Countering the Communist Narrative on Pakistan’s Troubles

Pakistan’s troubles concern everyone. It is a nuclear state with a dangerous, growing insurgency led by Al Qaeda. It is a semi-Islamist dictatorship imposed on a strong democratic culture descended from the British Commonwealth. It is an exporter of militant Islam in the form of Tablighi Jamaat, Hizb ut Tahrir, and the Pakistan-trained Taliban.

We can expect plenty of Communist and Islamist agitprop about the troubles in Pakistan. The danger is that the propaganda may confuse and paralyze the free world.The dinosaur media, led by the New York Times, and leftist politicians, pundits, and celebrities will echo the socialist/communist narrative in the near future. Given this sad but inevitable progress of events, what is the socialist/communist narrative on Pakistan? What form will the agitprop take?

Theme 1: Blame America First

Chris Harman (of the International Socialism Journal) begins his article in the Socialist Worker.

Pakistan is facing growing instability as a result of its role in the US-led “war on terror”.

The first sentence of the article reveals the first theme in the communist narrative. According to this storyline, the United States caused Pakistan’s troubles by going to war against the Global Jihad and convincing Pakistan to cooperate (to the degree it is actually cooperating). Blame America first.

President Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq, who changed Pakistan from a secular state to an Islamist dictatorship, didn’t have anything to do with it. Thousands of madrassas training boys and young men for the Jihad didn’t have anything to do with it. The corruption of the Bhutto and Sharif governments didn’t have anything to do with it. Taliban and Pakistan military intelligence accommodation of al Qaeda’s global Jihad doesn’t have anything to do with it. Government encouragement of Jihad against India in Kashmir and NATO in Afghanistan doesn’t have anything to do with it. The Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) didn’t have anything to do with it. Musharraf’s recent clumsy attempt to bring the judiciary to heel didn’t have anything to do with it. Musharraf’s ceding of the Pashtun provinces along the border to Taliban rule didn’t have anything to do with it.

Once you get back to earth from cloud-cuckoo-land, Pakistan’s problems mostly spring from the toxic Jihadist movement that its post-partition leaders encouraged, and specifically from the Taliban/Al Qaeda insurgency. America had very little to do with it.

Theme 2: Economic Class Warfare

The new state was based on the notion that there existed a “Muslim nation”. But in fact it was made up from six different linguistic groups, each with different traditions and customs.


These ethnic tensions might have subsided if the mass of people had, in the decades following the creation of Pakistan, seen any significant improvement in their lives. But they did not.

The old landowning classes continued to enjoy near feudal powers in much of the countryside.

A new class of industrialists began to grow up alongside them as the country experienced often quite fast paced economic growth that rested on the increasing impoverishment of the majority of the population.

There was brief hope in the early 1970s that something would be done to mend this state of affairs.

An offspring of one of the feudal families, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (father of Benazir), won a great electoral victory as he spoke of socialism and nationalisation of some major industries.

But he soon turned against his working class and peasant supporters, until one of his generals, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, felt powerful enough to first overthrow and then hang him.

Nawaz Sharif’s political career took off under the Zia dictatorship, serving as the military’s provincial prime minister in the Punjab.

From this time on the only way successive rulers could hold the country’s disparate groups together was to play each off against the other – one ethnic group against another, one interpretation of Islam against another, the more religiously minded against the more secular.

According to this theme there are irreconcilable differences between the ethnic groups, sects, and more or less pious people of Pakistan that will continue to express themselves. Also according to this theme the increase of wealth in Pakistan over the last twenty to fifty years has not benefitted the middle class.

Before we can discuss this intelligently we will need to research the distribution of new wealth since partition in Pakistan. This is something that Gapminder may be able to assist with.

Theme 4: Guns, Guns Everywhere

Meanwhile Pakistan’s big cities, especially Karachi, were increasingly awash with weapons. They were periodically brought to a halt by violence between rival ethnic or religious groupings.

