by Robert Laurie
A TIMELY London public meeting organised by the New Communist Party and the British South-Asia Solidarity Forum entitled “Pakistan in Crisis: Instability, Imperialism and Resistance” was held last week, just a few days after the recent parliamentary elections in Pakistan.
Both speakers were political exiles from Pakistan and the first, Mukhtar Rana, a former MP in the Pakistan Parliament served five years in jail for his work fight against military rule and currently campaigns on behalf of bonded labourers in Pakistan. The practice of bonded labour, which is little short of slavery, is theoretically banned under the Pakistan constitution, but flourishes in many parts of the country.
Mukhtar welcomed the defeat of the pro-American military dictator General Musharraf and paid particular tribute to the efforts of Pakistan’s lawyers whose sustained efforts forced Musharraf to step down from his military role.
However, he was sensibly cautious about the role of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which now looks set to form the next Pakistani government. The new leader of the PPP, the widower of the recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto was during her premiership known as “Mr Ten Per Cent” on account of his bribe taking during her spells as Prime Minister.
Mushtaq Lasharie, a Labour councillor in Kensington who was a political refugee from Pakistan spoke next. He was equally unimpressed by the PPP which has became increasingly right wing under pressure from Anglo-American imperialism. It now supports feudal landlords against workers and peasants. Political parties in Pakistan, he stated, are more like supporters clubs for politicians rather than ideologically based movements.
Valuable points were made from the floor of the packed meeting. The Solidarity Forum speaker stated that Pakistan was not in crisis itself, but the external crisis of imperialism was having a dire effect on Pakistan.
Pakistan is a large country with a population of around 170 million. Strategically situated near China and bordering Afghanistan and India it is too big a prize to be left in peace by imperialism.
photo:Mushtaq Lasharie; Neil Harris and Mukhtar Rana