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Pakistan: Musharraf has gone!

By Farooq Tariq

[See also http://links.org.au/node/580 for Farooq Tariq's latest article.]

Lahore, August 19, 2008 -- Musharraf has resigned! Congratulations to everyone on the humiliating departure of a dictator. But he must not be unaccountable. He must be arrested and tried. The top judges he removed should be restored immediately and let justice be done. The Pakistan Peoples Party-led ruling alliance must abandon the economic policies that have been promoted by Musharraf. The neoliberal agenda must not go ahead.

Musharraf survived after December 27, 2007, thanks to the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party. After Benazir Bhutto's murder on that day, Musharraf was at his weakest. The masses had taken over Pakistan for five days. It was a mass reaction of an unprecedented level. A demand for Musharraf's resignation by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders would have been sufficient to force him out of power. However, the PPP went for general elections instead, giving Musharraf relief.

The Pakistan Peoples Party government took eight months before accommodating to [the] popular demand [that Musharraf resign]. What a waste of time and popularity by PPP! Asif Zardari soon became a leader losing popularity at record speed. The PPP leadership only went on to demand Musharraf's resignation when they reached their lowest level of popularity.

PPP has not restored the judges

Implementing the neoliberal agenda, the PPP have annoyed the masses as much as they could. They have not restored the judges. They have not done anything that is worth mentioning. It was all going wrong. They could not bring the Inter Services Intelligences (ISI) [political police] under civilian rule despite a public official notification.

Then, all of sudden "Musharraf will go first, then we will restore the judges" was the agreement of the ruling alliance of four political parties after countless indoor and in-the-shade meetings spread over three days. The lawyers' movement leaders rightly criticised the decision linking the judges' restoration with impeachment of the president. The restoration of judges would have given a tremendous moral boost to the ruling alliance in its struggle to overthrow Musharraf. However, Asif Zardari is still afraid of their restoration. He wants every move to remain under his control. This is real feudal-style politics on display. "If he wants, then it will be done" is Asif Zardari's philosophy.

Why the wait for eight months to come to a decision that could have been done on day one of the PPP's electoral victory? Rather than a consolidation of power by the PPP at the centre instead we saw it losing power at a fast speed.

This waiting meant more chances for a regeneration of power by Musharraf. His tone began to change. He was once again threatening to go the same way as he had gone on November 3. He was meeting opposition Pakistan Muslim League Q (PMLQ) leaders telling them to be ready within two months. A weak dictator was flexing his muscles, once again, thanks to the PPP leaders wasting time for no reason.

Dirty deal

Perhaps a dirty deal was the reason of this wait -- a deal that was agreed to by Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf before she returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, for a power-sharing formula. All the corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto and Zardari were withdrawn under the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance. While the PPP leadership faithfully abided with the deal, it was Musharraf who was taking the liberty to do something more than that.

But with Benazir gone, the deal was already in traumatised. It was an unnatural, unholy, unrealistic and unworkable deal. It was a deal to deceive each other. It was a deal of the ruling class, by the ruling elite and for the ruling class. It was a compromise against democracy and against the people.

With Benazir gone, Musharraf could have gone long ago. The murder of Benazir Bhutto was not an ordinary murder. However, by sticking to participating in the election under Musharraf, the PPP leaders took an ordinary decision in the political sense. "Democracy is best revenge" was the first public statement of Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, the newly elected leader of the PPP. However, it was not democracy that was taking revenge against the dictator but democracy was taken from the masses by not removing the dictator then.

Failed dictator

Musharraf had lost the power to do anything like he's done in the past. He was a dictator on his way out. He faced failure after failure. He tried to remove the chief justice. He failed. He tried to silence the lawyers' movement by dictatorial measures, but he could not do that. He tried to rig the general election of February 18, 2008, but he failed. He tried to build his political party PMLQ by pumping in massive amounts of money in the name of "development". But he failed.

Musharraf was a failed dictator. He was no longer a family friend of US President George Bush, as both claimed in the past. Continuing their tradition of using dictators like tissue paper, US imperialism declared that calls for Musharraf's impeachment was "an internal matter of Pakistan". Musharraf lost the ability to use 58/2B, the dictatorial constitutional right of the president to suspend the parliament. Who would implement the orders? A bloody military coup would be needed to implement that sort of dictatorial order in the face of rising social and political movement against the dictatorship.

With Musharraf gone, there is no way that the ruling alliance will not be able to restore the top judges. Musharraf's departure and the restoration of the judges will open a new phase of class struggle in Pakistan. The ruling alliance will be tested by the masses when it insists on continuing with its neoliberal agenda. The PPP-led ruling alliance will be naked in its exploitation of the working class. The ruling alliance will be seen rightly as the ruling elite by the masses.

A more determined fight by the working class will be seen in the future with a new leadership of those who have fought consistently against the imperialism, religious fundamentalism, militarisation, for the restoration of the judges and for the rights of the working class. The left parties can see a new possibility of increased popularity if they stand united and in a militant way.

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

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