Pakistan: Pashtun movement (PTM) shakes the status quo - II
by Adam Pal on 17 May 2018 0 Comment

The betrayal of the Pakistan People’s Party (founded by the father of Benazir Bhutto as a Socialist Party similar to PASOK in Greece), former Prime Minister hanged to death by Military dictator Ziaul Haq, was the biggest crime of all. This party no longer represents the workers and peasants of Pakistan; rather it has become a tool in the hands of one faction of the state. The PPP has even organized protests against the PTM in some areas but could only attract around a dozen people.


Other such efforts have also met with the hatred of masses. JUI(F) - an Islamic  fundamentalist party and a staunch supporter of Pakistani state and US imperialism – has also announced its public meeting  in Peshawar to counter the public meeting of the PTM, but this will not be able to sabotage the movement, which is spreading like wildfire. The ruling parties of Pakhtoonkhwa, PTI  (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf – Pakistan Justice Movement) and JI (both are the ruling ultra fascist Islamic fundamentalist parties in the province) first announced a ban on public meetings in the city and a state of emergency to counter the PTM’s public meeting, but later had to retreat from this decision. They will also use administrative measures like creating artificial traffic jams, road blockades and police checkpoints in the name of security to sabotage the public meeting in the provincial capital Peshawar, but to little effect.


All these measure show that this movement is gaining popularity among the masses and has become a real expression of anger and disgust against not only fake army operations and  killings but also poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease and illiteracy, which are a result of imperialist policies. Manzoor Pashteen in a recent online message has said that these brutal army operations have mostly affected the poor, while all those who had the means to escape to safety were less affected. He said the army and Taliban both target the poor and helpless; while wealthy and influential people were mostly unharmed. This shows that class plays a significant role even in suffering.


The huge response of the masses has given enormous strength to this movement on the one hand, but has posed important challenges on the other. The movement has so far spread to some of the most backward regions of the country, including FATA and Balochistan, and now it is heading toward urban proletarian centers like Peshawar and Karachi. It has attracted political workers from nationalist parties, students from various universities and ordinary people affected by fake army operations and Islamic fundamentalism. Many of these are from backward layers of society, which were at one time the bastion of reaction and areas of support for Islamic fundamentalism. The Pakistani state has relied on some of these elements in the past to wage wars in Kashmir and for imperialist intervention in Afghanistan, but now the tide has turned.


This shows another important dialectical contradiction where the most backward layers have waged a war against the establishment with advanced slogans, exposing the real character of the brutal state. Meanwhile the so-called educated sections of society support reactionary, right-wing parties of the ruling class like PTI and PML(N). The comparison between recent sit-ins in Islamabad by the PTM and PTI (a right-wing opposition party) also reveals this situation. The PTI sit-ins mostly consisted of people paid to be there, while the speeches merely slandered rivals, lacking a political program. Participants of these sit-ins were mostly interested in the accompanying music and dance, while speeches were a boring interlude. These sit-ins received extensive media coverage, and enjoyed the full support of the state, police and Islamists, who never thought of sending a suicide bomber to interrupt ‘un-Islamic’ music and dance.


On the other hand, the sit-in by PTM, which continued in Islamabad from 1-10 February, was all about real issues and a political program to resolve them. No one paid the participants to attend; nor were they getting any cash handouts from a general (Reference to an army General giving away cash in public to participants of an Islamic fascist sit-in in the federal capital, Islamabad, earlier this year) for travel or daily meals, as had occurred at a staged sit-in of Islamic fundamentalists from TLY (Tahreek Labaik – a latest Pak army sponsored movement for the establishment of sharia rule in the country) in Islamabad a few weeks ago.


All participants of the PTM sit-in made sacrifices to stay there and were interested in the speeches made from the stage, as well as devising further strategies for their struggle. One of the most enthusiastic responses from the audience was to the speech delivered by Comrade Umer Riaz, who not only supported the demands of the PTM but also exposed the class character of state. This speech was met with rousing applause and all the participants in the sit-in (especially the youth) greeted the speech passionately. The media completely ignored this sit-in and there were threats of a police crackdown or a terrorist attack, both of which would have had state backing.


