The following call for unity among left-wing forces was issued by Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP).
There has been never any other better time in the history of Pakistan for a greater left unity than the present time. There is great urge among all the Left and progressive forces to unite on one platform.
The Pakistan People's Party was traditionally seen as a party that would fight against militarisation and for democracy. Under Benazir Bhutto, the PPP has become a party of compromises and conciliation with the present military regime of Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf. Bhutto has already finalised a deal of power-sharing with the present military regime, which has become one of the most hated among ordinary people. Price hikes, unemployment, class polarisation, uncertainty about the future and rising incidents of mass killings have become the hallmark of the Musharraf regime.
Bhutto has tried to win over her lost support in Pakistan during the process of dealing with Musharraf through a show of mass power in Karachi, but it has been disrupted by the suicidal attacks of religious fundamentalist forces. According to one report, the Benazir reception in Karachi was one of the most expensive political events in the history of Pakistan costing over 3 billion rupees.
The illusions among many that PPP will turn to left-wing ideas have been shattered. On the contrary, the PPP has never been more on the right than at the present time. This has given the left forces a chance to win over many who are disillusioned and disappointed by the character of the PPP. This is a chance for the left to win them over by taking new organisational measures and flexible tactics by coming closer and unity.
The Mutehida Majlas Amal, the religious fundamentalist unity alliance, has never been as disunited as it is today. There is an open war going on among its members. This will not be seen by the masses as a healthy sign. Even if it is able to continue as the MMA, its leaders have lost precious time fighting among themselves over tactics to fight the Musharraf regime.
It was difficult for many of them to adjust to the present day realities that the state is not the same as in the past. The Pakistani state wants to disassociate itself under the imperialist pressure from the religious fundamentalist forces. The religious fundamentalists are on the offensive, on the basis of their ability to show to the masses that are the anti-imperialist forces. But it is an anti-imperialism of the fools.
The left has been fighting the influence of the imperialists for a long time, but during the last few years it lost the initiative to the religious fundamentalists who had more funds and resources at their disposal. This is the right time to unite the human and material resources for the unity of the left to continue the anti-imperialist struggle in a more effective manner.
The suicide attack on the October 18 Bhutto rally in Karachi was a warning note to all the democratic forces, particularly the Left forces. It is an attack on civil liberties, the rights of association and assembly. It was intended to terrify people struggling to get rid of militarism and religious fundamentalism.
It was a fascist tactic and we must condemn it in the strongest terms possible. We have no other way apart from uniting ourselves to fight for our right to assembly. We cannot let the few individuals with a suicide mission dictate to us their terms and conditions and shut us up. We must have a right to organise and demonstrate without fear of these attacks.
The state has failed to protect even those who compromised with the regime. How it can protect us who are totally against the military regime? The only defence is unity among ourselves, and the only way to fight is solidarity at the national and international levels.
At present there are many processes of left unity going on in Pakistan. There is Awami Jamhoori Tehreek, an alliance of seven left groups and parties. But it has not gone very far. The Awami Jamhoori Forum is taking initiatives to call a left meeting for unity all over Punjab. One such meeting in Rawalpindi on October 20 attracted more than 75 left and progressive activists and radical social activists. They have formed a district committee to discuss the process in detail later. Awami Jamhoori Tehreek (AJT) Rawalpindi called this meeting on the initiative of Awami Jamhoori Forum (AJF). AJF has produced a leaflet explaining the reasons for a greater left unity at the present time.
On October 24, AJT Punjab called a left unity meeting in Lahore to discuss the process and plan for future actions.
The Tabqati Group under the leadership of Lal Khan (associated with the international Marxist tendency led by the late Ted Grant), in association with PILER Karachi, has called another left unity meeting for November 7. The LPP is taking part in this meeting as well. Meraj Mohammed Khan in association of Inqilabi Jamhoori Committee (Taj Marri) is calling for a new left party in Pakistan. He is campaigning in the province of Sind for such an initiative. Meraj Mohammed Kahn and the Inqilabi Committee are already part of the AJT.
The LPP is holding its fourth national conference in Toba Tek Singh from November 9-11. LPP will hold a public rally on November 10 and most of the left leaders will be invited to speak at the public rally and participate in the conference.
We call on all the radical social activists, trade unionists, political activists and advocates' (lawyers') movement leaders and parties to take part in this process and urge greater left unity.
We must plan a strategy to take part as left forces in the next general elections early next year. The LPP is advocating a policy of left participation in as many seats as possible. We need to put forward an alternative candidate in each constituency. We must not be forced to vote for a party that is in alliance with the military regime or for the religious fundamentalists. There is a great anti-Musharraf consciousness at present in Pakistan. We must run candidates to attract this consciousness. We must fight against the discriminatory rule of the Election Commission, which allows only graduates to contest elections. We must fight for the right to run our working-class comrades in the elections.
We must strive for a reasonable percentage of the national vote for left-wing candidates. That is only possible when we have a national strategy and the maximum number of left candidates across the country.
We need a common political and economic agenda for such left unity. We can discuss at our meetings and develop proposals that can be agreed to by the majority of participants.
Unity is strength. Workers of the world unite!