What would a Socialist Pakistan look like?

In Pakistan today millions of people feel the pain of hunger and suffer from diseases for which they receive no treatment. Under capitalism medicine, like everything else, is used for exploitation, not for treatment. In a Socialist Pakistan no man or woman will die of preventable disease. No child will go to bed hungry. There will be medicine for everybody.
Consider the state of education. In our country 65 percent of children do not go to school. Millions of children are being denied basic education. I have a newspaper before me. But what good is a newspaper to a person who does not know what is written there? Illiteracy is darkness. It is a crime against humanity. Just like medicine, education under capitalism is regarded as a business. In a Socialist Pakistan education will be free for everybody and illiteracy will be a thing of the past. So useless and degenerate is the bourgeoisie of Pakistan that they cannot even provide the people with electricity. The provision of electricity ought to be a basic right in a civilised society. Yet every day millions of poor families have to suffer the torture of load-shedding [selective power cuts] and outages [power failures]. The crisis of electricity is the direct result of privatisation that was carried out underr a “democratic” regime in 1994-95. The private electricity companies produce far more electricity than they use. The potential is there to provide electricity, but it is not being used. These companies remit profits of between 3 to 4 billion US dollars every year to other countries. And Pakistan is in darkness. Why don’t these companies run on full capacity? It is because it is not profitable enough. In a Socialist planned economy such a monstrous thing would be unthinkable. A Socialist government would begin by renationalising the entire power sector, and also nationalising all the big companies involved in hydroelectric schemes, coal mining, gas, oil and all other fuels. Who produces the electricity in any case? Not the parasitic owners, but the workers. Once we have removed the parasites, we could solve this problem in one hour! Lal Khan The PPP Government is always promising to put an end to load-shedding. But these are empty promises because Nawaz Sharif, Zardari, Gilani and other right-wing politicians are not prepared to tackle the big power corporations. Of course, their houses do not lack electricity! As always, it is the poor people who suffer and the price of electricity is rising all the time, so that the poor people are subsidising the rich. Why should this be the case? Pakistan has huge resources which are not being tapped. In Balochistan there are estimated deposits of 1500 billion cubic feet of gas under the ground, and also vast reserves of coal. Why can’t they use these resources for the benefit of society? Instead, these valuable resources will be plundered by big foreign companies, aided and abetted by their local agents in the governments of Pakistan. Pakistan need not be a poor country. We have plenty of resources, but our corrupt Pakistani ruling class has never been able to use these resources for the benefit of the nation ever since it was established. Just look at how the wealth of Pakistan is being wasted! Sixty percent of the nation’s budget goes to pay the interest on debt. Every year vast sums of money squeezed from the workers and peasants of Pakistan flows out of the country and into the hands of foreign bankers and capitalists. The first measure of a Socialist government would be to immediately cancel all foreign debts. The truth is that these debts have already been paid time and again. Not a single rupee more must be paid to the parasites. In addition, a Socialist government would introduce a state monopoly of foreign trade, and strictly control all movements of money in and out of the country. After paying 60 percent of our national wealth to foreign bankers and capitalists, a further 30 percent is generously handed over to the Pakistani army to pay for new toys for the generals to play with, as well as furnishing them with big houses, flashy cars and fat bank balances. And what is left for the people of Pakistan after all this plunder has taken place? A miserable 10 percent is all that is left over to pay for things like healthcare, education, housing, transport and infrastructure. Only 0.4 percent is spent on people’s health, and a disgraceful 1.5 percent on education. These barbarous figures are a real condemnation of the rotten Pakistani bourgeoisie. Because of this plunder, Pakistan cannot afford to spend money on research and development which is needed to modernise our industry, renew our crumbling infrastructure and exploit our huge natural resources. It is the same story elsewhere in the so-called developing world. Nigeria is floating on a sea of oil, but its people are going hungry. It is not a lack of resources that causes these problems but the barbarous capitalist system itself. I have before me a bottle of mineral water. On the label is written the word Nestlé. This is typical of the situation of Pakistan today. Everything is dominated by giant foreign monopolies, especially the food sector. This means ever higher prices for basic foodstuffs. The capitalists are creating artificial shortages in order to increase prices. For them food is a commodity like any other, something to be used for speculation and profiteering. As a result, millions of people go hungry. A Socialist government in Pakistan would put an end to this barbarism by nationalising the productive forces and placing them at the service of the people. Socialism means production for the satisfaction of human needs and not for the sake of private profit. That is the essential difference between capitalism and socialism. Agriculture is a vital part of our national economy. In the past, the Stalinists talked a lot of nonsense about the domination of “feudalism” in Pakistan. But in Pakistan feudalism was long ago replaced by capitalist relations of production, including in agriculture. The failure of Pakistani capitalism is reflected in the remains of feudal thought and vast landed estates. Everywhere cash dominates. In 1974 Z.A. Bhutto tried to reform agriculture and even proposed to nationalise the land. But this was sabotaged by the feudal lords who handed over the titles of the land to the banks for cash. We will certainly nationalise both the land and the banks, and hand over the land to the people who cultivate it. We will encourage the peasants to enter collective farms where they will cease to be peasants and become agricultural workers with decent wages, houses, and access to schools and doctors, and decent pensions. Large-scale collective farms permit the use of the most modern technology, machinery and irrigation, which will vastly increase agricultural productivity. The application of new methods such as genetic engineering will enable us to grow new kinds of crops. Food shortages and high prices will be a thing of the past. Lenin explained the law of combined and uneven development, which we see very clearly here in Pakistan. You can see the most modern highways next to a peasant hut, which has hardly changed for 1000 years. Only under Socialism will Pakistan experience a real development: a planned economy will mean that modern technology will be freed from the shackles of profits and be placed at the service of human beings. It will be a very easy thing to satisfy everybody’s basic needs. At present, even the most basic human needs are not being met. Sixty percent of children in Pakistan suffer from stunted growth because of malnutrition. Almost 80 percent of our people are living on the verge of poverty. Let us look at yet another crime of capitalism: transport. In order to consolidate their rule over India, the British built the railways which for the first time really united the Subcontinent. That was undoubtedly a progressive step, although it was taken for the purpose of exploitation. But since independence the rotten Pakistani bourgeoisie has destroyed the railways. As a result, we have a chaotic situation on the roads. There are a lot of cars and no roads, and nowhere to park. Our towns and cities are clogged with traffic, with dreadful pollution, noise, accidents and deaths every day. A Socialist government will nationalise all transport and replace the present chaos with an integrated, planned national transportation system, including road, rail, air and sea transportation. The cost of travelling has become prohibitive. A Socialist transport system will provide cheap, efficient and clean transport for all. It could even be possible to have free public transport, at least within the cities. The bourgeoisie is destroying the railways because railways require resources which the capitalists are not willing to provide. The nationalised railways in Pakistan must be under the control of the workers. Let the workers elect the managers! I propose that the Managing Director of Pakistan Railways should be comrade Fazl-e-Qadir. I am sure he will make a better job of it than the present management! [Laughter and applause]. Ever since partition, the ruling class of Pakistan has been telling lies about our history. These lies are taught to children in the schools. They have assiduously built up the cult of Jinnah. But the real history of this land does not belong to Jinnah; it belongs to revolutionaries like Bhaghat Singh [the young revolutionary hero of the struggle against British imperialism who was executed by the British in 1931] [applause]. What has the bourgeoisie achieved in more than six decades? Look around you! See how dirty, chaotic and run-down everything is. There is not even proper sewage. There is a bad smell everywhere. The houses are crumbling. People are forced to live in stinking slums which are not fit for human habitation, while the rich live in palaces. Housing is a basic human need and the present situation is intolerable. As an immediate step to solve the problem of homelessness, a Socialist government in Pakistan will confiscate all empty and unoccupied dwellings, palaces, mansions, etc., and make them available to homeless people. A Socialist government in Pakistan will nationalise all the big building companies, the big cement and brick companies, and the steel and plastic industry. We will launch an emergency crash house building programme aimed at building a million new homes a year. Why should this not be possible? What is needed to build houses? We have plenty of land. There are plenty of bricks and cement lying idle, and much more can be produced. And there are millions of unemployed workers who should be mobilised to build houses, schools and roads. Town planning is non-existent in Pakistan today. Cities like Karachi are a nightmare. They are not fit places for human beings to live in. In a Socialist Pakistan we will guarantee a decent house for every family with plenty of room to live. Rents could be very low or even abolished altogether. In the Soviet Union, housing was practically free, and included free gas, electricity and even telephones. This is entirely possible. A Socialist Pakistan would need to defend itself against enemies – both internal counter-revolutionary forces and foreign intervention. We will therefore require an army, but the army that we require will not be anything like the Pakistani army of today. This is an instrument of repression which is not so much aimed against a foreign enemy as against the people of Pakistan. Just look at the monstrous way they behave in Balochistan and Pukhtunhua! The army top brass have been selected as a special privileged caste. They see themselves as being above the rest of society. They keep the army separated from the people and use it for their own purposes. But the ordinary soldiers come from the