Wed Apr 10, 2024
April 10, 2024

Pakistan: Political Wrangling by the Country’s Rulers and the Role of the Working Class

Pakistan is currently living through a turbulent situation after the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Although he has since been released, the country’s future remains deeply undetermined.

Sarah Khalid

MehnatKash Tehreek (MKT)                    


We saw that no mass movement emerged after Imran Khan’s arrest, nor did millions of people take to the streets to back him, although a few thousand of his supporters made their presence felt through riots and unrest in different cities around the country. However, the situation has been made worse by the government and the establishment[i] who have taken steps such as shutting down the internet and calling on the army to create a quasi-emergency situation which would allow them to more easily contain the protests.

In the midst of the current situation, the weaknesses of this anti-people government and establishment have become clear. Not only have they taken aim at the people with inflation and unemployment, but in order to divert attention from these problems, they are targeting their political rivals. On the other hand, the opposition’s weakness and impotence have also become evident, as they have been unable to overthrow the weakest government and establishment in the history of the country. And further, despite all the propaganda and clear support from a faction of the establishment, they were unable to bring supporters to the streets.

This conflict has once again exposed to the entire world the ruling class’s infighting and the crisis of the state. It is clear that the country’s economy is going bankrupt, while on top of that, the country’s political situation is also completely insolvent. At the same time, the state’s crisis is rapidly deepening, which is pushing Pakistani society toward further destruction.

Imran Khan’s arrest came after he was accused of corruption and the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) made a case against him, but it is clear that the motives behind this conflict extend beyond these immediate circumstances. It was clear when Imran Khan’s government fell last year that the level of factionalism among the army generals had reached its peak, and in the past year or so the process has intensified instead of ending.

During this time, many incidents and news have come to light, including allegations against former Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa and others, which have made it clear how various army generals have been influencing the entire political process these past 70 years. With the establishment’s support behind him, Imran Khan has always had an aggressive attitude, and his supporters still believe that a significant faction of the establishment has his back. The factionalism and attacks on each other have been going on for over a year, but now the internecine fighting has entered a higher level and will likely intensify in the coming period.

Imran Khan and his party were born in the lap of the establishment, where they were nurtured and brought to power by generals, judges, and other sectors of the ruling class.

During his tenure, Imran Khan and Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice – PTI) broke all previous precedents in terms of courting and influencing the working class, and thousands of workers were indoctrinated into defending the establishment and used in systematic campaigns undertaken everywhere including on social media in political rallies. Meanwhile, Imran Khan let his politics be dictated by the will of the generals, and at the same time crossed all bounds in his slavishness to the imperialist powers including American imperialism. But despite all his subservience and indecency, when Imran Khan and his party started to become a burden to the army generals, he was thrown out and power was given to another faction of the ruling class. It was Imran Khan who first launched an anti-corruption campaign against the previous rulers Sharif brothers, Zardari, and Bilawal.[ii]

Now the same process is being repeated with Imran Khan and his party, as accusations that he is corrupt and plundering the country have been brought to light in order to reduce his political stature and allow for the party to rid themselves of him yet continue to function.

During this operation, an attempt will be made to excise those who had been introduced into the party in the past. This is another example of the use of a past strategy when generals kept the reins of power by pitting different parties against each other.

Similarly, it is now being said that this game of cat and mouse between Imran Khan and the current PDM government is happening with the generals’ blessing. And in order to end it Imran Khan has to reconcile with other parties, a move which is not acceptable to the establishment.

But all discussions of this whole process have been very superficial and shallow, and neither political party nor the establishment wants to focus on the ongoing social crises Neither is the working class of this country being discussed as the main element in any discussion.

There is also the need for a serious discussion—from Pakistan’s perspective—of the current global balance of power and the deterioration of this balance in today’s changing historical situation.

Due to the Soviet Union’s presence in Pakistan in the past, and despite the counter-revolutionary character of Stalinism, there was also the presence of ideological politics and the division of various political forces into the right and left. Although today all political forces are ideologically on the far right and engaged in anti-labor activities; they even consider the working class as their enemy.

