Benazir assassination: The unprecedented mass reaction

Farooq Tariq, general secretary of Labour Party Pakistan, gives an on-the-ground report of what’s happening in Pakistan now. Serious rioting. A general strike has been called.

It is very volatile, unstable, unpredictable, explosive, dangerous, impulsive, fickle and capricious political situation. It never happened before in many years that mass reaction has erupted to this degree.

The general strike was a total success. All roads were empty. No traffic at all. All shops were closed. All industrial and other institutions were completely shut down.

The Army has been given shoot to kill orders. The strike continues.

  • sheila choudhri

    Pakistan has a long history of being able to keep a lid on the pressure cooker. Periodically, there is a certain amount of mayhem by way of letting off steam but there is a great deal of underlying continuity. In practice, socio-economic pressures on the poorer classes can translate into short-lived mass movements which soon get side-tracked on ethnic or religious lines. Indeed, the East Pakistan crisis (Bangladesh War) should be seen in this light.
    The Pakistan Army, and latterly its diplomatic corps to a certain extent, has shown ability to doggedly pursue long term strategic goals while making large tactical concessions- losing face- in the short run.
    The appearance of fuzzy command or strategic multi-vocity is part of the price the Army pays in defending a ‘soft state’ where elites are resistant to accepting any sort of discipline, taxation or other restraint. In other words, Pakistan has got the Army it deserves- and only the dogged cohesiveness imposed by the Army’s strategic goals has kept the country together.
    Western involvement in the region is a red herring. It has to do with their politicians needing to look tough not with any vital strategic interests. The Pakistan Army under Musharaff is playing rope-a-dope- showing itself incompetent for the nonce only so as to keep the back-doors open by which it will have a place at the table- or indeed receive the broker’s commission- in the only real game in town- viz. the inevitable Saudi/Al Qaeeda deal.
    Frankly, the neo-con notion of ‘regime change’ as having something to do with replacing a country’s leadership with Harvard grads, or the Islamist notion of terror and assasination achieving the same thing are both quite foolish. The nature of a regime depends solely on the extent to which its people contract to it. If people don’t want to be governed there can be no good governance only coercion paid for by corruption. The ‘Ruler’ is by definition the guy at whose desk the buck stops. Not the buck in Truman’s sense but bucksheesh.
    Benazir Bhutto was not a martyr for democracy but, in death as in life, bore witness to this great truth. A pity, because that’s not what she wanted for herself- her ideals were very different. Still, in death, she is not just a ‘force multiplier’ as her husband elegantly puts it, but a brand builder- the Bhutto brand- in whose blood greed and tyranny can be bathed and washed clean. The Army has its periodic self-provoked battles so as to legitimate itself and so does the Bhutto family. This is still better than the oleaginous Nawaz Sharif- Saudi Arabia’s agent in place.
    The best thing for everybody to do is forget Pakistan. Let it broker a peace between the two Wahhabi factions. Let it pursue its own National interests- building pipelines thru Afghanistan and into Iran. Let it, in its own modest way, continue its Nuclear Proliferation. Why? Because, meanwhile, a class of people are rising up in Pakistan who want to contract in, who want a rule of law, who accept that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. If this is done in the name of Islam- all the better. No other Religion has been so steadfast in its defence of Private Enterprise. Pakistan will get good governance when its people agree to pay the requisite price. It is already happening. Pakistan can muddle through, provided the US stops meddling. It will muddle through- there’s an invisible hand at work- but sadly there are some all too visible hands that believe they command the puppet strings to bring about ‘regime change’- whether Islamist or ‘Democratic’- in both cases these are destabilising factors. ‘America makes you its bitch and Democracy is the reach-around’ is not a formula anyone believes in anymore.
    The problem with the ‘War on Terror’ is that it’s about revenge. Get Al Qaeeda. But, Revenge aint Justice. The opposite of Terror isn’t Retribution- it is Order. As in Law and.

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