On Friday, all of the 11 Marxist activists and members of the Progressive Youth Alliance and the Red Workers’ Front, who were abducted by the Pakistani security forces last week were released. This is a huge victory for the solidarity campaign, which ran on the 25th and 26th of April, both in Pakistan and on an international scale.
The 11 comrades, all members of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), were abducted for their part in organising solidarity with the Pashtun movement, which has shaken Pakistani society in the past period. The movement erupted on 12 January after the murder of a young shopkeeper at the hands of a notorious police thug of the Pakistani state in Karachi.
Solidarity with the PTM
In the following weeks, hundreds-of-thousands of Pashtuns began to mobilise throughout the country. They have had enough of the brutality of the security forces and intelligence agencies. One of the main demands of the movement is the release of the more than 30,000 people who have been disappeared by the state in the past 10 years.
Although the movement for now remains primarily dominated by Pashtun, it has brought out much of the corruption, rot and hypocrisy of the Pakistani ruling class and has shown potential to spread to other layers in society. It is clear that the state is terrified of the consequences of such a movement if it continues to develop.
The Pakistani Marxists of the Progressive Youth Alliance, the Red Workers Front and Lal Salaam – the Pakistani section of the IMT – supported this movement from the beginning and energetically threw themselves into it. They raised the key slogans of spreading the movement to all oppressed layers of Pakistani society and to direct it at the rotten Pakistani ruling class as the best guarantee for victory.
This clearly alarmed the authorities, who began a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the comrades. Seeing that verbal intimidation did not work they stepped up their aggression on 22 April, after a rally in Karachi where the comrades had intervened successfully with leaflets and by raising radical slogans against the state.
Immediately after the protest, the notorious Sindh Rangers stopped a train carrying four IMT comrades and abducted them. Elsewhere, another three were picked up and on the following day an additional four of which two were quickly released. Thus on Monday, 23 April, nine comrades had disappeared with no information released as to where they were or which – if any – charges had been raised against them.
In the wake of the abductions a massive solidarity campaign was launched throughout Pakistan as well as internationally to release all the abducted immediately. The response to the solidarity appeal was very impressive and without it the fate of these comrades could have been much worse.
Throughout Pakistan solidarity protests were organised by the Progressive Youth Alliance, the Red Workers Front and Lal Salaam and supported by a wide range of leftist and progressive organisations. The leadership of the PTM also issued a solidarity appeal calling for protests across the country to take place on Thursday. This initially led to a crackdown on a protest in Lahore where over 35 activists from different left organisations, were arrested by the police. These were, however, quickly released as the main purpose was to stop the protest rally from taking place, and there was also the mounting pressure that was already pushing the state to take a step back.
At the same time a massive solidarity campaign was taking place internationally on the call of the IMT and the Pakistan Trade Union Solidarity Campaign. Activists in nearly 30 countries around the globe, rallied in defence of the abducted comrades by organising meetings as well as sending hundreds of letters of protest to the respective embassies and consulates in their countries. An international day of action also took place on 25 April where the Pakistani Embassies and consulates in almost 20 countries were picketed.
A whole series of prominent labour movement, trade union and left wing leading figures and organisations participated in this campaign. From Canada, Mike Palecek, the National President of the Canadian postal workers’ union, CUPW, representing 50,000 workers supported the campaign and wrote a protest letter to the Pakistani Prime Minister. A similar letter was sent by Amir Khadir, member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Québec Solidaire.
From Brazil we received an official letter from the National Executive of the left wing socialist party PSOL addressed to the Pakistan Ambassador in Brasilia, condemning the abductions. Two Argentinian MPs, Nicolás del Caño and Nathalia Gonzalez Seligra, both of the PTS – FIT, also sent protest letters to the Pakistani Embassy condemning the abductions. From Venezuela we received solidarity from Eduardo Samán a former Chavista minister and a prominent leader of the Bolivarian left as well as a series of trade union organisations.
A leader of the 2016 Junior Doctors' strike in Britain and member of the Momentum National Coordinating Group, Yannis Gourtsoyannis, issued a public statement on Facebook. Apsana Begum, also on the Momentum NCG and secretary of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party also supported the campaign, as did Jane Lotfus, president of the CWU (Communication Workers’ Union) and Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of the RMT (Railway Maritime and Transport workers’ union).
From Spain we received solidarity from Javier Couso, Member of the European Parliament for Izquierda Unida, Henar Moreno Martínez, from the secretariat of the party of the European Left, Alberto Arregui, member of the Federal Coordination of Izquierda Unida (national leadership of United Left), Concha Palencia, Senator in the Spanish Parliament and member of PODEMOS. In Catalonia, Vidal Aragonés, a member of the Catalan Parliament for the CUP also expressed his support for the campaign.
From Italy we received solidarity from Eleonora Forenza, an Italian Member of the European Parliament, part of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group, Claudio Bellotti spokesperson of the electoral list “For a Revolutionary Left”, Mario Iavazzi from the National Committee of Cgil, Paolo Brini from the Central Committee of Fiom-Cgil, metalworkers’ union, Paolo Grassi from the National Committee of unemployed workers’ union Nidil-Cgil and from Margherita Colella from the National Committee of the School Workers’ Union, Flc-Cgil.
In Greece we received solidarity from the coordination committee of the party ANTARSYA and in Macedonia a letter of protest was sent from the Levica party.
We also received support from Akram Nadir, Union Organizer in Iraq and Kurdistan and International Representative of Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI).
A whole series of organisations in Indonesia also added their names to the protest, including Indonesia United Workers Confederation, Committee of People's Struggle, The National Central of Workers Movement, National Trade Union Confederation, Federation of Independent Workers' Struggle Union – Gresik, Anti-Capitalist Students Front, Papua Students Alliance – Surabaya, Central Leadership of Confederation of Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions and the Christian Youth Union for the Socialist Struggle.
Furthermore the original online petition got 2,594 signatures with hundreds more having been collected on paper around the world.
Internationalism vindicated! But the fight goes on
This was a spectacular achievement, in particular taking into consideration the short notice at which the campaign was organised. Thousands of people participated and we can confirm that it had an impact on the Pakistani state which finally decided to release the remaining activists on Friday 26 April. Following his release, comrade Aftab Ashraf, the national organiser of the Red Workers Front, spoke in the following video message to explain their ordeal and thank those who had supported the campaign:
We would like to thank all of you who supported our campaign, which undoubtedly played a crucial role in securing their release, but we also ask that you remain vigilant. The campaign around the broader issues raised by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement continues, including a planned day of mass action on 12 May. As of this weekend, the oppressed Hazaras have joined the Pashtuns in their struggle against the oppression of the Pakistani state. All of this reveals that the Pakistani masses have had enough of corruption and brutality, of being beaten, killed and plundered by the rotten ruling class and that they are beginning to move to take their destinies into their own hands. Their struggle is the same as all the oppressed and exploited throughout the world. We ask all our readers to support their struggle by organising and joining the struggle against capitalism throughout the world. Support the fight for Socialism in a concrete way by joining the International Marxist Tendency and help to build the revolutionary alternative the workers and youth of the world need!