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The first nine month of Pakistan Peoples Party rule
By Farooq Tariq - December 22, 2008
Instability, price hikes, growing unemployment and rising debts are the hall mark of the first nine month of Pakistan Peoples Party government. There are daily demonstrations across Pakistan on one or another issue by the masses.
There is a real danger of a war between Pakistan and India after the Mumbai terrorist attack on 26 November. The Zardari statement about the doubtful Pakistani identity of Ajmal Qasab, the only terrorist captured alive, has gone not very well among the Indian establishment. The joint war room meeting of the entire important Indian government official is very serious matter.
It is taking a very non serious attitude towards the religious fanatics. On one side, it want to please the American imperialism and banned Jamat Dawa, a fundamentalist group in Pakistan claiming doing charity work. However, it all clear that their all charity works is for Jihad. They openly have been advocating attack on Hindus. On the other side, it wants to promote its popularity by advocating Pakistani nationalism by using war language. Anti India feelings are the main propagation ground for the backing of religious fundamentalism. The state is heavily linked with religion and there is no attempt to separate the both.
The government is as its lowest ebb of popularity. A public survey put PPP government popularity at only 21 percent on 20 December 2008. Even in Sindh, where PPP has a historic landslide victory in February general elections this year, it has met with growing anger on several issues particularly against proposed privatization of gas fields.
There are daily air strikes by the American imperialism and dozens killed inside Pakistan, an act of direct aggression not seen in earlier periods. "We have not given permission or entered an accord with Americans to attack" clarifying the government position, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister contradict a report by Washington Post, which claim the PPP government has made a deal with Americans.
"You can attack where ever you like, we will protest in strong words, do not take it literary and keep doing your work to eliminate the terrorists in Tribal Areas" a sort of theme accepted underhand, it seems by the actions of the Zardari government. The PPP government also accepted publicly that we can not do anything when American attacks. "We can not fight the Americans" is the response of Zardari, the president of Pakistan.
The foreign secretary, Kamaran Rasul, was immediately removed in November from his senior post by the government, after he told the parliamentary committee that Americans do not inform us before hand the nature of the attacks, they tell us the details minutes after carrying of attacks.
Along with the American air and ground strikes, the Pakistani military operation is going by the PPP government in several parts of Pakistan against the growing tide of religious fundamentalists. It claims to kill Taliban and anti state elements every day. The war language is used by the government on private and public print and public media. Despite all that, the religious fundamentalists continue to retaliate with suicidal attacks, burning of public property particularly girl's schools and bombing of civilian, police and military areas.
It is bull fight between the two mad groups. Every grubby and brutal tactic is justified in this war of the lords.
However, masses are paying the price. There are daily civilian causalities by the attacks from the both sides. A massive internal and external displacement has been witnessed and no one to help in real terms of these newly immigrants in their own country. The winter has approached with minus degree in some areas resulting even more hardship for those in temporary tents. No one can win this war by military means. Both are on loosing ends, only masses are loosing their lives with no end of this war in near future.
The International Monetary Funds IMF agreed on 16 November to "bail out" Pakistan by 7.9 billion Dollars loan with nearly 5 percent interest rate. The normal interest for many other countries has been less than 3 percent. The loan deal has been hailed by Shoukat Tareen, the unelected federal finance adviser as a manifestation of their brilliant skill of table talk. The deal has yet to be made public.
However, many economists in Pakistan believe that it is littered with strict conditionality not seen earlier in any other deal made by the previous governments with IMF. It is estimated that over 100 billion Rupees (US $1.2 b) new taxes will be imposed on people to meet the criteria of this debt deal. With the present loan, Pakistan total foreign debt has risen to 53 Billion Dollars. The IMF conditionality also include agricultural tax and corporate farming that would accelerate the rising food prices in Pakistan.
Implementing the neo-liberal agenda
PPP government continued on the same path of implementing neo liberal agenda as was carried out by General Musharaf during his 9 years of rule. One of the first recipes of curing the ailing economy of the present government was to increase the general sales tax from 15 percent to 16 percent. Then, they went on to attack state subsidies that were only total 7.9 percent of total budget. They did not dare to addresses the most unwanted expenditure of the economy, the defense and repayment of the foreign debts that compose nearly 50 percent of the total budget.
The withdrawal of the state subsidies from the oil and electricity were felt very badly by the masses all over Pakistan. That was the turning point of the increasing unpopularity of the PPP government.
Electricity prices were increased by 70 percent. The spontaneous mass reaction of burning the electricity bills and non payment campaign led the PPP government to its first public defeat. It had to announce the withdrawal of the increase and later 13 percent decrease in the increased prices was announced.
Another major defeat of the PPP government during the month of November, was on the question of privatization, the second in a row. PPP government announcement of the sale of Qadirpur Gas Fields in Sindh on 7 November was immediately opposed by the gas workers union and later they were joined by all the major political parties. The mass reaction in Sindh where PPP had a land slide victory only nine months ago terrified PPP government and they had to announce the postponement of the gas field. They have not abandoned it but waiting for a better time.
