By Lal Khan
The harrowing episode of lynching and gruesome murder of Mashal Khan, a twenty-three-year-old student of mass communications at Mardan university is yet another incident that illustrates a diseased society with elements of pre-medieval barbarism looming more viciously. There is no proof whatsoever of Mashal Khan’s blasphemous remarks on social media or elsewhere.
Photographs of his vandalised hostel cubicle by police shows portraits of Karl Marx and Che Guevara hanging on the wall. Perhaps that’s a crime for which executions by lynching is now being warranted by the godfathers of piety, morality, ethics and politics of this country. Students of the Jamaat e Islami affiliated student organisation Jamiat lead the assault and according to the press reports students belonging to the PTI and ANP were also involved in this pogrom. This heinous atrocity and its savage severity have stunned ordinary folks.
This lynching also exposes the social and ethical insanity that is taking the form of such fascist acts by the primitive sections of youth immersed in religious and sectarian venom. But above all, it lays bare the character of the epoch we are passing through and the malaise that has set in Pakistan. The current shape of blasphemy laws alongside so many other reactionary draconian amendments were inserted into the constitution with the might of the martial law by General Zia ul Haq who reigned for eleven long and dark years—the most tyrannous and excruciating period for the suffering masses in Pakistan’s history. Today’s the secular and liberal politicians raucously praise Zia’s tainted constitution and are imposing its false sanctity and glory on mass psychology. In the last few weeks, the overactive judiciary and particularly a reactionary judge of the Islamabad High Court has been ferociously demanding to see the scenes of more and more punishments for those accused of this act.
The present PML (N) regime with its crude concoction of religious, conservative and superimposed with some progressive overtones has been advocating actively to hunt down those whose remarks can be stretched into the domain of blasphemy—a term that has never been clearly defined nor are any limitations set for the expanse it can cover. The appeasement of the Islamicist parties by the PML, PPP, PTI and the ANP has been the cornerstone of their politics. The Mullah’s are the ones that reap the most benefits of this politics sans real burning issues of the masses and a media that facilitates religiosity in the mainstream debates to undermine the woes of the oppressed and the exploited.
The Islamicist parties have never managed to garner votes in double digits in elections but their social clout and domination of their mindset in periods of social lull is due to the weaknesses and corrupt nature of the political parties who have been reigning in Pakistan. All parties since the late 1970’s have used religion to diffuse mass discontent and revolts against their exploitative rule. The hyperactive judiciary’s favourite topic also has been the cases of blasphemy and over exaggerated consumption of alcohol. Zia started the practise of inducting religious bigots into the crucial posts in state structures and this practise has been continued by the subsequent democratic regimes. Now the state, the political parties, parliament, judiciary and most of the media outlets are impregnated with this obscurantist ideology and reactionary personnel at the top and medium levels. The almost total blackout of the news by most media houses of the horrifying lynching of Mashal Khan and the injuries of his comrade is not accidental.
Unfortunately, the so-called civil society and other social activists who are mostly former lefties are presenting the alternative of secularism and democracy to combat this menace of religious fundamentalism, cultural conservatism and social chauvinism. Mosques and seminaries belonging to different antagonistic but equally virulent religious sectarian groupings have mushroomed in the last few decades. Those who invest in these religious enterprises get huge returns from the criminal activities of these institutions as they are deeply involved. These mullahs of today are not the modest and poor village clerics of the yore but are obscenely rich and involved in highly profitable and lucrative businesses mainly outside the domain of the formal economy. The ideological approach and their usual differentiation of being moderate and extremists is a very thin and deceptive line.
But basically, it were the US and the European imperialists that created, nourished and supported this modern Islamic fundamentalism from the Middle East to Pakistan and Indonesia to curb the left wing regimes and crush the movements of the workers and the youth against capitalism. In this region it was the Afghanistan’s Saur revolution that brought the wrath of the imperialists against the revolutionary steps the left government of Noor Mohammad Tarakai had initiated. This fundamentalist horror, in the name of Afghan (dollar) Jihad, that they implanted here is still ravaging Pakistan and Afghanistan four decades later.
