Pakistan: Massacres of the Pashtoon peoples

America’s bloody imperialist war in Afghanistan spills into Pakistan

Massacres of the Pashtoon peoples

The US imperialist intervention in Afghanistan has spilled over into Pakistan, which has now become a victim of this bloody war. The victims in Pakistan are, once again, mainly the Pashtoon peoples, on both sides of the Durand line – an artificial line drawn by British imperialism, in 1893.

Everyday, between 200 and 250 Pashtoons are killed by NATO and Pakistani forces. The Pakistani military has launched major military offensives for the last five years in north and south Wazristan, Swat and recently in Bajor Agency. These devastating attacks displaced millions of people, who have been driven from their homes and villages. They have been left desolate, without housing, food, clean water or medicine. In the refugee camps, there have outbreaks of cholera, due to the appalling conditions and lack of clean water. These areas have also suffered regular haphazard air strikes and helicopter gunship attacks. Entire villages and many farms have been destroyed. Thousands of people have been massacred and wounded. The cries of these innocent civilians are reverberating throughout the whole of Asia. No country is offering refuge to these desperate victims. The only place they can flee to is Karachi, where many have relatives. More than 3.5 million Pashtoons are now living outside their homeland. Ninety nine percent of the refugees are labourers. Arriving in Karachi, they then become victims of the MQM, a right-wing communalist organization, which has used fascistic methods against its opponents. The MQM is backed by the Pakistani Army, the CIA and M-15, and is preparing another war against these desperate refugees, under the guise of fighting the Taliban.

The desperate situation which has developed in the Pashtoon region is reminiscent of the barbaric era of Chagiz Khan. The Red Cross describes the region as being in the grip of barbarism. US imperialism has brutally imposed a devastating war on one of the world’s poorest regions, following the destruction of Iraq, which destabilized the whole of the Middle East.

“Mr. 100 percent”

The recently-elected Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zadari, previously known as “Mr. 10 percent”, because of his involvement in corruption, is now commonly referred to as “Mr. 100 percent”. Zadari declared: “We stand with the United States, France and Britain who have been attacked”. Zardari went on to promise that he would ensure that Pakistani territory would not be used to launch raids on US and NATO forces inside Afghanistan. He also claimed that, “This war is our own war.” The Bush regime has repeatedly accused the Pakistani military of failing to suppress Islamic militants. It has also alleged that Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, is actively supporting anti-US guerillas inside Afghanistan. Since February, US Admiral Mullen has held five meetings with the Pakistani army Chief General, Ishfaque Pervaiz Kiyani, to press for tougher action. The recent escalation of Pakistani army operations in the North West Frontier Province and tribal areas, are a result of increased pressure from the Bush administration on the newly elected Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led government, to fight a more ‘effective’ war against the insurgents fighting US and NATO forces. The recent assault on Bajore was launched in the wake of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gelani’s visit to Washington, in late July. During this visit, Gelani reaffirmed his support for the bogus “war on terror”. The Bush administration very clearly threatened that if the insurgents’ safe heavens in the tribal areas were not destroyed by Pakistan armed forces, the US and NATO forces would cross the border into Pakistan and do it themselves.

The growth of the anti-occupation resistance in Afghanistan has resulted in much higher casualties for US and NATO forces. As a result, Pakistan has become the scapegoat for US imperialism. The total number of US and NATO deaths currently stands at 196, so far, in 2008. This is the second highest annual figure for this war. This rise means that last year’s total of 232 will probably be surpassed. At the same time, more than 900 Afghan soldiers have been killed this year, so far.

The number of civilian deaths has also increased in Afghanistan and is set to rise even higher. Recent US air strikes in Azizabad, in Harat Province, killed more than 90 people; mostly women and children. They had simply gathered for customary morning following the death of the local tribal chief. Following these killings, people gathered from all over the district and demonstrated against the Karzai regime, which is a puppet of US imperialism. At the demonstration, local people chanted anti-US slogans and carried banners demanding, “Death to America.” People then set fire to local police vehicles when they attempted to distribute food and cloths to the survivors of the bombing. Police fired on the demonstrators to disperse them and wounded more than a dozen people. The district principle of a local school, Ghulam Hazarat, told journalists: “…people were very angry; they told the administration and the police, ‘We don’t need your food and cloths, we want our children and relatives. Can you give them to us? If you cannot, then go away’”. The British weekly magazine, The Economist, in its August 2008 review on Afghanistan, – ‘Afghanistan Mournful Wake’ – warned that if the US fails in Afghanistan, as it might, “…it will be remembered there for killing children.”