There is no political representation of the working class at the moment. And since it has been the victim of repression, the working class hates all present capitalist agendas and political parties. 

Divisions within the Establishment

The armed forces remain Pakistan’s most powerful institution, having ruled directly for close to half the country’s 75-year history through three coups.

And today the country’s establishment is clearly divided into two blocs, and these factions will increase in the coming period. One section in power is under the leadership of the current army chief and the coalition government of the PDM. This faction is trying to strengthen its grip on the country, but the more they try to tighten their hold on the situation, the more it slips out of their control. Due to financial bankruptcy and the weaknesses of the imperialist powers, it is unlikely they will be able to strengthen their grip in a stable and lasting manner even in the near future. As a result, this faction will continue to suffer from agitation, chaos, and frustration.

The second faction is under the leadership of Imran Khan, who has many prominent establishment figures who back him and has roots in various sections of the ruling class including military officers, bureaucrats, and judges. This faction has also publicly supported the Taliban government, not only in Kabul but has also made several unsuccessful attempts to gain their international acceptance.

Likewise, this group is still trying to build alliances with a variety of important global players to build back power including the US, China, and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, it wants to somehow oust the ruling clique and bring the PTI into power. In this regard, the axis of this faction’s politics lies in the acquisition of power, for which they are playing horrible and sinister games of different orders and styles.

They have no ideology, no faith, and no loyalty. If they are given support and power by China or Russia, they will become their temporary allies, and then if they hope to get dollars from the United States they will sit on their doorstep. Their ultimate goal is to maximize looting the country and protecting their own wealth. In order to achieve this, they will not hesitate to “sell” anything from patriotism to the Madinah state (a religious state).

The same is the case for the ruling party, which is always ready to make any kind of compromise and reconciliation on any political stand.

In fact, followers of all these factions also have the same goals and aims and hope that when they come to power they will be able to participate in the plunder too. We know that all politics, from those based on religion to nationalism and patriotism, only serve the pursuit of temporary interests, and nobody is ultimately concerned with the people’s welfare or the country’s prosperity. Failing to solve the most pressing problems, the rulers are again trying to divide the working class across ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines.

Inflation or unemployment is occasionally mentioned to score political points, but no one has any serious solutions to deal with these problems. But in the midst of this process, the crisis is deepening and the whole country is sinking into a bloody quagmire.

The False Game of the Election

Many people in the country favor Imran Khan and his faction’s demand for an election, saying that it is a legitimate demand and that all problems will be solved after the election. On the other hand, many questions are emerging regarding the continuity of democracy, and all kinds of options are being considered from outright martial law to an emergency or technocratic setup. But at the same time, the need to hold elections with a controlled and pre-determined outcome is also growing stronger. Within the context of large-scale economic assault coming from the government and the people’s rising anger, it has become more necessary to fake so-called democracy through fraudulent elections in order to keep the situation under control.

Through this democratic fraud, the people are deceived into believing that that those who rule them are their elected representatives, and therefore the people themselves are responsible for inflation, unemployment, and all the other problems the country is facing. But the public has not ever trusted the country’s electoral process, and very few people vote, although the official figures have been artificially inflated to show the rate of participation as high.

And now the foundations of parliament, the judiciary, and all other state institutions, including the electoral process have become much weaker than before. As a result, the people will less willingly accept being defrauded by these institutions. Similarly, the establishment itself is afraid of the election process and refuses to allow the participation of any political party or group that is not fully under its control. This is the reason why the elections have not yet been called for since Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is not yet fully in control of the process.

The most significant backer of the capitalist rulers is the middle class who drives capitalism. And if the middle class stopped being the fuel of capitalist states today they would collapse. Because they get larger crumbs from capitalism, they spend their whole lives complaining and yet are incapable of bringing about a revolution; in the end they become tired of changing parties but do not take any steps on their own to change anything.

Currently, due to the country’s severe financial crisis and bankruptcy, the middle class is suffering from acute anxiety and there is no clear direction and leadership for them to follow except for the PTI. The embodiment of this class crisis can also be seen in the form of Imran Khan. In general, this narcissistic class lacks a deep understanding of the current crisis and its views on history, geography, society, and world politics are often very confused, reactionary, and backward.

