Pakistan and the military

jbm7 at SPAMtutor.open.ac.uk jbm7 at SPAMtutor.open.ac.uk
Sat Oct 16 09:05:04 MDT 1999



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Pakistan

Military takes over

Troops took over key buildings in the capital, Islamabad, in the
evening of October 12th, several hours after Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif announced the dismissal of General Mussaraf. The Prime
Minister and his brother were taken into "protective custody".

Farooq Tariq

[The author is General Secretary of the Labour Party of Pakistan]



In his first nation wide address, Army chief General Pervaiz
Musharf did not mention martial law or announce any interim
arrangements. He said that everyone was aware of the kind of
turmoil and uncertainty that the country had gone through in
recent times. "Not only have all the institutions been played
around with, and systematically destroyed, the economy too is in
a state of collapse  Despite all my advice, they tried to
interfere with the armed forces, the last remaining viable
institution in which all of you takes so much pride and look up
to, at all times, for the stability, unity and integrity of our
beloved country".

This is the usual demagogy of any military ruler. But General
Musharf has not yet announced martial law.

The military coup was apparently provoked by the announcement of
the dismissal of the General. Only one week earlier, the Nawaz
Government had promoted the General to Chairman of the Joint
Chief of Staff Committee. The General had immediately purged some
senior military officers who were known as Nawaz Sharif
supporters. In retaliation, the Prime Minister  tried to dismiss
the general.

This was the immediate excuse for the military take-over. But the
main reasons are deeply rooted in the present economic crisis and
its political effects. The coup is part of the aftermath of the
Kargil dispute with India over Kashmir. The Nawaz Government
blamed army chiefs for Pakistan's defeat.

In a move to reschedule the country's IMF loans, the Nawaz Sharif
Government recently blamed the Talban Government in Afghanistan
for "terrorist activities inside Pakistan." This is a suprising
U-turn. Pakistan is the only country in the world, which had
formally recognized the Talban Government of Afghanistan. It has
actively supported the Talabans to take over Kabul and other
parts of Afghanistan. Sharif's sudden hostility to the Taliban
was not appreciated by the various religious currents within the
army.

The economy is in absolute shatters. The Governmen's attempt to
introduce a general sales tax was successfully opposed by the
small traders association, which organized a nationwide strike on
4th September. In the face of this protest, the government
ignored IMF instructions,  withdrew the GST and introduced a new
tax.

In another development, cotton growers were organizing massive
demonstrations to demand an increase in guaranteed cotton prices.
This increase was opposed by the powerful All Pakistan Textile
Manufacturers Association APTMA. Cotton amounts for 70% of
Pakistan's exports. The country produces 10% of the world's
cotton. On 10th October, a nationwide protest of peasants and
cotton growers blocked all the main roads of Pakistan for several
hours.

All these developments exposed the extremely unpopular nature of
the Nawaz Sharif government, and the dramtic decline in popular
support for the Prime Minister. In early 1997, Nawaz won the
general elections with 40% of the total vote, and 65% of seats in
the national assembly. It used its majority to remove
constitutional guarantees of trade union rights, women's rights,
and the protection minorities and small ethnic groups. The
government tried to bring the bureaucracy under its absolute
control, humiliateing the civil service in public.

Nawaz Sharif wanted to rule like a Mughal emperor, with his words
translated into actions within seconds. He introduced a telephone
help line, where he would listen to any complaint and take
immediate action. State television would follow the story, giving
people the impression that justice has been done in seconds. But
all without any proper investigation of the complaint

The Nawaz Sharif government also had an obsession with highway
construction. He wanted his roads to be built in days. Any
obstacles had to be removed, without considering alternatives.
Not suprisingly, many historical buildings were bulldozed,
provoking widespread discontent among the urban population.

Despite his demagogy, Sharif was unable to implement the IMF
agenda for quick privatization of the main public sector
institutions like railway, telecommunication, and electricity. He
clashed with some of the international power companies which had
signed contracts with the previous Benazir Bhutto government to
build the power generation plants. These contracts allowed the
power companies to sell this electricity at a price above the
international competitive rate. The energy multinationals bribed
the Benazir government to accept this deal. Nawaz's clique hadn't
shared in these kickbacks, so was rather hostile to the deal. In
the end, the World Bank intervened, urging Nawaz to seek a
compromise with the power companies.

The Nawaz government also tested a nuclear bomb despite the
hypocritical opposition of the USA. He went on war with India,
and lost. This isolated the Nawaz Government from its religious
constituency and its international backers.

The governmented had high hopes that it could compensate by an
ambitious trade relationship with the Daewo group. But that
Korean multinational is in deep crisis, and is not ready to
expand its Pakistan opperations.

