History & Theory Pakistan South Asia

Pakistani’s Brutal Look at Itself

By Umar Shahid

After a shameful deal between a religious cleric and Pakistani state, an over three-week long sit-in by religious parties followed by the countrywide protest that sprang up in aftermath of the botched crackdown in Faizabad area finally came to an end on 27th November. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of relative new political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) has announced to end sit-in throughout the country and his followers jubilantly celebrated their victory. This deal has exposed utter incompetence of ruling class.

The dharna was started against government’s attempt to abandon an amendment in the Khatm-e-Nabuwat (finality of Prophethood) clause in the oath of the elected representatives. The deal between the religious party and State is said to be mediated by country’s powerful military. The government has unconditionally accepted their all demands including the resignation of federal law minister Zahid Hamid. This whole episode has exposed the miserable condition of Pakistani State and Ruling elite. Sharp contradictions of State are now public and are raising eyebrows of serious analysts. The Islamabad High Court’s Judge, Justice Shaukat Siddiqui has sharply criticized the agreement and role played by the State, “This court has serious reservations on the terms of the agreement and mannerism in which it arrived; however, the federal government has to satisfy the court about the constitutional role of armed forces and an acknowledgement by the federal government/Executive of the country regarding role of armed forces as an arbitrator,” the order reads. Similarly, The Guardian quoted Zahid Hussain, a political analyst saying that “This is a complete surrender to hardline Islamists. It’s a sad day for Pakistan: it shows that the state is so weak and that we can’t stand up to blackmailing.”

The deal allowed TLP to ripe many fruits that called by commentators as the license to be a State within the State.  Recent years have seen menace of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan; the so-called blasphemy laws have become inflicted wounds on living and vibrant society. The blasphemy laws are being used as effective tools for silencing genuine voices throughout the country. Pakistan is home to almost 99% Muslim population yet they are being prosecuted in the name of religion. Minority’s situation is the worst and Pakistan has turned into a prison of oppressed nations. From Killing of Salman Taseer, then Governor of Punjab to Mashal Khan’s brutal murder – everywhere these blasphemy laws used to physically remove liberal or democratic voices. Similarly, last week a local court of Lahore has “officially” lifted house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, a militant leader with a $10 million American bounty on his head for international terrorism. Hafiz Saeed is given celebrity status and often seen arguing against Indian state terrorism on television.

These events have enormous effects on working-class movement, especially on their leaders. In the absence of active working-class movement, these superstitions have the enormous burden on the ordinary worker. Many bourgeois writers, especially western writers are portraying Pakistan as a fundamentalist and dangerous country. Despite projection, by State, of these Islamic fundamentalists, these are seen as aliens by the society. On one hand, the economic crisis is escalating, unemployment is soared to 30% and more than 80% population is unable to afford scientific medication. The utter hypocrisy and incompetence of ruling class to complete the tasks of national democratic revolution have unleashed never-ending crisis. The religious chauvinism is at peak, culture is torn apart and vulnerable sections of society are being persecuted every day. The religion is still dominating in politics; the national question is burning, feudal remnants are still present and after 70 years no nation-state can be formed. The institutions of State are in fragile and a mockery of democracy is going on across the Redcliff line. Precisely due to their historical belatedness, economic and technological weakness, and the fragile nature of capitalism, the ruling classes have failed to abolish feudalist and religious remnants but paradoxically, incorporated the feudal aristocracy into the notorious nexus of the ruling elite.

Historical Perspective

With utter prejudice of ruling class, the real history has been falsified and fabricated. Historically, classical forms of slavery or feudalism never existed on this land. These societies had the peculiar development which followed different patterns. The classical forms of slavery as existed in Europe were entirely absent in these societies. Marx’s characterization of these societies can be elaborated in these distinct components. Mainly remarkable description of these societies is the absence of private property in land and there was never any class of landlords. It means that land was subject to common property and each member of the village could enjoy according to their requirement. The foundation of social formation is provided by self-sustaining units or communes which were entirely self-sustaining in their nature. Karl Marx stressed that the Asiatic mode of production differed from all other modes of production. In his famous and widely quoted articles on India written between 1852 and 1858, he outlined basic characteristics of Asiatic mode that prevailed in India. In these articles, he drew a sketch of society by arguing that handloom, spinning wheel, and union between agriculture and manufacture were the basis of Indian society before it was uprooted by British steam and science.

After the failure of 1857 mutiny, British sought to extend their power by divide and rule. In order to perpetuate their imperialist ambitions and for this purpose they deliberately started dividing the society on basis of religion, cast and tribe etc. These distinctions were unknown to society and started only after 1865. British categorically carried out the census on the basis of religions and later on started differentiating society on the ethnic basis. Similarly, offences relating to religion were first codified by India’s British rulers in 1860 and were expanded in 1927.  In 1927, the British colonial rulers of the sub-continent made it a criminal offence to commit “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief”. As Alex von Tunzelmann, in her book ‘Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire’ sketched stark differences between 18th century English and Indian society, she wrote, “In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.” However, working-class movement especially Royal Indian Navy Sailors mutiny of 1946 negated the version of any religious differences of society.

