Hashim bin Rashid, 25, the general secretary of the Lahore branch of the Awami Workers Party — recently formed out of the merger of three left parties in Pakistan — will be the international guest speaker at the Socialist Alliance ninth national conference to be held in Geelong Trades Hall, over January 18-20.
He replaces Alia Amirali who was not given a visa by Australian authorities in time to travel to the conference.
Hashim will address a public forum on January 18, “Global inequality, 'war on terror' and the refugee crisis”, along with human rights lawyer, Rob Stary, and refugee rights activist and Socialist Alliance local councillor in Moreland, Sue Bolton.
He will speak at a second public forum on January 19 called “Developments in left unity in Pakistan”.
In addition, Hashim will speak at public meetings in Melbourne and Sydney on January 21 and 22, respectively.
The conference, which is open to Socialist Alliance members and invited guests, will discuss its plans for the coming federal election and various movement campaigns, elect a new national leadership and discuss prospects for further left unity in Australia.
Representatives of two other left parties in Australia, Socialist Alternative and the Communist Party of Australia, have been invited to address the conference.
The conference will also include a number of educational workshops on topics such as: ecosocialism, feminism, racism, imperialism, socialist election campaigning, the party question, Marxist economics, dialectical materialism, state capitalist theory, the transitional method and socialists in trade unions.
Hashim told Green Left Weekly that he was looking forward to sharing experiences with Australian socialists.
He said he became a student activist after former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in 2007.
“As a response, we set up a cross-campus Student Action Committee which organised on-campus and street protests against the dictator and joined the lawyers movement of 2007.
“Since then I have been part of the organising team of protests against the blasphemy law, calling for cuts in the army budget, calling for an end to the war in Khyber Pakthunkhwa in the name of the 'war on terror' and the military operations against Baloch separatists in Balochistan since 2009.
“I was also part of the organising committee of the Faiz Ahmed Faiz Aman Mela 2012, the Occupy Lahore rally in January 2012 and a Mazdoor Kissan (Workers and Peasants) Rally in March 2012 as a member of Lahore Executive Committee of the then Workers Party Pakistan.”
As a journalist who started working with English daily Pakistan Today in June 2010 and then joined another English daily The Express Tribune in April 2012, Hashim has contributed over 80 articles on subjects of national and international interest from a left-wing perspective.
He has also written and translated poems in English and Urdu about blasphemy, the army's violence against citizens and patriarchy. Some of these are available at his blog: voiceamidstsilence.blogspot.com.
“As a research activist, I have been working with indigenous fishing communities along the Indus River basin in Punjab from January 2011 and been part of organising people's tribunals, protests and campaigning against the contracting of the river basin,” he explained.
“I have also been engaged in the struggles of various slum settlers in Lahore against displacement since August 2011. The work has fallen under the umbrella of a research activism organisation I have co-founded, named the Militant Research Collective, which aims at bridging the gap between research and activism, researchers and the researched.”
Hashim was a staunch supporter of the left party merger that gave birth to the Awami Workers Party (AWP) in November, and has been serving as the AWP Lahore General Secretary since December.
He is helping to organise a major workers and peasants rally in mid-February in support of tenants being harassed by big landlords, land mafias and the police at the Dera Saigol, around 30 kilometres from Lahore. He is also part of the team running the social media operations of the AWP.
(Peter Boyle is national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance. If you would like to attend the conference or view the agenda, please click here for details).