By Hassan Raza, Revolutionary Socialist Movement Pakistan
The Pashtun Protection Movement, PTM, is already changing the political landscape in Pakistan. It has rallied hundreds of thousands against military and police repression, the “disappearance” of 30,000 or more and against war and the denial of democratic rights. In the last two months it has been met with increased repression by the authorities or their proxies, who have even resorted to using the “moderate” Taliban to attack the movement.
At the beginning of June, more than 40 Pashtuns were wounded in a Taliban attack on Ali Wazir, a leader of the PTM, and others in Wana, in which five were martyred, including two children. This was a very serious attack by which the Taliban wanted to stop the growth of the PTM, so that they can retain their control over Pashtun communities. In effect, their terrorism supported the Pakistani state and its campaign against the democratic movement.
The PTM has rapidly gained wide support because of the many grievances of the Pashtun people in Pakistan. Against the backdrop of the “War on Terror”, these include extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, everyday humiliation at security checkpoints and internal displacement. Migrants from the community face discrimination, racism and violence in urban centres across the country.
During the two decades of the war on terror, which have destroyed much of Pashtun society, the government has presented the Pashtun as supporters of the Taliban and extremists, but the emergence of the PTM has made it clear that the Taliban and terrorism have no relation with the Pashtun nation and that most Pashtuns want an end to the war and to live in peace.
The use of the Taliban by the state makes it clear how “serious” they are in their operations against the “extremists”. Those leftists and liberals who believe that the army is the only force than can oppose the Taliban and defend democratic freedoms, need to realise how wrong they are. The developing situation is making it clear that the people and their movements have the capability to defeat all kinds of oppression and the Pashtun movement is a clear example. It defied the Taliban and the armed Taliban were forced to withdraw, it shows where the actual power lies.
For the state, the Taliban are not a real threat, in reality they are its assets, which are used against the people’s movement. It is also clear that those who aim for solutions within the existing framework do not understand either the situation or the nature of the state.
Because of the crisis of global capitalism and the rise of inter-imperialist rivalry in the region, a peaceful solution is not possible on the basis of the current system of exploitation and oppression. The intensity of contradictions within society is increasing and the dominant part of the state apparatus is convinced that the only possible way to regain control and order is through violence and force.
If this generates resistance, then they opt to use the Taliban to create a civil war-like situation to try to curb the movement. Then they blame it for the violence and accuse it of acting as an agent of India and other countries. The ruling class is more and more unable to govern in the old way and needs to resort to more and more authoritarian methods, attacking democratic rights.
Now, the workers and oppressed nations are standing up against this, they are rebelling against the oppression, violence, war, exploitation and racism that make their life hell. In Pashtun, Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh, Hazara and Baloch, there are movements against oppression emerging. In this situation, the democratic political movements should be maintained and expanded. In order to protest against the new wave of terrorism against the PTM, it is very important that the movement should organise and structure itself so that its members are involved in decision making and can widen its base.
The movements in different parts of the country need to coordinate so that a strong and wider movement for democratic rights across the country can develop. With the rapid spreading of the protests, the PTM should call for a general strike and the whole labour movement, especially the labour movement in Punjab, needs to support that call and oppose all attacks and oppression of Pashtuns. On this basis, real class solidarity between workers, peasants, the urban and rural poor can be built throughout Pakistan, a movement which could challenge imperialism and state.
A general strike would bring society to a halt. It would raise the question of power in society, which class rules and runs society. It would open the way to overcoming national, religious and other social divisions on the basis of class unity against the oppressors. By uniting in struggle, we can increase the power of the movement and transform it from a movement for democratic rights and against national oppression into a movement challenging capitalism and imperialism.
The Arab Revolutions and the counter-revolutions showed, however, that imperialism and state intervention can destroy and, indeed, have destroyed, similar movements. Therefore, the question of self-defence of the democratic movement and revolution is very important. In the past, the state has attacked and arrested not only PTM members and supporters but also the Sindhi missing persons camp. The recent massacre in Wana shows the real face of the state and the dangers that lie ahead.
In the last few weeks, in Islamabad, solidarity activists with the movement, many of them students, lecturers and other academics from Islamabad and other cities were charged with “solidarity with the PTM”, in an attempt to criminalise the struggle for democratic rights and freedom of speech. In this situation, the question of mass self defence and a mass campaign against such criminalisation have become crucial for the movement.
At the end of July, parliamentary elections will be held in Pakistan. It is unlikely that they will overcome the political crisis in the country. The election campaign, however, clearly offers an opportunity for intervention. Some leaders of the PTM are taking part in the elections, the demand for a new constitutional assembly should be at the centre of their campaigns.
The existing constitution was made in the interest of the capitalism system. It has nothing for the working class and oppressed nations. Therefore, the new constitutional assembly should be a place where workers and oppressed nations can struggle for their own interests, as well as against the exploitation of imperialism, state and capital. In such way, we can take forward the struggle against imperialism, state and capitalist exploitation that are responsible for the misery of the working class and oppressed nations.