We are pleased to publish this slightly abridged version of a statement by the Labour
Party of Pakistan (LPP), issued by General Secretary Farooq Tariq, on 29 December
2007, just two days after the assassination of opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto. This
working class view from inside Pakistan tells a story of struggle that the mainstream
media has failed to report.
Since this piece was written, the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf
has announced that the elections planned for January 8 will be postponed until 18
February. This six-week delay has been widely criticised by opposition parties as another
attempt by Musharraf to maintain his crumbling military regime.
Benazir Bhutto’s supporters celebrate her return to Pakistan
in October, 2007. Photo from thehindu.com.
Pakistan has never seen so many people protesting in streets as we’ve seen over the last
two days. Right across Pakistan, they’ve united to condemn the brutal murder of Benazir
Bhutto. Immediate mass anger erupted in all parts of the country and the news was
received with a great shock. December 28 was the first day of a general strike called by
many groups ranging from political parties to various professional groups.
The first targets were most of Pakistan Muslim League Quid Azam (PMLQ) election
posters, banners, flags and billboards. The PMLQ is a major split from Pakistan Muslim
League, which is headed by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister. The PMLQ —
comprised of the most corrupt feudalists, capitalists, former army generals and black
marketers — has been in a power-sharing arrangement with General Musharraf since
PMLQ had spent billions on advertising material and all that was gone within few hours
of mass reaction. The work to remove this anti-people election material was executed
with utmost sophistication. None of Pakistan Peoples Party or Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim
League election material was removed.
Then it was the turn of the banks, mainly in the province of Sind. They were attacked and
buildings burned. Most ATM machines were destroyed. Banks have made unprecedented
profits during the last few years. There is no free banking anymore.
Hundreds of private buses were burned in all parts of the country. Fares skyrocketed
during Musharraf’s eight years of rule and public buses ceased operating. Most of PMLQ
government ministers have their own bus companies and make huge gains out of mass
There were also incidents of trains being burnt in Sind. According to Daily Jang, 28
railway stations, 13 railway engines, and seven trains have been burnt, resulting-losses
of over three billion Rupees. Rail fares were also subject to massive increases by the
Musharraf regime in a bid to reduce the railway losses. The system has been partly
privatised as well. Since 27 December, the whole rail system has collapsed. Thousands of
passengers are waiting on the railway stations. But there is no sign of restoration for some
days. Pakistan International Airlines and two private airlines, Air Blue and Shaheen Air,
have cancelled all their domestic flights in the name of “rescheduling.” The truth? Their
staff did not turn up.
Thousands of private cars have been damaged all over Pakistan by the angry mobs,
mainly youth. They were showing their anger on the car companies’ (mainly Toyota,
Suzuki and Honda) unprecedented profits during the last few years. Many leasing
companies have robbed the growing middle classes by offering cars with abnormal prices
— while the massive majority of population no longer have subsidised public transport.
Another target are the houses and offices of PMLQ politicians. Local government mayors
and administrators are the other victims of the mass reaction with official buildings either
burnt or damaged.
Over 100 people have so far died in the incidents relating to mass protest. This has been
due to shooting by the police or from crossfire between different groups during the last
Thousands and thousands of protesters have raised slogans against both the Musharraf
regime and American imperialism since the death of Benazir Bhutto. The anger that has
accumulated during the last eight years has spilled over after this unthinkable incident.
This is a response from the masses to the strict implementation of the neoliberal agenda,
which has resulted in unprecedented price hikes, unemployment and poverty. Mass anger,
previously shown by those boycotting or participating in the elections, has spilled over
early in response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
All over Pakistan the anti-Musharraf consciousness is great. It’s been shown, to a
different degree, in different ways right across the country. The so-called capitalist
economical growth under Musharraf has left millions in absolute poverty. While the
dictatorship’s propaganda website — Pakistan Shining — argues that Pakistan is
becoming “a shining example of a tolerant and progressive society,” the reality looks
2007 has been a year of mass awakening. It started with lawyers’ movement after the
removal of Ifikhar Choudry as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Chief
Justice said “No” when the generals pressured him into resigning. He was removed, but
reinstated on 20th July, after a massive movement of 80,000 lawyers. They were joined
by political activists from almost all political parties, but not by the masses. The masses
only welcomed the chief justice from the side roads; they did not actively participate in
the movement for his reinstatement.
