Pakistani state jails democracy activists
The recent announcement that General Musharraf will be allowed to seek election while remaining head of the military should dispel any doubts about the tyrannical nature of the Pakistani regime.
It seems that the Western media is happy to criticise the military government in Burma, but has little to say about the one in Pakistan.
As Socialist Worker last week pointed out (» Pakistan on the edge of turmoil), the US is clearly inclined to support this despotism, just as long as Musharraf plays his part in the 'war on terror'.
However, the people on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, do not share this view.
Over recent weeks hundreds of lawyers, students and political activists have been rounded up by the state and imprisoned. Some have even been killed.
In protest against this assault on democracy, the People's Movement for Justice – which includes left political parties, trade unions and other elements of civil society – last week organised a demonstration in Karachi against the killings.
The state responded by arresting the protest organisers, including members of the International Socialists, and locking them in a filthy jail.
While imprisoned, the detainees were visited by over 400 people who came to express their solidarity. Upon release, the protest organisers defiantly addressed a large public meeting.
The publicity we got showed people across Pakistan that are there are those who are brave enough to stand up to the state.
One of the most popular slogans in and outside of the prison was 'Amrikey Samraj, Murdabad' – down with US imperialism.
By uniting the struggle for democracy with the fight to improve working class living standards, we can build a movement that is capable of booting out Pakistan's pro-imperialist dictatorship.
Ali Hassan, International Socialists Pakistan
I thought your article on the crisis in Pakistan was excellent, but it contained a small mistake.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's political career did take off under the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Huq, but he served as the military's chief minister of Punjab – not the prime minister of the province, as you stated.
Taimur, Peshawar, Pakistan
Alarms will not end attacks on NHS staff
Health secretary Alan Johnson announced at the Labour Party conference that he is planning to spend £97 million 'protecting' NHS staff against violence and intimidation.
He wants to do this by, among other measures, providing alarms for staff at risk of attack.
While all health workers welcome any initiative that might reduce the incidence of physical attacks against us, many believe that this money would be far better spent on addressing some of the reasons why we face such aggression.
Abuse of staff does not usually occur randomly. It tends to happen when patients or relatives become so frustrated at their inability to access the services they need within a reasonable timescale that they lash out.
This is generally due to the heavy workloads of health workers, the lack of qualified staff to run services, and financial constraints that increasingly hamper NHS trusts.
Instead of letting more public money spill into the pockets of the private firms commissioned to supply these alarms, maybe Johnson should invest in increasing the number of frontline staff (and paying them a decent wage), thus reducing the problem before it begins.
Sarah Creagh, staff nurse, Bristol
Why black soldiers must not fight
I have found Socialist Workers's discussion of role models for Britain's black youth very interesting (» Letters, 22 September).
We are often told that black people who have joined the forces are among those we should look up to.
But those same black soldiers, in both Britain and the US, are being sent to fight in the racist and imperialist war in Iraq.
Those who still think that black people should join the army would do well to study the history of black American boxer Muhammed Ali.
At the height of his career Ali was told to fight in the Vietnam war. He took a principled stand and refused conscription to the US army, saying, 'No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.'
Today's black soldiers should ask themselves whether they are prepared to be 'Uncle Tom' accomplices in the killing and enslavement of people whose lives are deemed worthless by the state.
They should ask themselves whether the country that they are fighting for treats them as equal citizens – or as inferiors, who can be sent off and killed without any questions being asked.
Black anti-war activist, London
Don't call me Zionist
I recently came across an interview with Bernadette McAliskey, the former MP for Mid Ulster, on the struggle for Irish freedom, which you published in 2005.
In the interview Bernadette purports to quote me, using language that I have never used, and totally misrepresents my attitudes to the Middle East.
I have always supported the concept of two states for Israel and Palestine, and for peace between them to be based on United Nations resolutions.
In 1956 I led the march against the Suez War in Manchester, and in 1967 I defended Israel's right to defend itself.
Thereafter I frequently attacked Israel's stand in the Occupied Territories, while defending its right to exist as an entity.
For this, Bernadette has in other articles termed me a Zionist. This nonsense stems from my recognition of Zionism as a nationalist movement no different from others that have many political strands within them.
Incidentally, I left the House of Commons on my own volition because of the crass opportunism that I saw all around me – and I share Bernadette's dislike of the old fashioned nature of the institution.
She, however, was a brilliant critic of everything but a supporter of nothing.
Paul Rose, Buckinghamshire
I am writing to express my outrage at the selling of the 'Fair and Handsome' skin whitening cream in this country – or anywhere else, for that matter.
I was particularly sad to see that Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan is endorsing it on an advert that you can see on the YouTube website, in which he suggests that fair skin is more attractive.
Socialist Worker should start a campaign to educate people against the use of this degrading product.
Tom Griffiths, GMB member, by email
Hypocrisy on Iraq refugees
A recent report by Amnesty International identifies Britain as forcibly returning more refugees to Iraq than any other country in Europe does.
In the run-up to our illegal invasion refugees from Iraq were welcomed, but today they are bundled onto planes back to the danger zone.
The way Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair toy with the lives of these innocent refugees is outrageous.
We have a moral duty to allow Iraqis to come to Britain, especially as our government destroyed their country.
Mark Holt, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition
Clients of colonialism?
I am not persuaded by Michael Morris's naming of a few more Scots who benefited from the British Empire as an argument against Scotland being a colonised nation (» Letters, 22 September).
It is in the nature of imperialism that 'client groups', those closest geographically and culturally to the core imperial state, will benefit more than other groups from their participation in the system.
If the Scots feel they should have a collective guilt trip over their ancestors' role, then the sooner they get over it and become a nation once again the better.
Hugh Parsons, Swansea
Compulsory crack down
I was a delegate to this year's TUC conference, at which my union, the lecturers' UCU, put a motion to oppose the government's plans to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18.
We argued that raising the school leaving age will not resolve the problem of why so many young people feel unfulfilled by the education system. Instead it will be a further step in the criminalisation of teenagers.
Many of us who work in education are frustrated by the narrow agenda of the government, with its emphasis on 'skills'.
The conference voted overwhelmingly to support the motion.
Sean Vernell, vice-chair, UCU further education committee (pc)
How 'chav' was reinvented
Pat Stack's article about anti-chav snobbery was fantastic (» Bob Crow, 'chavs' and the new media snobbery). Readers may be interested to know that 'chav' is one of the Hindi words for wise, and a generic Romany term for child.
In my youth, in south east London, 'chav' was often used as a term of endearment for children. To use 'chav' as a reinvented term of abuse is typical of English middle class ignorance.
This new age of Victorian snobbery is an annoying step backwards.
C High, by email
'Chavs' have got issues
Was Pat Stack correct in his defence of chavism? They tend to promote a negative aspect of working class life, and are not accepted with much enthusiasm by the rest of the community.
Graham Richards, Manchester
New Labour's forgotten toffs
Many readers will have enjoyed Labour Party treasurer Jack Dromey's attack on public school educated Tory toffs, Boris Johnson in particular.
Unfortunately, Jack didn't go far enough. He forgot to mention Tory toff Tony Blair, educated at top public school Fettes.
Then there is the former public school boy Ed Balls, put in charge of state schools by Gordon Brown.
And, we should not forget the current deputy leader, another rich toff educated at private school. I am referring to Harriet Harman – but perhaps Jack has never met his wife!
John Newsinger, Leicester