On Saturday November 3 President Pervez
Musharraf declared virtual martial law, imposing a state of emergency
suspending the Constitution and replacing superior courts. This amounts to his
second coup d’etat after he seized power in October 12, 1999. It is a desperate
move that underlines the extremely unstable nature of the regime, which is
losing support by the day.
In the proclamation of emergency, the
general blamed growing violence by militants and a judiciary which he said was
working at "cross purposes" with his government and the legislature. It is a
gambler’s throw that could plunge the country’s political future into chaos.
It does not suit the interests of US imperialism, for which Pakistan now has a key strategic importance
because of the war in neighbouring Afghanistan. Washington
has been putting pressure on Musharraf to crack down on the pro-Taliban forces
that have been crossing the frontier to fight the coalition forces in southern Afghanistan.
This pressure has undermined Musharraf. His
army has suffered severe losses in the tribal areas where they have tried
unsuccessfully to uproot the militants. There is still a powerful wing of the
army and above all the Intelligence Services (ISI) that supports the Taliban
and al Qaeda and is protecting them.
Musharraf is powerless to do anything about
this. The army is his only basis of support, and that is very shaky. Therefore,
the strategists of US
imperialism have come to the conclusion that Musharraf is no longer any use to
them and is disposable. They were looking to Benazir Bhutto to take over
Benazir has lost no opportunity to pose as
a pro-western "moderate". But behind Benazir and the PPP stand the masses who
yearn for a change. They are loyal to the original socialist aspirations of the
PPP and are demanding Roti, kapra aur makan (bread, clothing and shelter). The
attitude of the masses was shown when Benazir returned to Pakistan: at least two million people
came onto the streets: the overwhelming majority were workers, peasants and
In order to avoid any upsets and dampen the
expectations of the masses, they were pushing the general to do a deal with Benazir.
But this is easier to say than to do. The general is reluctant to resign as
head of the armed forces and stand for election as a civilian politician. If he
were to put aside his army uniform as the "democratic" opposition is demanding,
it would be like placing his head in the hangman’s noose.
The personal fate of Musharraf is of no
concern to Washington,
but it is of considerable interest to the general, who, like most people, would
like to die of old age. He has repeatedly stated that his army uniform was
"like a second skin" to him. More correctly, by continuing to wear it, he hopes
to save his skin. But this is by no means certain.
Pakistan has had a stormy history since it attained formal independence,
together with India,
in 1947. Since then the weak Pakistan
bourgeoisie has shown itself completely unable to take this huge country
forward. It remains plunged into poverty and feudal backwardness. The economy
is in a mess and the country is going backwards not forwards.
The weakness of Pakistan capitalism has been
manifested in extreme political instability. Weak "democratic" regimes have
been succeeded at regular intervals by military dictatorships of one kind or
another. The last dictator, Zia al Huq was murdered (probably by the CIA). Musharraf
fears the same fate, and is clinging to power. But power is slipping through
This coup came only 12 days before the
expiration of General Musharraf’s presidency and the present assemblies and
while an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court was in a weekend recess in its
hearing of challenges to his election for another five-year presidential term
mainly on grounds of his army office.
In the recent period there were signs of
disintegration of the state itself. Splits are opening up at every level. The
clearest manifestation of this was the rebellion of the judiciary, which is now
suspended. Its latest act was to rule the President’s actions unconstitutional.
But the class struggle cannot be determined by constitutional jiggery-pokery.
The general responded by suspending the Constitution and laws of the
The Provisional Constitutional Order has
put the Constitution in "abeyance". It tries to sweeten the pill by saying the
country will be "governed, as nearly as may be, in accordance with the
Constitution". This means – as far as it suits the convenience of the General. Seven
of its articles relating to fundamental rights will remain suspended, and the
president is empowered to amend the document "as is deemed expedient" –
expedient, that is, for Musharraf.
But Musharraf is running out of options. In
this latest gamble, he has put aside not only the Constitution but also his own
powers as president, which were already considerable. Instead, he has preferred
to act as Chief of the Army Staff. Instead of a dictatorship under the fig-leaf
of a constitutional Presidency, we have the open dictatorship of the army: rule
by the sword.
However, as Trotsky explained, the army and
police are never sufficient to rule society. A regime without a base in society
must be an unstable regime – a regime of crisis. In all probability it will not
last long. In reality, the Musharraf dictatorship was always weak. Its main
strength consisted in the weakness of the opposition.
The actions of the general were "greeted
with immediate condemnation at home by opposition parties, lawyers and human rights
groups and concern from ‘war on terror’ allies like the United States and
Britain" says the Dawn. But all this is just so much hot air. The so-called
"democratic" opposition has revealed itself as impotent and toothless, utterly
incapable of conducting a serious struggle against the dictatorship.
As for the complaints of "democratic" United States and Britain, they carry no weight
whatsoever. London and Washington have turned a blind eye to the
Musharraf dictatorship as long as it suited their interests.
