[Marxism] AWTW News Service: Pakistan: the shooting of girl activist Malala Yousufzai
breakthechains02 at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 23 23:46:26 MDT 2012
Pakistan: the shooting of girl activist Malala
22 October 2012. The following article was written by Akram
Javed for The Platform, a
UK-based comment site (www.the-platform.org.uk).
We seek and welcome insightful material that can help develop the scientific
understanding necessary for revolution even when there are differences with
some of the views expressed.
After the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan shot
14-year old Malala Yusufzai for encouraging girls' education, Pakistan's
liberal intelligentsia and the Western media went into overdrive.
You'd think that if it weren't for the Taliban
shooting at them, millions of girls in Pakistan would be sitting in school, and
that if you're not endorsing American drone strikes in Pakistan, you might as
well be signing death warrants for school-going girls.
These kinds of stories are convenient for
Pakistan's entrenched ruling classes, which include the generals of the
Pakistan Army, and for American imperialism, but they have very little to do
with the deeper truth. The reality isn't so complex, but it has to be spelled
out a bit.
Let's look at the issue of girls and schools.
Pakistan actually has one of the worse rates of primary level (ages four to
nine) net enrolment in all of Asia, with about 40 per cent of children out of
school in 20101. (All figures cited in this article are from the Pakistan
Bureau of Statistics.) The figures
get much worse at the secondary level.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province most hit by
the net enrolment rate of girls at the primary level is 51 percent. This is
actually somewhat better than the 47 percent rate in Sindh, the province least
affected by militancy. At the middle level (ages ten to twelve), net enrolment
of girls is 13 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 17 percent in Sindh. At the
matric level (ages 13 to 14), the figures are six percent and ten percent of girls,
respectively. Boys are also enrolled at very low rates, though marginally
greater than girls.
The Taliban and other militants attack schools
and publicly intimidate children, especially girls, who seek education. This is
undoubtedly reprehensible yet, though they are making an already dismal
situation worse, it is clear that they haven't created the problem. (For that
matter, the Americans and Pakistan Army have also attacked schools, but I
In fact, all of Pakistan's social indicators,
including health, are very poor. How do we explain this general
underdevelopment and explain Pakistan's gender gap?
Basically, Pakistan is a country with
incredible inequality and the ruling classes, like ruling classes everywhere
else, seek to maintain this inequality.
A good chunk of Pakistan's economic and
political inequality is rooted in control of land. As of 20101, 45 percent of
the labour force works in agriculture, of which nearly 40 percent are women.
Yet, in 2000, 86 percent of farms in Pakistan were smaller than the subsistence
minimum of 12.5 acres. The other 14 per cent of farms operated 56 percent of
the country's agricultural area!
Patriarchy is deeply connected to rural
inequality, where women rarely have ownership or control of land. The reproduction
of the household is based upon the labour of women, and then women are also
called upon to work outside of the household they do more work, on the whole,
When women get married, they often move to
another village. In order to prevent land fragmentation and declining land
productivity, women are not given ownership or control of the land that should
be theirs by inheritance right. Dowries are often considered pre-inheritances.
The regulation and control of the female body
is thus deeply tied to the reproduction of the agrarian economy. As it happens,
land and women are also tied up with struggles over respect and honour. This
has very little to do with Islam as such walk across the border to India and
you'll find similar, if not worse, gender disparities and oppression.
It's important to note that this isn't a rural
problem alone. Overall, women are expected to conduct the unpaid labour of the
household, while men get paid for their labour elsewhere. Of course, it is not
uncommon to find women working for wages in other people's homes or in
industries, but the general idea is for women to remain at home. When it comes
to education, then the education of boys tends to be prioritised.
Aside from political economy, women are
considered subjects to be controlled by men. So, for instance, women's presence
in public places is rendered up for scrutiny on the part of males. This is not
unchanging, though; as repressive governments leaning on particular
interpretations of Islam further facilitated gender oppressive norms, they made
worse the devaluation of women in general.
In sum, a combination of political economy and
cultural politics is responsible for the low status of women.
This is something of a simplified picture, and
in Pakistan, as elsewhere, things are more complicated. The point is that the
basic problems of political economy and cultural politics, and the ways in
which these are rooted in gender oppression, cannot be laid at the doorstep of
the Taliban or religion. The Taliban themselves are partly a product of
Pakistan's highly unequal and patriarchal rural society, a product of
Pakistan's generalised underdevelopment.
Actually addressing these problems requires
moving beyond simplified stories and has to involve deep, far-going, revolutionary
changes in Pakistan's political economy and cultural politics. Crucially, we
have to get at the entrenched power of Pakistan's ruling classes. Rural elites
are one important factor, whether in their guise of "democratic"
politicians or of cynical intermediaries for the military, as they exploit the
masses on the one hand and extract and distribute state patronage on the other.
Part of the reason there has been so little
spending on education, health or other social services in Pakistan is because
the military consumes a huge proportion (nearly a third) of the national
budget. This involves a sprawling military-operated agrarian and industrial
empire, with strategic interests in transportation and real estate (and milk
and cereal seriously). The benefits of this empire go to the top echelons of
The largest portion of Pakistan's national
budget (nearly half) goes to paying off odious debts to domestic and foreign
financial institutions, such as the IMF. For their part, international institutions
have said little about Pakistan's deeply entrenched inequalities or about the
perverse control of the military over large sections of the political economy.
They are focused on making Pakistan's economy more amenable to international
trade flows and international capitalist exploitation, not on uplifting the
The other aspect of international intervention
is, of course, the United States bombing of Pakistan, although we should
recognize that drone strikes are just the tip of the military operations being
carried out in Pakistan, which have caused millions to become internal
refugees. And here, we get to the crux of the problem.
For one, America helped create many of these
militant outfits back in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Now, American bombing in Pakistan tends to target the Afghan Taliban and
al-Qaeda, not the Pakistani Taliban. What's more, American bombing blows up
markets, schools, cars, homes, roads, weddings, funerals, etc., where sometimes
militants happen to be, and the rest of the times America will just pretend by
counting all males above a certain age as militants (the women who die are, of
course, collateral damage).
America does not blow up semi-feudal agrarian
relations, or predatory capitalism, or Pakistan's military-agrarian-industrial
complex. It does not blow up patriarchy or gender oppression. On the contrary,
by directly supporting Pakistan's Army and the rural elites, amongst others,
America supports these pernicious aspects of Pakistan's political economy and
cultural politics. And by bombing innocents, it merely produces fertile
recruits for the reprehensible militants who are the very product of the same
debauched political economy, cultural politics and imperialism America keeps
The order of the day in Pakistan is opposing
the many power-holders who suffocate the populace at large and changing, from
the roots, its political economy and cultural politics. That means that you
can, and should be, opposed to the Taliban and to American
imperialism, for they are two sides of the same coin.
The challenge is to develop a properly
revolutionary politics against semi-feudalism, predatory capitalism, the
military-agrarian-industrial complex and imperialism for a just and
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