[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Pakistani left on Musharaff's emergency
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Nov 13 23:01:41 GMT 2007
Pakistan: A View From the Pakistani Left
Farooq Tariq interviewed by Ron Jacobs
11 November 2007
In recent days, the already tenuous political situation in Pakistan has
made a turn toward the worse. Musharraf’s government clamped down first
on the judiciary and other opponents in the government in the first days
after his declaration of martial law. More recently, those same forces
have prevented even the liberal bourgeois opposition represented by
Benazir Bhutto from gathering and arrested several thousand members of
the opposition. In addition, Musharraf has gone on record as stating
that many of those arrested face capitol charges. One element of the
secular opposition to Musharraf is the Labour Party of Pakistan, a
democratic socialist organization launched in 1997 from various elements
of the Pakistani Left. What follows is an exchange conducted over the
past couple of days (November 9-10, 2007) between myself and Farooq
Tariq, secretary general of the Party. (Thanks to Tariq Ali for putting
me in contact with Mr. Tariq.-Ron)
Ron: Hello. To begin, can you please identify yourself and generally
describe your politics and the politics of the Pakistan Labour Party?
Also, how many members and supporters do you estimate the Labour Party has?
Farooq: I am Farooq Tariq, secretary general, Labour Party Pakistan
(LPP). I am an activist since my student days at Punjab University back
in mid 1970s. I became active as left activist and left used to be
strong on campuses those days. Our main rivals were religious
fundamentalists. When Zia military dictatorship was imposed, I went in
exile. Spent some eight years in Holland and England. There we built
Struggle Group that got active in Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples
Party. In 1986, I moved back to Pakistan as situation improved in
Pakistan and Struggle Group had possibility to get active from Pakistani
soil itself. After Benazir’s first stint in power, Struggle Group with a
perspective that PPP would now on serve only ruling classes, left PPP
and began campaigning for an independent workers party. After building a
good trade union base, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP )was launched in 1997.
LPP wants a democratic socialist Pakistan and is a Marxist organisation
that draws inspiration from, among others, Russian revolutionary Leon
We have a membership of over 3,000. One of the eight big trade union
federations (NTUF) in Pakistan is LPP’s sympathetic body. The NTUF
(National Trade Union Federation) represents over hundred thousand
industrial workers. We run a Urdu weekly (www.jeddojuhd.com), only left
weekly published in Pakistan. Our woman members set up Women Working
Help Line (WWHL) that has a membership of almost two thousands. Our
youth front has some modest success in last two years while our student
base remains almost non-existent.
Ron: What city are you writing from? Have there been protesters in the
streets in that city?
Farooq: I am underground since the imposition of Emergency. Mostly, I
have been in Lahore and certain towns in northern Punjab.
Ron: What is the make up of the protesters in Pakistan right now? The US
newspapers describe the majority of the protesters as being lawyers and
NGO activists. Is this so? What are the demands of the protests?
Farooq: Initially, it was advocates (lawyers), left and human rights
activists. But the situation has changed in last three days as Benazir
Bhutto has declared her opposition. Yesterday, PPP workers fought
pitched battles with police in Rawalpindi. PPP claims that 5000 of its
workers were arrested across Pakistan. Also, government has arrested
members of Justice Party of former cricket-star Imran Khan and Muslim
League of exiled prime minister Nawaz Sharif. However, Islamists parties
are not either joining the movement nor being targeted by the regime.
Their opposition of regime remains restricted to press statement.
Ron: Do you foresee the protests continuing and perhaps growing in size?
Farooq: There is the potential. Big possibility. This past summer, it
took sometime before masses took to roads. Masses hesitate at first but
when they see a leadership fighting, they most likely join it. One
reason is also media black out. TV channels are off air while print
media is censored. Many don’t know whats happening. Often, expat
Pakistanis are more informed than us here.
Ron: What security forces are arresting the opposition? Is it the Army,
the ISI, or other police?
Farooq: It is police. But there have been reports where known arrested
activists have been handed over to ISI.
Ron: What role does Benazir Bhutto play in Pakistani politics? Does the
Labour Party consider her role a positive one? Do they support her at
all? What do you make of her arrest?
