Proletarian revolution the only way for emancipation of Pakistani masses oppressed under capitalism,army despotism & rapacious oligarchy

June 12, 2023 0 By Yatharth

M Aseem

The toiling people of Pakistan, having suffered for long capitalism, landlords, army, political gangs, devastation of wars, imperialist interference, loot of foreign capital and fundamentalists and after facing devastating floods last year are now facing acute economic crisis, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, unemployment, shortage of food items and medicines due to lack of foreign exchange. To protect the interests of the capitalists, the Pakistani rulers and the IMF are putting the entire burden of the crisis on the toiling masses. Pakistani rupee has been heavily devalued on the ‘advice’ of the IMF. But the import of luxury items for the rich continues. The prices of essential commodities have increased two to three times. Long queues the needy and even stampedes could be seen during the distribution of ration during Ramzan couple of months back.

However, all this suffering of the people doesn’t matter to the ruling class. Ruling PDM alliance which came to power as the Army leadership transferred its backing from Imran Khan to Sharif – Bhutto families’ combine, instead of trying to solve the problems of the people, are engaged in a bloody fight for power with PTI led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan with all other actors of the Pakistan ruling class – Army Generals, Supreme/High Court judges and bureaucracy. None of them is pro-people, all having a long history of exploitation, oppression, harassment and loot of the masses.

The new thing in this scenario was the attacks on army establishments and officers faced in protests against Imran Khan’s arrest on corruption charges on May 9th. However, a section of Judiciary and military-civil bureaucracy continued to be sympathetic towards Imran. Imran had come to power with the full support to and of the army, but the relationship deteriorated once he tried to interfere in army personnel promotions decisions and he was dethroned. He was able to mobilise the anti-army attitude of the large petty-bourgeois population of Pakistan in his favour.

On the other side the ruling PDM alliance, with Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI in lead, surrounded the Supreme Court on behalf of the ruling alliance. There were inflammatory speeches from both the sides calling each other fascist and describing the injustices meted out to themselves, their families, and supporters under the other’s rule. But, of course, there could be no mention of the suffering of the common people of Pakistan. Both cried out for democracy and democratic rights, but both, while in power, with the full support and connivance of military, civil bureaucracy and judiciary, have been crushing all democratic rights. Neither have any sympathy for the long-suffering Pakistani people and the toiling and exploited people are trapped in the fight for power between the two formations.

Even in the case of Malik Riaz of Bahria Town to which the corruption charges on Imran Khan and his wife are related to, and many more of such rapacious examples, not only Imran Khan and his PTI but the Sharif and Bhutto clans, the military-civil bureaucracy, i.e., all sections of the ruling class have also partaken in land grabbing and various other types of robbing the people of Pakistan with full might of the state used to suppress, imprison and murder the protesters.

However, to understand better the current situation in Pakistan, its power structure and history of military interventions, we must study the formation of Pakistani state from the perspective of land reforms. If we compare it with India comparison, the national bourgeoisie came to power in India, which to consolidate its power had entered an alliance with the landed aristocracy. Breaking all the promises made to the peasantry who wanted to be free from the exploitation of the feudal landlords, they carried out very limited and namesake land reforms, that too after giving the zamindars full opportunity to save their landholdings in various ways. However, the landed class in India was simply securing its interests. They never challenged the rule of the capitalist class.

But the very foundation of Pakistan was laid through the Lahore Pact of 1937 between Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Sikandar Hayat Khan, the leader of the Muslim landed aristocracy of Punjab, after a vertical split on communal lines in the Unionist Party of Punjabi landed aristocracy. Though a communal split between Jinnah-led Muslim middle class vis a vis the Hindu revivalist and majoritarian Congress leadership of Gandhi-Patel had already taken place, the Muslim League became a real force only when the Muslim landed aristocracy joined the Muslim League as they were apprehensive of the left wing of the Congress support to land reforms. This division between Hindu-Sikh and Muslim landlords laid the foundation of communal politics in Punjab. Moreover, though land holdings had to some extent become smaller in east Punjab, that had not taken place in the western part. Rather more land was allotted to them as part of the British plan to convert the zamindars of west Punjab into capitalist farmers as the canal irrigation was introduced in the fertile land there. These zamindars had complete dominance over the social life of western Punjab as these also included large religious landholders (Pirs and Sajjadanshins).

