07- July 08 to meet the requirements. This year more foreign exchange will be needed to import the fibre.
"The main reason is the sudden increase in fertilizer prices that has spiked from Rs. 600 per bag to Rs. 3100 within six months. The prices of other infra structural facilities like electricity, water, and transport have also rocketed. This will be a disaster especially for farmers with small land holdings".30
In most rural areas markets are asymmetric with respect to the rich and poor farmers. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) report shows that the poor farmers pay a higher price on their input and get a lower price on their out put compared to the large farmers. Consequently the poor peasants are loosing as much as one third of their income due to such asymmetric markets. The UNDP report shows that 51% of the tenants get locked into debt dependence on the landlord, and out of these 57% are obliged to work as wage labourers on the landlord's farm without any wages, while 14% work for a wage below the market rate. This report also indicates that due to inadequate diet and lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, 65% of the poor in the sample survey were suffering from ill health. Disease emerged as a major factor that pushes people into poverty, due to high medical costs combined with income loss due to absence from work. This constitutes a major structural factor that accentuates poverty, inequality and constrains GDP growth by constraining the productivity of the poor.
The condition of the production and targets of crops other than cotton have a similar fate in this fiscal year 2008-09.
The GDP growth rate of 4.2% by Burki's estimate may still be even worse. The meltdown in financial and investment banking in USA can move towards a world slow down or recession. This will have even further damaging effects on Pakistan's economy. The GDP growth rate might be halved to 2.1% in 2008-09 by this aggravation of World wide economic downturn.
Lenin once said that politics is but precipitated economics. With such an economic rot the politics must reflect that. If we look at the coalitions, the leaders, the intrigues, betrayals, political and ideological treachery has become the norm in Pakistani politics. In the recent times it has even worsened. The callous indifference of the ruling classes and their generals, bureaucrats and political representatives towards the plight of the masses is horrendous. The conditions to which the masses of this society have been subjected by this system are deplorable and intolerable.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization) report of 1981 "For the masses living in this region the health conditions in 1857 were better than today".31
In 2005, ten thousand people in Pakistan were falling below the poverty line every week. Now the figure has crossed 15000. These are varying figures, but the ADB figures show 47% living below absolute poverty and 78% living on under two dollars a day. 80% of the population is forced into non-scientific medication due to their financial situation. The WHO report, according to 'News Line' September 2008, says that "50% of the medicines in the market in Pakistan are counterfeit".32
According to officials of the World Food Programme more than half of Pakistan's 173 million people are now short of food due to the surge in prices. The WFP survey says: "the 'food insecure' had risen from 60 million to 79 million from March to September 2008."33
The WFP report says, "There is a very big gap between the increase in prices and the increase in wages... the purchasing power of the poor has gone down by almost 50 percent." And that was in March. UNICEF says that 200,000 Pakistani children die annually because of unsafe drinking water, dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid and gastro-enteritis. Out of the 137 poorest countries Pakistan's GDP percentage spending on education stands at number 134 and health at 137! Yet Pakistan is the 11th largest importer of arms and weapons of mass destruction.34
Human Development in South Asia 2007, a ten year review published by the Mahbub ul Haq Development centre, states the following on the conditions of human life in Pakistan:
- Progress in life-expectancy during ten years is the slowest in the region.
- Percentage of malnourished children under 5 years of age remains more or less stagnant at 38% compared to 40% in 1994.
- Maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births has increased significantly from 340 deaths in 1993 to 500 deaths in 2000.
- Incidence of tuberculosis per 100,000 population has increased from 150 in 1995 to 181 in 2004.
- Public spending on health as percentage of GDP has gone down from 0.8% in 1995 to 0.4% in 2004.
- Half of the adult population is still illiterate.
- Presently, 6.5 million children are out of school; second highest rank in the world.
- Pupil-teacher ratio at primary level has increased from 32 in 1998 to 37 in 2004.
- Percentage of trained teachers has declined from 82% in 1995 to 78% in 2004.
- Public expenditure on education has declined from 2.7% of GDP in 1992 to 2% of GDP during 2002-04.
- 73.6% of population still lives below US $2, a day classification.
- Percentage of rural poor has increased from 31% in 1990 to 35.9% in 2004.
- Share of females in labour force has declined from 27 percent in 1994 to 26.5% in 2004.
- Unpaid female family workers are 46.9% of female employment as compared to male unpaid workers which are 16.4% of male employment.
This report although composed mainly from the analysis of bourgeois experts still paints a dismal picture of the education sector in Pakistan.
The review continues:
"The recent Education for All (EFA) Report reveals that Pakistan has the highest number of out of school children in the world after Nigeria. Currently, there are 6.5 million children in Pakistan that are out of school. Of the total children who are not enrolled in schools, 80% are not expected to enrol, about 10% have dropped out, and the rest are expected to enrol later.
