Workers Vanguard No. 905
4 January 2008
Pakistan in Crisis After Bhutto Assassination
Down With Bush, Democrats "War on Terror"
U.S. Out of Afghanistan, Iraq!
DECEMBER 30—With Pakistan in turmoil over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the U.S. imperialist rulers are scrambling to shore up their longtime client state, a key ally in Washington’s “global war on terror.” While many in Pakistan have accused the military regime of Pervez Musharraf of easing the way for—or engineering—the December 27 attack, the government has pointed the finger at an alleged Al Qaeda leader (who denied responsibility). The attack came some two months after Bhutto survived an earlier suicide bombing, hours after her return to the country, that killed more than 150 people. The day after Bhutto’s killing, troops, many with shoot-to-kill orders, were dispatched throughout Pakistan to quell rioting by supporters of Bhutto and her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
The White House quickly convened a top-level meeting of foreign policy advisers, fearing that “continued instability eventually will spill over and intensify the fighting in Afghanistan” (Washington Post, 29 December 2007). The Musharraf regime has become increasingly unpopular and beset by opposition inside the bourgeois establishment, particularly from the Pakistani judiciary and legal profession. Washington, having showered Musharraf with nearly $10 billion in aid since September 2001, had become convinced that Bhutto was key to stabilizing their crucial nuclear-armed ally. U.S. rulers brokered a deal in which Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October expecting to serve as prime minister after elections on January 8 while Musharraf would continue as president.
Daughter of PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and heir to Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty, Benazir Bhutto had served her imperialist masters twice before as prime minister. Her rule was so corrupt that her husband was widely known as “Mr. 10 Percent” for his rake-offs of government contracts. Her father, who had served as president and prime minister, was executed in 1979 by an earlier military dictatorship. Now, as a New York Times (28 December 2007) editorial states, “Ms. Bhutto’s death leaves the Bush administration with no visible strategy for extricating Pakistan from its crisis or rooting out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which have made the country their most important rear base.”
Bush’s Democratic Party opponents have seized on the assassination to reaffirm their support for Washington’s “war on terror.” Like Bush, the Democrats are committed to bolstering the bloodsoaked Pakistani regime, which is key not only for the occupation of Afghanistan, with its massacres of civilians and other atrocities, but also for U.S. imperialism’s increasing military pressures on the Chinese deformed workers state. Congressional Democrats recently voted that $50 million in further aid to Pakistan would be conditional on “improved counterterrorism work and democratic and judicial reforms.” The U.S. imperialists’ talk of “democratic reforms” is sheer cynicism and a cover for a brutal dictatorship that rules through police terror, torture and death squads.
In the lead-up to and during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Spartacist League stressed that it was in the class interest of the international proletariat to take a side in defense of those countries against imperialist attack, without extending any political support to the Taliban cutthroats or Saddam Hussein’s bloody capitalist regime. Today we call for the military defense of Iraqi and Afghan forces insofar as they aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers and their lackeys. At the same time, we stand in intransigent political opposition to the Islamic fundamentalists and nationalists who have also engaged in communalist slaughter.
We demand: U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq now! We call for class struggle in the U.S. against the capitalist rulers, whose “war on terror” has served as a pretext for war and occupations abroad and for a massive increase in repressive powers “at home.” We fight to forge a workers party—in opposition to both the Democratic and Republican parties of capital—to lead the struggle for socialist revolution, the only way to put an end to imperialism and its global depredations.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders have demanded that the Pakistani military step up its efforts against Al Qaeda and other Islamist forces operating near and along the Afghan border. In fact, these very forces are largely the creation of the Pakistani military and Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) as well as the American CIA. The U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among others, armed, funded and trained mujahedin reactionaries to kill Soviet soldiers following the entry of the Red Army into Afghanistan in 1979 at the request of the modernizing nationalist PDPA regime.