working class and the peasantry. They share the same problems. While the top generals live a life of luxury, it is the ordinary soldiers, NCOs and junior officers who are sent to the most dangerous places where they are being killed every day. Thus, the army reflects the class contradictions in society. The army of a Socialist Pakistan will be a People’s Army. We stand for the democratisation of the army and the election of officers. The army must be the servant of the people and not the master. In a socialist Pakistan every worker and peasant will be taught the use of arms and provided with basic military training. There will be a People’s Militia in every factory and every village, willing to fight to the death to defend the gains of the Revolution. This will be a deterrent far more powerful than nuclear weapons! The capitalists are constantly increasing exploitation. They talk about increasing productivity, when in reality what they mean is profitability. The two things are not the same. Actually, there is no future for business students under capitalism. Genuine scientific management will only be possible in a Socialist planned economy, where production will be organised under the democratic control of the workers, together with the best scientists, technicians and engineers. A socialist Pakistan will not require a bloated bureaucratic state like the one that presently devours a huge part of the wealth produced by the working class. The running of society will be done far more cheaply and efficiently by the working people themselves, organized in democratically elected committees, like the soviets in Russia in 1917. The word soviet is a Russian word meaning a council. But we have a perfectly good word in our own language, Panchayat, which means the same thing. The Panchayats will decide everything. They will have far more power than the National Assembly. The ordinary people will have confidence in them – which they do not have for any state institution today. And people will no longer live in fear of the state and the police as they do now. We will not need high court judges. Instead of judges there will be People’s Tribunals in every street, village and factory. That will be far more effective in dealing with crime than the present set-up where people do not trust the police or the authorities. Socialist Revolution means the awakening of the people. Revolution will bring the people to their feet, raising them to the level of true human beings and giving them the perspective of a new life. In a Socialist Pakistan the masses will feel for the first time that society really belongs to them. They will feel that nobody can oppress them. Under capitalism people are not free at all. They are slaves of Capital. This is an inhuman society in which people are encouraged to be greedy and compete against each other in an animal struggle for existence. This unhealthy spirit of competition is even inculcated into the minds of little children in the schools. It is an inhuman and immoral philosophy. Socialism will encourage a different outlook, based on human solidarity, in which people will learn to respect each other and help each other. The relations between men and women will be transformed, on the basis of complete equality. In order to assure the future of the human race, the two main obstacles in the way of progress must be abolished. These obstacles are private ownership of the means of production and the nation state. The present frontiers of Pakistan, in fact, are completely artificial. The American socialist John Reed wrote a marvellous book about the Russian Revolution called Ten Days that Shook the World. In the same way, a Socialist Pakistan will immediately shake all Asia to the foundations. It will be an irresistible beacon to the masses in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran and further afield. A Socialist revolution in Pakistan would very quickly spread to India and Bangladesh. In place of the old artificial frontiers the workers and peasants of the Subcontinent will create a Socialist Federation with full autonomy for all the different nationalities. The establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Subcontinent will put an end to the nightmare of fratricidal wars, national oppression and communalism. It will represent a giant step towards a Socialist World Federation. We will defend the right of self-determination. If the people of Balochistan wish to set up their own state we will not oppose it. However, it is our fervent belief that the interests of all the peoples can best be served by joining together in a voluntary, free and equal Federation. By combining the vast resources of the whole Subcontinent in a democratic socialist plan, we can realise the limitless potential of this land. Under a planned economy a growth rate of ten percent per annum would be a very modest target. This will mean a doubling of the economy within the space of a couple of five year plans. This will be more than sufficient to achieve the total eradication of poverty, homelessness and illiteracy. But the satisfaction of basic human needs is only the starting point of the building of a socialist society. Our aim is to create a society based on superabundance that will enable men and women to develop their full potential as human beings. With the creation of an economy of superabundance, the animal struggle for life will disappear, and with it the material basis of the class struggle. It will transform all aspects of social life, creating the conditions for a genuine cultural revolution. Art, science, literature and music will flourish as never before. When people are freed from want, the state itself will begin to lose its coercive aspect and gradually dissolve into society. A new stage of human development will dawn. In the phrase of Frederick Engels it will be humankind’s leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.