Western Herat massacre of civilians

On 26 August, the UN claimed to have “convincing evidence” that a US air strike in western Herat province killed 90 civilians, including 60 children. That would probably make it the most bloody of the many murderous air strikes that have carried out during the seven-year military intervention by US imperialism in Afghanistan. But US officials insisted that only five civilians had died in this attack, along with 25 insurgents. The massacre in Azizabad is one particularly tragic incident amongst the frequent murder of Afghan civilians by US and NATO forces. Wedding Parties and funerals have been repeatedly attacked during the course of the occupation. The most recent was on 6 July, when a wedding party was bombed in Nangarhar. On this occasion, 60 people were killed including the bride. The fact that Karzai, a stooge of US imperialism, was compelled to protest against the US air strikes and condemned the occupation forces for killing people in Azizabad, is a measure of the growing hatred and anger which is developing amongst the masses. Every civilian death fuels the general hatred felt by the millions of Pashtoons across the border, towards the US-led occupation. Moreover, it increases opposition to both the Kabul government and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition government in Pakistan. Both regimes are widely regarded as corrupt stooges of US imperialism.

There is growing popular sympathy and support for the guerrillas and other resistance groups based in the Pashoon tribal border region of Pakistan. The guerrillas have now re-established widespread influence and control over large areas. A separate, 19,000-strong US commanded force, is also operating in the hard mountainous territory along the eastern reaches of the Afghan-Pakistan border. These forces are also now confronting a well-organized opposition, directed by former Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He was a favourite son of the CIA, during the guerilla war against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, in the 1980s, and is believed to be operating from a safe haven in the Federally Administrated Tribal Agencies (FATA) of Pakistan. Hekmatyar is believed to operate from Bajaur, under the protection of local Pakistani Taliban warlords.

Currently, there are 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan, along with 30,000 troops from other NATO countries. The Afghan army consists of 65,000 troops but most of its units are not able to operate independently without air and logistic support from NATO forces. A wrong war in a wrong place, and at a wrong time, all make for a complicated equation, which is having devastating consequences for the masses, for US imperialism and for the ruling classes in the region.

In response to this situation, the Bush administration, with the support of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Barack Obama, is preparing to deploy an additional 12,000 US troops, possibly, as early as November 2008. But the deployment of more troops in Afghanistan will not be an easy process or result in a solution of the crisis. The recent deaths of 10 French soldiers in an ambush – the biggest loss to date of foreign troops engaged in a direct military confrontation, since the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001 – illustrated the scale of the resurgence of armed resistance against the US-led occupation. It also re-opened the debate in France over involvement in the war. It also represented the biggest number of French military casualties since the Beirut truck bomb killed 58 paratroopers in 1983.Not surprisingly, Germany is not prepared to deploy its troops in southern Afghanistan.

Military strategists warn US

Military strategists and analysts in the US are warning that the deployment of more troops will not end the resistance. The imperialist forces are particularly inhibited from inflicting a major defeat on the guerrillas because the resistance can operate from bases in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Any attempt to crush the guerrilla groups taking part in the Afghan insurgency necessarily raises the prospect of extending US military operations into Pakistan. The thuggish Pakistani Army has not only failed to see off the anti-occupation forces across the border in Afghanistan but has also lost the control of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan.

Recently, the US military launched another missile attack on Southern Waziristan, in which 20 people were killed. This area is supposed to be the stronghold of the Taliban commander, Jaulludin Haqni. This was the fourth missile attack in a week. It was preceded, two days earlier, by an attack on Angoor Adda, in which 20 people died. The last attack has provoked outrage in Pakistan North West Frontier Province. The Pakistani Foreign Minster issued a statement branding the attack as, “a gross violation of Pakistani territory” and summoned the US ambassador, Anne Patterson, to offer an explanation. The Pakistani newspaper, Daily Dawn, in its editorial (8 September), headlined, ‘Deteriorating ties – is America a friend or a foe?’ explained: “If that is ambiguous today, there is no doubt the coming days will settle the issue one way or the other. Distrust has been building up between the leader of the war on terror and the “frontline state” for years. It centers on America’s belief that Pakistan is not doing enough and that elements in the ISI are helping the Taliban. Consequently, American leaders, including President Bush, threatened to act unilaterally in Fata if ‘actionable intelligence’ were available. The threat was translated into action in full force in South Waziristan last week. The strong reaction in Pakistan and the condemnatory resolution passed by parliament seem not to have mattered with Washington, for it has launched more attacks since then. The future is even murkier, since the US and its allies are likely to react angrily to Pakistan’s decision to suspend fuel supply to the coalition forces in Afghanistan. These developments need to be studied against the barrage of anti-Pakistan statements in Washington, especially the venom exhibited by a man who could be America’s next president.”

Barack Obama complained, during a recent television interview, that the Bush administration had “wasted” the $10bn in aid to Pakistan. He said that aid should not have been given without strings attached. Obama also claimed that Islamabad was receiving US military aid to prepare for war with India.

The Angora Adda massacre triggered a big reaction. Angry villagers gathered on the bomb site and placed the dead bodies of their relatives on road blocks on the main road which runs between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They chanted slogans against the US and Pakistani governments and also against the provincial government run by the Awami National Party. The slogans mainly attacked the silence and hypocrisy of all these regimes. The recent US military incursion into Pakistan, and the killing of civilians, has badly undermined the Pakistani military’s claim to be the “guarantor of the sovereignty of Pakistan.” This claim is at the heart of the army’s ideological justification to wield immense political power and to maintain a large military machine.

