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LPP fifth congress: Bravura expression of growing left influence in Pakistan

By Farooq Tariq

February 8, 2010 -- The two-day Labour Party Pakistan fifth congress [held on on January 27-28] helped to advance the revolutionary process in Pakistan. It brought together comrades from different traditions and trends to discuss the central topic: “Building a mass working-class party independent of the influence of the capitalists and feudal elements.” The congress was a bravura expression of the growing influence and strength of emerging left-wing politics in Pakistan.

More than 140 delegates and observers representing 7263 members of the LPP discussed the political and organisational aspects of the party. For the first time in the LPP’s 13-year history, delegates representing Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Sareiki Waseeb, Pukhtoonkhawa and Kashmir attended. There were leaders of trade unions, of social movements, of peasants and from the labour movement -- all eager to learn from each other and discuss their future course of action.

Comrades travelled overnight to arrive at the Faisalabad Centre for Peace and Harmony, a social organisation, for a residential congress followed by a mass rally of workers and peasants held at famous Dhobi Ghat  grounds. (On the way to the congress one comrade from Baluchistan was seriously injured in a train accident and had to be hospitalised at Multan. As a result of the unfortunate accident he lost three of his toes.)

The three-panel chair presided over the congress proceedings with a three-member standing order committee to help organise the congress.

The congress opened with a two-minute silence in memory of seven comrades who, since the fourth LPP congress, are no more with us: Abdullah Qureshi (killed in a suicidal attack in Swat on December 9, 2007), Jilal Shah (died 2008), Master Khudad (killed in a Peshawar suicidal attack October 2009), Rehana Kausar, Najma Khanum and Abdul Salam Salam (died in a road accident December 2009).

International greetings

Several organisations sent donations to enable the holding of the congress and the one-day conference. These included Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres (ESSF), comrades related to Workers International Network, Socialist Alliance Australia, Organization of Communist International Greece, Solidarity USA and Pakistani comrades in Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom, as well as several individual donations. More than 100,000 rupees were raised in the finance appeal from delegates attending the congress.

At the congress Comrade Farooq Ahmad read some of the solidarity messages received from organisations across the globe, including the Fourth International Japan Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL), Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) France, International Socialist Organization USA, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Independent Lawyers Association International UK, Revolutionary Socialist Party (Australia), Consumers Action Committee Pakistan (CACP), the South Asian Peoples Solidarity group Toronto, Canada, Action Aid International, Workers International Network (WIN), South Asia Alliance For Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and Organization of Communist International Greece.

Here are some parts of the messages received:

  • “We think in particular of your involvement in the Lawyers’ Movement for the overthrow of the Musharaf dictatorship, your intransigent defense of democratic rights and minorities threatened by religious fundamentalism, your constant combativity in offering a progressive and solidarity alternative to the joint threats of talibanism and militarism, the help which you bring to strengthening the struggles of women, workers and peasants, your active participation in the social forums and internationalism that you express in a part of the world that is in a permanent state of war, dominated by the Pakistan-India nuclear face-to-face and NATO-US intervention in Afghanistan.” -- Fourth International
  • “We hail the holding of your Congress, which is convened in the midst of a complex political situation and a global economic crisis that imposes new challenges on the political forces that are struggling for a better possible world for all. We wish you success in your work.” -- Department of International Relations, Communist Party of Cuba
  • “The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) of France brings you its warmest greetings for your 5th congress. We wish in particular to salute the efforts that you have made to build a strong progressive and popular political force, independent of established power systems, capable of offering a socialist perspective and solidarity alternative to talibanism and religious fundamentalisms, to militarism and to the bourgeois clientelist parties.” -- New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), France
  • “It is imperative for the Left in both India and Pakistan to resist this imperialist design and work consistently for bilateral peace, cooperation and friendship. The CPI (ML) and LPP have a history of shared initiatives and mutual exchanges towards this common goal and we are sure in the coming days we will be able to further strengthen our comradely ties and defeat the designs of our pro-imperialist rulers. Wishing you every success with your Congress and the rally, with warm comradely greetings” -- Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

International perspectives

The 120-page draft LPP documents on national and international perspectives were presented.

