Benazir Bhutto's Assassination:
The Unprecedented Public Reaction and Pakistan People's Party Leadership Refusing To Break with Feudal Traditions
By Arslan Ahmad Sahir,
Pakistan has never seen so many people protesting in streets all over as been the case after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (Former Prime Minister and Life time Chairperson of Pakistan People's Party). They were all united across Pakistan to condemn the brutal murder of Benazir Bhutto. The news was heard with a great shock and there was an immediate mass anger erupted in all parts of Pakistan . From 28th December the first day of general strike called by many groups ranging from political parties to various professional groups, situation seems to be getting worse although at the moment, calm prevails but the lava of public anger can spill out any time.
Most of elections posters, banners, flags and bill boards of Pakistan Muslim League (PMLQ) were the first victim of the mass anger. PMLQ is a General Musharaf creation after 1999; a major split of Pakistan Muslim League, The rest is headed by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister. PMLQ has been sharing power with General Musharaf after 2002 and is comprised of the most corrupt feudal, capitalists, former army generals and black marketers.
PMLQ had spent billions of these advertising material and all that was gone within few hours of mass reaction. It was very proudly claiming that it has done the home work. The work to remove all these anti people election material was done with utmost sophistication. None of Pakistan People's Party or Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz election material was removed.
Then the next targets were banks in Sind and Punjab mostly. They were attacked and the buildings were burned in many cities of Sind. Most of ATM machines were destroyed. In some places, people were lucky to bring some money home. Banks had made unprecedented profits during the last few years due to neo-liberal economic policies of Musharraf regime. There was no free banking any more that was the case earlier from sixties. Moreover, they have destroyed traditional family structures in Pakistani society by giving rise to previously unknown phenomenon of consumerism, taking last bits of people's savings in the name of car leasing, electronics leasing and a lot of other curses with high interests bringing more misery, disparity and sense of deprivation in the masses.
From the banks, the next target of angry masses was private buses. Hundreds of private buses were burned in all parts of the country. The fares had gone too high during the Musharaf eight years of rule. There were no more public buses (Sold or shut down! in the name of economic efficiency). Most of PMLQ government ministers had their own bus companies and were making huge gains out of mass poverty. There were also incidents of burning of railway trains in Sind. According to news reports railway stations, 20 railway engines, 60 train junctions or stations and seventeen trains have been burnt resulting in billions of rupees in loss. The rail fares were increased by many folds by Musharaf regime in a bid to reduce the railway losses, caused by corruption and inefficiency of his allies and ministers, who had vested interests not to let it cheaper so that people are forced to travel on the buses owned by them. It has been partly privatized as well. The whole rail system has collapsed since 27th December night. Thousands of passengers are on the railway stations waiting for restoration.Despite, partial restoration by bringing in the army, the situation is far from normal.
Thousands of private cars have been damaged all over Pakistan by the angry mob mainly youth (Jobless!!). They were showing their anger on the car companies (mainly Toyota , Suzuki and Honda) unprecedented profits during the last few years, imagine these cars are two times costly there as compared to their prices in EU (Free trade and open market!!! what a joke). Many leasing companies have robbed the growing middle classes by offering cars with abnormal prices. While the massive majority of population have no more ant subsidized public transport. This happened first time in Pakistan and it is a sign of alarm for the middle class that they can no longer afford to avoid the plight of masses, either joins them or face the burnt and anger mainly for the upper class. But the unfortunate fact is that, it is mainly angry youth in form of mobs, they need proper revolutionary left leadership which seems absent at the moment! It would be sad if again, a chance for change is wasted.
The houses and offices of PMLQ politicians, local government's mayors and administration are the other victims of the mass reaction. They have either been burnt or damaged They have gone into hiding to avoid general public! It is an achievement but should be provided with socialist leadership for long run success.. Over 100 people have died in the incidents relation to mass protest either by police or by cross firing of different groups, which is sad but that's why mobs should be turned into revolutionary groups to avoid such things and direct efforts at uprooting government.
Thousands and thousands have raised slogans against Musharaf regime and American imperialism after the death of Benazir Bhutto. The anger was accumulated during the last eight years and was manifested after this unthinkable incident. This was a response of the masses to the strict implementation of neo liberal agenda which resulted in unprecedented price hike, unemployment and poverty. The anger that was to be shown in boycotting or participating in the elections has come out early after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. There is a great anti Musharaf consciousness all over. It is been shown in different ways in different part of the country in different degree. The so-called capitalist economical growth under Musharaf has left millions in absolute poverty. There was no Pakistan shining as was propagated by the dictatorship all the times.
The 2007 has been a year of mass awakening. It started with advocate movement after the removal of chief justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. The chief justice Iftikhar Choudry said a big "No" to resign under pressure by the Generals. He was removed only to be reinstated on 20th July after a massive movement of 80,000 lawyer's community. They were joined by political activists from almost all political parties but not by the masses. Masses only welcomed the chief justice from the side roads and did not participate in the movement in real terms.
