By Farooq Tariq
PAKISTAN IS ON the fast track to collapse under the Pervez Musharraf
dictatorship. The state is in immense crisis. The infrastructure,
industrial and social, is in total chaos. The economic crisis
is showing its muscles. Inflation is uncontrollable and unemployment
is ever increasing.
The vast majority of ordinary people of Pakistan believe that
he will never leave power alive: If he is not killed, he
will kill us all one by one. He has become the most unpopular
president of Pakistan. Musharraf is widely seen as a person who
has orchestrated the murder of
Benazir Bhutto. Qaatal Qaatal Musharraf Qaatal (Murderer
murderer, Musharraf the murderer) was the main slogan of
All the twist and turns of the Musharraf dictatorship after the
murder has strengthened the doubts of the masses in this regard.
He asked her to come to Pakistan by negotiating and let
her be killed is a remark you hear very often. Despite that,
Musharraf has consistently shown that he will stick to power by
any means: He is the ultimate power, Pakistan
needs him, Pakistan first, Pakistan my top
priority is some of his routine sloganeering.
Here in Pakistan, however, many do not trust him anymore here.
The desperation of the masses to remove Musharraf is clear everywhere.
The mass movement had attempted to throw him out of power after
the assassination of Benazir. This was an unprecedented movement
for five days from 27 December, 2007. Not a single shop was open,
no wheel on the move, no factory working, no bank open, no office
functioning, no restaurant or hotel open, no train on the move,
flights cancelled, schools and colleges closed and thousands and
thousands were on the road protesting --this was the most unexpected
outburst of mass anger after the killing.
Nevertheless, unfortunately, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)
leadership had not learned from history. They saw in this crisis
an important occasion to show that they are the responsible defender
of the system. They appealed to the masses to cool down, go back
to their work and turn their anger into votes for the Pakistan
This was the time when the majority of the political parties had
declared a boycott of the elections and demanded Musharrafs
immediate resignation. Had the PPP joined other parties in boycotting
the general elections, Musharraf would have gone by now.
They had not realized the post-assassination scenario or anticipated
the total collapse of the economy in the following days. They
had not thought of the tactics Musharrafs supporters would
use to rig the election if given the chance. In the Sind province
(the PPPs stronghold) alone, over 4000 First Investigation
Reports (FIR) has been registered by police against a record number
of half a million PPP and other
opposition political activists. Many PPP activists were arrested
to be released on bail later. Many thousands have gone to secure
bail even before being arrested.
The tactics of the PPP leadership put the party in a defensive
position. Three weeks after the Benazir Bhutto assassination,
the PPP is on the run. Yet Musharraf had been on the defensive
after the killing. He was relived when the PPP leadership took
the decision to participate in the elections. At a time when the
consciousness of the whole of Pakistan was anti-Musharraf, with
the active participation in the mass movement, the PPP leaderships
announcement to participate in elections was
like a fire truck putting cold water on the boiling heat.
Moreover, what kind of election is taking place on 18 February?
Before the announcement of the general election, 60 top judges
were put under house arrest on 3 November 2020 when martial law
was imposed in the name of emergency; many are still in house
arrest, particularly Chief Justice Iftikhar Ahmed Choudhry. As
of 14 January, all public meetings and election rallies were banned
for a month on the name of security.
Thus, effectively, there is not going to be any mass campaigning
by political parties.
Most of the opposition parties that are taking part in the elections
are already complaining that it will be rigged, and that they
have proof of rigging in the voting lists. All the rules laid
out by the Election Commission of Pakistan about the size and
width of the posters, pamphlets, stickers, signboards and banners
have been widely violated by most of the candidates.
It is race of money among the candidates, like a business competition
--not a democracy that is going to be restored by the election,
but a mockery of democracy. The general election has given the
masses a chance to choose among exploiters. The condition that
a candidate must be at least a university graduate means that
less than one percent of the whole population had a chance to
Three weeks after the assassination of Benazir, on 17 January
2008, there is unprecedented price hikes for everything. Wheat
flour, the most used food item in Pakistan, has shot up from 13
Rupees a kilogram to 25 to 50 Rupees, if you can find it in shops.
After failing to buy the wheat flour from the government concessional
utility store, some women have attempted suicide. Food riots have
been reported in many parts of the country.
There is regular news on television and newspapers that smugglers
of wheat floor have been arrested. Previously smuggling was normally
restricted to gold and electronic items. Now wheat flour smugglers
are the main enemies of Pakistan. Almost every province has restricted
the transportation of wheat floor, creating more problems for
the people of North West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and many
in Afghanistan who are dependent on wheat flour from Punjab and
There are also massive electricity crises. Electricity is released
on a load-shedding basis, with electricity available for 10 to
12 hours a day in most parts of the country. The countryside is
worst hit by this shortage. There is no commercial gas available
to industries for the last two weeks, thus closing down hundreds
of factories. Even hospitals are not spared. Hundreds of thousands
of workers have been laid off from
the factories; they are asked to wait until electricity and gas
is fully restored.
LPG gas has disappeared. The price has gone up from 50 Rupees
a kilogram to 100/110 Rupees a kilogram, if you can find one LPG
gas shop open. The price of one kilogram of vegetables has gone
from 100 Rupees to 125 Rupees. There is almost a 25 percent price
hike of everything available in shops and supermarkets. Yet there
is neither a wage increase nor any temporary compensation for
This is fertile ground for the very rich politicians from Muslim
League Q, who are the main supporters of Musharraf. They will
buy votes in bulk for the general election. The hardship of life
under Musharraf, with the PPP taking part in the election, may
cut across the massive sympathy wave that PPP is counting on.
The Musharraf dictatorship, however, has failed to curb the ongoing
suicide attacks. Religious fundamentalists groups in Wazirestan
and Swat are not backing down. Despite a heavy military operation,
they are striking back repeatedly. On 16 January, a group of religious
extremists occupied a fort in North Wazirestan, which was used
by Pakistan military.
The newspapers reported eight army men killed with 20 disappeared,
while unconfirmed reports put the causalities much higher. The
government reported 50 militants were killed.
There are several incidents where most of the suicide attackers
have been less than 16 years of age. The completely new generation
has been motivated by religious fundamentalists to make an all-out
war against the friends of imperialism and enemies of Islam.
There is also much discontent among the police force and bureaucracy.
They are sick and tired of being used against the masses. Many
police officers speak against the Musharraf government to their
friends and contacts. There is no support among the public employees
for the military dictatorship, but they are forced to go on.
The Musharraf dictatorship is isolated and the most hated in the
history of Pakistan. It is a dictatorship supported only by American
imperialism and its allies. It is trying its best to survive.
However, the days of the military regime are numbered. It cannot
survive for long despite all the help of its political friends.
Musharraf has survived through the most modern security arrangements
available, but these will not work all the time in the wake of
tremendous hatred that is building up.