The oppressed masses and the toiling classes are bewildered with this objective situation. There is not a glimmer of hope for the oppressed of any salvation or ending of their sufferings in the present political setup and state institutions. The inertia in society at the present moment in time has created a vacuum at the top that is filled by the religiosity, corrupt, and criminal political elites backed by the barons of black capital and contenting imperialist powers in the region.
In these conditions of misery, poverty and seemingly endless exploitation, despair creates at a situation of the political indifference of the masses stung by betrayals and treachery of their own traditional parties and leaders. All the filth and stinking froth comes on to the surface. The reaction seems to dominate every aspect of social interaction and attitudes. Religiosity and superstitious tendencies grow and engulf large sections of society especially the petit bourgeois. The generalised thinking and social consciousness goes into a certain decline. Leon Trotsky analysed a similar situation in Russia in 1909. He wrote, “When the curve of historical development rises, public thinking becomes more penetrating, braver and more ingenious. It grasps facts on the wing, and on the wing links them with the thread of generalisation…when the political curve indicates a drop public thinking succumbs to stupidity. The priceless gift of political generalisation vanishes somewhere without leaving a trace. Stupidity grows in insolence, and baring its teeth, heaps insulting mockery on every attempt at a serious generalisation. Feeling that it is in command of the field, it begins to resort to its own means.”
The present politics, state and the socioeconomic system are not capable of preventing this obscurantist insanity from enacting this decline of civilisation but circuitously they are accomplices to this degeneration. The socioeconomic system is so rotten and in a predicament. The crisis of the politics’, state and the system are the manifestations of this deeper malaise in the economy. The ex-left, secular, democratic and liberal intelligentsia fail to understand that this neo-fascist menace is the distilled essence of capitalism in a terminal decay. Without understanding the economic orchestration of terrorism, neofascist tendencies and the social malady of this religious bigotry one cannot correctly diagnose this disease. Without a correct diagnosis there can be no proper prognosis and cure. If the political and the state superstructure cannot eradicate this peril then who will?
The only force that can eliminate this hazard is the masses struggle. The movement of the workers and the youth with an objective and programme of eradication its root causes—the diseased capitalist system that has turned malignant. This tumour can only be removed by a revolutionary surgery. But the problem with most progressive leaders and parties is that they have totally lost their confidence in the strength and the capability of the working classes to meet this challenge and fulfill this historic task. The perspective of a revolutionary movement of the workers and the masses seems to be ruled out in the analysis of this intelligentsia.
The shrewdness of the masses is not always perfect. But it is equally wrong to perceive that the oppressed toilers are visionless and naive. The most correct and truthful assessment of a movement is the one appropriated by the masses themselves. The real analysis and a correct perspective cannot be created by empty drawing room gossips and moods of fear and isolation. It is imperative to be close to the voices in the streets and the debates in the factories and the workplaces. The system and its representatives and proponents stand exposed in the eyes of the masses. The masses cannot wait for a party to emerge indefinitely. But at the same time, no revolutionary party can have a mainstream presence with a mass base without a movement of the working classes. Only revolutionary organisations can exist that continually try to reach the masses starting with the students and youth. But this subjective factor gets strengthened and grows with the increase in the mass intervention in the struggle. This initial change in the objective situation gives the first opening sometimes after long periods of social inertia for the revolutionary organisation to have an impact in radicalising society. This dialectical interaction ultimately goes through a qualitative change and a mass revolutionary upsurge can erupt to move forward and achieve a revolutionary victory.
Mashal khan was one such young student, moving in direction of revolutionary Marxism. Now to restore his tragic loss, thousands should come forward to play a role in this struggle for the transformation of this decayed system. That would be the real revolutionary revenge of Mashal’s ghastly and premeditated murder. More than a hundred years ago, the Great Marxist teacher Fredrick Engels graphically said the choice being faced by humanity, is that of “Barbarism or Socialism”. This choice has become multiplied and sharpened in today’s epoch. The time has arrived to destroy barbarism and march towards socialism.