Citing a unique historical opportunity for substantive political and economic change, speakers called on Monday for a thorough restructuring of state and society. They warned that without laying foundations of democratisation the prevalent social conflict could intensify to the point of no return.
The representatives of left-wing political parties, nationalist parties, student organizations, trade unions, doctors, lawyers and teachers took part at a roundtable conference organised by leftist political organizations under the aegis of Awami Shehri Mahaz at the National Press Club in connection with the 64th Independence Day, said a press release issued by the organisers.
The speakers said that in recent times the military establishment has been completely exposed and a wide cross-section of ordinary Pakistanis are now ready to accept that the historic, economic and political dominance of the military must be done away with, and a power and resources redirected to the people. They said that the country will not survive if an inordinate proportion of public money continues to be monopolised by the military in the name of national security.
In addition, they said that the militarisation of the state has resulted in the “virtual mortgaging” on the state to imperialist forces, whilst the repeated suspension of the political process has given rise to all sorts of political and social conflicts, the most obvious of which is the growing ethnic divide which has devastated Karachi and pushed Balochistan to breaking point.
They said that public sector enterprises are insolvent and the pressure of the international financial institutions (IFIs) is so intense that privatization is being imposed as a one-size-fits-all solution, despite its anti-worker implications.
The speakers further said the elected regime must accept responsibility for the breakdown of law and order in Karachi as well as the continuing military operations in Fata and Balochistan. It was agreed that the current democratic process must be defended at all costs but the government must be prepared to face criticism for its “shameless pandering to imperialist powers”.
Student leaders of the National Students Federation (NSF), Pakhtun Students Federation (PKSF) and Baloch Students Organisations (BSO) said that for genuine democratisation to take place there needs to be an extension of political and cultural freedoms to the youth and students in particular. They welcomed initiatives such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Political Parties act and the prospective creation of new provinces that would signal the stripping of power of the civil and military bureaucracies.
At the end of the conference and a torch bearing rally was held from the Press Club to F-6 Supermarket, in which vociferous slogans against the military establishment and imperialism, as well as economic degradation were chanted.
Those who spoke at the conference included Aasim Sajjad of the Worker’s Party Pakistan (WPP), Nisar Shah of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Hasan Nasir of the Awami Party Pakistan (APP), Jehangir Akhtar a noted political activist and trader, Akram Bunda of the Pakistan Worker’s Federation (PWF), Aqleem Khan of OGDC Workers Union, Moazzam Zahid of Pakistan Post Employees Union, Mohammad Ijaz of Radio Pakistan Staff union, Nazir Javed of Pak PWD Employees Union, Jamil Raja of the Railway Workers Union and Hammad Qureishi of PTCL. Other speakers also included Siraiki and Sindhi intellectuals as well as representatives from the Punjab Teachers Union, Bhatta Mazdoor Union and People’s Lawyers Forum.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.