Pakistan: Farooq Tariq's new book `Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship' (free download)

Farooq Tariq (centre) with members of the DSP.

Below is spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan Farooq Tariq's introduction to his new book, Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship: An Activist's Narrative. Following that is the preface by Peter Boyle, national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia. Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship is available from Good Books Lahore. Email goodbooks_1 [at] to order a hard copy. You can also download the entire 300-page PDF file at the end of the two articles below.

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By Farooq Tariq

It was October 12, 1999. As usual, I was at the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) secretariat in Lahore. Around 6pm, Farooq Sulehria called me to break the news that Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had removed the army chief General Pervez Musharraf who was flying back to Pakistan from a visit to Sri Lanka. Sulehria asked me to issue a press statement to explain the LPP's point of view. "Wait and see the response of the army", I told him.

A journalist by profession, Farooq Sulehria was at home and his television was on. He called me again after an hour to tell me that the television transmission had stopped and the TV screen was blank.

"This is army taking over", I told him. "How do you know"?, he asked. "I have lived through two [periods of] army rule and this could be the third", I replied. I had faced the military dictatorships of General Ayub Khan (1958-1969), General Yahya (1969-1971) and General Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988). As student activists, we had raised slogans against Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. But it was the military rule of General Zia ul-Haq which we fought energetically for all the 11 years of his dictatorship.

By 8pm it was clear that army had taken over. But there was no formal reaction from any political group. Pakistan Television (PTV) started broadcasting war songs. I went out on my motorbike to observe the state of affairs. The LPP office was just opposite the PTV building in Lahore. I saw army troops there. I went to Governor House on the main Mall Road of Lahore. Army trucks were there too.

Around 8pm, I went to the office of Nawabzada Nasrulah Khan, the head of People's Democratic Alliance (PDA), which the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was part of. There were jubilations. The PPP activists were happy that Nawaz Sharif was gone. I asked Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan why was he happy with the military takeover? Although smiling, he said, let's wait for the general's speech and his priorities. Meanwhile one PPP supporter brought in some Benazir Qulfa, a popular local flavour of ice-cream to distribute among those present. I was getting irritated by this behaviour.

I decided to go back to my office. I hurriedly collected the records of the LPP membership and other important documents to put them in a safe place. Army rule could mean the seizing of political parties' offices. We had a short meeting of leading comrades and decided to oppose military rule. Although, we had been opposing Nawaz Sharif's government since 1997, we could not welcome the military takeover under justification.

I went back home around 10pm and waited for the speech of General Musharraf. It was full of same old excuses of democracy not functioning. The general was claiming that his plane had been hijacked and it had not been allowed to land.

I immediately wrote a press release opposing military rule and went out to deliver it to the Daily Jang and other newspapers. Army trucks were everywhere but not many people were on the roads. I was very afraid of being stopped by military personnel and caught red handed with the press release, opposing their rule. It was around 11.30pm when I arrived at the front desk of the Daily Jang.

The next day the Daily Jang printed only a few lines of the LPP statement. But we were satisfied as we knew that every word that appeared in the newspapers would be read that day. The LPP was one of the very few political parties that opposed military rule from the day one. On October 13, I wrote a lengthy article explaining the reasons for the military takeover and it must be opposed. The article was perhaps the first explanation of the developmets available on the internet.

The next week, the office of our weekly paper Mazdoor Jeddojuhd (Workers' Struggle) was raided and the army took away all the copies of the newspaper. The cover headline was "No to army rule!". The paper started in 1980 from Amsterdam, by our small group of Pakistani comrades in exile due to the military dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq. So, it was not new for us. We had received such treatment several times before, not only at the hands of the military rulers during the 1980s, but also by the civilian government of Mian Nawaz Sharif during 1992.

This was the beginning of our struggle against the military rule of General Musharraf. I was arrested atleast nine times during the nine years of Musharraf's military rule. Numerous police cases were registered against me and other activists of the LPP. My house and party office were raided many times by police seeking to arrest me. Sometimes they were able to catch me, other times the police raids ended in failure as I managed to hoodwink them.

During this period I often used to receive threatening telephone calls, not only from the police officers but also from army officers and sometimes from the intelligence agencies. LPP activists were also threatened by religious fundamentalists several times. All this was due to the LPP's staunch opposition to military rule and its relentless efforts to building an alternative to the politics of the rich and feudal.

