Thursday, 13 March 2008 19:00 Fred Hyde Editorial Dept - Middle East

Ever since last summer, when Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf stepped up arrests of political opponents, each round of increased repression has been met with greater resistance to his abuse of power.

The conflict came to a head on Nov. 7, 2007, when Musharraf suspended the constitution and arrested the Supreme Court for refusing to validate his unconstitutional bid to be both president and head of the military. Musharraf closed down media outlets and arrested hundreds of judges and over 10,000 attorneys, trade unionists, students, journalists and human rights activists.

Musharraf's crackdown failed to intimidate his adversaries, including many women and youth, who bravely challenged his declaration of martial law by engaging in daily rallies, strikes, and other acts of defiance. It also sparked international protest, including demonstrations by lawyers and letter-writing campaigns participated in by the U.S. and Australian sections of the FSP.

At the same time, the Bush administration sought to shore up Musharraf's discredited government - a key ally in U.S. efforts to control Mideast oil - by putting a democratic face on his regime, which has received billions in U.S. military aid. The U.S. ordered the general to agree to a power sharing arrangement with infamously corrupt former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, his main political foe. 


By mid-December, domestic and external pressure forced Musharraf to lift martial law, shed his military uniform, release most of the detainees and set an election for early January. But U.S. hopes for stabilizing the situation were blown away on Dec. 27, 2007, when gunshots killed Bhutto after a campaign rally.

The next day, an unprecedented number of citizens responded with a general strike and widespread riots against Musharraf, U.S. imperialism, and the rich and powerful elite. Protesters also lashed out at the government for heavy price increases, rising unemployment and poverty, and the privatization of transportation. In the turmoil, numerous banks, private buses and railroad cars, car lots, and homes of government officials were burned.

Uproar over Bhutto's death has helped fuel growing pressure to boycott the election, now rescheduled for Feb. 18. The abstention movement is led by a Left Alliance of seven political parties and groups, including the socialist Labour Party Pakistan. It is widely believed that the military will "fix" the election, as it has in the past, particularly in the absence of an independent judiciary or other authority to oversee the vote.

Labour Party Pakistan is demanding the immediate resignation of the Musharraf dictatorship and the formation of an interim government comprised of social movements and organizations, labor unions, and peasant groups that would conduct elections. Along with others in the All Parties Democratic Movement, the LPP is supporting the call for a three-day general strike aimed at overthrowing the military dictatorship.

LPP spokesperson Farooq Tariq correctly motivates the need for "a mass movement of advocates, students, trade unions, peasants, women organizations and civil society as a whole to build an alternative to the big parties." To bring real democracy to Pakistan, such a party needs revolutionary leadership, an anti-capitalist program, and a strong orientation to the most oppressed, particularly women.

In the U.S., working people have an important role to play in demanding the complete cut-off of all military aid and political support to the repressive military regime in Pakistan, and the end of all U.S. intervention in the Middle East and South Asia.

Article and Image Courtesy of Freedom Socialist Party

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