Second successful national congress held in Lahore
Over a hundred delegates and visitors from the Socialist Movement’s membership which covers all four provinces of Pakistan met in Lahore on 18 – 19 March for an extremely successful Congress. The meeting was held to discuss the national and international political situation as well as the plans for Socialist Movement campaigns in the youth and trade union field over the next year. Tony Saunois from the Committee for a Workers International attended the Congress and spoke on the international crisis facing imperialism in Iraq as well as the international fightback against neo-liberalism. He also gave a brief report of the work of the different parties and organisations of the CWI. Khalid Bhatti, national organiser of the Socialist Movement, opened the discussion on likely developments in Pakistan and Azad Qadri, from the Executive Committee, summed it up. There were over 30 different speakers from the floor during the discussion.
The congress was held during a period of major instability in Pakistan. President Musharraf has been trying to remove one of the Supreme Court judges who he fears will not follow his wishes in this very important election year. This led to a sharp division in the ruling elite in Pakistan, with many lawyers clashing with riot police in violent demonstrations of protest. Over 600 activists of opposition capitalist parties were arrested. Police smashed up the offices of Geo TV which was broadcasting pictures of anti-government protests.
These parties, like the Pakistan Muslim League – N (the party of former deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) and the Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistani Peoples Party, formally oppose Musharraf’s attempts to sack the judge. However they have not called for mass demonstrations against the regime. This is because they fear an explosion of volcanic proportions amongst the masses against the elite which they will not be able to control. Up to now the Pakistani working class and poor masses have remained observers in this battle at the top. This is mainly because they have no party which takes up their everyday problems – poverty, unemployment and unbearable price rise.
In the days before the Congress, the police and army was deployed on the streets of many Pakistani cities. Islamabad, the Federal capital was sealed to all non-residents and central Lahore was cut in two. This affected the attendance at the Congress.
Other discussions at the congress were on organisation which was introduced by Shaheed Zahir and summed up by Rukhsana Manzoor. There were successful commissions on the youth campaigns and trade union work of the Socialist Movement Pakistan.
All those attending the meeting returned to their areas with new ideas for campaigns and political issues to discuss, but also full of optimism for the possibilities of building further on the very successful work of the Socialist Movement Pakistan.