Forty years of foreign intervention in Afghanistan—first with the Soviet Union, and now with NATO—have destroyed that country, and now threatens to expand to destroy Pakistan too.
More than 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed as part of the “war on terror” since its intensification in 2008. Many died as a result of attacks by the Pakistani military in the areas that border Afghanistan, and the spiral of revenge killings that followed them.
This has helped shift public opinion against the war and divides the Pakistani ruling class.
The most internationally minded set is loyal to Washington.
It knows that the value of Pakistan’s exports has increased from a mere $9 billion in 1999 to $24 billion in 2011. This growing share of the world market is only possible because of Pakistan’s support for the US-led war.
But the US is determined not to reciprocate. Congress passed an $11 billion grant to Pakistan in 2010 but only $0.2 billion of it has been transferred. This is because Washington is insisting on more Pakistani visas for its spies.
The national capitalists, who are focused on domestic trade and industry, tend to see things differently.
For them, the war has devastated the domestic economy. These middle-sized capitalists are being squeezed as the rich grow ever richer, and more state resources are diverted to ‘internal security’.
This has sucked money away from things such as food and fuel subsidies, all of which might have benefitted them and their businesses.
Most of the Pakistani political parties, including the right-wingers, are for a peaceful co-existence with Washington. However, the defeat of the US in Afghanistan means that the ruling class here sees an opportunity to expand its influence in the region.
The entire elite, including the dominant current among the Islamicists—and Imran Khan— and the so-called secular parties, all want Pakistani hegemony in Afghanistan.
As Western forces withdraw, our rulers are offering themselves to the US as a stooge. In reality, they have their own imperialist designs for Afghanistan.
But millions of ordinary Pakistanis reject the war, and desire no such dominance. This feeling has already led to large protests and waves of anger.
The main beneficiaries of the anti-imperialist anger are the emerging grassroots organisations, rather than those which take right or left wing colouration.
Movements of those who displaced by war and disasters are emerging all over Pakistan, and there is a desire for an alternative to the loot and plunder of our rulers and their imperialist allies.
On occasion, the Islamicists have tried to mobilise the masses against the war but they have largely failed to challenge the ruling class. That’s because they always seek to compromise with the national capitalists.
Some of the left are active in anti-imperialist movement, but the war on terror divided it. Large segments of the left took a pro-Pakistan military and pro-US stance in the name of combating the ‘menace’ of Islamification.
They argue that the ‘war on terror’ is in some way progressive, and that it can help rid Pakistan of the remnants of feudalism. This nonsense has cut them off from the growing anger at imperialism.
In the name of restoring the ‘writ of Pakistani state’, the Pakistani ruling class is carrying out the most barbaric military operations on its own soil—in Balochistan, Pakhtunkhwa, and now in the giant city of Karachi.
Their real intentions are clear. They use the rhetoric of freedom to clear the way for multinationals to exploit land and labour, while denying the population basic democratic rights.
Our hope must be that the growing anger of the masses can put an end to their hypocrisy.
Riaz Ahmed is an activist in the International Socialists (Pakistan)
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