Socialist Worker

Pakistan: Poor pay price for West’s agenda

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2250

Western commentators were quick to blame Pakistan for allowing Bin Laden to hide in Abbottabad—a military town just miles from the capital Islamabad.

This, they argued, was further proof that the country is an unreliable ally in the “war on terror”.

The truth is that there has long been a close relationship between sections of the Pakistani state and the radical Islamist groups.

But the ruling elite has also slavishly followed Washington’s instructions to join its war.

They have sent thousands of Pakistani troops into the areas bordering Afghanistan to bomb Pakistani citizens. Thousands have been killed and millions made homeless. Refugee camps are filled to bursting.

Yet, despite its military prowess, the state declared that it lacked the power to intervene when floods hit Pakistan last year. Whole villages were washed away while helicopters kept searching for “militants”.

The sight of the ruling class falling over itself to aid US imperialism has led to revulsion.

The combination of imperialism with the increasing poverty of millions has created fertile ground for radical Islamists.

Faced with growing anger, the Pakistani ruling class has become deeply split on the question of the “war on terror”. In the 1980s it backed the Islamic fighters that resisted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the hope of bringing a friendly force to power.

Once the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan, the US-supported dictator General Musharraf was one of its most fervent backers.

In the wake of the “war on terror” the ruling class split between those who saw the country’s future as being closely linked to the US and those with an independent vision.

Today, many are worried that military action against Islamic militants could lead to a civil war.

Lacking any sense of popular legitimacy, president Zardari’s government is involved in a desperate balancing act. On one side stand its financial backers in Washington who demand more war. On the other, the impoverished millions who can stand no more of it.

One thing is certain. The most likely victims of any revenge bombings will not be those who ordered the killing of Bin Laden—it will be the poor on the streets of Pakistan’s towns and cities.

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