World Politics

An election devoid of social content

An election devoid of social content

The right-wing Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) peppers its propaganda with religious phrases and has covert links with the fundamentalist outfits. Although some of its leaders pretend to be ‘liberals’ yet their religious orthodoxy cannot be concealed with such pretentions

Analysis_insideThe campaign for the forthcoming general elections, to be held on May 11,  is perhaps the worst ever from the viewpoint of Pakistan’s oppressed classes.

There is hardly any mainstream party that addresses the most burning issue in the society: the class contradictions and exploitation. Not even a single mainstream party claims to be a ‘party of the poor’.

The religious and the conservative, right-wing parties are overtly aggressive towards the so-called secular and liberal parties.

This is even scary in view of the fundamentalism terror chipping in, through a reign of terror soaked in bloodshed, to brutalisation of political culture.

In just three months, from January to April, the country has witnessed an average of 600 monthly casualties.  The Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Munawar Hassan, issued a stark warning at a recent public meeting held at the Jinnah mausoleum in Karachi. He said those calling themselves liberals should enlist themselves as minorities.

He was unambiguous about Jamaat aims: all the citizen of this theoretic state should abide by medieval-era sharia in their social and personal lives.

The right-wing Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) peppers its propaganda with religious phrases and has covert links with the fundamentalist outfits. Although some of its leaders pretend to be ‘liberals’ yet their religious orthodoxy cannot be concealed with such pretentions.

The Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI), led by Imran Khan, has a soft corner for the Islamists in spite of the fact that it started as a liberal outfit mainly attracting middle class youth besides fashionable upper- and middle-class women. Ideologically and socially, PTI is an amalgamation of these contradictions which lays bare its temporary and fragile existence.

The ANP, mainly  a Pushtoon nationalist party that was once leftish, has of late aligned itself with the US imperialism. Hence, it is in a bloody conflict with the Taliban. Over the last five years, most terrorist attacks have been carried out against its leaders and activists by these reactionary bigots.

The MQM has been in power for more than twenty years. It has allied with all the governments since 1988, both military and civilian ones. With its neo-fascist tendencies, it has dominated Karachi and urban Sindh through its thug violence. Intimidation and fear play a central role in maintain MQM hold over Karachi. But with bloody consequences. The violent disputes in Karachi claimed 2,284 lives in 2012. While MQM has lost its social base substantially, it has tried to retain its hold through state patronage and armed gangs. However, MQM has in the recent period been challenged by the  Taliban. The Taliban are also involved in extortion, kidnappings, and other criminal activities with almost MQM-style mafia methods and networks. Ironically, MQM claims to be a secular party and portrays itself as a victim, rather than an aggressor, of the violence that has plagued Karachi since the 1980s.

The JUI, a religious party, has been dilly-dallying between Islamic obscurantism and the US imperialism. It has completely exposed itself by displaying open and excessive opportunist tendencies to share the plunder through state power. The JUI election rallies have also been attacked by the Taliban factions.

Then there are dozens of independent candidates who will sell their souls to the highest bidder, once they are elected. The tycoons in the formal and the informal (black) economic sectors will rush to buy them for the parties who in power would facilitate their plunder and crime. In reality all these liberal and religious right-wing parties represent the diverse sections of the ruling classes. None of these parties either claims to represent the working classes.

On the other hand, under Asif Ali Zardari,  over the last five years PPP --- traditionally perceived as the party of the working classes--- has succeeded in what the ruling classes and the two military dictatorships failed to do. It has almost completely alienated itself from the working masses. In the process, it is on the verge of losing its traditional base. It has canvassed through commercial advertisements in the electronic and the print media, like other right-wing parties, spending billions of rupees dished out by supportive tycoons. The PPP media campaign is also out of touch with the miseries afflicting the oppressed classes. It has nothing to boast about its last five year in power except  some superficial issues or certain constitutional amendments. But such measures hardly matter in the masses’ eyes. It has presided over rapidly declining economy, security, law and order, price hike, unemployment, lack of education, and healthcare.

The ideological shift to the right in PPP was evident from the awarding of party tickets. While it has forged unholy alliances with the right-wing and conservative parties, some of the former petit bourgeois left candidates have allied with the Jamaat-e-Islami and terrorist outfits such as the Sipah-e- Sahaba. Meantime, a venomous campaign against the left in the party was conducted. Consequently, the party refused election tickets to Marxists who have stuck by party’s founding socialist programme. They also had bright chances to defeat the right-wing conservative outfits.

One such Marxist is Ghufran Ahad, a candidate for NA35 Malakand. Others include Riaz Lund [NA 257 Malir, Karachi] and Ilyas Khan [NA 150, Multan]. Ghufran was the district mayor of Malakand. He dared stand up to the Taliban and the military aggression in 2009. He was pivotal in setting up camps for the internally displaced people. He enjoys huge support among the Malakand residents. Riaz Lund  raised the PPP vote in this constituency from 17000 in 2002 elections to 47000 when he contested in 2008. Ilyas Khan bagged 27000 votes, in the 1993 elections, when he contested for the provincial assembly in his home constituency. He was a favourite to win the NA150 seat this time. There are several other such examples.

These elections are not going to change anything. The rotten Pakistani capitalism is crumbling. The social and economic crisis will worsen in the coming period escalating the misery and agony of the oppressed masses.


From Viewpoint online