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Pakistan

New twists and turns in Pakistani politics

www.socialistworld.net, 24/08/2007
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

The threat of Emergency or Martial Law is not over yet,

Khalid Bhatti, SMP Lahore

Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where political predictions are very difficult to make, because the political situation changes every few months. The political and social crisis is so deep that it is impossible for any regime to bring long-lasting stability in the country.

As the present regime is losing power and becoming increasingly unstable, it is bringing more volatility and uncertainty. One day the media has news of a possible deal between the main opposition PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) and the military ruler Musharraf. Next day, something contrary on the imposition of emergency rule comes out.

On one hand the regime talks about elections while at the same time it also talks about imposing emergency or even martial law. There were rumours in all the news channels for 24 hours during August that the government had decided to impose an emergency in the country and wants to postpone the general elections for one year. Everybody was worried. The stock market crashed, losing more than 900 points in one day. Foreign investors started withdrawing their money.

After this 24-hour drama and confusion, the government announced that emergency will not be imposed. General Musharraf later told the media that the government had sent him the proposal to impose an emergency but he refused to sign.

In fact he did it only after a phone call from the US foreign minister. His legal advisers also asked him not to impose emergency under these circumstances. The Americans and legal advisers saved him from another possible embarrassment at the hands of the Supreme Court.

The present situation in Pakistan can be described in one word - confusion. Every one seems confused in the ruling class including government, opposition parties and military establishment. Musharraf wants his re-election as uniformed president from the present assemblies at any cost, but is still unsure that he will be able to do that. There is no certainty when the general elections will be held.

Musharraf is also not sure whether to make a deal with the PPP. There is also confusion in the opposition camp. Both PPP and JUI, the largest component of religious parties’ alliance (MMA), wants to strike a deal with the government.

Some opposition parties want to bring down the present regime through street agitation, but they have no clear strategy to do that. Some opposition parties want to boycott general elections under Musharraf but other parties want to contest the elections under any circumstances.

Will Musharraf survive?

The most debated issue is, how long will Musharraf survive? No doubt Musharraf’s power has weakened in the last few months. The reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan by the Supreme Court on 20 July was the biggest below to his regime since he took over in 1999. Now Musharraf faces a hostile superior judiciary, a more concerned establishment, rising Islamic militancy and extremism and increased discontent about his rule.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for him to continue as president and army chief at the same time. With the presidential election looming, the issue of his uniform again takes centre stage. Musharraf desperately wanted to re elect himself as president in uniform to continue his rule. He has the required majority in the assemblies to get himself elected but the laws and the constitution do not allow him to continue as uniformed president.

He needs the support of two-thirds of Pakistan’s legislators to amend the constitution, which is not available to him. In 2002, the religious parties’ alliance MMA provided him the required number to amend the constitution. Now he wants to get the PPP’s support to amend it again.

If he failed to re-elect himself as president from the present assemblies, as a result of a supreme court decision against him, he will most likely impose emergency or direct military rule to hang on to the power. But this would be a blunder on his part and most likely he would be removed by another General. American politicians are also putting pressure on him to drop the uniform and become civilian president.

Musharraf has few options left to continue his rule. He is very unpopular amongst the masses and he is also not enjoying the same support in the military as he was some time ago. The next few months will determine the future of General Musharraf and his allies. But clearly he will not be able to extend his rule in the longer term without making new alliances and giving more concessions to staunch opponents like former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. His survival mainly depends on the superior courts’ decisions on different constitutional issues.

Rebellious judiciary

There is a rebellion going on in the superior judiciary against the establishment. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the judiciary is asserting itself and showing independence from the establishment. The judiciary has not only started to make decisions against the establishment but it is also taking up issues they never tackled before.

The Supreme Court not only reinstated the Chief Justice but also struck down the decades-old law which allowed the government to send judges on forced leave. The countrywide month-long struggle of lawyers and political activists gave the superior judiciary new confidence to go against the establishment.