Pakistan’s Current Political Crisis Drowns Hopes for IMF Deal

This rupture in Pakistan’s ailing politics has come in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades for the country’s 230 million people, which has been marked by dwindling reserves, a stalled $6.5 billion IMF program that is expiring in June, and few other sources for financing the country in sight.

While a situation marked by unruly politics generating volatility is nothing new for Pakistani capitalists, at this time they are really complicating the situation.

More than one hundred days have passed since the last IMF staff-level mission to Pakistan, and the two sides have yet to strike a preliminary deal, which is a key step in securing the next round of funding. That is the longest such gap since at least 2008.

A spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund, which has been in talks with Pakistan’s government about restarting a $6.5 billion assistance program, said that negotiators are “heavily engaged” with authorities in Pakistan which “faces a very challenging situation.”

The country’s present political situation is definitely impacting the upcoming IMF deal, and the country’s imports and exports are also at stake. Pakistan’s central bank reserves fell $74 to $4.38 billion, barely a month’s worth of imports, according to fresh data released.

Pakistan signed an agreement with the IMF for $6.5 in 2019, however, the release of $1.2 billion under the programm’s ninth review has been pending since October 2020 due to the government’s incompetence.

On the other hand, we have seen the highest rate of Inflation in the country’s history, as it surged to a record 45 percent in June, driven mainly by skyrocketing food prices and rising energy and fuel costs.

The finance ministry projected that inflation would remain in the range of 40-45 percent mainly due to the rupee’s depreciation and rising administered prices, which contributed to the increase in overall prices.

The Controversial Army Act

On May 9 protesters who attacked Pakistan’s state assets and military installations during demonstrations that erupted after the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan will be tried under military law, the country’s political and military leaders have said.

On the same day protesters chanted slogans against this powerful Pakistani institution long considered sacred, in the eastern city of Lahore a group of people stormed the residence of a regional army commander and vandalized it.

Following those events, the military announced it had collected “irrefutable evidence” about culprits involved in “these heinous crimes” and vowed to prosecute them under military and anti-espionage laws.

There is serious concern on the issue of trying civilian cases in military courts in Pakistan. Now after the incidents on May 9, the government says it will try protesters involved in the riots and other activities under a law that was enacted in 1952 to prosecute army personnel.

Every citizen has the right to a free and transparent judicial process, which is usually not the case in military courts. There are laws that deal with riots in civilian court, so there is no need for special military courts or laws. The act was meant to prosecute army personnel and civilians attached to the military in some capacity.

In 1966, under the rule of military leader Ayub Khan, an amendment was made to the act whereby civilians accused of inciting mutiny within the rank and file through written and verbal material could be tried.

Civilians accused of sharing official state secrets with the enemy may also be tried in a military court, as well as those civilians who are accused of targeting and attacking military installations.

Amnesty International has opposed the human rights violations stemming from trying civilians in military courts in Pakistan, including flagrant disregard for due process, the lack of transparency, coerced confessions, and executions after grossly unfair trials.

Pakistan (HRCP), an independent civil rights group, strongly opposed the use of those laws to try civilians. Military courts, which proceed under the Army Act and related legislation, do not have to hold to the standard of evidence and process that regular courts are obligated to uphold. “While those responsible for arson and damaging public and private property during the recent protests should be held to account, they remain entitled to due process,” the HRCP said.

True Strength is in The Working Class

Contrary to the desires of the ruling class, the working class is not only politically conscious but also willing to manifest this consciousness in practice in the coming period. If anyone can decisively change politics in Pakistan, it is the force of the working class. At present, no political party wants to come to power through this class, and the leaders of Tehreek-e-Insaaf, despite all the mass police round-ups, are pinning their hopes on the generals and imperial powers, which reflects their class character and their ideology.

All the parties want to come to power through the establishment and these anti-people forces are the axis of their politics. The problems of the working class are not being discussed by any political party, let alone being talked about in terms of potential solutions. From the media to intellectuals, debates on ruling-class factionalism are everywhere. Yet there is no analysis and perspective regarding the intervention of the working class in the political sphere.