The emergency proclamation said a situation had arisen where the "government of
the country cannot be carried out in accordance with the Constitution" and "the
Constitution provides no solution for this situation". As a matter of fact,
this is correct. The contradictions of Pakistan society are too deep and
irreconcilable to be mediated by lawyers and constitutions. By suspending the
Constitution Musharraf is only admitting this fact. He is acknowledging the
fact that the class struggle is reaching an unbearable point where it can no
longer be contained by formal rules.
The emergency proclamation was immediately
followed by change of command at the Supreme Court as well as changes in
provincial high courts, crushing any semblance of independence of the judiciary.
The fundamental rights suspended by the PCO related to security of persons
(article 9) safeguard as to arrest and detention (article 10), freedom of
movement (article 15), freedom of assembly, (article 16) freedom of association
(article 17), freedom of speech (article 19), and equality of citizens (article
It said the Supreme Court or a high court or any other court "shall not have
the power to make any order against the president or the prime minister or any
persons exercising powers or jurisdiction under their authority".
Even in the moment of truth, however, the general’s hand has wavered. He has
not abolished the present federal and provincial governments, and both houses
of parliament and the provincial assemblies were kept intact. This is hardly
the actions of a man who is sure of the ground upon which he is treading.
In justifying his actions, the general
referred to the "visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and
incidents of terrorist attacks". His proclamation also contained a long
charge-sheet against the superior judiciary some of whose members, it said,
"are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight
against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the
nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this
"… (T)here has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary
in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular," it
said, adding that there was "constant interference in executive functions."
It also blamed the judiciary’s interference for having "weakened the writ of
the government, the police force … been completely demoralised and … fast
losing its efficacy to fight terrorism, and intelligence agencies … thwarted
in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists."
While "some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers,
who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released," it said
and added: "The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous
terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants
across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies
The most significant part of this
declaration is the open admission that sections of the state are "completely
demoralised". It reveals the inner weakness of the state itself – including the
armed forces, police and security forces. The real reason for this is that the Pakistan state
is split from top to bottom and has been for some time. Musharraf is trying to
conceal the split by placing his army boots on the table. But he is leaning on
a broken reed.
Lenin explained long ago that every
revolution begins at the top, with splits in the old regime. That first
condition already exists in Pakistan.
The second condition is that the middle class should be in a ferment and
wavering between revolution and counterrevolution. In Pakistan the
middle class is completely alienated from the ruling clique. This is partly
reflected in the protests of the lawyers, although the movement contains
The other factor is that the working class
should be ready to fight and to make the greatest sacrifices to change society.
In recent years there has been an upsurge of the class struggle in Pakistan, with
major strikes like that of the telecommunications workers and Pakistan Steel.
In the last few days there was a national strike of PIA (Pakistan Airways).
These strikes have hardly been mentioned by the media outside Pakistan but
they are of great symptomatic importance. They show the reawakening of the
The final and most important condition is
the existence of a revolutionary organization and leadership. Does this exist
Yes, it does! The Pakistan Marxists represented by The Struggle have grown in
strength and influence in recent years. They have conquered one position after
another and have succeeded in uniting the overwhelming majority of the militant
youth and working class activists around them. They have a strong and growing
presence in every region, every nationality and every important city.
In the struggles of the workers, they have
played an outstanding role. Together with the PTUDC (Pakistan Trade Union
Defence Campaign) – the most important militant trade union organization in Pakistan, they
have scored significant victories like the defeat of the attempt to privatize
Pakistan Steel. In Kashmir they have won over the majority of the students to
Marxism and in Karachi
and Pukhtunhua (the North West Frontier) they have won many adherents from the
former Communist Party.
As readers of Marxist.com will know that
the comrades played an active role in the mass demonstrations when millions of
workers and peasants demonstrated their support for the PPP on the return of Benazir
Bhutto. We were the only ones on the Left to understand the role of the PPP and
the only ones to predict how the masses would respond. The Pakistan
comrades intervened on these demonstrations, distributing revolutionary
literature and burning American flags. They were enthusiastically received by
the workers and peasants who want the same things that we want.
The destiny of Pakistan will not be decided by
paper constitutions or lawyers’ tricks, by hypocritical declarations about
"freedom" and "democracy" by people who have no real interest in these things.
Neither will it be determined by intrigues and manoeuvres by the bourgeois
politicians and imperialists. Only the workers and peasants have a serious
interest in conquering a genuine democracy.
The working class will naturally fight for
democracy. But the workers will fight for democracy with their own methods,
with their own slogans and under their own banners. Only in this way can the
movement succeed in its objectives. Only the mass revolutionary movement of the
Pakistan workers and
peasants can fight the dictatorship and establish a genuine democracy, which
can only end in the overthrow of the dictatorships of the corrupt Pakistan
landlords and capitalists.
coup is just another act in the drama of Pakistan. It will not be the last
act! We are confident that the working class will react to this offensive of
the ruling clique as they have done in the past: by stepping up the class
struggle on all fronts.
appeal to all members of the international labour movement to come to the aid
of our Pakistan
comrades. Move resolutions of protest in the trade unions and workers’ parties!
Send messages of support to the PTUDC! Raise collections for the PTUDC and send
them urgently so that we can express our support not just in words but in
Please act now!
Workers of the World Unite!
London, 4th November 2007