Jinnah, the representative of the bourgeoisie and the middle class, became the formal head of new formed Pakistan, but the real power was in the hands of the landed aristocracy. The bourgeoisie and the middle class aspired for constitutional democracy and the peasantry pined for land reforms but were not powerful and organised enough to wrest power from the landowning class. The landowning class never accepted democratization and land reforms. There was also mutual opposition between the landlords of Bengal and Punjab for supremacy over power. This was later reflected in desire for a separate Bangla nation. These unresolved conflicts led to the dissolution of Constituent Assembly without framing a constitution even after 7 years. In the elections of 1951, 80% of those elected in Punjab were from the landlord class and th three Muslim League governments were all run by big landowners. Instead of land reform, even a part of the 70 lakh acres vacated by Hindu-Sikh exodus and new irrigated agricultural land created by expansion of irrigation was allotted to landowners close to the power instead of the Muslim refugees from India.

The constitution finalised in 1958 was not acceptable to both Bengal and the minorities. This gave rise to deep contradictions. The army assumed power on the pretext of restoring stability. However, we must remember that the military officer corps has always been drawn from the landowning class. Same was in colonial India where till 1947 only landowners could become officers in the army. The army regime of General Ayub Khan established a ‘Basic Democracy’ to gain some democratic legitimacy. It had Electoral College based party less elections. In such elections only dominant landowners with dominant socio-economic status were elected. The military-civil bureaucracy, which also originated from the landowning class, was also reluctant to part with their lands. Hence the Ayub regime resorted to ineffective land reforms having 500 acres irrigated and 1,000 acres non-irrigated land ceiling to hoodwink the peasantry. Several other exemptions were given to landowners to retain their lands. The landowners got full opportunity to keep their lands. Thus, a strong coalition of landed aristocracy, army-civil officers and politicians emerged during the military rule. Large quantities of lands were allotted to them. All the generals received 250 acres each at a concessional rate. In 1968, the Punjab Assembly was told that 1.05 lakh acres of land had been allotted not these classes. Lands obtained through forced sales, Illegal possessions, forgery, etc were in addition to this. For example, ZA Bhutto, who later projected himself as the champion of land reforms, was alleged to have possessed 500 acres through a forgery by the patwari (land revenue official). There were many cases where peasants had to take shelter somewhere else because of flood and on return they found their lands in possession of such dominant people.

Therefore, Pakistan, within two and half decades of its existence, had a ruling class consisting of zamindars, politicians, civil and military officers. All the benefits of the Green Revolution went to them too. The class of capitalist farmers, industrialists and other businessman also largely emerged from these. This ruling elite was well among themselves by old ties, matrimonial bonds, mutual favours etc. These rich families of Punjab (and Sindh) are still dominant in politics, business, army and civil bureaucracy. The leaders of all major parties and religious groups come from this section. This nexus of top military-civilian bureaucracy, capitalists, politicians, landowners, religious sects have been suppressing all democratic aspirations of the people. Elected governments have come and gone, but this coalition has always controlled the National Assembly. Whenever the demand for democratic rights gained momentum taking advantage of the formal democracy, the army has been assuming direct power in its hands by imposing martial law.

After the 1971 capitulation in Bangladesh, the army had to relinquish power. ZA Bhutto, a large landowner himself and a former minister in Ayub regime, had later launched an agitation against the military rule by forming the Pakistan People’s Party. He came to power and presented himself as the champion of peasantry and workers, middle class intellectuals, professionals, etc. Bhutto nationalized some industries and undertook a programme of land reforms. The land ceiling was reduced to 150 and 300 acres respectively in 1972 and then 100 and 200 acres respectively in 1977. Despite this new law, due to the pressure of the landowners and bureaucracy and the non-cooperation of the Patwaris, the land reforms were implemented only partially. Nevertheless, the landowning class and the military-civil bureaucracy were very furious with the People’s Party and Bhutto had to pay the price not only with power but also his life.

