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Anti-Musharraf Protests Will Mount

Sahara Time has recently interviewed LPP Sec Gen Farooq Tariq. Below are the excerpts:

Farooq Tariq has been pivotal in the formation of the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) in 1997. Over the past few years his party has been taking up the issues of peasants and workers. He is also at the centre of the protests against the Musharraf regime after Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was removed. Earlier, he was part of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD), but the LPP walked out of the alliance last year. It is opposed to both military dictatorship and the growing influence of Islamic parties like MMA. Tariq believes Pakistani middle class and workers are slowly realizing the significance of socialism. The LPP is the fastest growing left party in Pakistan nowadays. In an exclusive interview to Manoj Kumar of Sahara Time, Farooq Tariq, LPP general secretary, talks about his party's prospects and the general unrest in Pakistan.

Q: How strong is the undercurrent of democratic protests against
Musharraf ?
A: The recent strike called by the opposition political parties were the first most successful protest action in seven years of military rule. Pakistan is united against the military dictatorship and its ally MQM. More and more people are joining the protests all over Pakistan. The protest campaign by the lawyer community has won over many from middle classes who were earlier supporting the Musharraf regime. The right-wing religious alliance MMA, the liberal Pakistan People's Party, the conservative Muslim League, the nationalists and the Left, all are against the military rule. The advocates' movement for the independence of judiciary provided them the much needed initiative and now they are all on the board.

Q: What is the situation of Tehrik-e-Insaf? Is Imran making progress?
A: Tehrik-e-Insaf in general and Imran Khan in particular are very much in the media. They are quite well-known among the middle classes. Their support base has grown over the years. But the politics of Imran Khan is very much linked with the politics of the religious fundamentalists. He is strongly in favour of an alliance with the MMA. The MMA has helped the military regime in very crucial periods during the past seven years. Imran Khan vote share might go up to five percent all over Pakistan. He has no strong organisational set-up and support for his ideas. Those from the Left who joined him earlier have left him. But I suppose he is one who is in the forefront of opposing the regime. Till 2002, he was a staunch supporter of the present regime.

Q: What has been the public response to your party?
A: The Labour Party of Pakistan was established in 1997 during a conference of 128 delegates from trade unions and several political trends. It now has a national identity and is recognized as the group that is opposed to the military regime. The LPP is leading movements among the peasants and workers. It has fought sometime successfully against the privatization process.

Q: Is there ground for Marxist-driven ideological politics in
A: The LPP is a Socialist party but not on the footsteps of former communist parties of the USSR and Eastern Europe. It believes in democratic socialism. Pakistan is no fertile ground for Marxist ideology yet, but the class contradictions are on the rise. There are no mass traditions of Left parties in Pakistan. We are working from zero.

Q: People in India and elsewhere are alarmed that Pakistan is sliding into the vicious grip of its own Taliban. Is it so?
A: The religious fundamentalists are on a roll in Pakistan. They are growing everywhere, especially in Punjab. They are seen as anti-imperialist and anti-military. That is a wrong notion. They have collaborated with the military and Americans.

Q: What is the LPP's stand on Kashmir?
A: The LPP stands for the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people on both sides. It is for an independent Kashmir, free both from Pakistani and Indian Govts. Kashmir's overwhelming population is for independence.

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