Mehrangate volcano: 'Asghar Khan moment'

Surely, this is an "Asghar Khan moment" because the ongoing Supreme Court proceedings are centred on the petition filed by him about two decades ago.

Long withheld truths about the working of our Establishment are unfolding in all their dirty dimensions.

But what constitutes the Establishment? In Pakistan's context, it is invariably a group or class of people having institutional authority within the Pakistani society, especially those who control the civil service, the government, the armed forces, and the religious groups and parties: usually identified with a conservative outlook.

One would be only profoundly naïve to deduce that the then-Chairman of Senate of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was the successor of General Ziaul Haq after the latter died in a C-130 plane crash in Bahawalpur in 1988.

Although, the former became the President of Pakistan, the man who was calling the shots had not ensconced himself in the Presidency in Islamabad but he was still within the four walls of the army headquarters situated in Rawalpindi.

The then army chief, General Aslam Beg, one of the principal characters of the Mehrangate scandal, had allegedly conceived and planned the scheme only to be executed through the most efficient executive arm of the executive: the ISI.

The job of disbursement of money among politicians with a view to depriving the PPP of a victory in the 1990 general election was efficiently carried out by the country's premier intelligence outfit.

The achievement of this "profound" task effected with a lot of finesse and care added a new feather to ISI's cap already having too many feathers thanks to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s.

Since then, both the army and the ISI had taken upon themselves the responsibility of determining what constitutes the national interest.

Working in tandem, both the institutions identified the country's goals and ambitions, whether military or economic.

As considerable disagreement exists in the country over what is or is not in "the national interest," these two institutions or power groups of the Establishment often invoke "the national interests" to justify isolationist and pacifistic policies as to justify interventionist or war-like policies.

Arguably, Kargil misadventure is a case in point.

Since the principal accused in this case is the Inter-Service Intelligence, headed by an appointee of the Chief Executive, and there is its Political Wing established by a civilian prime minister - it would be of interest to the general public why the loot sale made through a private bank remained unexplored for so long.

And why the 'misdeed' of the ISI has come under sharper focus.

Why the simmering Mehrangate volcano has burst with full fury on the national scene now? But the public's right to know the truth in the alleged distribution of public money, a whopping Rs 400 million, by the ISI to ensure the PPP won't come back to the power corridors, should override all other considerations.

Even when the recipients of secret funds vehemently reject the allegations and may turn around to say the whole exercise is aimed at defaming them and undercutting their popularity the task is of finding the whole truth is very much achievable.

But the details spelled out by Younus Habib certainly lift one more layer from this sordid drama.

True, no person with an iota of intelligence would give receipts of receiving the ISI funds and that he would deny the charge with full force.

But the sources of these funds do keep record as a bank will invariably do.

Then, it is also quite plausible that somewhere in the vaults of the ISI there is the record of actual recipients and as to what channel was employed for delivering money to them.

So, the case is not likely to be decided anytime soon, but it is our sanguine expectation that the apex court would go to the bottom of the Mehrangate scam, the guilty would be identified, agencies would be asked to recognise certain 'redlines' and there would be a clear and an unambiguous definition of 'the national interest'.

The greater emphasis of apex court's proceedings should be aimed at contributing to efforts towards the setting up of a 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' in sharp contrast to Nuremberg Trials and other de-Nazification measures.

Once established through a legislative act, the commission may be empowered to grant amnesty to a person or persons as long as there is full disclosure by the person seeking amnesty.

Indeed, it is a glorious moment of our national history.

Chief Justice of Pakistan has promised to strengthen the institutions, a mission to which the apex court's verdict on the Asghar Khan petition would be a giant step.

East Pakistan, Balochistan, and now Sindh

by:Mohammad Ali Mahar

The PPP was always seen as a ray of hope for the Sindhis for a long time. A kind of last refuge. This administration has brought a common Sindhi to the point where he feels robbed of this hope. If ever there existed a Sindh card, the government has already sold it to its coalition partners for a few years in power

When in the 19th century (1851 AD), Richard Francis Burton wrote about Sindh, he titled his book Scinde, or the Unhappy Valley. And, when Roger Pearce, ICS, penned his memoirs about his experiences in the 20th century Sindh (1938-1948), he named the book Once a Happy Valley. What, one wonders, would a 21st century foreigner title his book were he to venture into today’s molested, manipulated, robbed, unemployed, crime-riddled, dacoit-infested, terrorised Sindh?

