The emergence of separatist movements in Pakistan
Thu 1st May 2014
News emerged on 21st March 2014 of the brutal murders of Sindhi nationalists, Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho which followed earlier news of the killing of Kashmiri nationalist and leader of All Parties National Alliance, Sardar Arif Shahid, on May 13 2013. These assassinations and the recent long walk from Quetta to Islamabad by the Baluchs, who were protesting against the disappearance of their loved ones in Baluchistan, pose serious questions regarding the security of individuals in Pakistan. More than that, they are an indication that something is seriously wrong with the current political climate of the country.
A demonstration on the 23rd March, called by the Jay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz in Karachi under the banner of the ‘Freedom March’, was attended by hundreds of thousands of angry protestors. Kashmir-wide anti-Pakistan discontent ignited as a result of the murder of Arif Shahid, while the separatist movement has re-emerged in a baptism of Akbar Bhugti’s blood (murdered on the orders of Pervez Musharraf). All of these events have called into question the very viability of the 1973 Constitution.
We have undergone two martial law regimes since the National Assembly adopted the 1973 Constitution. The 1973 Constitution failed to transform Pakistan into an economic success: it has failed to reduce unemployment, has failed to bring harmony among antagonistic social classes and has failed to solve the national question.
The reason for this can be found in the lack of success of the Pakistani mercantile class in establishing itself as the sole ruling class. In order to carry on business as usual, it was forced by its historically weak position to find innovative methods to co exist with the landowning class. From a very early stage in Pakistan’s political history, the men in uniform were brought in to play the role of power brokers - and hence the dominant role of the military in our country.
In order to continue the plunder of natural resources across the provinces and Kashmir and to guarantee the uninterrupted exploitation of the working class, the military in collaboration with the landowning and mercantile classes, has always been keen to discourage any opposition. Such opposition has included indigenous claims for royalties for natural resources usurped by the government.
The continuous plunder of resources and human labour in the provinces has not raised the living standards of the population - poverty, illiteracy and disease are rife among the majority. At times, there was an uneasy truce between the elite of the provinces and central government. The slightest indication of a reduction in booty results in blackmail through nationalistic or even separatist slogan-mongering. This has brought the provincial elites a double benefit.
On one hand, they would make demands for more concessions and an increase in the share of the booty and on the other they pose as the defenders of both the national identity and the rights of the underdog population living in the provinces. And thus, they keep the populace on their side.
However, there is also a third factor that helps to stir the feelings of injustice among the poor in the provinces. This is the need of the military to create a single national identity into which all other regional national identities could be subsumed.
This effort has been given the fig-leaf that under Islam, we are ‘one nation’ and Pakistan is the “fortress of Islam” which supposedly, perpetually is threatened by its predominantly Hindu neighbour, India. Anyone who challenged this narrative or the purpose of the Islamic republic was branded a traitor, or worse.
The international geopolitical situation, which is dominated by the interests of the Western powers and their multinational corporations, also gave the Pakistani ruling class an opportunity to forge alliances and to subjugate the masses to the so-called need for national security. Today, all social, economic and political policies are designed to serve the interests of the ruling classes, while the collaboration of the mullahs with this process has given it divine sanction.
The way things are developing, Pakistan cannot be held together. The Pakistan Resolution, passed in Lahore on March 23 1940, is dead in spirit as is the Constitution of 1973. They have served only as tools of repression in the hands of the ruling classes. The promises of religious harmony, equal civil rights and national self-determination have proven hollow.
There is a profound sense of urgency in the Pakistani political climate today. This urgency can only be addressed by developing a new consensus among the masses in Pakistan. It has to be a consensus that brings people together to agree to get rid of the ruling classes of Pakistan, to create a new constitution and to hold a referendum on the question of national self-determination, including an immediate plebiscite in the so-called ‘Azad’ (‘Free’) Kashmir.
Pakistan will survive only if there is consensus (‘itefaq’) among the people on how they want to live and how they want to govern the affairs of their country. Unless the people themselves dictate the will of the people, the break-up of Pakistan seems inevitable.
If, however, the Sindhi, Baluch, Kashmiri or other nationalities living in the federation of Pakistan decide to secede, then no power on earth can keep them from doing so.
The only possible way to put things right is to issue a call to the working classes in Pakistan and Kashmir to develop a consensus to take over the means of production. The struggle for national freedom should be linked to the fight for the emancipation of the working classes in Pakistan and Kashmir, not only from the ruling classes of the country but also from the clutches of the corrupt trade union leadership, the opportunist and sectarian left and the hypocritical tribal/nationalist elites. This, however, does not mean that one should reject outright the demands put forward by nationalists or separatists.
The living conditions of the people of Pakistan in general, and that of the working classes in particular, have hit rock bottom and in desperation it is natural for them to seek political alternatives. It is the duty of the most conscious layers among the working class to argue for a collective struggle to rid Pakistan of the ills of Capitalism. Until that happens, we are forced by circumstance to work patiently towards building a national consensus among the masses that the working class should act collectively in order to take over the means of production.