The guns invaded the cities, and moving about the cities, forced ethnic and religious rivals to pick them up and use them to kill each other and cause social disruption. Bad guns! Bad! Bad!

Please allow me to take off my sarcasm hat.

Obviously the guns (Soviet and Chinese made AK-47s) didn’t cause anything. The guns were in the cities because the cities were full of Jihadists back from Kashmir and Afghanistan. In the 1980s and early 90s, India was a Soviet client state, Afghanistan was ruled by a Soviet puppet government, and Pakistan was a lukewarm client of the USA, happy to get any aid it could. There were so many Jihadists because that is how Pakistan spent its foreign aid money. Many of these Jihadists were degenerate brigands, often high on Afghan heroin and hashish, ready to kill and ready with an accusation of apostasy, as they are now. They would cause social instability if they were carrying pocket knives or pointed sticks.

Theme 4: Islamist parties driven by politics, not by religion

Musharraf has had to perform a precarious balancing act in order to hold on to power.

He has used Islamist parties sympathetic to the Taliban to keep the supporters of Bhutto and Sharif’s parties in check, while presenting himself to the US as the only person able to take on Taliban supporters in Pakistan.

In the last year this act has come unstuck. Nato’s continuing war in Afghanistan is seen by many Pashtuns as a war against them – especially when the US demands that the Pakistan army wages the war on its side of the border.

As a result the Islamist parties feel compelled to agitate against Musharraf, even though, with less than 20 percent of the vote, they fear that if the military government collapses they will lose out to Bhutto and Sharif.

This ignores the part that Islamist ideology has to play. The Islamist parties believe that they have received a clear command from Allah to wage Jihad against the unbelievers. They believe that since Musharraf has opposed them he is an apostate and unbeliever subject to lawful killing by any Muslim.

The communist/socialist assertion that Islamists are paying attention to something other than religion is based on wishful thinking and the Atheism of the communist revolution.

Theme 5: The Solution is a Peace Movement and Socialism

Any weakening of military domination, it is claimed, could lead to an explosive disintegration of the country, in which the right wing Islamists could be the main beneficiaries.

But any weakening of military rule would also remove one of the obstacles preventing action by those forces capable of providing a very different sort of alternative to the country.

A recent opinion poll suggested that 75 percent of the population believe that the Musharraf government has increased poverty.

The vast majority of those questioned said that they want to see a reduction in military spending, continuation of the policy of peace with India, and an end to privatisation.

This represents an approach that is radically different not only to that of the military, but also to that of Bhutto, Sharif and the right wing Islamist parties.

The key question is whether a popular movement emerges out of the present political crisis which takes up such questions.

This theory that a government collapse would empower the Socialists at the expense of the Islamists is interesting. However, we have an obvious counter-example in the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Mensheviks were crushed by Lenin’s Cheka purges within a year of the Revolution. The result was increased state terror at the hands of the Cheka, later the NKVD and KGB. Islamism is a utopian ideology intent on reforming human nature to fit its ideology, much like Marxist-Leninist-Communism and Nazism. The Jihad is as violent as was the apparatus of Revolutionary Terror wielded by Lenin’s committee, and the results if Islamists should take control of Pakistan are foreshadowed in the recent history of Afghanistan and in Revolutionary Russia from 1917 to 1948. A collapse of Musharraf’s government could only have benign results if somehow the Islamist parties were neutralized by force. Otherwise the Jihad will rage and the winner in such a struggle will be the party with the will to crush all others.

While peace with India is a laudable goal and very achievable, the Pakistani military and police forces are required in order to oppose the Jihadists. Many of Pakistan’s Jihadists need to be killed, and that is something that won’t take care of itself. This situation doesn’t appear to be productive ground for pacifism.

And on the economic front privatization is the best way to raise the level of wealth and health in the country, as demonstrated by the results of India’s privatization reforms. Zimbabwe serves as a useful example of what happens when privatization is reversed.

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