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Pakistani gov’t bars protests,jails unionists
U.S.: Musharraf ‘indispensable’ in ‘war on terror’
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 44      November 26, 2007




From Subprime to Subhuman, the Real Perspective
under American Imperialism
A Chinese View of the Cuban Revolution
Click here for more information on the meeting.

(lead article)
Pakistani gov’t bars
protests,jails unionists
U.S.: Musharraf ‘indispensable’ in ‘war on terror’
Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images
Journalists protest November 12 in Karachi, Pakistan, against ban on media that is part of martial law imposed by U.S.-backed Musharraf government.

November 13—A week after imposing a state of emergency, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf gave his government’s army and secret police sweeping new powers against civilians November 11. He said martial law would remain in force until elections are held in January. Security forces placed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest to undercut protests.

On November 3 Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s constitution, dissolved the Supreme Court, arrested hundreds of opposition leaders, and shut down non-state news organizations. The numbers in jail now are estimated at 15,000, among them prominent trade unionists.

U.S. deputy secretary of state John Negroponte reiterated Washington’s support for the Pakistani dictator November 7, telling reporters that “President Musharraf has been indispensable in the global war on terror” and that partnership with his regime was the “only option.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Musharraf to lift the state of emergency “as soon as possible” and praised him for moving up the election date from February as he had announced just days earlier.

While trying to take some distance from the latest crackdown, the U.S. rulers are hesitant to dump Musharraf, a key ally in their “war on terror,” since there is no clear replacement that could guarantee a stable regime.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup. Initially he was a protector of the Taliban-led regime in neighboring Afghanistan. When Washington seized on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to step up its war drive in South Asia and the Mideast, Musharraf jumped on the bandwagon and became a staunch U.S. war ally. Since then, the Pakistani army has carried out joint operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. U.S. military aid to Pakistan has been about $80 million a month.

Under the new decrees, the Pakistani army “can interrogate civilians suspected of targeting military personnel and installations. Their cases could be sent to the military courts,” the Indo-Asian News Service reported. The political police are authorized to “detain civilians without framing any charges and keep them in custody for an indefinite period.” The military can try individuals accused of making “statements conducive to public mischief.”

On November 12 the government barred the opposition from holding a car caravan from the city of Lahore to Islamabad to protest the military crackdown. The action had been called by Bhutto, former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Three days earlier, Bhutto was placed under house arrest and police blocked a PPP rally against martial law in Rawalpindi.

Several opposition parties have said they will boycott the January elections if the state of emergency is still in effect. Bhutto, whose party is the largest capitalist party in the opposition, told reporters November 11 the door was still open for negotiations between her and Musharraf. Two days later she called for the resignation of the increasingly unpopular president.

After an exile of eight years, Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October in a deal backed by Washington. Musharraf dropped corruption charges against her, and Bhutto agreed to oppose an election boycott planned by the other bourgeois parties. “The United States hopes the pair—who both stress fighting militancy—might share power after the elections,” a November 12 Reuters dispatch noted.

While opposing Musharraf’s state of emergency, which curbs her party’s activities, Bhutto has not opposed Washington’s “war on terror,” including the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and military operations on the Pakistani border. Rather, she has argued that U.S. funds are being wasted on Musharraf because he is unable to effectively prosecute the war.

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last March Bhutto put herself forward as the “democratic” candidate to be Washington’s ally in the region, arguing that “Pakistan’s return to democracy is essential to America’s success in South and Central Asia, as well in the Middle East, as democratization is an integral part of fighting terrorism.”  
Unionists and others rounded up
Amnesty International reported November 12 that five individuals who spoke out against the state of emergency have been accused of treason, which carries a maximum penalty of death. Two of the five are leaders of the Baluchi nationality, Ayub Qureshi and Hasil Bizenjo.

Also arrested were Farid Awan, general secretary of the All-Pakistan Trade Union Federation; Liaquat Ali Sahi, a leader of the trade union at the State Bank of Pakistan; and Yusuf Masti Khan, vice-president of the National Workers Party.

Manzoor Razi, central president of the Railways Workers Federation, was arrested with other protesters at a demonstration in Karachi. Mohammad Ashiq Bhutta, information secretary of the National Federation of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Workers union, was detained briefly.

Labor protests have been on the rise in recent years, especially against moves by the Musharraf regime to privatize state-owned companies and fire thousands of workers in the process. The government has announced plans to throw 29,000 telephone workers into the street when it sells off the Pakistan Telecommunication Company.

On November 2, hundreds of workers at Pakistan International Airlines went on strike over demands for higher wages. By November 3, only 25 percent of the company’s flights took off. The strike ended the day martial law was imposed.
Related articles:
Martial law in Pakistan: a side of ‘antiterror’ war

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