The international perspectives discussion was opened by Comrade Farooq Tariq, who explained the basis of international capitalist crisis, the ecological disaster and the imperialist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Adding to this crisis is the decline of reformism and growing Islamic fundamentalism. Is there a way out? Where are the forces that can save the planet and challenge the new face of counterrevolution? Where in Africa, Latin American and Asia do we see a challenge to imperialist globalisation? He outlined the class struggle ahead, highlighting the role of women and building international ties as part of constructing a coming revolution. A discussion by more than 12 comrades enriched the topic, covering aspects insufficiently mentioned in the draft document.

Comrade Pierre Rousset of the NPA (France) and Comrade Simon Butler of the Socialist Alliance (Australia) spoke about the crisis of capitalism and climate change. Comrade Arif Afghani of Afghan Labour Revolutionary Organization (ALRO) outlined the worsening social and economical conditions of the Afghan masses. A discussion by more than 12 comrades enriched the topic, covering aspects insufficiently mentioned in the draft document.

Pakistan perspectives

The perspective discussion was introduced by Comrade Farooq Ahmed. His main emphasis compared the policies of the present civilian government of Pakistan with those of the General Musharaf military regime. These are remarkably similar. In addition, the rise of religious fundamentalism is direct threat to the organisations of the working class. Washington’s imperialist aggression and daily drone attacks are fueling the popular appeal of the religious fanatics. He argued that, in order to cover up its anti-people policies, the present civilian government is making a lot of noise about a possible military takeover. While there is little probability of a takeover in the near future, implementing policies to raise the standard of living of the masses remain the government’s best defence.

More than 30 comrades spoke on different aspects of Pakistan’s political and economical situation, once again deepening the analysis. These ranged from discussion on the national question, the rise of religious fundamentalism, imperialist economic policies and the declining living standard of the masses.

Organisation

The organisational perspectives were laid out by Comrade Nisar Shah. Describing the achievements of the Labour Party Pakistan since the last congress, at the end of 2007, he cited its magnificent growth. For the first time, the LPP has a presence throughout Pakistan, including Baluchistan, Gilgit Baltistan and tribal areas.  The most important growth area has been in Pukhtoon Khawa, where the LPP has more than 2000 members. He stressed the need for more study circles and schools for the integration of this new membership.

A second, and interrelated, point is that the LPP is working to develop the social and labour movements in Pakistan. It has promoted regional and international solidarity and actively participates in anti-imperialist globalisation initiatives.

Before the opening of general discussion on organisational issues, LPP secretaries from Sindh, Baluchistan, Pukhtoon Khawa, Punjab and Sareiki Waseeb gave provincial reports to fill in the overall report with specifics.

A constitutional amendment to change the name of the national committee to the federal committee was accepted unanimously. Another amendment to hold two annual meetings of the federal committee instead of three was defeated.

The election of 31 members of the federal committee was held through secret ballot organised by a three-member election commission. Thirty-seven comrades contested. The newly elected members of the federal committee include Nasir Mansoor, Mukhtiar Rahu, Farooq Ahmad, Beena Fida, Azra Shad, Rehana Shakil, Maqsood Mujahid, Bukhshal Thallo, Aziz Baluch, Farooq Tariq, Bushra Khaliq, Zara Akbar, Nisar Lighari, Younas Rahu, Latif Lighari, Moeen Nawaz Punno, Nazli Javed, Mehr Abdul Sattar, Mian Abdul Qayum, Choudry Imtiaz Ahmad, Riffat Maqsood, Baba Jan, Ihsan Ali, Suhail Javed, Salim Noshad, Khalid Mehmood, Kafait Ullah, Abdul Jalal, Irfana Jabbar, Nisar Shah and Talat Rubab. This includes nine women.