That war, in which imperialist-backed forces threatened the southern flank of the Soviet Union, posed an acid test for revolutionaries. The Soviet military intervention was one of the few genuinely progressive acts carried out by the Stalinist bureaucracy. The Red Army intervened on behalf of a regime that sought to introduce minimal social reforms and faced a jihad (holy war) led by landlords, tribal chiefs and mullahs who burned down schools and flayed teachers alive for the “crime” of teaching young girls to read.
The international Spartacist tendency, now the International Communist League, said: “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” and called to extend the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples. In stark contrast, the bulk of the left internationally lined up with the imperialists by denouncing the Soviet intervention. In 1988-89, when then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in a vain attempt to appease the imperialists, withdrew forces from Afghanistan, we denounced this as a crime against both the Afghan and Soviet peoples. That betrayal by the Kremlin bureaucracy opened the road to mujahedin rule in Afghanistan and prepared the ground for the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state itself in 1991-92, a historic defeat for the proletariat and the oppressed around the world.
Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are, in fact, U.S. imperialism’s Frankenstein’s monsters, and Benazir Bhutto crucially assisted their growth. She first took office as prime minister in 1988, and, with U.S. support, her regime continued to provide bases where the mujahedin were equipped and organized for the anti-Soviet “holy war.” In one of her first acts as prime minister, Bhutto sought to outdo the Islamic fundamentalists by whipping up a murderous frenzy over Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The second time around (before her ouster on corruption charges), the Bhutto government sponsored the rise to power of the medievalist Taliban murderers in Afghanistan in 1996.
In its editorial following Bhutto’s killing, the New York Times, mouthpiece of the U.S. imperialists, wrote with its typical haughtiness that Bhutto was a “democratic” leader who was, nevertheless, “indifferent to human rights.” That’s putting it mildly! Bhutto’s regimes were marked by rampant torture, killings and deaths in police custody.
With degrees from Harvard and Oxford and with great wealth derived from her family’s huge landholdings in Sind province, Prime Minister Bhutto ruled over a country marked by intense poverty and all-sided oppression. In a leaflet protesting Bhutto’s appearance at Harvard University in June 1989, at a time when the Afghan city of Jalalabad was besieged by the mujahedin killers, the Spartacus Youth Club wrote that “this first female leader of an Islamic state” had “betrayed the hopes of thousands of women who expected her to do away with the hated Hadood Ordinance against ‘moral offenses,’ under which women are condemned to death by public stoning for ‘adultery’ and even prohibited from testifying at their own ‘trials’.” The leaflet noted, “Her government bleeds the poor to fund the Afghan war and oppress the many different ethnic peoples who live in the prison house that is Pakistan” (see “Protest Benazir Bhutto! Hail Heroic Afghan Defense of Jalalabad!” WV No. 478, 26 May 1989).
Pakistan was created through the partition of the Indian subcontinent by the British imperialists in 1947—culminating some three centuries of colonial “divide and rule” in the region—which unleashed the communalist slaughter and forced migration of millions of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. The ruling classes of Pakistan and India—which is also nuclear-armed—rest on that legacy of deadly nationalism and communalism.
Today in Pakistan, India and throughout the world, religious and social reaction has flourished in a period marked above all by the imperialist-backed counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. Swimming against the stream of “death of communism” ideology, we seek to imbue advanced sections of the working class with the understanding that only the fight for new October Revolutions can pose a way out of brutal oppression, exploitation, imperialist domination and war.
The task of liberating all the exploited and oppressed of the Indian subcontinent demands the forging of Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard parties dedicated to the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisies in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and the establishment of a socialist federation of South Asia. Crucial to such a proletarian-internationalist perspective is the fight for workers political revolution in the Chinese deformed workers state, a fight that must be premised on the unconditional military defense of China against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution. Only an internationalist perspective, uniting social struggle on the subcontinent with the fight for workers revolution in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries, can open the door to real social liberation for the impoverished masses.