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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 November 2009

Pakistan - New wave of terrorism as the guerrilla war escalates

In recent weeks attacks carried out by Taliban fighters and a new ground offensive by the Pakistani government in the Waziristan region on the Afghan border, have deepened Pakistan's social, political and ethnic fault lines. Khalid Bhatti (Socialist Movement Pakistan - CWI) analyses recent events and possible future developments.

RECENT TERRORIST attacks, killing more than 300 people, have opened the floodgates of a widening guerrilla war in Pakistan. Taliban and al-Qa'ida-linked groups are striking deeper than ever inside the country, exacerbating US security fears as the war deteriorates across the border in Afghanistan.

Responding to the offensive against their stronghold (South Waziristan) on the Afghan border, Taliban forces have unleashed a string of devastating attacks in the last three weeks, in an attempt to shake the nation.

Coordinated assaults against police in Lahore and Kohat came five days after a siege at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Now suicide attacks and assassinations are taking place on a daily basis. Peshawar, Lahore, Kohat and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been targeted.

These attacks have shown the limited impact of the military offensive in the Swat valley and the killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud, in a US drone attack in August.

In response to these continued attacks, the government has beefed up security. Police and paramilitary forces have established checkpoints on the main roads in the cities. Schools, colleges and universities have been closed down across the country due to security concerns. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

There is a growing sense of fear and insecurity in society. Business confidence is at its lowest ever level. Uncertainty and fear have begun to dominate the everyday lives of the working masses. The security situation has disrupted the lives of the people. All major events, including sports, entertainment, music and exhibitions have been cancelled.

The government has failed to provide security to the ordinary citizens and they have been left at the mercy of Taliban groups. The government seems only interested in protecting the ruling class and high level state functionaries. Yet no one seems safe, including top military officials.

Now Taliban militants are threatening the TV channels, newspapers and other media organisations with attacks if they do not stop their anti-Taliban propaganda. Threats are also issued to educational institutions which allow for the co-education of male and female students. [A female canteen at the International Islamic University in Islamabad was bombed on 20 October, killing six students].

Attack on GHQ

Taliban militants attacked the army's general headquarters (GHQ) on 10 October. The attack was carefully planned and the boldest yet against the military.

Ten Taliban fighters shot their way into Pakistan's army headquarters to seize senior military officers as hostages in order to demand the release of more than 100 high profile prisoners held by the security forces.

The militants failed to achieve their primary objectives, as army commandos stormed into the building, killing nine and capturing the injured leader of the group.

This daring siege of one of the most heavily guarded military compounds in nuclear-armed Pakistan revealed the government's vulnerability. The message was loud and clear; 'if GHQ is not safe, then who else is?

The attack on GHQ also revealed the increasingly close collaboration between Pashtun fighters from the largely tribal areas along the Afghan border and militants from Punjab province, the country's heartland. Jihadist and sectarian elements in Punjab are linked with the Taliban and al-Qa'ida. Religious extremist organisations, like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-jhanghvi base themselves in Punjab.

Waziristan offensive

The military has launched an offensive into South Waziristan. The main question is whether this military offensive will be able to stop the violence and crush the Taliban movement.

The army chief General Kayani has pointed out that no matter how successful the operation is from the outset, there is unlikely to be any drop in terrorist activity in urban areas. There are pre-positioned terrorist units across the country; sleeper cells which are trained and equipped and can be activated by a simple phone call.

This operation might reduce the violence and attacks, as did the Swat operation. The army forced the Swat Taliban to retreat and destroyed their camps and bases, but they still operate in some areas of Swat.

In the last few years, the Taliban has been able to expand their influence in most parts of the country. Military action will not be able to completely destroy this monster.

Mass political action by the working masses is necessary to defeat it. The independent mass mobilisation of workers, students, peasants, youth, women and urban poor is vital. The working and poor masses of Pakistan can have no trust in the state or military to solve the problems of war and terrorism.

Frankenstein monster

The Western capitalist media and governments give the impression that the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism and religious extremism is a homegrown problem and has nothing to do with imperialist policies. However, a close look at the history of fundamentalism in Pakistan negates this.

Pakistani society was a liberal and progressive society, both politically and socially until the late 1970s. Then it changed. The Left was the dominant force in the trade unions, students' movement and in the political field. 1968-69 saw an historic revolutionary movement of the working class which dared to challenge the existing political, economic and social order.

Workers took over the factories; peasants took over the land and people in the cities refused to pay rent. Workers and peasants' councils were running the affairs of the cities. There was no authoritative government in power in the country.

Revolutionary change was in the air but in the absence of a revolutionary leadership and party, the working class failed to take power. There was a clear socialist consciousness amongst the masses and the main slogan of the movement was for a socialist transformation.

This consciousness was clearly reflected in the election results of 1970, when the PPP (Pakistan People's Party) won on a radical socialist programme. The working masses rejected the religious parties and their propaganda against 'infidel' socialism.

This movement was a big blow to the religious right and the establishment. Although the movement failed to bring about a socialist revolution in the country, it badly damaged the interests of the ruling class and establishment.

The religious right and the establishment joined hands to curtail the rising power of the working class. Western imperialist forces fully backed this reactionary and counter-revolutionary alliance. Much money was given to religious parties like Jamati Islami to mobilise the right-wing reaction.

These religious forces, with the help of the establishment and western powers, were successful in overthrowing the elected government of the PPP, led by ZA Bhutto, in 1977. With the blessing of US imperialism, the military took over and imposed martial law.

The military regime of general Zia-ul-Haq used religion as a tool to continue its ruthless military rule. This was the beginning of the darkest era in the history of Pakistan.

This military regime used the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s as an opportunity to further spread radical Islamic ideology in society. This regime initiated the jihad in Afghanistan and many jihadist organisations and training camps were established.

This 'jihad' was the co-product of the American CIA and Pakistani ISI state security organisations. Western powers and oil rich Gulf states provided billions of dollars for this jihad. Thousands of Arab fighters were brought to Pakistan. Even young people from Britain and other European countries were trained in the training camps.

Pakistani society was largely militarised during this process. State sponsored, these reactionary forces entered every sphere of life. In the last 30 years, the trade union movement, student organisations and Left have been targeted and repeatedly attacked by the state. Pakistani society has suffered heavily because of these policies.

The overwhelming majority of Pakistani people never supported these reactionary forces. According to the latest Gallup survey, 80% of people said they oppose the Taliban and al-Qa'ida.

Now the same forces who created these monsters, are trying to convince us that they will eliminate them.

Pakistan's future

Many Western and American think tanks and commentators are raising serious doubts about the future of Pakistan. They raise the possibility of the country's Talibanisaton, disintegration and descent into civil wars.

There is not a capitalist commentator or writer who raises the idea of a working class uprising and revolution.

Under capitalism and feudalism, there will be no future for working-class people. The ruling class has failed to solve the basic problems faced by people. It has failed to establish a functioning democracy. There is no prosperity, social and economic justice or political freedom.

The only class which can bring change and transform the lives of the working masses is the working class. Socialism is the only viable system to replace capitalism.

The working class has not yet started to move but once it does, the whole political scenario will become different. There is a 43 million-strong working class in Pakistan, one-third of the total population.

The Pakistani working class and masses again and again have shown that they have the potential, courage and capability to conduct a revolutionary struggle against capitalism and the rotten ruling class.

The working class needs a revolutionary party and leadership to organise this struggle. Such a party, with a clear programme, strategy and tactics and mass support can win a future for the masses.

Pakistan is heading towards another showdown between the ruling class and the working class. The outcome of this showdown will determine the future of this country.

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