Farooq: The good news in last three days was the changing attitude of
Benazir Bhutto towards present military regime. While in exile, she made
a deal to share power with military regime. This deal was brokered by
USA. Her return on October 18 was also a US-backed move. But while in
Pakistan , there was suicidal attack on her rally leaving over 200 dead.
There was a mass negative campaign by the chief minister of Punjab
against Benazir Bhutto. Then Musharraf imposed the Emergency on 3rd
November without her consent apparently. Most of the advocates arrested
after Emergency were from her party. It was all too much. This built a
pressure. In first three days, PPP activists were not arrested but it
all changed with Benazir coming openly against the military regime on
Her changing attitude was welcomed by LPP in press. I, on LPP’s behalf,
announced in the media that LPP would join the Long March planned for
13th November by PPP from Lahore to Islamabad . Although we were very
critical of polices she pursued in last few months that is to say her
power sharing formula with Musharraf regime, her soft corner for the regime.
Her recent dealings have also given currency to conspiracy theories.
Many say that her opposition is just fake and all is done in
collaboration with the regime in order to restore Benazir'’ image as
militant leader. LPP don’t agree with such so-called conspiracies
theories about Benazir and Musharraf being friends. Benazir’s opposition
of the regime has meant arrests of thousands of PPP activists and their
houses raided all across Pakistan.
Ron: I understand the situation constantly changes, but do you believe
the elections will be held in February 2008? If they are, do you think
they will be free and fair? Why or why not?
Farooq: In view of the unfolding movement, and international pressure,
yes we can hope for that. But fair and free elections are out of
question. (Any) Democracy movement will have to fight a long war before
we are able to have a democracy strong enough that ensures a free election.
Ron: What, in your opinion, is the cause of the unrest in Pakistan? How
much of a role do religious extremists play? How much of a role does the
Army play? How is this martial law similar to previous episodes of
martial law in Pakistani history?
Farooq: In the first place, it is the mass impoverishment of masses
under Musharraf regime. Struggle for bread and butter has become even
hard. Utility bills, price hike and jobless are biggest issues. This is
the root cause of unrest. Also, (the) military has become a
military-industrial complex that is acting like a mafia. There is
resentment against that. Then you have US presence in the region leading
to instability in Pakistan. Musharraf’s pro-US policies are universally
Musharraf’s military rule is unlike Zia dictatorship in its mask.
Musharraf claims enlightenment and moderation. Zia Islamised Pakistan.
But both these dictatorships, like earlier military regimesm have been
On (the) internal front, all have been repressive when faced with
opposition. Every time military takes over, the military increases its
industrial base, thus leading to more corruption.
Ron: What do you think will be the result of the Emergency rule? How
long do you think it will be in place?
Farooq: General Musharaff would not have thought of the political
scenario that has emerged the imposition of Emergency on 3rd November.
His hopes for normalcy have been dashed despite a vicious repression
against the advocates and political activists. More unpleasant surprises
will come in future for the military regime that was used to a rather
stable political control until now.
After advocates, now students are emerging on the political opposition
to the military regime. Demonstrations took place on 7th November 2007
in certain public and private universities in the main cities of
Pakistan. “Student power rises from slumber” was the headline of daily
The News International on 8th November.
The media organization of the bosses and employees are also joining the
mass movement after unprecedented repression against the electronic and
print media by the regime.
It was a black Monday on 5th November for the stock exchanges in
Pakistan. The stock exchange crash resulted in a net loss of four
billion dollars in one day, unprecedented in last 17 years.
His imperialist backers like US, UK and European Union have been forced
to condemn Emergency at least in word for the first time since 9/11. Any
gross violation of human rights in Pakistan since 9/11, was always an
internal matter for the US imperialism. Even Australian imperialism is
condemning the sorry state of affairs of Pakistan and terming Musharraf
“a dictator” for the first time, a fact Pakistani people knew for eight
years. LPP perspective is that such an isolated regime can not last
long. The opposition movement is on and is growing.
Ron: Is there any other information or thoughts you wish to provide the
Farooq: The opposition to military regime will be strengthened by the
active solidarity of our friends and comrades outside Pakistan. The
pickets of the Pakistan embassies all over the world will be one the
most effective way of opposition. It is time to show international
Ron: Thanks you for your time.
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