Pakistan’s power élite and the working class
A comrade from Pakistan was due to attend our Annual Conference in London over Easter but was refused a visa by the British High Commission in Islamabad. This is the speech he would have delivered
I hail from an extremely conservative region in Pakistan, indeed in the lap of Taliban, where there exists no tolerance as far as dissent of opinion is concerned. Dissenting against the prevailing view is simply blasphemous. This makes our work more difficult. Coupled with this you always have this fear from the state and agencies sleuths who might take you for an enemy agent or some one involved in subversive activities. Anyhow this is not something to deter us. Before joining I knew what it means to be a socialist. I have not had any great trouble over the past four or five years that I have been a member. But you hardly find people agreeing to your views. One has to have steel nerves to cope with such a situation. Recently the whole of Pakistan and the NWFP in particular have been swept by a wave of religious militarism and fanaticism. The religious maniacs openly display arms and recruit youth to fight a holy war against the infidels. In such a scenario one has to be very cautious lest one should fall a victim to their wrath. I was glad when five of my friends and colleagues expressed their willingness to join the party. Of course there are people who think differently but because of the intensive propaganda and power at the hands of the militants very few dare to speak otherwise. Pakistan is a country where extreme luxury and riches and extreme poverty exists side by side. As everywhere the teeming millions have been made hostages to the lust and greed of a few lords, nawabs and petty feudal. The power or ruling élite consists of these very people whose grip on the country’s resources and people is as hard as can be. Come election time and these millions of poor are herded into polling stations to elect their so-called “representatives”. The game is repeated after every two or three years, as the assembly does not last long, with either the president or the ubiquitous military dismissing the government for being too “corrupt”. Now that the country is in the strong grip of the military with no intention to go back to the barracks, no matter how much Robin Cook or the Commonwealth secretary cry themselves hoarse, the people of Pakistan are more than ever dissatisfied and worried about what they should look for or turn to. The country’s economy is in a mess and more loans from the IMF means more punishment for the poor in the shape of price-hike and taxes. Actually Pakistan’s power élite has a clash of interests among themselves. The discredited former Prime Minister Nawas Sharif, now in exile in Saudi Arabia, had been a blue-eyed of the military and establishment. The moment he meddled with the military he was thrown out in a coup. The same corruption scandals, Swiss banks, and so on and so forth. There is also a nexus between the military, bureaucracy and political élite who safeguard each others interests and rule the roost. Fifty-two years after the British left the sub-continent and Pakistan appeared on the map of the world, the ordinary Pakistanis are still groping in the dark. They still have to learn that they will suffer at the hands of those who promise them heaven on earth but turn it into a hell once they come into power. But at elections they do not have a choice and alternative. They either have to vote for one of the rogues styled as a leader or have to stay at home. In both cases they are losers. For them more elections means more trouble. The problem persists as one looks at literacy rate in the country, which is not more than 30 percent. Mass illiteracy makes people follow their leaders blindly. Not aware of their rights they are simply led the way they are asked to. A lot could be said on how people are systematically brainwashed about the country’s priorities. Watching the state-controlled media, one gets the impression that Kashmir or fighting a war with India are the most pressing issues facing the country. Behind the smokescreen of Kashmir the need to address education, health, sanitation, environment and access to clean drinking water is washed down the drain. Such have been the priorities of the government’s recent and past, with the result that people – the hapless poor – commit suicide because they cannot feed themselves or their families. The rich realising that Pakistan is getting barren pack up with their money and leave for greener pastures in Europe or Canada or US. The rest are just left to burn in a cauldron. Capitalism does this to every region and country in the world. The need, however, is to approach those who understand the workings of the system and join them in a campaign that promises a world entirely different than what they had seen so far.