The following report from Lahore was written by Khalid Bhatti from the Socialist Movement Pakistan (SMP). The SMP is the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Pakistan. More reports and analysis will be published on this site in the next few days. Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was killed in a suicide attack after addressing a public rally in Rawalpindi on 27 December.
Her tragic death has once again exposed the volatile situation that exists in the country. The government has pointed the finger of blame at an Al-Qaeda-linked group led by tribal war lord Baitullah Mashud for this killing.
Benazir had repeatedly said that some elements within the state apparatus wanted to kill her. She survived a deadly suicide attack on 18 October in Karachi at her reception rally when she returned from exile in which nearly 150 people were killed. She was on the hit list of Al-Qaeda and other reactionary Islamic groups. An Al-Qaeda spokesman in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility of her killing. This spokesman said she was killed because of her alliance with ‘infidels’ and because she was an American agent.
Violence has erupted as the news of her killing spread throughout the country. Benazir’s home province, Sindh, has been in the grip of violence as angry mobs have set ablaze banks, government buildings, gas stations and petrol pumps, railway stations, trains, cars, buses and shops across the province. More than 24 people have been killed in the violence so far. The whole country was shut down in protest and the government has also announced three days of mourning. Train services have been suspended and other transport has also been halted.
The situation is like a general strike but a spontaneous one which no one has really organised and acquiring a semi-insurrectionary character in some areas. Many workers and poor people who were not open Bhutto supporters, have expressed their anger against the regime as a whole. This could be channeled through building united democratic defence committees into a movement throughout Pakistan capable of bringing down the hated Musharraf government.
US loses key supporter of ‘War on Terror’
We cannot rule out the involvement of reactionary sections within the state apparatus in this assassination. The reactionary fundamentalist and nationalist elements within the state apparatus are closely linked with different armed reactionary Islamic groups. Many of these groups were created and developed by the state apparatus and especially the intelligence establishment. These elements were not happy with the pro-US policies of Benazir and particularly her vocal opposition to Islamic militancy and extremism. She was a staunch supporter of the US-led ‘War on Terror’ and supported military operations against militant groups. There is no doubt that reactionary extremist forces are behind her killing.
She is the fourth member of the Bhutto family who has been killed in political violence. Her father and two brothers were killed by the state apparatus. Despite the hanging of her father and founder of the PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1979 at the hands of the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, she tried to do everything to make a compromise with the military establishment.
Benazir abandoned pro-masses policies to appease the establishment. Despite this she was never fully trusted by the military or big sections of the ruling elite in Pakistan.
Mobilise workers and poor against reaction
The Socialist Movement Pakistan strongly condemns the killing of Benazir Bhutto and we reject terrorist acts and the methods of reactionary religious extremist forces. However, the SMP has always made clear our opposition to the pro-imperialist and capitalist policies of Benazir Bhutto and the leadership of the PPP who were working to defend the present system.
Even at their most radical, the PPP leadership only really promised to make limited reforms to the rotten capitalist and feudal set-up in Pakistan, without ever explaining how these would be implemented. When in power, they always ended up lining their own pockets and attacking working class democratic rights and living standards. But we also condemn the acts of individual and state terrorism conducted against individuals or groups. The SMP believes in mass, independent working class political struggle to overthrow the present rotten capitalist and feudal system.
The SMP strongly believes that religious extremism can only be defeated by a mass movement of the working class and poor masses. The present regime has failed to defeat the reactionary forces of religious extremism. The working class is the only force in society which is capable of defeating dictatorship and religious extremism. A well organised and prepared mass political action and general strike can defeat the forces of reaction. The present wave of violence will not be able to bring down the regime and defeat reactionary forces. Instead the working people need an organised mass political movement with clear objectives and a programme which takes up the everyday concerns of the majority such as spiraling food prices, mass unemployment and widespread poverty.
We have been explaining that the elections due to be held on 8 January would be a farce – in no way democratic – and have been calling for elections to be held on a totally different basis for representatives to a revolutionary constituent assembly to prepare the way for a government of workers and poor people.