Pakistan: Would Slaying of Salman Taseer, Accelerate the Decline of Liberalism in Pakistan?

- Rajesh Tyagi/ 15.1.2011

Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, 66, was killed, riddled with 26 bullets, at the hands of his own bodyguards, as he stepped down from his car in busy and elite Koshar market in Islamabad on 4th January 2011.

The killer Malik Mumtaz Hussain Quadri, 27, hailing from Rawalpindi openly proclaimed before the media that he has killed Taseer for his support to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, convicted and sentenced to death by the Sessions Court in last November for the crime of blasphemy. Taseer, who is based in Lahore, was on a visit to Islamabad.

Aasia Bibi is presently lodged in Shekhupura Jail where Taseer had gone to meet her. This has annoyed the fundamentalists in Pakistan. Few days before, Taseer has termed the blasphemy law of Pakistan as ‘black law’.

Fundamentalists took out processions against the repealing of blasphemy law and forced the government to issue a statement that blasphemy law would not be touched. Not satisfied with this they demanded a Statement from the Prime Minister himself, which he issued. Then they demanded an assurance in writing and in the meantime Taseer was killed.

As the news of Taseer’s murder had spread, the right wing sections came out in open support of Quadri, the assailant, with even the lawyers showering rose petals upon him in Court premises where he was brought by the police after arrest. The clerics, including the official cleric of Governor house refused to offer prayers at the funeral of the Governor.

The liberal sections of the establishment, including the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party, has taken no steps to fight against the fundamentalists, except the ceremonial condemnation of the killing of Taseer. Apart from a small procession in the city of Lahore, no major protest was seen in Pakistan.

Taseer, like many other leaders of Pakistan People’s Party, was its liberal face. It is with this face, that the Pakistan People’s Party, the biggest and reliable party of capitalist-landlord gentry in Pakistan, stands to the working class and peasants of Pakistan, who constitute the majority of its population. It is this liberal face of the establishment, that binds the left to the right and acts as a bridge between the exploited mass and their exploiters in Pakistan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan People’s Party, who could drive the crony establishment of Pakistan out of acute political crisis of 1970 under Yahya Khan, by pacifying the mass through his pseudo-socialist gimmickry, is the chief architect of this intriguing liberal face of Pakistani politics. This soft liberal flank is the link of Pakistan to world capitalist order too. Together, they two, constitute present day Pakistan, which not only itself deals with its subjects with black laws, like the law on Blasphemy, but permits the imperial powers to carry out Drone attacks on its territory to maintain the order.

The ruling Pakistan People’s Party is the embodiment of this dual facet centrist politics, which has acted as a balance holder between the two, since it succeeded in diffusing the crisis of late 1960’s. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, adopted under PPP regime and its mentor Bhutto, is the manifesto of this centrist politics, which has kept fundamentalists in their place and has nurtured them, as reserve for the establishment. It endorsed the sectarian and reactionary law of Shariat. Its socialist proclamations, have proved since then, only an apology of a capitalist order in perpetual crisis, with a failed state at its head.

The centrist politics, however, has succeeded in garnering support of more left groups in Pakistan for the ruling PPP, in the name of liberal opposition to right wingers, inside and outside it. While the PPP, first under Zufikar Ali Bhutto, then under his daughter Benazir and now under his son-in-law Zardari, continues to obediently serve the interests of capitalists and landlords, the parties of the left, adhere to PPP on the pretext of its liberal hypocrisy and lip service against fundamentalism, and thus themselves serve as a pillar of capitalist order in Pakistan.

Blasphemy laws are an instrument of cleric power in Pakistan and their existence on statute book under the Constitution of Pakistan shows the real collaboration of liberals with fundamentalists. This vicious collusion between them is the essence of politics in Pakistan, while their conflicts are farcical and superficial. Bourgeois in Pakistan has no strength of its own and it is not rooted in society either through ideology or its political legacy. It is thus forced to subject itself to fundamentalist influence instead of fighting against it. This political impotence of bourgeois establishment, including its political parties, forces it to collaborate with fundamentalism, to prevent the emergence of revolutionary stream.

But then the truth is that this fundamentalist fabric of the social and political order in Pakistan time and again comes in conflict with the world capitalist order as a whole. Like its outmode and reactionary blasphemy laws which had liberals have left untouched till now, contradict the freedom of expression, as soon as the same is exercised on the ground. It results in death penalties. And this triggers the crisis of Pakistani establishment, which hitherto could make the delicate political equilibrium, and had rested in peace with fundamentalism and the clerics.

With a pseudo-socialist phraseology Bhutto had conceived the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, indeed a bourgeois order built up on clerical relics. Liberalism was the only conceivable adhesive with whose aid the world capitalist order could have subjected the backward colonial structures of Pakistan to itself and the two could have reconciled themselves.

Killing of Salman Taseer is a decisive attack of right-wing of the establishment against the left, exposing the absolute weakness of the latter. This is the second such major offensive by the right wing, after assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. This assault makes it clear that the days of honeymoon between bourgeois liberalism and fundamentalism are over.

Liberal politicians, advisors and intellectuals are issuing advisory to the Government of PPP, to retreat in order to prevent further consolidation of fundamentalists. The article appearing in ‘The Hindu’ of January 5, ‘Liberal Pakistan shaken to the core’ is direct testimony of this fear of the bourgeois. Liberal gentry is scared of the power fundamentalists hold in Pakistan. Parties of the left, including Stalinists and Centrists, who had misled themselves, their followers, and the working class behind them in believing that the liberal sections of the PPP could be a fighting plank against fundamentalists, are reeling under a political paralysis in face of the utter weakness and unwillingness of the liberals to counter fundamentalists. Crisis of liberal bourgeois, is simultaneously a crisis of its lackeys too.

Political crisis in Pakistan is marred with acute economic crisis. Inflation in Pakistan is touching an all time high of 15%. With political destabilisation of Pakistan, global investment has already started to fly. Already embattled PPP regime is thus falling apart under pressure of violence and worsening economy.

This utter political weakness of liberal bourgeois would be exposed more and more, in future, with stepping up of offensive by the emboldened clerics, against the liberal gentry in Pakistan.

This would generate, on the one hand an unprecedented crisis for bourgeois liberalism, with near prospects for Pakistan once again backsliding to a military rule and end of bourgeois democracy, while on the other this political crisis and consequent weakening of liberals contains immense revolutionary potential for an overturn of the capitalist-landlord power through a proletarian revolution.

The only force which is historically capable and destined to halt the offensive of fundamentalism, and can really liberate Pakistan from the clutches of its cleric order, laws and structures, is the working class. Only the organisation of working class independent of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois in Pakistan as a regiment of the world working class, can present an answer to clerics, the reactionary guards of the old order.

Working class in Pakistan is capable to handle this task, but the fact is that it cannot fight against fundamentalists without fighting against the liberals who are welded to it not only inside the state organs, like the army and intelligence, but in political parties too. And these liberals cannot be countered unless the working class gets rid of those who tie it up with and sow the illusions towards liberal bourgeois.

The pressing task, before revolutionary Marxists in Pakistan, thus remains to reorient the working class towards a revolutionary program through a struggle, against centrists, liberals and ultimately fundamentalists.

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