But the working class cannot be kept away from the political arena for long and will make its presence felt with full force in the future. When the working class takes to the streets, it will not be in the hundreds or thousands, but it will be in the millions, which will undoubtedly make the rulers tremble. Those who come out in such large numbers do not need to set fires or throw stones at the police, instead, they question the system and the current means of production. These are the only movements of the working class which give birth to a revolutionary situation.

What to do now?

We understand that all the parties, whether currently in power or in the opposition, are the same thing under different names, their goals are the same. They seek to rule in order to impose more taxes on workers and obtain more wealth and power. Certainly, the leaderships of these parties have never had to pay for food, petrol, electricity and gas bills, or support their children on workers’ wages.

Let’s hold international monetary institutions, capitalists, and their representative rulers accountable by discussing the following questions in People’s Assemblies.

1. Have we not paid the installments, and interest on the IMF loans, even in the face of high inflation?

2. Did the IMF loans benefit the people of Pakistan? Or did it benefit the rulers of Pakistan, the capitalists, and the imperialist companies, as the IMF provides loans to poor countries and later burdens the public when the debt is due with high taxes and the privatization of public services and natural resources as well?

3. In light of the current situation where floods have displaced nearly 35 million people, killed 790,000 cattle, destroyed 17,000 schools, and destroyed 20 million acres of land, is there a need to defer IMF loans or cancel them altogether?

4. Can the working class’s lives be made easier without IMF loans, and by reducing the defense budget, and ending the corruption of the ruling class?

5. Shouldn’t we ask the rulers of this country why they are fighting?

6. Where oppressed nations are suffering from problems and shout for independence, shouldn’t they be given the right to a referendum?

7. Can the working class solve the country’s problems without taking political power?

8. Can these rulers, who have never faced poverty, inflation, or unemployment, eliminate these problems?

Comrades: We know that the capitalist system has so far addressed these democratic questions in tentative, incomplete, and distorted ways. Our political perspective shows us that these democratic questions divide our class. It is impossible to unite the working class without fighting against all of them.

It is our duty to liberate the working class from the clutches of capitalist ideology when the struggle between the rulers for power intensifies. We need to lead with a revolutionary program and class liberation at this time.

We must present a strategic program that is different from the extreme and conservative right political organizations, from the struggle against military oppression to the struggle against exploitation, with the aim of seizing power and ending the occupation of our country by the establishment, national capitalism, and imperialism. During this struggle, we need to fight alongside the working class against all the so-called opposition, opportunists, and sectarianism while confronting Imran Khan and his allies. It is a transitional program that will lead us progressively from revolution to socialism.

[i] The establishment in Pakistan refers to the deep state cooperative federation of the Pakistan Armed Forces, the Pakistani intelligence community and other pro-military government officials and civilians. Responsible for various military coups, the military-dominated establishment has directly ruled Pakistan for nearly half of its existence since its creation in 1947, while frequently exerting covert dominance over the political leadership during the remainder of the time. The establishment in Pakistan includes the key decision-makers in the country’s military and intelligence services, national security, as well as its foreign and domestic policies, including the state policies of aggressive Islamization during the military dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

[ii] The current situation Imran Khan finds himself in can be compared to the politics of the past in Pakistan country when army generals kept the reins of power in their hands by pitting different parties against each other. In the 90s, there was a similar tussle between the Non-League PML (the political party of ex-prime minister Nawaz Shareef) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in which elections were held several times. But during the dictatorship of General Musharraf, when the leadership of the People’s Party and the Non-League came together and agreed on a mutual understanding, the generals adopted a new party that could barely win even one seat in the then National Assembly. Similarly, it is now being said that this cat-and-mouse game between Imran Khan and the current PDM (The Pakistan Democratic Movement government is also occurring with the generals’ blessing. The PDM, a coalition of parties, was founded in September 2020 as a movement against then-prime minister Imran Khan, accusing his regime of poor governance, political victimization of opponents, and mismanaging the economy and foreign policy.

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