People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 49

December 06, 2009



Better Indo-Pak Ties Needed To Rebuff Extremists


QAZI Imdadullah is a member of Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) though people often take him to be the CPP general secretary as he has been discharging this role for many years because of the continuing illness of Chacha Maula Bux Khashkheli, the elected general secretary. Qazi Imdad, as he is generally called, has been to India several times in the past and recently he, along with Dr Mazhar Haidari, a member of the Central Committee, represented the CPP at the 11th international meeting of the communist and workers parties, held at New Delhi from November 20 to 22. Naresh Nadeem talked to Qazi Imdad on the sidelines of the international meeting to have an idea of the ground situation in Pakistan where the Left has faced numerous trials and tribulations in the last six decades.        

The talk, which took place in Urdu, started with the current situation in South Waziristan where the army is engaged in an operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and allied outfits. This tribal area is virtually out of the Pakistan government’s control today and it was here that Baitullah Mehsud, who was later killed in an American drone attack, had declared a so-called Islamic emirate.




Will the government forces succeed in their mission? Qazi Imdad sounded sceptical while replying to this question. The gist of what he said is as below.

It is quite well known that a sizeable section of the army and ISI is in league with the extremist organisations whom the army itself had propped up with the help of US money and arms. There is no doubt that these extremists have now emerged as a big threat to the existence of Pakistan itself and to the civilised world. And we cannot harbour an illusion that getting over this problem is going to be a simple affair.

First, the US is purportedly waging a “war against terror” today because of a queer turn of events in which it opened the bottle and the genie, once it came out, became a threat to the US itself. Yet, Qazi Imdad added, there are grounds to believe that the US is not sincere in fighting terrorism and whatever it is doing today is aimed at furthering its geo-political interests in the region. Pro-US circles in Pakistan, whether in politics or in media or in the NGOs etc, are today howling that in practical terms there is now no government in Islamabad and therefore the US has no option but to talk to the top brass of the army and ISI. This is their way of denigrating the elected regime and thereby the democratic system in Pakistan --- a game in which the president’s image is being utilised to the hilt. One must also not forget that from General Ayub Khan to General Musharraf, all the military dictators went all out to justify their usurpation of power on the ground that the political class had proved to be corrupt and inefficient, incapable of delivering the goods. The same game has started once again, and Qazi regretted that unfortunately a section of the Left is also involved in denigrating the democratic system.

In brief, it seems the US imperialist gameplan is to install either an armyman or an army supported civilian in Islamabad. Terrorism and extremism is of no concern to the US except that it may seek to justify its intervention in the country in the name of the terrorist threat, of the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, of the Zardari government’s failure to curb the threat from within, etc.   




A second player in the game is the army. Qazi Imdad said the army in Pakistan does not seem sincere about crushing the Taliban. While the army in another country thinks its job is to defend the country in case of an external aggression, here the army is more concerned about running a business empire. In Pakistan, as has been well documented, the army has become a corporate institution and is running a bank as well as several schools, colleges and hospitals; it is building housing colonies, highways, powerhouses and what not --- and all for money and more money.

Moreover, Qazi plainly told that the armymen over there are involved in illegal activities also, e g in the smuggling of narcotics. He cited an example in this regard. When General Asif Nawaz Janjua was the commander in chief, a major was caught red-handed with a large cache of narcotics and he, on enquiry, revealed that in that year alone it was the third time that he was transporting the drugs from one border of the country to another and abroad. However, when the concerned officials did a valuation of the entire revealed amount of the drugs smuggled by that particular major in that particular year alone, it came out that it was almost equal to the total US aid to Pakistan that year. Qazi wondered: can one estimate how much narcotics the rogues in the army, taken together, were trading?

During the Ziaul-Haque regime, Qazi added, there was a well-entrenched tendency to look the other way whenever the Afghan mujahideen and their backers in the Pakistan army engaged in illegal activities, and this tendency is still continuing, even if to a lesser extent. Thus, Qazi Imdad said, the army in Pakistan is a direct beneficiary of whatever is taking place today, and it is not likely that it would voluntarily surrender the privileges its members are enjoying today.    

In the course of the talk, Qazi Imdad also informed us about the widely held belief in Pakistan that the October 10 terrorist attack on the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) was a stage-managed affair, planned by certain top officials of the army and executed with the involvement of some TTP men. The aim, he said, was to give a boost to the ongoing propaganda that the elected government is a bunch of good-for-nothing fellows, turn the public opinion against the democratic regime, and so much scare the people of Pakistan that they remain mentally prepared to accept whatever the army decides to perpetrate in the near future. In case the army, egged on by the Americans, decides to take over again, it would mean that the vested interests in and outside Pakistan would plunge the country into yet another crisis in the name of bringing it out of the present one.  




