Pakistan: Appeal to help oppose the Taliban and government

Issue 

Pakistan's workers and peasants continue to be caught between the brutal military conflict waged between the Pakistani military, backed by the US, and the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban.

Both sides are ruthlessly killing civilians.

The bloody conflict is occurring between former allies. With US support, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence created the Taliban in the 1990s. The May 28 British Guardian said the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on ISI offices in Lahore that killed at least 24 people.

On May 29, Associated Press reported on the brutality of the military in response to the Taliban: "When Pakistan's army drove the Taliban back from [small northwestern village Sultanwas], it also destroyed much of everything else here.

"F-16 fighter jets, military helicopters, tanks and artillery reduced houses, mosques and shops to rubble, strewn with children's shoes, shattered TV sets and perfume bottles.

"Commanders say the force was necessary in an operation they claim killed 80 militants. But returning residents do not believe this."

A humanitarian disaster has been caused by the army's attack on Taliban-held territory, and hundreds of thousands of refugees created.

The Pakistani Labour Relief Campaign (LRC) has launched a fundraising appeal on May 21 to help in the fight against the Taliban and the Pakistan government's military operations.

The LRC is made up of five organisations: The Women Workers' Help Line, the Labour Education Foundation, the Labour Party Pakistan, the National Trade Union Federation and the Progressive Youth Front.

Its appeal is endorsed by Pakistani-born radical author Tariq Ali.

The LRC said in its appeal that it aims "to provide immediate help to some of the more than 1.5 million internally displaced people from the Malakand Division of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan. This displacement has resulted from the fight between the Taliban and the Pakistani government.

"We also aim to publish Mazdoor Jeddojuhd in the Pushto language more frequently. At present it is published weekly in Urdu and monthly in Pushto. We want to counter the ideas both of religious fanatics and state repression.

"We aim to aid the labour and social movements in the province by publishing their activities and views, bringing them together to form new networks."

The LRC appeal explained: "The Taliban have taken over parts of Pakistan. They have threatened to occupy other parts as well.

"To pacify them, the government went into an accord with the Taliban this April 2009, imposing a so-called Nizam Adl (system of justice) in Malakanad. The Taliban then imposed medieval laws in the areas under their control, targeting women and minorities.

"This accord also provided the Taliban with the opportunity to move into other areas.

"Then the government went to the opposite extreme and launched a military operation. This then resulted in an unprecedented influx of refugees into different parts of the country."

The appeal insisted: "A military solution cannot eliminate the fanatics. On the contrary, it will help them to spread their ideas.

"The Taliban lost power in Afghanistan after NATO forces occupied in 2001. However, with a few years they re-emerged in Pakistan and later re-emerged in Afghanistan.

"The military operation in Swat covers up the reality that the Pakistan military considers the Taliban an asset and is not willing to sacrifice that asset to please the USA. While army is flushing the Taliban out of Swat, the Jihadi-infrastructure (training camps, seminaries, newspapers, charities; the fronts for the Taliban) remain intact in other parts of the country."

The appeal explained: "Another major problem is the US drone attacks. Over 700 people have been killed since 2006, with 164 killed in 14 attacks under Obama's watch."

Instead, the LRC said: "The fight against religious extremism can only be successful when the basic problems of the working class in social, political and economic fields are solved.

"In addition to developing a system of free education with a secular syllabus for all, this means an end to feudalism, implementation of land reform and an end to the US occupation of Afghanistan."

"Our strategy", the appeal said, "is to build and strengthen the labour and social organisation in the areas dominated by the Taliban. Since 2004 we have been able to build significant forces of labour, women and peasants in progressive organisations ...

"Several new trade unions and peasant organisations have been set up and many more were brought together to help each other and unite around one common platform."

The LRC requests that social organisations, individuals, trade unions and political parties help this important campaign by affiliating to the LRC. To affiliate, a minimum donation of US$300 is recommended.

[The full statement and contact details, including how to donate, can be found at www.links.org.au.]