But later on, the sit-in was occupied by reactionary elements and leaders of reactionary political parties, who were allowed to speak from stage. These leaders were coming to calm down the movement and direct it towards legal, parliamentary or other such futile methods. But all these approaches have so far failed and the movement is advancing past them.


This has also posed important questions for the leadership, concerning how the movement should proceed. At the moment, there are all kinds of currents in the movement (both left and right-wing) and it has no clear, ideological base. Due to the presence of many political workers from nationalist parties, the origins of movement from Pashtun areas, nationalist ideas are dominating. Some of the leaders are ex-Social democrats, now representing the right-wing of the movement, who put forward a narrow, nationalist line that will isolate the movement and could lead to its downfall. The main leadership has so far discouraged such tendencies, but they are still present.


In the public meeting in Zhob, (a city in Balochistan) when one of the speakers said that we are waging a battle against Lahore, referring to the imperialist role of Punjab, Manzoor Pashteen said that our battle is not against Lahore but against GHQ (General Head Quarters - Pakistan Army’s Head Office) referring to the role of army generals.


The presence of Baloch and Hazaras at the public meeting in Quetta also shows that this movement has the ability to unite all the oppressed nationalities of Pakistan. In the PTM protests and sit-ins in Karachi, Sindhis, Mohajirs (refugees) and people of other oppressed nationalities have come to the stage and expressed their feelings against state oppression. This shows a way forward that can unite oppressed people from Karachi to Gilgit-Baltistan on the same platform and wage a united struggle against the imperialist state, dominated by a Punjabi ruling elite.


Another weak aspect of the movement is that it invites all political parties to attend their meetings, even though they are trying to sabotage it. These political parties do not represent the real aspirations of the masses and are rotten to the core. These parties are an important tool of the state to keep the masses oppressed and subjugated. Rather than seeking the friendship of these corrupt leaders and their parties, it is important to look towards movements of the workers and peasants spread around the country.


Even in Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan, thousands of workers from the public and private sectors are raising demands almost every day. Recently, there have been huge movements of school teachers, young doctors, hospital workers, nurses, factory workers, PWD workers, BDA and many others in Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. There are similar movements in Punjab, Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan. Huge movements of peasants and small farmers in Punjab have also risen to the surface recently.


All these movements are natural allies of the PTM and will give it strength by supporting its demands. But for that, it is important to get rid of all reactionary political parties and ban their organized participation in the public meetings. It is also important to support these movements of workers and peasants in various sectors and extend our solidarity to them.


A huge movement against privatization of public sector departments is also going on in important departments like WAPDA (electricity department), PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), railways, steel mills and elsewhere. Solidarity with these movements will also strengthen the class character of the PTM and make it a movement of the Pakistani proletariat. Only the working class can ensure the complete freedom of the oppressed nationalities from the imperialist state and has the potential to wage a decisive battle for freedom, not only from national oppression, but also class exploitation and wage slavery.


The next stage will inevitably open these ideological discussions inside the movement and the battle of ideas will begin. Our comrades have intervened in this struggle from the very beginning and are explaining their positions to the masses everywhere. They were present in all PTM meetings thus far and are making preparations for the public meeting in future.


Comrades in Peshawar University have organized several student bodies on one platform and are preparing a joint delegation of students to attend public meetings. They have unconditionally supported the demands of PTM but have also asked to add their own demands. One of the main student demands is that checkpoints and the presence of the army, para-militarists (Rangers) and police should end in all education institutes. They further demand that a ban on students unions should be immediately lifted and elections held in all universities and colleges.


Managing the security of these institutes should be undertaken by elected representatives of students, because the army and other state institutions have failed to protect students from terrorists time and again. The incident at the Army Public School and many others are proof of this incompetence, and of collaboration between the state and terrorists. These students also demand that education should be free for everyone in the country and that private educational institutes should be nationalized.


Comrades representing worker organizations are also participating in these public meetings and have highlighted the importance of linking the movement with the working class. The next May Day is an important occasion when the PTM can extend solidarity to workers of the country and announce joint struggle against this rotten state.


At this point, it is important to understand the class structure of the state. So far, the leadership of the PTM has said that they want to wage their struggle through legal and constitutional means. But the demands raised by PTM are not feasible under the current state apparatus. The present state of Pakistan represents the interests of the Pakistani ruling class, along with those of the US and other imperialist powers. Within the confines of this state and its laws and constitution, it is impossible to bring peace and prosperity to the masses.