This book is not a narration of Musharraf's nine-year army rule, rather it is a saga of our resistance to it. This is a story of the decisive last 18 months of Musharraf rule. Some of the articles and diaries I wrote during those 18 months are included in this book. Written at the thick of the activities, it is more like a running commentary of a cricket match.

[Farooq Tariq is spoksesperson for Labour Party Pakistan.]

`Right in there'

By Peter Boyle

September 2008 -- In April 2000, I was privileged to attend the first national conference of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) in Lahore. As one of 13 international guests, I witnessed four days of political discussion and debate which left us all with a common impression that this was a party that was going to make a difference to Pakistan's politics.

First, there was a tangible political confidence in the hall of the Human Rights Commission, where the 138 delegates from all around Pakistan, with 28 observers, worked hard through four days of reports. Among the congress delegates were many seasoned trade union activists who had been involved in recent struggles, such as in the railways -- where the army had tried to quell two months of strikes and go slows.

There were delegates who recounted a heroic battle between railway workers and the army on the Peshawar Road in Rawalpindi. There were peasant leaders from the Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab who had stood up to the ruthless assault of big landlords used to having their way. And there were valiant students who persevered on campuses still constrained by political restrictions from the days of the Zia ul-Haq military dictatorship and now also blighted with right-wing religious fundamentalists.

So this palpable confidence was founded on real experience of persistent and brave struggle.

Second, this was a party that wasn't just talking about “left unity” -- as many left groups do -– but actually doing it. As I recorded in my notes at the time, many of the delegates had been members of other political parties, including the Communist Party, National Workers Party, Watan Dust Peasant Party, Socialist Party, Sindh Peasant Committee and Pakistan People's Party. But they had all found common cause in the LPP in rejecting the old orientation of most of the Pakistan left of looking to the “progressive” national capitalists for a “national democratic” alliance.

The delegates to the LPP conference were agreed that the Pakistani capitalist class -- whether governing in military or civilian mode -- had demonstrated that it was against the great majority of the population and in league with the big landlords and the imperialist capitalists. The delegates still had some differences about the exact political theory that explained this, but they were totally united in opposing the approach of the old left.

In a sometimes heated but ultimately comradely discussion, the delegates worked to bridge the political gaps between leftists who previously dismissed each other “Trotskyites” or “Stalinists”. There was also a lively discussion on the national question.

Pakistan was carved out by the capitalist and landlord classes of the Indian subcontinent to stop the advance of communism. The country's borders contain several nations (or parts of them), including the Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Kashmir and the Siraiki nations. The Punjabi capitalist class clearly dominates Pakistan politically and economically and so there is an issue of national oppression. The LPP conference resolved to support the struggles of all oppressed nationalities and minority religions.

A major issue at the congress was the nature of General Pervez Musharraf's military rule. Musharraf had seized power the previous October in a military coup against the government of Nawaz Sharif but, as Farooq Tariq explained, when Musharraf took power, many people had illusions in the new regime because the previous regime was so corrupt and repressive. However, the military had shown since then that it hadn't “changed its spots”.

Just two weeks before this LPP conference, the military and police had raided the offices of the LPP and the homes of its leaders, who were forced into hiding for a week. The LPP was raided because it had dared to hold a peaceful demonstration in Lahore against the visit of then US President Bill Clinton. The raid was widely condemned in the local media and by progressive groups around the world.

Yet at that time, some of Pakistan's old left leaders and non-government organisation leaders were supporting the military regime.

In sharp contrast, the LPP congress called for the military to return to the barracks, called for a democratic government based on workers' and peasants' representatives and demanded free and fair elections within 90 days. It dismissed Musharraf's offer of non-party political local elections as an attempt to cloak military rule in “democratic garb”.

Musharraf went on to make himself president of Pakistan, and in the wake of US President George W. Bush's declaration of the so-called “War on Terror”, became the beneficiary of more than US$10 billion in US military aid –- at least $700 million of which he is alleged to have stolen for himself! However, eight years later, Musharraf has been humiliatingly forced into resignation under the pressure of a massive popular movement galvanised by a militant response to his sacking of judges who refused to do his will.