Under the command of General Zia-ul-Haq, the army overthrew Bhutto. The social base of this military rule was also the Punjabi landowning class. Hence, the confiscated lands were returned on lease to their original owners. Later, the Shariah court constituted by military government under Islamisation annulled these laws by declaring land reform as un-Islamic. The rationale was all property belongs to Allah and the one whom Allah has given has absolute ownership rights over it and the state cannot interfere in this. Thus, the land reforms were completely reversed. This landowning elite and its associated bureaucracy and capitalists are in control of the Pakistani system. The same Punjabi landowning class also formed the social base of Musharraf’s military rule.

This status quo has been disturbed by the ongoing and almost unending global economic crisis in 21st century, which has caused financial crisis in many countries. Exports have become difficult. The export of laborers and the foreign exchange remitted by them was very important for Pakistan. Like Sri Lanka, the inflow of this foreign exchange has also decreased in Pakistan since Covid pandemic. Tourism income also dwindled due to instability and terrorism. But the ruling class is not ready to reduce luxury imports. The foreign exchange crisis is very serious. Due to the reduced importance of Pakistan in geopolitics, even the IMF is not ready to disburse loans despite long negotiations and compelling Pakistan government to implement many of its tough terms like raising Petrol, Diesel, Electricity rates steeply. By joining the American camp, Pakistan had been receiving huge economic and military assistance, which went to the same ruling class. But now the importance of Pakistan has decreased for the American camp with their rising strategic proximity with the Indian capitalist class. Due to this military and civilian financial aid to Pakistan has come down sharply. This is also one of the reasons for the intensity of the crisis.

This crisis has sharpened the contradictions among the various factions at the top. In the new conditions, it is impossible to accommodate everyone’s interests. Military-civil officers, industrialists, landowners, leaders are all included in the conflicting factions formed from this. All of them are involved in this corrupt system but also acting against each other in the name of eradicating corruption to protect their own vested interests. Due to these contradictions, everyday new equations and cutthroat competition for power are going on. Since the Musharraf regime, this process can be seen to be continuously intensifying.

Despite belonging to this very ruling elite, Imran Khan is presenting himself as a victim through intensive campaigning and speeches. He has projected himself as a symbol of the aspirations for a ‘New Pakistan’ to the affluent Pakistani upper and middle classes, non-resident Pakistanis, intellectual professionals, small businessmen and the petty bourgeoisie in general. On the lines of Narendra Modi’s ‘nothing happened in 60 years’, Imran Khan presents himself as a saviour of Pakistan by holding the army and the long ruling Sharif-Bhutto families responsible for the long sufferings of the Pakistani people. To appeal to nationalist sentiments and frustrations, he is blaming army for the war defeat and partition of Pakistan. Although he has no pro-people policy of his own, and there was no improvement in the lives of the people during his three-year tenure, his demagoguery has been successful in convincing a large section of the distressed masses that he tried to improve their lot. That is why the vested interests did not allow him to continue.

Initially he blamed US pressure for his removal because he was pursuing an independent foreign policy in the interests of Pakistan and attempted to get petroleum at discounted prices from Russia to benefit Pakistani people. Now he has stopped mentioning US. His only objection to the army is that he wanted officers of his choice in the leadership of the army. However, he is projecting themselves as a ‘martyr’, though he had also gathered a strong section of the ruling class behind him and the Sharif-Bhutto government with the backing of army failed for long to send him to jail. But he crossed a line by directly naming senior army officials for the conspiracy against himself. Hence the current repression and the attempt by the ruling dispensation to disband his party before the elections are due in October. 

Imran Khan has succeeded in building a populist right-wing nationalist movement by projecting an illusory dream of a ‘Naya Pakistan’. But there is no strong ideological basis and organisation backing for this, whole basis being the personal popularity of Imran Khan. it is very much possible to disintegrate under the intense pressure being put by the army and government now. Imran Khan is now talking about democracy, justice and rights for immediate gains, but the real character of the ongoing conflict is only a clash between two reactionary ruling class forces. Neither side in this internecine struggle of the ruling classes is friends to the toiling masses and people of Pakistan. The only real alternative is the abolition of the present capitalist system of Pakistan, dominated by the big landlords and bourgeoisie. For this, the forces of Pakistani working class and all toiling masses will have to intervene by presenting their revolutionary programme as a real alternative.