The crisis of the capitalist system at an international and local level is deepening the crisis in the economy and destabilizing the status quo. The war between various imperialist powers across the region is bringing more destruction and misery down upon ordinary people. The issues faced by the masses of FATA and other Pashtun areas of the country are the inevitable result of this crisis. This crisis has also provoked the Pakistani ruling class to start a spiteful and vicious campaign against Afghan Refugees living in Pakistan.


The state not only ravaged their country through imperialist intervention but also used refugees as a tool to beg for financial aid from the rest of the world. While the coffers of the state were filled with ‘aid’ from international donors, the refugees were living a miserable life in destitution and poverty. Now a malicious campaign has started in which Afghans are being humiliated and arrested just for being Afghans.


The Durand Line drawn by British Imperialists, dividing the Pashtuns, is also being strengthened by the state, which is enacting more measures to divide families. The Pashtun nationalists have abandoned their rhetoric of ‘Pashtun unity’ across the divide and are enriching themselves across the border. Pashtun unity is not possible under capitalism.


The only way out of the current morass of drone attacks, fake army operations, nationalist oppression, poverty, misery and unemployment is to wage a struggle against all the forces of reaction on class lines. It is important to identify the enemies and friends of this movement and draw clear battle lines between them. All sections of the ruling class, Pakistani state and political parties are enemies of the movement in one way or another. Neither the judiciary, bureaucracy nor any other department of the state can offer any solution.


Rao Anwar’s princely reception at the Supreme Court and treatment of his case show the real intentions and character of the state. He is an important tool of the state, which will try its utmost to protect him. Even if he is removed under the pressure of the movement, hundreds of similar police officers are waiting to fill his place. In this country, every police station has an officer like Rao Anwar, willing to protect the interests of the ruling class by terrorizing common people. To get rid of these elements it is necessary to get rid of the state and the capitalist system.


The imperialist powers from the US, to China, to Saudi Arabia, to Iran are also enemies of the Pakistani masses and there should be no illusions about any of them. Some people will say that we should not offend everybody at the same time and take one step after another. But this will harm the movement, as we have seen in many other cases in which nationalist movements have become proxies in the hands of Imperialist powers that use them for their own interests.

It is important to condemn all kinds of imperialist intervention that support this brutal state and have propped it from the beginning for the imperialists’ strategic needs in the region. US imperialism in fact started and sponsored this menace of Islamic fundamentalism and later paid the Pakistani state to carry out its fake army operations. Now they are fighting over their own interests but can never be friends to the oppressed, nor can they ever bring peace or prosperity. The merest glance at Afghanistan reveals that US imperialism has miserably failed there, economically, strategically and militarily.


The real friends of this movement are the working classes of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries of the region. If the leadership of this movement fails to acknowledge these ideological lines it will stumble into a quagmire of deceit and betrayal. Hopefully, this will ultimately pave way for more radical and advanced movements, and a leadership with a clearer approach towards these questions.


At the moment, many activists in the movement are trying to organize on city and district levels. But organization is always based on the goals and ideology of the movement. If the PTM’s objectives are not clarified, it will remain loose and confused. In the coming days there will be attacks on the movement from within and without, which is why it is important to get organized on clear ideological lines to defend the movement against these attacks.


Participation in upcoming general elections is also an important tactical question and should be addressed with care. Many opportunists would like to use this platform for their political careers and will emphasize participation for personal gain. Such careerists are dangerous for the movement and might try to sell it out. But to use parliament as a means to achieve the aims of movement is a different question. For that, a clear understanding of the state and parliament in class society is necessary.


In this system, reforms are not possible through constitutional amendments or passing resolutions in parliament. It is important to overthrow this whole rotten system and class society, even to achieve the smallest reforms for the masses. Elections and parliament can be used to spread one’s voice to wider layers of society, but to create illusions in these methods would be criminal.


The capitalist system in Pakistan and across the world has reached a blind alley and is destroying the lives of millions of people. Only through revolution it can be laid in its grave, the masses liberated from state brutality, terrorism, poverty, hunger, misery, illiteracy and disease. Only then can the people breathe a sigh of relief and live in peace and prosperity.




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