LPP comrades were “right in there” (as we say in Australia) in this movement, defying one of the world's most brutal armed forces and showing a militant lead all the way. They fought side by side with the most militant lawyers' movement the world has ever seen! And, at the same time, they were also organising among the workers and the peasants battling feudal and military landlords. As I wrote on behalf of the Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia, earlier this year, in a letter of congratulations to these brave Pakistani comrades

“Congratulations to the fighting masses in Pakistan for their latest victory! Given the history of Pakistan has been so bloodied by military dictatorships, such a humiliating end to the political career of the latest military dictator is a great victory for people's power.

“This was a victory made in the streets by masses that braved the guns, batons and bayonets of the military. The whole world watched this valiant struggle progress, critically around the sustained mass response to Musharraf's removal of the 'inconvenient' top judges who refused to keep doing his bidding.

“An angry mass response to an outrageously anti-democratic act by a ruler is not an uncommon thing in our times. What is less common is a sustained mass resistance, one that does not fade away after a protest rally or two. It was a sustained mass resistance that we saw in Pakistan and it was that sustained mass resistance that finally forced Musharraf to resign.

“Only the braveness and resilience of the masses and their fighting political leadership can account for this. “Of course dirty deals have been done by the new PPP-led government to smooth Musharraf's exit into a comfortable retirement villa somewhere.

“But as Comrade Farooq Tariq's message signals, the fight to bring the dictator to account, to restore the removed judges and to end the neo-liberal policies that Musharraf has forced on the Pakistani people goes on. As does the fight to smash the deadly military and political alliance with US imperialism.

“Congratulations! Down with dictators, down with imperialism! Working masses of the world unite!”

This brings me to the role of Comrade Farooq Tariq. The LPP has clearly gathered and developed many great leaders, only a few of whom I have had the privilege to meet. But I remember those I have met, and treasure the conversations we shared. In the stories brought back from visits by other DSP comrades, I've also heard about these many other leaders, young and old. However, Farooq Tariq, who was its secretary general until the last LPP conference, clearly is a comrade who played a critical role in bringing the LPP together and building it into what it is today. My comrade and partner, Pip Hinman, noticed in her visit to Karachi for the 2006 regional World Social Forum, the clear love and respect many comrades (from the LPP and other groups) have for Farooq Tariq.

I had met Farooq before the 2000 LPP conference as he had visited Australia earlier but meeting him on his home ground really consolidated some impressions of him.

Farooq is a warm man. I will always remember him waiting to meet me at the border crossing from India -– itself an extraordinary experience! Farooq's warm welcome made me feel at home in a place that otherwise struck me as a strange combination of an ancient, almost “biblical”, scene (complete with donkey!) and a military parade ground.

A lot of lefties can spout political theory, make rousing speeches etc., but to give real political leadership in the revolutionary movement demands the deepest and strongest humanity. This famous quote of Che Guevara sums it up: “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”

Farooq is a brave comrade. His years of struggle against dictatorship and his in-and-out history with Pakistani jails (all for political stands) attest to this. But my firsthand insight into Farooq's plucky spirit came when we were briefly detained by Indonesian police along with several other foreign guests at a conference on globalisation near Jakarta in 2001.

First, there was Farooq's hilarious failed attempt to evade arrest –- via the conference toilet -- and then over the subsequent couple of days’ detention, Farooq demonstrated his experience how to deal with bullying police. His pluckiness even earned briefly him a sort of short-term pass out, which he promptly used to go out and buy us some tasty food from stall holders outside the police station. I've also seen him in action in a demonstration in Sydney (against the detention without trial of refugees). This is not a comrade who shies away from confronting the forces of the state –- indeed the opposite.

Farooq is also a wise comrade and, while principled in his politics, he is clearly by nature a builder and not a splitter. I've experienced and appreciated this in the course of his many visits to Australia and in various political correspondences. Here in the DSP, we've had our own challenges, including in recent times a pretty hard and protracted internal dispute. Farooq has always played a role in trying to help us stay as united as possible while retaining a respectful distance to avoid interference. I deeply appreciate this. But this is more than evidence of the wisdom and skill of a single comrade, it reflects another important characteristic of the LPP itself –- its genuine internationalism.

Farooq has said to me that he learnt from his earliest contact with the DSP that while international solidarity and collaboration –- especially between revolutionaries –- is priceless, we cannot build serious parties in different countries without independent political leaderships. But I suspect that is only part of the story, and that the truth is that the LPP, like the DSP, has learnt this from its own political experience.

[Peter Boyle is general secretary of Democratic Socialist Perspective, which is part of Socialist Alliance of Australia.]

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