"Several factors explain the high number of children who are not expected to enrol. In a survey, factors that were identified by parents were: children with no interest in getting education (74%); education is too expensive (73%); school distance a hindrance (70%); children working as household help (69%); children needed to earn for family (67%); non availability of school (66%); lack of opportunities for future education; and discouraging behaviour of teachers (64%).
"Poor access to school is a major factor for out of school children. According to another survey conducted by the government in 14 districts of Pakistan, it was identified that only 54% of children have access to primary schools".35
68% of diseases in Pakistan are poverty related. Most deaths are through curable diseases. Annually 165,000 women die in Pakistan due to lack of obstetric facilities during child birth. The infant mortality rate is 137 deaths out of ever 1,000 live births. The conditions of physical infrastructure are in a rotten state and further deteriorating. The electricity shortages are rising. There is a dearth of around 6,000 megawatt of just the present needs. 35% of all electricity generated is wasted through bad transmission lines and open wiring. A large, unspecified amount of electricity is stolen through bribery and corruption. The railways, built by the British, are in a poor state. Far more railway tracks and stations have been dismantled than the number of miles of the track laid since the so called independence in 1947. The canal system of irrigation, also developed under the Raj, has deteriorated. About 30% of canal water seeps due to the conditions of the canal beds. This on one hand deprives water for farming and also destroys vast tracts of fertile land through water-logging and salinity. Some huge, expensive and modern highways have been built, but in the vast countryside and inner cities the roads are muddy, pot-holed, and broken down.
The state has failed to build a proper social and physical infrastructure. Rather, as the years pass by, it has become more and more fractured by the continual economic crisis, corruption and plunder of the ruling classes. The present PPP government has cut another 70 billion rupees from the budgetary allocation for developmental projects. In any case the funds allocated and those from World Bank project are usurped by all levels of the bureaucracy. The contractors here pay out to everyone, from the top minister of a department to the official at the lowest rung of the bureaucracy; very little is left for real development. Due to this corruption the quality of construction of most developmental projects is very bad. Hence, even those projects that are completed decay rapidly and are out of use in a very short span of time.
But government contractors have still amassed billions despite all the expenditures through state corruption on construction projects etc. This contractual system has played havoc with the development of the country. Most political representatives from a local union council in a village or neighbourhood to the parliament are funded in their election campaigns by these contractors, or in several cases the contractors themselves are the elected representatives of the people. Elections in Pakistan at all levels today are based on money and financial resources.
Ahmed Rashid exposed the drug connection and Pakistan's democracy. In his book published in the year 2000, he wrote:
"Western anti-narcotics agencies in Islamabad kept track of drugs lords, who became Members of the National Assembly during the first government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (1988-90) and Nawaz Sharif (1990-93). Drugs lords funded candidates to high office in both Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League. Industry and trade became increasingly financed by laundered drugs money and the black economy, which accounted for between 30 and 50 percent of the total Pakistan economy, was heavily subsidised by drugs money".36
Most ministries and posts are traded on the political black market of Pakistan. This is the real character of the democracy in Pakistan which asks for innumerable sacrifices by the poor at the behest of the bourgeois democratic leaders of the country. Pakistan has failed to develop its infrastructure and society under the methods of state capitalism. But what the strategists of the ruling classes concluded from this was that the solution was to privatise the infrastructure and the state controlled service sector. It was an international phenomenon after the 1980s when Reaganomics and Thatcherism became the economic mantra of the strategists the world over. How could Pakistani economic experts desist from that? They ape every move of the bourgeois economists from the western universities with big names. Their colonial mentality and slavish attitude towards the Raj has persisted from generation to generation.
But the privatisation of the infrastructure and basic services has thrown the Pakistani society from frying pan into fire. This means above all an actual denial of proper health and education facilities to about 80% of the population; the privatised Health and education, with relatively bearable standards, can only cope with about 15-25% of the middle class with some buying capacity for these services.
The privatisation and related policies have ravaged the vast majority of the people. Old people and children die outside hospital gates, in front of pharmaceutical stores full of medicines, because they just don't have the money to buy the medicines which could cure them. The privatisation of assets has brought some foreign investment. But this is more capital intensive than labour intensive. Hence the take over of any institution or industry by the multinationals doesn't generate jobs, but make thousands of workers redundant. This has happened in Telecommunications and several other privatised state enterprises. The notion that through privatisation corruption can be abolished is deceptive, false and absurd. Since 1977 every regime and political leader or military dictator has pursued the same fundamental economic policies. The fourth PPP government, now incumbent, is the most right-wing and carries out most aggressive anti- working class policies than any other PPP government before. All the political parties and leaders dominating the country, media, and political horizon also have same economic programmes. Sixty-one years after the partition, this false dawn has brought only destitution to the vast majority of the populace for more than three generations.
