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Call for a greater Left unity in Pakistan

By Farooq Tariq
There has been never any other better time in history of
Pakistan for greater left unity than the present time. There is a great urge among all the left and progressive forces to unite on one platform.

Pakistan Peoples Party: illusions shattered

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been traditionally seen as a party that will fight against militarisation and for democracy. Under Benazir Bhutto, the PPP has become a party of compromises and conciliation with the present military regime of General Pervez Musharaf. She has already finalised a deal of power sharing with the military regime that has become one of the most hated among ordinary people. The price hikes, unemployment, class polarisation, uncertainty for the future and rising incidents of mass killings have become the hallmark of the Musharaf regime.

Benazir Bhutto tried to win over her lost supporters in Pakistan during the process of dealing with Musharaf with a massive show of mass power in Karachi, which was disrupted by the suicidal attacks of religious fundamentalist forces. According to one report, the Benazir reception at Karachi was one of the most expensive political events in the history of Pakistan costing more than 3 billion rupees.

The illusions among many that the PPP will turn to left-wing ideas have been shattered. On the contrary, the PPP has never been more rightwing than at present. This has given the left a rare chance to win the sympathy of many who are disillusioned and disappointed by the PPP by taking new organisational measures and using flexible tactics to achieve unity.

Disunity among the fundamentalists

The Mutehida Majlas Amal (MMA), the religious fundamentalist unity alliance, has never been as disunited as it is today. There is an open war going on within it. This will not be seen by the masses as a healthy sign. Even if the fundamentalists are able to continue as the MMA, they have lost precious time fighting among themselves over the best tactics to fight against the Musharaf regime. It was difficult for many of them to adjust to the present-day realities that the state is not the same as it was in the past.

The Pakistan state wants to disassociate itself, under the imperialist pressure, from the religious fundamentalist forces. The religious fundamentalist are on the offensive to show the masses that are the anti-imperialist forces. But it is an anti-imperialism of the fools. The left has been fighting the influence of the imperialists for a long time but during the last few years it has lost the initiative to the religious fundamentalists, who have more funds and resources at their disposal. This is the right time to unite the human and material resources of the left to continue the anti-imperialist struggle in a more effective manner.

Fundamentalists Suicidal Attacks: a challenge to left

The suicidal attack on the Benazir Bhutto rally in Karachi on October 18 was a warning note to all democratic forces, particularly the forces of the left. It was an attack on civil liberties, the right of association and of assembly. This attack was aimed as terrifying people struggling to get rid of militarism and religious fundamentalism. Such attacks are a calculated effort to eliminate opponents.

They are fascist tactics and we must condemn them in the strongest terms. We have no other way apart from uniting ourselves to fight for our right to assembly. We cannot let a few individuals with a suicidal mission to dictate their terms and conditions and to shut us up. We must have a right to organise and demonstrate without fear of these suicidal attacks.

The state has failed to protect even those who have compromised with the regime, how can it protect those of us who are totally against the military regime? The only defence is self-defence and unity among ourselves; the only way to fight is solidarity on the national and international levels.

Many processes of left unity

At present there are many processes of left unity going on in Pakistan. There is the Awami Jamhoori Tehreek (AJT), an alliance of seven left groups and parties. But it has not gone very far. The Awami Jamhoori Forum is taking initiatives to call more left meetings for unity all over Punjab. One such meeting was in Rawalpindi on October 20, attracting around 75 left, radical and progressive activists. They have formed a district committee to discuss the process in detail. Awami Jamhoori Tehreek Rawalpindi called this meeting on the initiative of Awami Jamhoori Forum. Awami Jamhoori Forum has produced a leaflet explaining the reasons for a greater left unity at the present time.

On October 24, AJT Punjab called a left unity meeting in Lahore to discuss the process and plan for future actions. The meeting took place at National Workers Party office at Mcload Road, Lahore.

The Tabqati Group, under the leadership of Lal Khan (associated with the Ted Grant-led group), in association with PILER Karachi has called another left unity meeting on November 7 in Karachi. The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) is taking part in this meeting as well. Meraj Mohammed Khan, in association with the Inqilabi Jamhoori Committee (Taj Marri), is calling for a new left party in Pakistan. He is campaigning in Sind for such an initiative. Meraj Mohammed Kahn and the Inqilabi Jamhoori Committee is already part of the AJT.

The LPP is holding its fourth national conference in Toba Tek Singh on November 9-11. The LPP will hold a public rally on November 10 and most of the left leaders will be invited to speak at the public rally and participate in the conference. We are calling on all radical social activists, trade unionists, political activists and advocates [lawyers] movement leaders to parties to take part in this process to urge greater left unity.

General elections strategy

We must plan a strategy for left forces to take part in the next general election, to be held early next year. The LPP is advocating a policy of participation in as many seats as possible. We need to put forward an alternative candidate in each constituency. We must not be forced to vote for a party that is in alliance with the military regime or from the religious fundamentalist forces. There is great anti-Musharaf consciousness at present in Pakistan. We must be able to be put forward candidates who can attract this consciousness. We must fight against the discriminatory rule of Election Commission that allows only graduates to contest the elections. We must go to the courts to get rid of this rule, thus allowing our working-class comrades to stand in the election.

We must strive for a reasonable percentage of the national vote for the candidates of the left. That is only possible if we have a national strategy to maximise the numbers of left candidates across Pakistan. We need a common political and economic agenda for such left unity. We can discuss this in our meetings and come forward with proposals that can be agreed by a majority of the left.

Please comment and circulate this message with your comments to as many as possible. These are some of my initial thoughts for discussion and hopefully we can go forward on the road to unity.

Unity is strength! Workers of the world, unite.

[Farooq Tariq is spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan. Email labour_party@yahoo.com. Visit http://www.laborpakistan.org or http://www.jeddojuhd.com]

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