They will now play the same old dirty game that they did with the lawyer's movement. Offering "jobs for the boys" will be the main pillar of their strategy to go on with privatization. Most of the PPP affiliated lawyers who were in the forefront of the lawyers movement are now judges of higher and lower courts, attorney generals and representing state owned companies. There was a price of these PPP lawyers and PPP government paid it happily. Although this has resulted almost wiping out PPP support among the 80,000 lawyers where they had nearly 80 percent support in March 2007 when the whole issue of the top judge Iftikhar Choudry came up.
PPP government has a plan of whole sale privatization of the major institutions of the state. Anyhow, the present set back will lead to more difficulties. The PPP government can not have the same hay days of foreign investment as was under Musharaf for a brief period. The international economic crisis, the image of Pakistan as a place of regular suicidal attacks, the continues imperialist aggression and bombing, the PPP government image as a weak government, the ever weakening industrial infrastructure and the rising opposition and unpopularity of the government will all lead the probable buyers of these institution to stay away.
Loosing support all over
PPP government during the last eight months has been seen as the one that deceive, mislead, swindle, fiddle, double cross, contrivance and rip off any one, group or fellow political party without any shame. It promised to restore top judges within 24 hours of general Musharaf departure, it did not. It promised to decrease the oil prices as it goes down in the international market, it did not according the ratio. It promised to protect the sovereignty of Pakistan and agreed not to allow American to attack directly, it just caved in.
The PPP coalition partners promised to bring peace in North West Frontier Province, they failed to do so, and instead war is knocking every door in the province. It promised during the election campaign to provide "Bread, Cloth and Home", instead all these have gone mainly outside the reach of the working people.
PPP government ministers says that it can not be done overnight. However, when all the trends are going in opposite direction of your promises, it is hard to believe that it will be ok in future, if we suffer now.
The message of the PPP government is very clear, "suffer now to be in better position in future". That advice is not understood by overwhelmingly majority of Pakistanis. This is justification used by the entire capitalist politician all over the world to persuade the masses.
The continues price hike of almost every consumer good for the last eight months is mainly due to the policies adopted by the present government following the footsteps of the Musharaf dictatorship.
It is going on the blind road of market guided policies. It is withdrawing subsidies. It is privatizing or plan to privatize the main pillars of the economy. All that mean, earning a good deal of hate from all quarters. It is loosing support on a fast speed. Asif Zardari, the president of Pakistan has become very unpopular. He is on a fast track of unpopularity. PPP government has lost almost all support from the lawyers. Every one speaks of the corruption that is going on. An army of 55 federal ministers have been inducted at the time when they are crying for an economic crisis. Nepotism
All friends and contacts of Asif Zardari who helped him by any mean during his imprisonment of eight years under Nawaz Sharif and Musharaf regimes are been inducted on key posts. The law minister of Pakistan only qualification is that he was Asif Zardari lawyer at the time of imprisonment. The interior adviser cum minister is there because he was to offer his great hospitality with his multi million capital during their exile period in London.
A DSP of police who offered Asif Zardari an air-conditioned car during his travel from one prison to another is been promoted as Deputy Inspector general of Police out of turn.
Growing contradiction with PMLN
The growing unpopularity of PPP government has also increased their tension with Muslim League Nawaz. Mian Nawaz Sharif political language is becoming bitterer with the passage time. The PMLN does not want to share the unpopular feeling of the masses by totally supportive with PPP. PMLN is in act working on an agenda for mid term elections or on an in-house change at the Center. Their economic and political policies are no better than PPP. There is very little that one can find as better of PMLN than of PPP. Both parties are right wing parties. Both believe in working hands in hands with American imperialism. Both are implementing neo liberal agenda.
The little difference is that of PMLN consciously trying to clean up the mess that it has created by siding with every military ruler in the past. One must not be fooled by the PMLN promise to bring the independent judiciary by restoring the judges. They might do that if coming into power. However, their overall policies will be anti worker and anti people in essence and for the promotion of the rich class. It is a party of the rich by the rich for the rich. It is a class party of the capitalists and feudal. It will exploit the working class as the PPP government is doing right at this time.
Future of PPP government
The PPP government is a weak, frail, fragile and in poor health. There are already report of contradiction between president and prime minister. Any action by any one of them against the other will be the starting point of this government to end. Even if they do not do so, still it can not complete its full five year terms. The reason is its unpopularity among the masses. It is now more and more dependent on the repressive status and more in favor of continues army actions in NWFP and Tribal areas. It is silencing on the daily attacks of Americans. It is objecting to few kilometers intervention of Indian air planes, but are happy with the few hundreds kilometers inroads of American air planes.
The PPP president Zardari has already become the most unpopular elected president of Pakistan. There is no credibility of this president. There are a lot of moral questions involved here. It was a bad choice and PPP leadership will realize that in future and will accept that.
PPP leadership has still not come out of congratulating each other on getting this or that office. The bill boards across Pakistan are beleaguered with pictures of Zardari and co and local leadership thanking them for providing ministries and so on. Benazir Bhutto murderers are still free after nine months of PPP and there is no attempt by PPP government to launch an investigation about the murder. They are using the issue of possible investigation by UN as an excuse to avoid the question.
We must build an alternative to the politics of the rich. Labour Party Pakistan is an attempt to do so. We need your support and cooperation. Please do not sit on sides. Take side in favor of working class politics.
Spokesperson, Labour Party Pakistan
40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6271149 Mobile: 92 300 8411945
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