A hostile judiciary can become a big obstacle to a regime which wants to extend its rule beyond the legal limits. The Supreme Court is taking many actions against the police brutalities and tortures, crimes against women and against illegal measures and actions of the establishment.

An overwhelming majority of people now looks towards the Supreme Court with new hopes. The Chief Justice is still the most popular and respected person linked with a state institution. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the superior judiciary has started to hear petitions against intelligence agencies for detaining people without any legal proceedings.

All the political parties are approaching the judiciary on all sorts of issues. Judicial activism is hurting the government badly and making it difficult for them to fulfil their wishes. A new confrontation is taking place between judiciary and establishment, a new phenomenon in Pakistan.

Traditionally, the judiciary helped the establishment draw up its political designs. The judiciary always provides legal and constitutional cover and legitimacy to the military governments and even allows them to amend the constitution according to their political requirements.

But this decades-long cooperation came to an end on 9 March when Musharraf tried to sack the Chief Justice. It is not easy for the establishment to curtail the pro-active judiciary. Confrontation between two state institutions will further deepen the crisis.

Musharraf-Benazir deal

Finally Musharraf took another u-turn and decided to get the support of his arch-rival Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf in his seven years rule constantly attacked Bhutto for being corrupt and a security risk for the country. To strengthen his power, however, he decided to make a compromise with her.

The deal between General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto has finally been achieved though both deny any deal between them. American advisers played a key role in this deal and they are putting lot of pressure on Musharraf to make concessions to Benazir.

US Imperialism is also pressurizing Musharraf to finalise a power-sharing formula with the PPP after the upcoming general elections. For the Americans the Musharraf-Benazir coalition is the best option to carry forward their policies in Pakistan. They insist that Musharraf should take off his uniform and become a civilian president after securing the second term.

Benazir is ready to accept him as civilian president if he accepts her as prime minister. There are still some issues that need to be settled before implementation of the deal that will benefit Musharraf and gave him some time in power.

But this deal has further eroded support for Benazir Bhutto, who is ready to make any sacrifice to come to power. She strongly believes that the establishment will bring her to power. She has lost confidence in the masses and wants to get support from the Pakistani establishment and American imperialism. The PPP is continuing to shift further to the right.

Benazir and Musharraf have common policies on many issues. They both are Pro- US and followed American policies. They both have neoliberal economic policies, believing in the free market economy and wanting to continue with the rotten and repressive capitalist system.

Crisis of leadership

The latest surveys by BBC radio, local news channels and other bodies clearly show there is a serious leadership crisis in the country. No leader at present can claim that he or she enjoys the overwhelming support of the masses. According to these surveys, Z.A. Bhutto the founding chairman of PPP, executed by a military ruler in 1979, is still Pakistan’s most popular leader, followed by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf stands in sixth spot.

Nawaz Sharif has become popular because he refused to make any sort of deal or compromise with Musharraf. Benazir Bhutto has lost support since she met Musharraf. No religious leader is in the list of ten top politicians of the country.

According to these surveys, the majority of people have no trust in military generals or civilian politicians because they have failed to deliver. In 2004, the religious leaders were the country’s most trusted politicians but now they are the least trusted.

These surveys reflect the general mood of working people. The overwhelming majority has no interest in politics because they feel betrayed by political parties and their leadership. The main political parties have no real programme, strategy and ideology to solve the basic problems faced by the working masses.

Opposition parties routinely criticise the present regime for price hikes, poverty, unemployment, falling living conditions, rising Islamic militancy and the lack of basic facilities like health, education, clean drinking water and decent housing, but these parties have no alternative programme and policies to answer these problems.

If you ask them how you can solve these problems, the religious leaders always reply, Islam is the solution. For capitalist and feudal leaders the answer is democracy. They are not interested in the issues of working people. Working-class people have lost faith in politics and a clear majority consider it a waste of time. Hundreds of thousands of people who came to welcome the Chief Justice when he was travelling to different parts of the country are not ready to come out on the streets at the call of political parties.