The Nawaz Government was very weak, unstable and isolated.
Suprisingly, this did not stop it from intensifying its conflict
with the military hierarchy.

What now?

The military takeover did not provoke any resistance from the
masses. There was a sense of confusion among the population, and,
to some extent, a sense of relief .

The military have not yet developed their strategy. Unlike
previous coups, the generals have not used religion as the main
pretext for their action.

If the generals try to establish open military rule under martial
law, they may face opposition from the IMF, the World Bank and
the US government. So it seems more likely that they will install
a civilian puppet government?under  full military control.

The main aim of this so-called civilian government will be the
speedy implementation of the IMF agenda.

The military take over is yet another setback for the left and
trade union movement in Pakistan.



ARTICLE TWO

Declaration of the Labour Party of Pakistan

Army out of politics! Workers interim government!

[Lahore, 13 October] The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) strongly
opposes the army coup, and demands that the army go back to the
barracks. The LPP further demands the creation of a workers
interim government to hold fresh elections for a new legislative
assembly.

The army coup mirrors the deep-rooted economic crisis that has
exposed the internal contradictions and infighting of the
Pakistan ruling class. Nawaz Sharif, ex Prime Minister, wanted to
strengthen his dictatorial power by forcing the retirement of
General Pervaiz Mussaraf. But this coup proves that the army is
the real ruler of the country. Nawaz's attempt at grabbing power
was deplorable. But the army coup is absolutely unacceptable.

The new government ?even if it is a civilian set up?will be a
puppet in the army's hands. Whether we have a military or
civilian regime now depends on the generals' negotiations with
the IMF and the World Bank. The coup was against the plans of US
imperialism, but the US will find a compromise with Pakistan's
military strongmen.

The new government will use accountability as a pretext, but this
will be an illusion. The new government will not be able to
recover loans from defaulters. In fact, the masses will be taxed
even more heavily, in a futile bid to overcome the economic
crisis.

The lack of protest against the coup proves the utter
impopularity of the Nawaz regime, because of its economic
policies. The new regime will have to carry out the same economic
policies. So it too will be increasingly unpopular.

The army coup will sharpen the national question in the three
smaller provinces, particularly if the army resorts to
dictatorial methods.

For the moment, the masses might feel some relief, because the
army coup has replaced the Nawaz regime. But they will soon be
disillusioned. The trade union movement, working class peasants,
free press and political parties will suffer the loss of
democratic rights.

The class struggle will be even more difficult. The working class
will have to fight for democratic rights, in addition to their
genuine rights and demands.

The Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) demands that the army return
to barracks immediately. An interim workers peasant's government
should be set up to hold the ruling class accountable. This
workers peasant interim government should hold elections for a
new legislative assembly. Democratic rights should be restored
immediately. No ban should be imposed on meetings,
demonstrations, and processions.

The LPP vows to mobilize the working class and peasants to press
for these demands. It will launch a campaign for the restoration
of democratic rights and it will not accept any attempt by the
military to impose martial law.



ARTICLE THREE

Pakistan

Labour Party Punjab conference

Farooq Sulehria

Almost 250 people from 18 districts attended the first Punjab
Conference of the Labour Party of Pakistan in late September.

In a lively discussion, delegates stressed that Nawaz Sharif's
government might not complete its remaining two and half years
[though no-one predicted the miliary coup of 12 October]

The capitalists have not solved any basic problems of the masses.
In the new era of globalisation, the process of recolonisation of
the poor countries have gone quite far. The per capita income in
Pakistan has fallen from $US460 in 1990 to $340 in 1999.
Religious fundamentalism has grown but a new Afganistan or Iran
like situation is not an immediate threat in Pakistan. Delegates
said it would be difficult for the army to take direct control,
but that some new transitional government might take over, to
ensure the speedy implementation of the IMF agenda of
privatisation and introduction of new taxes.

There were no major differences between comrades' analysis of key
perspectives. Delegates reiterated their commitment for the ideas
of permanent revolution.

The party's priorities have been fixed as youth, trade unions and
among the remaining Left in the province. Delegates resolved to
study and learn from the recent successes of the LPP in Sind
province.

Only four delegates voted against the party's 43 member Punjab
council. The newly elected provincial chairman is a a Railway
worker from Rawalpindi. A former leading member of the Communist
Party, he and 32 comrades joined the LPP in August, after three
years of joint discussions. The conference was punctuated by a
play about the peasant struggle against feudalism, and
demonstrations against UN against Cuba and Iraq, and against
federal rule in Sind province and against the killings of
political activists of opposition in Sind

The conference was reported by most of the national media, and
delegates congratulated local comrades for an impressive local
propaganda campaign, covering the town with posters and wall
slogans.

International greetings were recieved from the Fourth
International, Australia's DSP, the London group of the LLP, and
the LIT.












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