The November 2008 imposition of martial law on the name of emergency was used to remove the rather independent top judges of Pakistan . It put restrictions on the media and over 10,000 were arrested. Musharaf got himself duly "elected president" and took off uniform after removing the top judges. His hand picked judges gave him all the necessary backing. He was helped in this process by Benazir Bhutto who was forced into in Tariq Ali,s word "forced arranged marriage" by US and British imperialism. In this unholy alliance, every one was cheating everyone with utmost honestly.
The general elections were announced for January 8th and emergency lifted after the large scale repression and removal of independent judiciary. The regime was happy that everything is going according to "plan". The Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto and Muslim League Nawaz and Quid Azam (PMLQ), the three major parties had agreed to participate in these fraudulent elections. The religious fundamentalist political alliance MMA had split on the question of participation in elections. One major part of MMA had gone to contest elections.
The murder of Benazir Bhutto is a double edge sword. While it is big blow to the plans of British and American imperialism, it will also be no celebration for the religious fundamentalist forces. The initial anger has gone against the military regime and its crony politicians. It can go against the both. No party will be able to celebrate the shocking killings. Moreover, it would increase the problems for Western imperialist forces in Afghanistan as Pakistan's Army under its new Chief is already trying to distance itself from unpopular Musharraf, as lower ranks of military have lost morale badly and the army which was once very prestigious institutions is almost hated by many due to its ruthless use by the Dictator Musharraf over 8years of his rule. In case of massive movement, which seems quite possible in coming weeks, chances are that military may refuse to serve 'old boss', same as it happened in case of Shah of Iran. However, for the working class and left intellectuals, this also puts on a challenge to wake up from their utopian styles of 60s and organize themselves in real workers party to make Pakistan a better place to live for all from the current hell which it has been forced into. Meanwhile, Western diplomats are now trying to find new partner in form of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in order to stop their plans from complete destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan particularly and generally as well as Global capitalism seems to be embroiled in unending crises starting from mortgage crises in USA to slow growth and unemployment in Europe.
It is very volatile, unstable, unpredictable, explosive, dangerous, impulsive, fickle and capricious political situation. It never happened before in many years that mass reaction has erupted to this degree.
PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) Refusing to Break with Feudal Traditions
Appointment of 19-year-old Bilawal Bhottu Zardari as the new chair of Pakistan Peoples Party is an attempt to keep the feudal traditions of politics in South Asia . The PPP central executive committee approved the appointment of Bilawal Asif Zardari, unanimously in its meeting on 30th December at Nuedero Sind. He is son of Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on 27 December, nominated him.
According to the will of Benazir Bhutto read out in the meeting, Asif Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, was to be appointed as chair of PPP in case Benazir Bhutto is not there. However, Asif Zardari then went on to suggest his son Bilawal as new chair.A student of Oxford University , Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the eldest and the only son of three children of Benazir Bhutto. Born in Pakistan but never lived here after he went to school. Asif Zardai will be co chairperson of PPP. By these developments, PPP has effectively been again in the total control of Bhutto family.
PPP leadership had kept the same feudal traditions during the last 40 years of existence. After Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on July 4 1979, his wife Begum Nusrat Bhutto took over. When Begum Bhutto wanted her son Murtaza Bhutto to take over PPP in 1996, she was deposed by Benazir Bhutto and became the life long chairperson of PPP. Murtaza Bhutto was killed in a police encounter in September 1996 while his sister Benazir Bhutto was still the prime minister (cruelty of politics and dirty tricks!). She lost her power a month later.
The executive committee meeting also decided to take part in the general election of 8 January 2008 which are now delayed to18th February and rejected the government version of the assassination. This was despite a massive movement against the dictatorship of General Musharaf. All over Pakistan , hundreds of thousands have demonstrated against the regime and all the banners and flags of the ruling Muslim League were torn apart. The movement forced the Muslim League supporting General Musharaf to hide everywhere from the public. A move to boycott the general elections and an announcement to launch a movement to overthrow the military dictatorship by PPP leadership at this moment would have forced the regime to resign. Instead, PPP leadership played on the massive sympathy waves to capitalize through general elections under Musharaf regime. By appointment of Bilwal Bhutto, PPP has refused to break the feudal traditions of politics in Soutn Asia. It has kept the undemoractic traditions of few families controling the politics. The heriditic hegemony of politics has been kept and feudalism will be more strengthen by this decision of PPP in general.
This again shows that workers need to organize in their own party, rather than trying to follow these old idols proven useless again and again. The current flour crises and increasing cost of living can only be alleviated on the basis of organized Class struggle.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz once said(great socialist Pakistani poet and famous all over the world!)
If they snatch my ink and pen,
I should not complain,
For I have dipped my fingers
In the blood of my heart.
I should not complain
Even if they seal my tongue,
For every ring of my chain
Is a tongue ready to speak
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