The federal committee held its first meeting and elected the federal executive committee, the members of which are the main LPP officials. Comrade Nisar Shah was elected general secretary and comrade Farooq Tariq as spokesperson. Bukhshal Thallo was elected secretary of education and culture, Nisar Lighari secretary of youth, Nasir Mansoor secretary of labour and Mehr Abdul Sattar as Kissan [peasant] secretary. The decision to elect the secretary of women was postponed until the next meeting.

Most of the congress delegates then participated in the international workers’ and peasants’ conference on January 29 at Dhobi Ghat ground Faisalabad.

Comments

An Australian socialist's view of Pakistan

February 5, 2010

Simon Butler represented the Australian Socialist Alliance at the Labour Party Pakistan’s January 27-28 conference. He also addressed the 10,000 strong rally of workers and peasants on January 29 on behalf of the Socialist Alliance. The article below is abridged from the Pakistan News on Sunday .

There are two things most Australians associate with Pakistan: cricket and terrorism. The fault lies mostly with the one-sided reporting by Australia’s mainstream media.

Most Australians heard of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. In May, they saw reports of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Swat Valley.

In October, they watched footage about the terror attack on the Pakistan army general headquarters.

At other times, the most they see is the occasional 15-second report on the evening news about yet another bomb blast in Lahore or Islamabad.

Or they might read a pro-war newspaper columnist argue why the US-led war on Afghanistan must be extended across the Pakistani border.

Because of this relentless coverage, many Australians view Pakistan as an uninviting and dangerous place — just another battleground in the West’s so-called war on terror.

Visiting Pakistan, I gained a much fuller understanding about just how much of the real story is not told.

In Faisalabad, I was exposed to the powerful workers’ organisation, the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), which held a huge rally in the city centre on January 29.

For years the LQM has waged a struggle for the rights of textile workers in Faisalabad. Amazingly, I learnt this movement has closed down the city four times in the past two years.

But there is no coverage of Pakistan’s growing labour movement in Australia’s mainstream media. The rally was organised with the Anjuman Mazarin Punjab (AMP) — an organisation of peasant farmers who have struggled for the right to own their land for a decade.

AMP members have resisted attempts by their military landlords to sell their land to multinational corporations. Instead, they demand the government transfer ownership rights to the people who till the soil. Women have played a prominent role in this campaign.

Again, news of this struggle is absent from Australian media.

I met the leader of the Women Workers Helpline (WWH), Bushra Khaliq. The WWH is one of the most important Pakistani feminist groups organising for the rights of women.

Through its community development and awareness programs, it aims to empower women to build a just and gender-sensitised society.

Few Australians would know of these inspiring campaigns for women’s equality in Pakistan.

My visit also gave me a deeper awareness of the importance of Pakistan’s various ethnic groups — Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Balochis and others — in the country’s political life.

Australian media reports usually rely solely on religious issues to explain Pakistan’s internal problems. But the quest for full rights and equality between Pakistan’s different national groups appears far more decisive.

Part of the reason for all the distortions is that Australia’s media is highly monopolised and controlled by a very small group of media tycoons. Like so much of the “free” western media, what gets reported reflects the interests of Australia’s elites.

The worst thing is that the mainstream media reports on Pakistan without reporting on its people and their aspirations. In consequence, Pakistanis are dehumanised.

This is typical of the West's media coverage of the entire Third World.

For instance, investigative journalist John Pilger wrote in the January 28 London New Statesman of a 10-year study by the University of the West of England of BBC reporting on Venezuela.

Pilger said: “Of 304 BBC reports, only three mentioned any of the historic reforms of Hugo Chavez’s government [such as free health and education], while most denigrated his extraordinary democratic record, at one point comparing him to Hitler.”

The Western mainstream media works to warp the consciousness of citizens in the West, desensitising them to injustice, and seeking to garner public support for imperialist wars of aggression.

Countless times throughout my visit I was struck by the big gap between the Australian media coverage of Pakistan and the on-the-ground reality. Clearly, there are many differences between the two countries.

But in their aspirations for a better life, for peace and equality, I found that ordinary Australians and Pakistanis actually share much in common.

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