Junior officers face daily humiliation

The US military attacks not only provoked reaction in the civilian population but also amongst the junior officer corps in the Pakistani army. Many junior officers are Pashtoons. They face daily humiliation at the hands of the General Staff and senior officers, many of whom have grown rich as a result of the ‘war on terror’.

The mass protests compelled the Pakistani government to take some action. It closed the Torkham border crossing – the main route for oil and food supplies to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Minster of the Interior, Rehman Mailk, insisted that the interruption of supplies was not a retaliatory step. It was, he claimed: “A temporary response to security reports” and supplies were now flowing across the border. However, this was contradicted by the Minister of Defence, Chudary Ahmad Mukhtar, who stated the closure of the border crossing was, “Intended to show how serious Pakistan was about protecting its territorial integrity”. The Minister of Defence declared: “We have stopped the supply of oil; this will show how serious we are.”

This split illustrates growing resentment amongst the military establishment. Talking to German Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Tariq Majid, said Pakistan reserved the right to “appropriately retaliate” against raids. The cross-border missile attacks on the Wazierstan, by the US, on the day before Zadari was sworn in as the new president of Pakistan, was clearly intended to demonstrate that the Bush administration wants the Pakistani government to step up its military operations against the insurgent forces. This, despite the fact, that Pakistan is already facing a virtual civil war in the North West Frontier Province.

In a statement welcoming Asif Zardari’s election as President, the White House declared President George Bush looked forward to working with him. The statement, by the national security spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, came hours after Zardari’s election. He dismissed media speculation that the White House was ‘not happy’ with Zadari’s sudden rise to power. “The United States congratulates Asif Ali Zardari on his election as president,” said Mr Johndroe.

After only six months in power, the newly-elected PPP government has lost the enthusiastic support it first enjoyed. It has turned its back on the masses. Instead of providing bread and peace, the regime has delivered war and hunger.

Pashtoon nationalist parties, particularly the ANP, have also been discredited, following the election. During the election campaign, the ANP’s main demand was for “peace in Pahtoonkhow”. When the ANP formed an alliance with some of the insurgents, they were denounced by the US which then launched unilateral military action in the area. The ANP’s pro-imperialist role further disarmed the poor and oppressed Pashtoons and intensified the civil war. The fundamentalist Jamath ullam Islam Fazalruraman (JUI) party is one of the coalition partners in the PPP government yet it collaborates with imperialism.

Insurgency in the Baloch belt

The North West Frontier Province war is also spilling over into the Balouchistan Pashtoon region. Here there is already a high level insurgency in the Baloch belt. This is despite the fact that the Bolcistan Libration Army (BLA) recently announced a temporary suspension of anti-government activities. This is probably to facilitate negotiations with the government. These negotiations will end in failure and open the prospect of an even deeper crisis.

There is no solution for the oppressed nationalities and peoples of Pakistan on a capitalist basis. We defend the democratic and national rights of all the peoples of Pakistan. The Pashtoons and Balochi people have a right to defend their national rights, up to and including the right to self-determination, and to decide if they want independence or greater autonomy. However, landlordism and capitalism will not offer such democratic rights for the people of these areas, to satisfy their national aspirations. The struggle for these democratic and national rights needs also be linked to a struggle to overthrow capitalism and landlordism. The way forward is to overthrow the capitalist system, which provides the basis for military intervention and proxy imperialist war. The capitalist system is reactionary and rotten to the core, and in Pakistan only means for the masses, war, huger .misery and barbarism. Only the working class, with the support of the poor peasants and others exploited by capitalism, has the ability to overthrow the capitalism system and to build a new socialist society. This is the only way to end war, hunger and destruction of capitalism.

The pro-imperialist puppet regime of Hamid Karzai, which is limited to Kabul, trembles when faced with the prospect of the region and Pakistan standing on the brink of civil war. Indeed, all the ruling class capitalist parties have been exposed, again and again. They have shown their inability to bring peace and to give bread and shelter to the masses.

American imperialism has set in motion policies which now threatened to trigger years of bloody carnage and slaughter in central and south Asia. They have intervened to wrest control of the vast oil and gas reserves in the region. They have plunged the whole area into carnage.

End all military operations

The Pakistan workers’ movement demands that US and NATO forces should immediately be withdrawn from Afghanistan. We appeal to the American, French, British, and German soldiers to see that it is not ‘their’ war they are fighting. It is a war for ruling class profits and to colonize the oppressed nations. The emancipation of the soldiers sent to fight this war is linked to overthrowing system which exploits them and has dragged them into this bloody conflict. Soldiers from these countries have been dragged from their homes, where their families now facing unemployment and misery at the hands of the economic crisis of the world capitalist system.

The Pakistan workers’ movement demands an immediate end to the military operation in Pashtoonkhow. We demand the withdrawal of the Pakistani army from the province and from Balouchistan. We condemn the attacks on the working class by the terrorist organizations, such as the attack on the Waha factory.

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September 2008