Sixteen well-timed bomb explosions on the railway tracks, rocking one end of Sindh to the other, should serve as an alarm bell to those who rule the destiny of otherwise tranquil, though hapless, Sindhis, who never react until an extreme provocation befalls them. What led the slumbered nation to wake up with so much violence needs to be analysed.

I visit Sindh almost every couple of years. As soon as I step outside Karachi, I find the province in worse shape than ever before. I ask people around me to name one sincere politician, bureaucrat, or academic. In response, I receive a blank gaze, as they try to think of one. They can name a few. One elder in a village said to me, “Stop looking for them. Sincere Sindhi leaders have been long been liquidated.” What is left is a miserable lot emasculated through the merciless ‘hidden hands’ or by their greed. Meanwhile, the loot sale of Sindhi resources is on.

The situation is not the work of one day. Throughout the history of Pakistan, except for a brief respite during Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto’s era, Sindh has been denied its fair share in everything. Nawaz Sharif placed a bar on employment in the country in 1996. Ever since that day, the Sindhi youth has seen little in the name of jobs. One sees throngs of unemployed youths loitering in the streets of towns and villages in the province. During the whole Musharraf period, all the economic activity and funds — meaning new jobs — meant for the whole of Sindh, went to the development of the city of Karachi. The dawn of the era at the demise of Musharraf’s misrule has brought forward the bane of nepotism and corruption -- moral as well financial -- where jobs go to either those who can grease the right palms or the scions of the powerful. The poor Sindhi, who is indeed in a vast majority, not related to a political bigwig and with not enough money to buy employment, is jobless as well as helpless. The doors of federal employment are closed to the Sindhi as ever before — statistics produced in parliament in the last few days showed less than a fraction of federal government jobs meant for Sindh-domiciled candidates going to the rightful unemployed.

As regards education and healthcare, the less said the better. To demand those would be tantamount to asking for the stars.

The PPP was always seen as a ray of hope for the Sindhis for a long time. A kind of last refuge. This administration has brought a common Sindhi to the point where he feels robbed of this hope. If there ever existed a Sindh card, the government has already sold it to its coalition partners for a few years in power. The blockage of a bill in the Sindh Assembly against an amendment favouring the division of provinces — a prelude to Sindh’s disintegration in the eyes of a common Sindhi — has only reinforced his sense of betrayal and suspicion of this regime.

The pain hurting the Sindhi body politic is severe, so severe that it has started to be felt even by the far flung Sindhis, forging foreign-based Sindhi organisations such as Sindhi Association of North America (SANA). The natives too view the recent interest of expatriate Sindhis in the affairs and wellbeing of Sindh with renewed hope. The reason the recent conference sponsored by SANA in Karachi has been so very well received is that the common man, as well as the elite in Sindh, have started looking for an alternative. An alternative that could deliver the much needed succour and reforms Sindh so badly craves.

Despite all its good intentions, however, SANA — having held a position of responsibility at its cabinet, I can only speak about SANA — may not be in a position to offer the much needed political support. The reasons being that it is not an organisation aimed for the purpose, and neither is there any desire in the expatriate Sindhis to remote-control Sindh. Whatever the solution, it has to come from within Sindh itself.

And Sindhis understand that too. A very successful rally by the local media mogul, Ali Kazi at Bhit Shah, which was able to gather thousands of people without the support of a political force, may very well have been the fruit of that understanding. But this is what Sindhis can do for themselves. The responsibility also needs to be felt by the real handlers of the destiny of the country.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke very wisely when he said, in some other context, on September 21, 1968, at the Sindh Convention of PPP: “If this continues...the people will rise in rebellion, and there will be bloodshed and civil war in the country. I am not prophesying. It is logic. I might be accused of spreading rebellion. Well, I will do that, if needed. I fear no one.”

Not learning a lesson from the debacle of East Pakistan has brought Balochistan to the point where it is at the brink of ending its ties with the rest of the country, and the blame is being put on the ‘foreign element’ and the ‘misguided’ Baloch. If the real powers running the country refuse to hear the cries of Sindhis at this time, they would have no one to blame but themselves.