The process of political alienation of the working class has even increased in the last few years. For the masses, all the parties are the same and their only objective is to share power with the establishment to plunder the state resources.

The charisma and popularity of PPP and Benazir Bhutto has eroded to the lowest levels. Religious leaders have been discredited and are losing support. Nationalist parties in different provinces are not enjoying the support they enjoyed in the past. Military rule and generals have also become very unpopular.

The already existing political vacuum is widening and becoming bigger. This situation can be compared with that in the early 1960s which led to the mass movement of working class and poor in 1968-69, the biggest revolutionary movement in the history of Pakistan.

Mass workers party

No working-class party exists in Pakistan. The working class has no political voice and platform to fight for its political interests. The absence of a mass working class party further disillusions working people from politics. The working class needs its own party with a clear socialist programme.

Many trade unions raise the idea of a working-class party but nothing practically has been done. Some union leaders use this slogan to satisfy their membership, which are putting pressure on them to form a workers’ party. The question is mainly raised by the right wing union leadership which is frightened at the prospect of a real mass working-class party based on a radical fighting programme.

There is no opposition to the idea of a workers’ party in the wider layers of workers and especially trade union activists. As the working class started to take part actively in politics, the idea of a new workers’ party will become more prominent in the labour movement.

Socialist Movement Pakistan (SMP) has been raising this idea in the trade unions and working class since 2004. SMP is constantly campaigning on this issue and it got a very positive response from workers.

SMP plans to launch a countrywide campaign during the general elections to be held in December this year or early next year. There is big potential for this campaign to develop on a national level. SMP is also campaigning to organise a national trade union conference on this issue next March.

These small steps can pave the way for big steps in this direction. The next few years will be crucial. A mass revolutionary party of the working class is a difficult task, but it needs to be done. The political situation is ripening for such a development.

 



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NEWS

CWI School: Drawing the lessons from the revolutions in North Africa
03/08/2015, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
Life and death struggle with the process of counter-revolution.

US: Over 1,000 attend housing debate hosted by Socialist councillor Kshama Sawant
31/07/2015, Kshama Sawant:
Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s socialist councillor defending seat in primary elections on 4 August

CWI School: Social and political turmoil in Ireland
30/07/2015, Eddie McCabe, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Socialists play key role in rapidly changing situation

Britain: Corbyn’s Labour leadership bid shows anti-austerity message popular
29/07/2015, Editorial from The Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Militant Tendency held up as bogeyman by Labour right and media - What’s the real history?

Turkey: Horrific Suruc massacre
28/07/2015, Paula Mitchell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Only workers’ unity can end terrorism and division

Britain: Labour Left leadership candidate under fire from right wing
27/07/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales - formerly the Militant Tendency) press statement on Labour leadership contest:
Blairites’ terror at popularity of left-wing ideas in Corbyn campaign

Turkey: CWI brings solidarity with Suruç victims
22/07/2015, :
Message of support from the CWI and its sections

Turkey: Massacre in Suruç
20/07/2015, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey):
Kurdish and Turkish people pay price for Erdoğan’s support for ISIS

Venezuela: Solidarity with workers and unions at FOGADE
20/07/2015, socialistworld.net:
No to union discrimination and repression!

Ireland: 57% boycott water charges
18/07/2015, Michael O’Brien, Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) Councillor and Socialist Party member:
Mass non-payment campaign gets results

Video: Reject sectarianism in Northern Ireland
17/07/2015, socialistworld.net:
Paul Murphy addresses Irish parliament

Germany: Capitalists strangling Greece
15/07/2015, Georg Kümmel, Cologne, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
No to the dictatorship of banks and big business – For a socialist Europe!

Migration: Fleeing horrors created by capitalism
14/07/2015, Editorial from the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
A socialist view on immigration crisis

Greece: Tsipras crosses the Rubicon
10/07/2015, Editorial Statement by Xekinima(CWI Greece):
Time for a new, mass revolutionary Left to oppose all austerity!

