Pakistan: Dissent is Alive

For the mainstream media in Western democracies, carelessness is deliberate, while using words such as “Islam”, “terrorism”, and “jihad”. Perhaps the so-called Free Press, like the so-called Free Market are so driven by military-industrial complex that they routinely quote official misinformation for maintenance of status quo. For instance, in the US, the State Department’s report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1999” published on May 1, 2000 states the following –

“The primary terrorist threats to the United States emanate from two regions, South Asia and the Middle East. Supported by state sponsors, terrorists live in and operate out of areas in these regions with impunity. They find refuge and support in countries that are sympathetic to their use of violence for political gain, derive mutual benefit from harboring terrorists or simply are weakly governed.”

And yet, facts stand otherwise. In 1999, there were reportedly 169 anti-USA attacks. Latin America contributed 96 of those, Western Europe conducted 30, Eurasia 9 and Africa 16. Contrary to official propaganda, Middle East accounted for only eleven and Asia for six.

Impacts of unfounded American diatribe have reverberated panic throughout the Indian subcontinent during Cold War period. Recently revisited Nixon-Kissinger hate-talks on India and Pakistan are a case in point. And yet, never have the subcontinent come together to work collectively to either ward off manufactured apprehensions or to conduct genuine dialogues among each other as a show of solidarity.

This is precisely the reason why post-2001, continuance of divide-and-rule neoliberal tactics have further destabilized the region. People of both India and Pakistan are dually oppressed, first disadvantaged by geopolitical realities, next shackled by their own ruling class masters. Amidst regressive thought controls thinly disguised as historical interpretations, the people of the subcontinent are reminded of how impossible it really is to envisage natural alliance between the nations.

Nothing could be farther from truth, however. India and Pakistan possibly have more similarities than any two other nations in the world. Historically, both are byproducts of the same colonial disengagement; culturally they are astoundingly indistinguishable; financially, extremely irresponsible and in absolute ruins. Any fancy claims at India’s economic superiority is figment of a corporate imagination that excels at the expense of teeming millions of hungry and homeless citizens.

Politically, with an iron curtain still intact, one is led to believe that Pakistani ruling classes have been for the most part authoritative, while Indian counterparts have been more democratic. More dangerous claims narrate how Pakistani citizens are complicit in collaborating with their military regimes to sustain hate campaigns while Indians are pacifists wielding willpower to change their political destinies to emerge stronger.

However, historical patterns portray otherwise. In both the countries, the ruling classes have been elitists, too often, dynastically so. Their propensities towards silencing dissensions count as their strongholds. At the same time, both the countries have their share of revolutionaries who glaringly challenge the power structure roots. Suffice it to say, there are more reasons for the people from both India and Pakistan to show unity for collective interests, than be swayed away through jingoistic warmongering orchestrated by manipulative politicians on both sides.


The Pakistan Story:

Even as the proponent of the name Pakistan was a man from Cambridge, Choudhury Rahmat Ali, and the founder of the nation was a man of great secular credentials, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan was forged with coming together of the landlords and the ulema (the clergy) classes. Even the All-India Muslim League was formed not with mass participation, but through the initiative of the Nawab of Dacca and with active participation of the landlords, the Nawabs and the Khan Bahadurs. Muslim League, likewise, was an elitist formation, represented by restricted membership of four hundred “men of property and influence”.

After Pakistan came into being, both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had attempted at ensuring secularism through constitutional provisions. This is what the society demanded in Pakistan (just as in India). However, after death of Jinnah in 1948 and assassination of Khan (allegedly by the clergy) in 1951, there was little hope left for a country largely taken over by feudal lords and servants of the lord. Rise to power of Khwaja Nazimuddin and Ghulam Mohammad defied every conventional logic, but they were permitted by the all-powerful clergy who decided what constituted cultural purity in Pakistan. However, the people of Pakistan did not maintain silence over the theocratic attempts. As a result Maulana Maudoodi, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Maulana Niazi were not only arrested for causing riots, but were also awarded death sentences (although they were later released).

Popular movements against the ruling classes resulted in formation of Awami Muslim League in East Pakistan, which deliberately dropped the word ‘Muslim’ with an aim to declare its secular credentials. More progressive forces joined hands to form one of the first workers’ parties in a Muslim nation. Fazlul Haq created Krishak Sramik Party in September 1953 to challenge the clergy-feudal politics of Muslim League. In a country largely theocratic, such socialist people-led alternatives proved to be stupendous success with massive popular support. As a result, in the provincial elections of 1954, the Muslim League managed to win only 10 out of 309 seats in a House.


