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Pakistan: state of chaos

This article is over 14 years, 7 months old
As violence escalates in Pakistan, Geoff Brown interviews Riaz Ahmed of the International Socialists of Pakistan about the background to the crisis
Issue 2174

What is happening in Pakistan?

Pakistan is in a state of chaos. The whole society has been damaged by the US’s “war on terror”. Pakistan’s rulers are divided and there is no effective civilian government. The military dominates, but it too is divided.

The military wants to support the US war – but for its own reasons and to gain its own advantage. But all around, exploitation and corruption continue, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

What are the US and its Nato allies trying to do?

This week US president Barack Obama signed a bill giving Pakistan an aid package of $7.5 billion over the next five years, as part of his so-called “Af-Pak” strategy to win the war in Afghanistan.

The scheme is similar to US agreements with Egypt and Israel.

It is full of rhetoric about helping Pakistan to develop, but contains conditions which seek to dominate the country by establishing an ever larger permanent military presence.

This would mean both the expansion of the Pakistani army and the establishment of US bases.

But, the main aim is to get Pakistani soldiers to do the fighting against the Taliban and Al Qaida – and so take the casualties.

What is the response in Pakistan?

People see the US and Nato acting like an occupying force. There is real anger at the increased US military presence.

The only exceptions are a few in the governing elite – often financiers – who see their future tied to the US.

The military’s public response has been to call for stepping up the war against the Taliban while distancing itself from the US government.

It makes no public criticism but is happy to see parties such as the Islamist Jamaat Islami campaign against the deal.

The army top brass are glad that they now occupy areas including Swat and South Waziristan which they have never been able to do before.

There has been a big reaction against the use of the private security company Xe, formerly Blackwater, which is notorious for the atrocities it carried out in Iraq.

The 200 houses bought for US “staff” in Islamabad and the discovery of hand grenades in the boot of a Dutch diplomat’s car have also stirred up opposition.

It’s important to remember that we only know about these things because the Pakistani security services leak everything that exposes what the US and its allies are doing to the media.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military’s own atrocities are kept secret.

What about the recent attacks in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi?

We are told the attacks are the work of the Taliban, but the only evidence is information given by the Pakistani military.

The Taliban’s ability to launch such attacks is very limited, and Al Qaida is even weaker.

It’s just as hard to get reliable facts about military operations, such as the attack on Swat earlier this year and the current offensive in South Waziristan.

The military is very careful to control information about its own operations.

The Swat offensive in April and May created several million refugees. Thousands were killed and thousands more arrested. Terrible atrocities were committed, but not one person has yet been put on trial.

A quarter of a million people have fled South Waziristan in the last few days because of the bombing that prepared the ground for the army offensive. But not a single photo has been released of the operation.

It is probable that the recent attack on GHQ – the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi – wasn’t carried out by the Taliban at all but was a mutiny.

If that’s true, the brigadier and colonel who were among the 20 killed weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time, but were leading the attack.

We haven’t seen any of the bodies of those killed. The only survivor of the GHQ attack turns out to be a member of Jamaat Islami, an organisation which openly supports the military and, for good measure, accuses the Indian secret service of being responsible.

Nor is there any evidence that it was the Taliban who attacked the headquarters of Blackwater in the capital Islamabad last year, or carried out the recent attacks in Lahore.

Why would the Taliban attack places like the police training centre?

None of these attacks have targeted the senior figures in the army and government who are responsible for the attacks in Swat and South Waziristan.

Why has the state been losing control of the situation?

It has been weakened by its growing involvement in imperialist ventures.

It manages to hide atrocities carried out during military operations because the country’s rulers accept they are necessary.

But at the same time entire districts have been taken over by “warlords”, and the ruling class doesn’t have the power to do anything about it. The state’s power still exists but it is shrinking and it is unevenly distributed.

There is a serious possibility of a military take-over. Even if the top of the military wouldn’t act, a takeover by junior officers using anti-imperialist rhetoric is also possible.

Divisions in the ruling class have left it standing naked in front of the ordinary people. That gives revolutionaries the chance to expose it and build a fightback against imperialism and war.


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