Tag Archives: movements

The Rise and Fall of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

We are publishing this insightful paper authored by Ishtiaq Ahmed. This paper was written as part of a theme ‘More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia’ under the aegis of ISAS, National University of Singapore. In many ways, documentation of the Left movements is an important area that has not been researched and documented. This is why Dr Ahmed’s contribution is so important. Raza Rumi

Abstract

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maoist ideas gained considerable popularity and influence in left politics and the labour movement, and made an impact on Pakistani mainstream politics, which was out of proportion to the Maoists’  political strength in the overall balance of power. Neither class structure nor the ideological and political composition of the state apparatus warranted any such advantage to Maoism. Clues to it are to be found in the peculiar power game over security and influence going on at that time between several states in that region and, perhaps, more crucially in the internal political situation surrounding the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-77).  His fall from power, the coming into power of an Islamist regime under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), and the Afghan jihad spelled disaster for leftist politics. In the 1980s, Maoism faded into oblivion.

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Filed under Imperialism, movements, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, south asia, violence

Pakistan’s South Punjab: politics of marginalisation

Raza Rumi

The discourse on South Punjab conceals the grassroots social movements and the clamouring for a linguistic identity in the region

The conundrum of South Punjab remains a major challenge for analysts, policy makers and above all the people of this marginalized region. Socio-economic data testifies to the impoverishment and the deprivation that exists in the region. Add to this the iniquitous land distribution and utter lack of economic opportunities for the local population. Despite the rhetoric of the establishment, the region has been neglected through decades of “modern” development in northern and central Punjab. The bulk of public resources were invested in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centers of the North. Industrialisation, growth of private education facilities and the rise of the middle class are phenomena that have eluded the dusty environs of South Punjab.

The result is clear: the electoral patterns show support for redistributive agendas and which are deemed as pro-peasantry. In recent years, southern Punjab has also witnessed two conflictual yet interrelated trends. First, the rise of Islamism through a network of sectarian madrassas which train militants and mercenaries alike; and scattered yet influential social movements around the issues of linguistic identity and livelihoods. How does one make sense of these contradictions?
It is well known that the Wahhabi-Salafi ideologies backed by potent financing networks have played a major role in turning this impoverished region into a nursery for militant Islamism that targets the plural Sufi culture embedded in the cultural mores of the local inhabitants; and act as a bastion for the Taliban network across the country. There is insurmountable evidence to this effect and those who are not willing to confront this brutal reality are living in a state of denial. Since the Zia years, the state is no longer a neutral arbiter and it promotes a particular brand of Islamic ideology. It is also clear that a sophisticated regime of economic incentives addresses lack of public entitlements and a non-responsive state apparatus.

However, we have also witnessed that the peasants in Okara and Khanewal have valiantly resisted appropriation of land by security agencies and have set a momentum of challenging the state’s land policy. Similarly, issues related to water distribution and resettlement due to mega projects sponsored by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), have also come into public light due to the political mobilization that has been taking place in D G Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and elsewhere. It is a separate matter that such stories do not receive adequate attention in the media which is owned by rich, powerful barons whose interests are integrally linked to an extractive state. As pointed by a leading activist, Mushtaq Gadi, the discourse on South Punjab willfully ignores the authentic voices from the grassroots that revolve around livelihood struggles and the quest for a regional identity.

Another dimension of the regional turmoil pertains to the growing movement for linguistic identity. The Saraiki language and its submerged identity is now a rallying point for most living in the southern most districts of the region. This movement for cultural expression has gained momentum with increased calls for a separate province and the fact that the disputed status of Bahawalpur State has been raised by politicians from the region is a case in point. The state of affairs, reported rather cautiously in the mainstream media, points to the fact that political elites are now forced willy-nilly to subscribe to the idea of a separate province. Else, they are likely to be rejected at the next general elections.

In fact, the decades’ long denial of rights and entitlements and a politico-cultural identity act as great catalysts for breeding militancy. If one were to add the economic deprivation and endemic poverty to the list then the situation is quite alarming. No wonder we are seeing history unfold in front of our eyes. The nexus between poverty and militancy is problematic but certainly undeniable. FATA and other parts of Pakistan have shown us how a poor majority finds ‘opportunity’ in the game of terrorist networks and their well oiled financing machines. South Punjab is no exception.

Pakistani state will have to think beyond its mantras of national security and ‘foreign hand’ and accept that its policies have led to the explosive situation in South Punjab. At the same time, this region is not Swat or a FATA agency that can be bombarded with troops and drones. Also, it is important to note that at the people’s level, Talibanisation has yet to take root. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that there is popular support for the Taliban agenda. A relevant book entitled, Probing the Jihadi Mindset , Sohail Abbas (2007) that looks at the profiles of over 500 jihadis shows that participation of South Punjabis in the ‘Jihad project’ is minimal.

What next? First, major investments in public works and programmes that enhance employment and livelihoods in the region must be the focus of the state. Second, a comprehensive madrassa reform should take place concurrently that should quite logically start with the registration, documentation and curricula standardization. Third, networks that finance militancy should also be traced and tackled. The issue of a separate province or an autonomous region within the monolith Punjab province will need to be confronted sooner than later. Brushing it under the carpet will not help.

If the political elites have settled issues such as renaming NWFP, provincial autonomy and NFC then why can’t this issue be resolved within the democratic framework?
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
Raza Rumi is a development professional and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at http://www.razarumi.com

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Justice, movements, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Punjab, Punjabi, Rights, Society, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Pakistan: another kind of change

By S. Akbar Zaidi,

WHILE Pakistan’s hesitant political transformation falters further, one has to note that developments over the last decade or so have given rise to numerous substantive changes, which have altered social relations and societal structures.

Always undergoing a process of change, many of these developments are affecting our social, economic and political relationships.

Perhaps the most important factor that, sadly, many Pakistani social scientists still do not comprehend is that Pakistan is neither a so-called feudal, agricultural, rural or even a traditional society or economy. Only those social scientists who write their papers on anecdotal evidence still talk of Pakistan as being feudal. Even a cursory examination of any kind of economic data suggests that this is not so. With the share of agriculture as part of the GDP falling drastically from 26 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2007, agriculture has lost its predominance in the economy. Continue reading

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