Winston Churchill was a conservative British politician of the 'old type', from the generations that still believed in and represented the classical British aristocracy. He still harboured the delusion of the grandeur and glory of the British Imperial Raj, even at the end of the Second World War when it was crumbling. During the process of transfer of power to India, Winston Churchill said,
"Power will go in to the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. Not a bottle of water, not a loaf of bread shall escape taxation. Only air will be free and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Mr. Attlee (then Prime Minister). These are men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years."37
He was talking about Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi and other leaders of India. The nascent bourgeois and feudal aristocrats who had supported Jinnah for the creation of Pakistan as a separate entity at least had a dream. In the 19th century the strategists of British Imperialists drew plans for decades not years. Churchill had a nostalgic yearning for those days; he knew their dream of a prosperous, progressive and modern Pakistan would be shattered sooner rather than later. That is what has happened. But what should the workers and the toiling masses do to end this nightmare of capitalist drudgery? They did in 1968-69 what was their task in history. The revolution could not and cannot wait for a Leninist party to be formed and a revolutionary Marxist leadership to emerge. In such times the masses don't have time for that. Through the 1968-69 revolution they had at least created a mass tradition the PPP. The main target and slogan was the overthrow of the twenty two families who represented capitalism in Pakistan. They had demanded food, clothing and shelter. In today's twenty two families the second richest is the co-chairman of the PPP and the President of Pakistan. The masses are today deprived of 'Roti, Kapra aur Makan' (Food, Clothing and Shelter), even more than they were in 1968-69.
The tradition of political expression of the masses in Pakistan since the revolutionary events of 1968 has been the PPP. The irony is that the leadership of this party has abandoned the founding programme upon which the party was built. 'Socialism' today is a forbidden word in the leading bodies of the PPP. They have used and abused the tradition of 1968. In that sense this leadership has become an obstacle in the path of the toiling masses. The PPP was founded on the socialist legacy and struggle for the emancipation of the working classes, but the present leadership has adopted a programme and policy that meets the requirements of the ruling class, not the working people. This cannot go on for ever. A new wave of struggle will cut across the doom and gloom of reaction in society and it will have a massive impact on the PPP itself. The pressures of opposing classes will separate the bourgeois from the proletarian elements within the party and create the basis for the emergence of a mass revolutionary tendency which will be the first step in the task of providing the leadership the workers require.
|« 8.Crisis of the Left Leadership||Contents||10.Redeeming the 1968-69 Uprising »|
1The Unbroken Thread, (Fortress), p. 306
2Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky"", (Progressive Publishers, Moscow, 1934), p. 18-19
3Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah, (Viking), p. 19, 20, 21, 295
4Asian Survey, Vol. XXVIII, No.10, October 1988
5Lawrence Lifschultz, 'Bush, Pakistan and Drugs: The Kingdom of Heroin', The Nation, 14 November 1988
6Kux, The United States and Pakistan, (The Adst-Dacor Diplomats and Diplomacy Series), p. 257
7Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, (Oxford), p. 379
9Ibid, p. 385
10Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah, (Viking), p. 49
11Benazir admitted that a committee had been set up for negotiation with Jamat-i-Islami during an interview with author, 10 June 1988, Christina Lamb,(Viking), Waiting for Allah, p.52
12Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah, (Viking), p. 56)
13Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, p. 202
14Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey, Truth never retires, (Jang, 1996), p.445
15John Ward Anderson and Kamran Khan, ""Pakistan Sets Off Nuclear Blasts,"" Washington Post, 29 May 1998
16Dawn news wire service, 23 September 1999
17Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, (Oxford), p.525
18Musharraf, In the Line of Fire, (Free Press, 2006), p. 201
19Thomas H. Kean, Chair and Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chair, The 9/11 Report: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, (New York: St. Martin's Press,2004) p. 473-74
20Adrian and Clark, Deception: Pakistan, the United States, the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons. (Walker and Company, New York), 2007
21Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, (Oxford), p. 533
22Dawn, 25 August 2007
23Ibid op .cit. p. 547
24Economist , May 10 2008
25The News on Sunday, 28 September 2088, p.9
26List of 22 richest families, Appendix II of this book"
"28Dawn, Business and Economic Review, 22-28 September 2008
29Dawn Business and Economic Review, Sept. 29-Oct. 05 2008, Shahid Javed Burki
30Dawn 28 Sept. 2008
31Quoted in Lal Khan, Socialist Revolution and Pakistan, Amsterdam 1983, p.79
32News Line, September 2008, p.45
33The News on Sunday, September 2008
34Jedddojuhd, issue 1-15 February 2008, p.12
35Human Development in South Asia, 2007, Mahbub ul Haq Development Centre, p. 147
36Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game, (I.B. Tauris 2000), p.121
37Dawn, 4 October 2008"