Britain: Union activists say, We could stop austerity in its tracks
09/07/2015, From The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party, CWI England & Wales):
National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference

Scotland: Dundee porters’ victory proves strike action can deliver
06/07/2015, By Philip Stott:
After 13 weeks of all-out strike action the 117 Dundee hospital porters have won an inspiring victory

Video: Harris Sideris on Greek referendum and Vodafone battle
05/07/2015, socialistworld.net:
Sacked Greek Vodafone trade unionist speaks in London on eve of historic referendum

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Video: Real nature of EU is being laid bare
02/07/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Ruth Coppinger, Socialist TD (Irish MP), supports Greek ‘NO’ vote, and calls for debt refutation and nationalisations

Video: Socialist MP condemns Troika/Irish government’s bullying of Greek voters
01/07/2015, :
Paul Murphy TD (Irish MP) attacks Irish prime minister’s collusion with Brussels big business agenda and voices solidarity with Greek workers

Is China’s stock market bubble bursting?
01/07/2015, Dikang, chinaworker.info:
Billions wiped off share values in June – only the Greek stock market is more volatile

South Africa: The Marikana Report – a whitewash
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Not a stone has been left unturned on the political landscape

Tunisia: Terrorist atrocity in Sousse
29/06/2015, Statement by Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki (Socialist Alternative, CWI in Tunisia):
For a renewed mass movement against poverty and terror

Greece: “NO”
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On Sunday 5 July, we say “no” to the gang of the lenders!

Germany: Indefinite strike for more staff at Charité hospital
26/06/2015, Aron Amm, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Berlin industrial dispute of national importance

Greece: Where are mass solidarity protests with Syriza?
26/06/2015, Eleni Mitsou, from Xekinima (CWI Greece) website:
Troika must be defied – No more cuts! Don’t pay the debt! Socialist policies would win huge backing from Greek workers

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

CWI School: Europe’s euro-crisis and prospects for class struggle
28/07/2015, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Ground prepared everywhere for new battles and rise of left formations

China: Stock market crash can turn into a political crisis
08/07/2015, Interview, with chinaworker.info editor, Vincent Kolo:
Regime adopts panic measures as market crash threatens wider economic recession

Greece: Mighty class-based ‘NO’ shakes bosses’ EU
06/07/2015, Editorial comment by Xekinima (CWI Greece), 6 July 2015:
Referendum earthquake sees working class boldly defy Troika and Greece’s servile ruling class!

Britain: Socialists and the EU referendum
03/07/2015, Clive Heemskerk, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
How should socialists approach the in-or-out EU debate?

Greece: Troika threatens Greeks ahead of referendum
30/06/2015, Andreas Payiatsos and Niall Mulholland:
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Britain’s class battle-lines are drawn
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A quarter-of-a-million people protested through London and Glasgow raising the need for trade union-led struggle

Greece: Tsipras retreats before Troika threats
24/06/2015, Statement by Xekinima (CWI Greece) [dated 23 June 2015]:
What should the SYRIZA Left do next?

Greece: No surrender to‘Gang of Lenders’
22/06/2015, Editorial article from Xekinima (CWI Greece) [dated 17 June 2015]:
Plan an anti-austerity fight-back, with socialist policies!

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04/06/2015, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
26th anniversary of the Beijing massacre on June 4, 1989, is also a warning of revolutionary shocks ahead

Hong Kong: Endgame for Beijing’s fake democracy plan
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Spain: Victories for Left “popular unity” lists in local elections
02/06/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Two-party system dealt a new blow in local and regional elections

Belgium: Momentum to bring down right wing government lost
01/06/2015, Els Deschoemacker and Eric Byl, LSP/PSL (Belgian section of the CWI), Brussels:
Learn from the struggle, as new opportunities open up

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28/05/2015, Conor Payne, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
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27/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) General Secretary:
No fundamental change to be expected from the Labour Party

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Iraq/Syria: ISIS rout national armies at Ramadi and Palmyra
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Ireland North: Socialist Party replies to leading Sinn Fein councillor’s attacks
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What sort of new society are we struggling for?