Then Musharraf got himself elected as president for the second five-year term in a
“democratic manner” by a parliament elected for one five-year term. He was still wearing
the military uniform when elected as a “civilian” president. His theme was “elect me
president for the second term and I will take off the uniform after taking oath as a civilian
The November imposition of martial law in the name of an “emergency” was used to
remove the rather independent top judges of Pakistan. The law also put restrictions on the
media; over 10,000 were arrested.
So Musharraf got himself duly elected president and took off his uniform after removing
the top judges. His handpicked judges gave him all the necessary backing. Benazir
Bhutto who, in the words of Tariq Ali, was forced into an “arranged marriage” by U.S.
and British imperialism helped him in this process. In this unholy alliance, everyone was
cheating everyone with utmost honesty.
After large-scale repression and the removal of an independent judiciary, Musharraf
announced general elections for January 8th and lifted the emergency. The regime was
happy that everything was going according to “plan.” The three major parties — Benazir
Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and Quid
Azam (PMLQ) — had all greed to participate in these fraudulent elections. The religious
fundamentalist political alliance (MMA) had split over the question of participation, with
a major part contesting in the election.
But when the religious fundamentalist struck and killed Benazir Bhutto on the evening
of 27th December, the “plan” was shattered into pieces. It was a big blow to the agreed
terms and conditions of various participating parties. It was not a bump on the road to
conciliation and compromise but a total destruction of the road.
The murder of Benazir Bhutto is a double-edged sword. While it is a big blow to the
plans of British and American imperialism, it will not cause celebration for the religious
fundamentalist forces. The initial anger has gone against the military regime and its crony
politicians. But it can go against the fundamentalists as well. No party will be able to
celebrate the shocking killings.
The Musharraf regime has understood this clearly and now is consciously trying to
steer the direction of the movement against the religious fundamentalists. On the
28th December, in a two-hour press conference, a military brigadier, representing the
government, named Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda associate in tribal areas of Pakistan,
as the one who carried out the attack.
Foolishly the military officer tried his best to prove that Benazir Bhutto, while waving to
crowds after the bomb blast, was not killed by a bullet but by the lever of the sunroof in
the bullet proof car. What difference does it make if it is proven that Benazir Bhutto was
not killed by the bullet but in another way? Not much.
The military brigadier’s explanation did not satisfy the angry journalists, who asked him
again and again about the connection between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)
and Abdullah Mehsud. Their question went unanswered: Why was Mahsood released
quietly on the day emergency law was imposed, the same day that over 200 Pakistan
army men, kidnapped by Mehsud’s group the week before, were also released? The
ISI has had a relationship with religious fundamentalists dating back to the ’80s, when
imperialists and fundamentalists were close friends.
It is a very volatile, unstable, unpredictable, explosive, dangerous, impulsive, fickle and
capricious political situation. It has been many years since mass reaction has erupted to
this degree. The general strike was a total success. All roads were empty. No traffic at all.
All shops were closed. All industrial and other institutions were completely shut down.
After the initial inhibition to curb the strike, the regime has now issued strict orders to kill
anyone on the spot if there is any “looting.” It has called the regular army into 16 districts
of the Sind provinces and paramilitary forces elsewhere in Pakistan.
The regime has not postponed the scheduled election so far, but it will be very difficult to
hold it on 8th January. Nawaz’s Muslim League and several other political parties have
already announced their intention to boycott the fraudulent election.
The Labour Party Pakistan is demanding the immediate resignation of the Musharraf
dictatorship and the forming of an interim government comprised of civil society
organizations, trade unions and peasant organizations. This government would then
proceed to hold free and fair general elections under an independent election commission.
The LLP is also demanding immediate restoration of the top judges and their convening
an investigation into the two attempts on Benazir Bhutto’s life. Further, as part of the All
Parties Democratic Movement, the LPP is supporting a three-day general strike, linking it
to the overthrow of the military dictatorship. It is asking that all parties reject the general
election fraud on 8th January.