Due to the betrayal of reformist leaders, the 1946 revolution ended into the partitioning of India on religious grounds. After partition, Pakistan as a theoretic State was born which relied on Imperialist support to survive. After second world war and the shift in power, America entered into Imperialism stage. American Imperialism not only patronized newly born state but whole economic policies were also designed by them. Under Ayub Khan (1958-1969) the first Army dictator; State launched massive economic development and gave support to embryonic capitalist class to ripe their profit and establish a modern secular Pakistan. However the uneven and combined pattern of development backfired and it gave rise to mighty Pakistani revolution of 1968-69. From Dhaka to Islamabad; workers councils were formed, working class began to take control of society in its hands. Socialist slogans were raised and socialist revolution was on the agenda. Again absence of revolutionary leadership and Stalinists communist parties’ betrayal the movement slipped into the hands of Zulifqar Ali Bhutto. However due to movement and radical program of his party ‘Peoples Party’ – he became a populist leader overnight. Due to his populist and reformist nature instead of smashing the state, he strengthened it and instead of curbing the right wing he facilitated them. Bhutto government’s 1974 act of constitutionally redefining the status of the Ahmadiyya, formerly recognized as a Muslim sect was (almost overnight) turned into a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan. Although Bhutto wanted to reach a deal with right-wing by offering them more, instead this act led to PNA movement that later ousts Bhutto through martial law imposed by the Army General Zia Ul Haq. Zia Ul Haq wanted to strengthen his base by using political Islam, he began to Islamize the society. From 1980 to 1986 the blasphemy laws were created and expanded in instalments. First “making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages” was declared an offence that carried a maximum punishment of three years in jail. Later on another in 1982, another clause prescribed life imprisonment for “wilful” desecration of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. In 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the penalty recommended was “death, or imprisonment for life”, in that order.

Menace of Islamic Fundamentalism

Internationally, American Imperialism was muscling against the spread of communism worldwide. It is worth mentioning that modern Islamic fundamentalism is the new concept that is in fact introduced by US Imperialism itself. 1960s period saw revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East, terrified by events American Imperialism sought a way-out. This modern Islamic fundamentalism is, in reality, the brainchild of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under President Eisenhower. The imperialist nourished fundamentalist organizations like Akhwan-e-Muslamin (Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt and Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan. This was invented to create artificial religious conflict thus water downing class struggle. In this episode, Afghanistan’s 1978 Saur revolution posed a great danger of communism in this region. Hence the US launched its countermeasures by aiding Zia regime and creating the Mujahideen who later morphed into the Taliban. CIA and ISI funded Jihad and waged a holy war against the Soviet Union. Osama Bin Laden was recruited by President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1978 to this “Islamic crusade” against the “Communism”. Later on, we see the continuation of this policy in Palestine where in order to crush the movement Hamas was created by Zionists.  The curse of Islamic fundamentalism was used to curb revolutionary movement abroad and within own countries as well. In US & Europe, this phenomena was used to create an atmosphere of fear thus strengthen state to brutally exploit the workers of these countries. The collapse of Soviet Union intensified this process, false theories such as End of History and Clashes of Civilizations were erected and tried to impose on the consciousness of advance layers of working classes.

Afghanistan became a battlefield for proxy war and Pakistan was its launching pad. During this holy war, opium trade furnished and millions of dollars were given to these Taliban. The Taliban were given lavish treats and trips to White House where they enjoyed the hospitality of American ruling class. This dollar jihad gave impetus to black money in the region. From Kabul to Islamabad, black money penetrated into State. Pakistan Army Generals made enormous fortunes through this Later on this black economy continue to grow itself and now according to Govt own statistics around 75% of Pakistan’s economy is the black economy that is growing at the pace of 12% annually. This black economy has now paralyzed the whole State and Pakistan’s State is at war with itself.  The uniformity of State has been compromised and institutions are fighting each other for the bones.

However, in order to safeguard their interests, the Imperialists gave a new lease of life to Islamic fundamentalism and other religious fanaticism. Now, these Frankenstein’s monsters have become powerful and biting back at their own creators. In fact, liberalism and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin. From Syria to Pakistan; we see the intensification of fundamentalism but today’s crisis-ridden capitalism cannot provide the material basis for it.

What’s forward?

In Pakistan’s 70 years history there was not a single religious government that was formed by electoral means, Pakistani masses have rejected them again and again. In 1969, famous religious leader Maulana Abdul Modudi was thrown into dust by people at famous Mochi Gate, Lahore. Similarly, religious political parties were not able to build their strong material basis. Also, in 1970 the Imam of Kaaba from Saudi Arab (cleric of holy site Mecca) was brought to Pakistan to ask people to refrain from voting Socialism. However, against all prejudices and propaganda, the PPP was victorious on its Socialists program. Once the working class starts to move this Islamic fundamentalism will vanish as a drop of water vanishes from the surface of the red hot iron. But if the basic contradictions and the crisis of society are not eliminated, it will come back again and again and will keep on ravaging and raping society and human civilization until it is eradicated. It is a peculiar manifestation of the death agony of capitalism. To get rid of this plague is only be possible when the system, on which it festers, is abolished. Which is only possible through a Socialist Revolution!