As for the elected government, Qazi Imdad said it is true that several question marks are being put on the past record of the president, and of the prime minister also. It is also true that it was the president who went back upon the Murri declaration signed by him and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), though it contained several provisions which, if honestly implemented, could have given a measure of strength to the recently restored democratic system in the country. But, Qazi added, we must not forget that it is not so much the question of a particular individual as of the system itself. Though the democratic system in Pakistan is quite weak and it has yet to strike its roots deep and attain stability, the CPP thinks it is still far more preferable to any kind of military rule. The party, moreover, also thinks that Pakistan can come out of the present morass only through a democratic system and not through any kind of military rule. As we saw, the military rule has been responsible in the first place for bringing the country to the present impasse.

There is no doubt that the present government is walking on a sharp-edged sword and nobody knows what will happen the next moment. In fact, it is facing two kinds of problems. One, it is not being allowed to do certain things which could strengthen democracy in the country. For example, in July 2008, it tried to bring the ISI under the civilian control but the army made it bite dust on the issue. Similarly, we cannot say when the interested quarters will make it backtrack from the operation in South Waziristan. Secondly, Pakistanis are by and large inexperienced insofar as the working of the democratic institutions is concerned, and this is reflected in the present government’s inept handling of the situation as well. For example, it has not thought it necessary to interact with the opposition parties, mass organisations, intellectuals, journalists and other groups in order to try build up broad-based consensus on how to handle the extremist menace. Otherwise some or other way out could possibly be found.




Talking about the Left in Pakistan, Qazi Imdad said it is quite weak in the country and not in a position to influence the course of events to any significant extent. Unfortunately, the Left is badly fragmented also, with no common opinion on a host of issues. Now, he repeated the point, some of the groups are also associating themselves with the game of discrediting the elected government. It is tragic that when they talk of the corrupt politicians, they forget to talk of how much corruption the armymen have been perpetrating in the country.

To the CPP, one thing is very clear --- that the present situation means a period of reprieve for the Left in Pakistan, and the Left needs to utilise it in the best possible way for any meaningful advance. Apart from other things, this requires a certain minimum of agreement between and united action by various Left groups in the country on the life and death questions.

The Left has suffered too much in the country, and nobody knows when it will be deprived of the present period of reprieve. Already in several parts of the country, communists are facing attacks from sardars and vaderas as well as from the militants. The latter have already killed more than two dozen of comrades while the parents of Peshawar based Dr Shafiq, secretary of the CPP’s provincial unit in the NWFP, were kidnapped and his house was rocket-attacked. Today, this comrade has to perforce live outside the country, and the Communist Party of Greece has given him asylum in Athens. In such a situation, it is only by coming together in joint actions that the Left can hope for survival and advance in the country, Qazi Imdad stressed.

In conclusion, the CPP leader had a few words about the government of India’s stance after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. The Pakistan government’s inept handling of the situation was evident from its refusal to accept that Aamir Qasab is a Pakistani citizen or that the dastardly 11/26 was plotted in Pakistan. But the government of India too should have tried to understand the compulsions of its counterpart in Pakistan where the citizens are facing no less dastardly attacks almost every other day. The GOI’s initial demand that the ISI chief must be sent to India to clear the doubts about his agency’s role in 11/26 was taken as an infringement on Pakistan’s sovereignty. Its almost incessant sabre-rattling has also irked many in Pakistan though they, otherwise, wish better relations between the two countries in mutual interest. Then there is also the stipulation that there cannot be any resumption of the composite dialogue process unless Pakistan dismantles the terror structure. Does it mean that the two countries won’t ever talk for hundreds of years unless the Indian conditionality is met? Does not the GOI realise that its refusal to talk coincides with what the extremists always wanted?

Qazi Imdad sounded quite clear on this score. Indo-Pak ties have indeed registered some tangible betterment since the unconditional composite dialogue process started. One more train service started in addition to Samjhauta Express, two bus services were introduced, mutual trade has somewhat increased and this includes border trade, there was a modicum of headway on the river water and some other issues, people to people contacts have increased, and public opinion in Pakistan was never so favourable for better ties as it is today. But the Indian government’s stance has led to some hardening of attitudes in Pakistan, and the gains of the last six years stand threatened. Qazi’s plea was that in this regard the Left in India can definitely play a powerful role, just as it did in the past, in mobilising public opinion and also making the government of India see to reason.