PAKISTAN: Birth of a new peace movement

November 14, 2001


RAWALPINDI — Thousands of peace activists protested in the northern city of Rawalpindi on November 6, demanding an end to the US bombing of Afghanistan and denouncing the terror of religious fundamentalism.

The rally was organised by the Alliance of Peace and Justice, a coalition of hundreds of civil society organisations and left-wing political parties, including the Labour Party Pakistan.

The protesters gathered at Rawalpindi Press Club and marched along the main Muree Road. The rally stretched over a kilometre in length, with hundreds of banners. Police estimated over 5000 in attendance but, according to organisers, the number who participated was more than 8000. Many of the participants in the peace rally were women.

Protesters came from all over Pakistan, including far-off places of Baluchistan and Sind. The bulk of the participants came from the North-West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan, and Punjab.

The local Labour Party Pakistan mobilised 12 coaches with over 500 workers from a working-class district where the majority works on the railways.

Slogans chanted and painted on banners included "US imperialism, stop bombing Afghanistan", "No to religious terrorism, No to war", "Struggle is our path" and "War is no solution".

The rally ended peacefully, without incident.

Speaking at the end of the rally, the spokesperson for the Alliance, Irfan Mufti, told the crowd that this was only the start and demanded an immediate end to the US bombing of Afghanistan.

We have no sympathy with the religious fundamentalists, he said. We are totally opposed to the terror of religious fanatics but we cannot side with US imperialism, which is indiscriminately bombing Afghan cities and killing many innocent citizens.

The LPP's Bashir Butter described the rally as an historic event and the birth of a new peace movement in Pakistan. He called on all trade unionists to join the Alliance for Peace and Justice and form a broader alliance of progressive forces in Pakistan.

After the rally, speaking to a public meeting at Rawalpindi Press Club, LPP general secretary Farooq Tariq said that the peace activists had broken the monopoly of the religious fundamentalists, who have been in the streets protesting against the bombing.

"These fundamentalists are a by-product of US imperialism and are not in the street for peace, they are in the streets for more war and terror against innocent citizens", he said. "Their rallies are not peace rallies but rallies for more bloodshed."

"This is the first major peace rally in Pakistan," he continued. "We must build an independent peace movement. We, the working class of Pakistan, will build an international solidarity movement to defeat the religious fanatics and the US."

Tariq said the peace forces would organise more rallies across Pakistan and would be part of an international movement against the US, "the world's number one terrorist power".

[Abridged from <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, November 14, 2001.
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