Cradle of Revolution:

Rise of nationalism in South Asia was always a concern for the American power. In its quest to benefit from splits within international communism, Pakistan was being wooed to be positioned opposite India vis-a-vis their respective affinities with China and USSR. Socialist victories in East Pakistan raised an unprecedented level of interests in Washington. Popular democratic efforts needed to be curbed, especially if they inclined towards implementing socialism in any form. Ghulam Mohammad not only sacked Fazlul Haq, he brought in Field Marshal Ayub Khan to militarize the nation and commence an anti-people ruling class tradition that still has engulfed the nation.

Ayub Khan’s Army Rule chimera brought catastrophic consequences to a new republic. Ghulam Mohammad was wiped out, Iskanader Mirza was exiled, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged. Suppression of popular movements were at its peaks. Although Bhutto remained controversial, he owed his popularity to the mass-based anti-clergy sentiments. When he was required to maintain Islamic purity and refrain from drinking, he declared that unlike the clergies who drink human blood, he merely drank liquor. Mass slogans such as “Peewey, peewey, Bhutto peewey; Jeewey, jeewey, Bhutto jeewey” were targeted against the conservative elements, powerful yet a minority.

Spearheading the secular movements in Pakistan were the various peoples parties, prominently, formations by the communists. Due to ruling class collaborations with the United States, communist parties were banned in Pakistan. However, peoples’ rebellion against the US interventionists and Pakistani elites took organized forms and the National Awami Party (NAP) was formed to hoodwink the witch-hunters.


Political Progressivism:

Washington looked at NAP with great suspicion and disdain. Formed on 25 July 1957 at a mass gathering of Democratic Workers’ Coalitions, NAP announced the existence of wide variety of progressive forces in the Islamic land. Presided by Maulana Bhashani, this conference declared their outright rejection of Pakistan status quo, much to the chagrin of Islamabad and Washington.

Represented by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Khudai Khidmatgar Organization), Khan Abdus Samad Khan (Anjuman-e-Watan), Mian Iftikharuddin (Azad Pakistan Party), G.M. Syed (Sind Awami Mahaz), Mahmud Ali (Ganatantri Dal), and various other leaders, the goals were nothing less than revolutionary. The resolution was passed “having realized the need for integrity of democratic forces within the country in order to consolidate the people of Pakistan into one strong and independent nation free from evils of communalism and provincialism, exploitation and imperialism, to ameliorate the economic conditions of the people..”

NAP’s progressivism gave rise to radical writers, poets, playwrights. But it could not contain the inherent class character, leading to splits. Throughout the period of political repression, Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was forcibly banned. However, many of its leaders and sympathizers went on to form Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP). Whereas leftist movements in neighboring India were growing sectarian, MKP maintained a unique position in being feminist, anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist.

All-powerful military regime of Zia ul-Haq which received American support to curb the leftist elements, received major jolt from MKP’s show of solidarity. MKP also managed to unite several leftist peoples’ movements to weaken military rulings [recently it merged with the Communist Party of Pakistan to become Community Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP)].

To defeat the rising progressivism, mirroring Afghan experiment with socialism, Pakistan’s administration increasingly emerged guilty of its complicity in American Jihad against Afghanistan during 1970s. CIA as the grand coordinator of Afghanistan crisis started pressuring and bribing Pakistani political and military elites. Pakistani Director of Military Operations, Brigadier Mian Mohammad Afzal was put on CIA payroll to ensure Pakistani cooperation.

Citizens of Pakistan never failed to register protest against their regimes for siding with the imperialists. During Afghanistan reforms which positively affected the subcontinent, people took to the media for greater support. Independent Islamabad daily newspaper, the Muslim, accused the United States of getting ready to “fight the last Afghan”… “We are not flattered to be termed a ‘frontline state’ by Washington. Washington does not seem to be in any mood to seek an early settlement of a war whose benefits it is reaping at no cost of American manpower.”

To this day, American hegemonic influences still abound in Pakistan-Afghanistan regions. But so also, do the popular resentments against the presence of Western forces. Media coverages for the most part neglect the intensity of people’s disapprovals, both towards Pakistani ruling class, as well as towards the combined NATO forces. With a traditionally non-aligned India, an important potential ally, also recently giving in to Washington’s whims, prospects perhaps are bleaker than ever before, for the peoples’ movements to overthrow every iota of clergy-feudal structures in the subcontinent.

However, the good news across the border reflects Indian peoples rising against their unjust and plutocratic political system. Good news also is the Nepalese revolution in various hues succeeding to overthrow their conservative monarchy. Perhaps, there has never been a brighter period in the history of the subcontinent for all progressive forces to come together. Workers, after all, have nothing to lose, except their boundaries.

Saswat Pattanayak is a New York-based journalist, photographer, atheist, third-wave feminist, LGBT ally, black power comrade and academic non-elite who refuses to give up his association with Kindle. A true comrade.

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