National Sections of the L5I:

Balochistan: Malik is Sharif's choice, not the people's

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The media are celebrating the nomination of Dr Abdul Malik for the post of Chief Minister of Balochistan. They say that Nawaz Sharif made a wise decision in choosing a middle class nationalist instead of a tribal chief. All parts of the ruling class show their contentment with this and see it as a major change for Balochistan. They think that Dr Malik's National Party has the background and broad enough support for people to put their trust in it for real reforms and that as a result it will drain support away from the Balochi national resistance movement.

Elections and Military operations

The government of Dr Malik is presented as a continuation of a democratic process. It is argued that the people of Balochistan now have a democratic government of their own, led by a party with a record of struggling for Balochi rights, and so the resistance movement should start a dialogue with the government. In reality, the elections in Baluchistan were held under the conditions of a repressive military operation against the resistance movement. Because of widespread support for the boycott call from the movement, they were a miserable failure.

Many Balochi activists said at the time that turnout was no more than three percent but later, through manipulations and with the votes from the Pahktoon area, this figure was raised. Even so, it was very low and the Government has no legitimacy amongst the Balochi people. In addition, the chief minister himself had a very low level of support in his own constituency. This shows both how unrepresentative this government is and that the state strategy of trying to use the elections to crush the Balochi nationalist movement was a failure.

The Left and liberal democracy

Generally, the Left has welcomed the nomination of Dr Malik. The Awami Workers Party said it was a positive outcome of the election and that Nawaz Sharif's government showed maturity in its decision. They also said that they hoped Dr Malik's government would concentrate on the real demands of the people such as the missing person issue, ending poverty, building the industrial and social structure and ending military operations and that he would prioritise solutions that the left in Pakistan will support. This point of view fails to understand the changes that have occurred in Baloch society. More than that, it suggests that the AWP leadership believes the problems facing the people of Balochistan can be resolved under capitalism and with the current government.

Tribal chiefs and development

In the media, especially in Punjab, there is propaganda that the leadership of the Baluchi resistance movement is in the hands of tribal chiefs. It is argued that these leaders are hostile to development and progressive values and, therefore, we should support capitalist development and oppose anyone who stands in its way. That is how they justify the military operation and oppression of the people of Balochistan, even at a time when the greater part of the Balochi movement is independent of the tribal chiefs. This makes clear the real nature of the state operation, whose real purpose is to exploit the resources of Balochistan. No doubt there are Balochi tribal chiefs who are against development but the real question is why these tribal chiefs still exist and why the Pakistan state has not eradicated their social basis. The majority of the tribal chiefs and nobility always were, and remain, supporters of the Pakistani state. Why are these areas still underdeveloped? Clearly, because the Pakistani state is reactionary and its ruling class did not fulfil any of the tasks of a bourgeois democratic revolution, nor did they carry out any social improvements such as the building of infrastructure and addressing the national question. In other words, it is the continued rule of Pakistan that keeps the majority of tribal chiefs in their positions of authority.

Imperialism and the Balochi independence movement

Many argue that U.S. imperialism and India support the Balochi liberation movement, making it a conspiracy against Pakistan rather than a genuine national movement. This is the same argument that is used in every working class movement or liberation movement by the capitalist class. They always claim that it is not justified resistance to exploitation and oppression that gives birth to such struggles. Instead, they claim it is the work of “outside agitators” – trade unionist militants or socialists who are misleading the workers. During the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks were accused of being German agents.

This approach sees history as one long series of conspiracies, ignoring the unpleasant fact that such movements erupt because of socio-political crises, because of intensified exploitation and oppression. Of course, there is no doubt that imperialist powers are backing part of the movement. They want to manipulate it in their own interest, but that is not a reason to reject an entire movement that is fighting against national oppression, plunder of the country’s resources and military occupation. Virtually every national liberation struggle or revolutionary uprising around the world has been the subject of imperialist intervention and meddling.

National self determination and Socialism:

The important question now is what should be the attitude of revolutionary socialists in the current situation. First of all, we should not support the government of Dr Malik. Not only does it not have a real base among the people but supporting it would mean siding with the state that has imposed the worst oppression on the Balochi people for the last 60 years. On the one hand, to suggest that Dr Malik's government can end poverty and build the industrial and social structure in the middle of the worst crisis of capitalism is to create a false hope and, on the other, it is to create illusions in capitalism more generally. It would raise the question, “What is the point of the socialist movement if a neo-liberal government can solve the existing problems?”

We support the right of national self-determination unconditionally, but critically. Lenin wrote that support for the self-determination of oppressed peoples by the workers of the oppressor nation creates better conditions for working class struggle. Instead of the workers of the different nations fighting each other, they can unite to fight against capitalism.

We want a voluntary federation of nations – not a forced one. We want to abolish borders and boundaries instead of creating them. National self-determination (including the right of oppressed nations to form their own states, if they wish) has to be understood as a step towards this unity. It increases the forces of socialist revolution. Why? Because the workers and all progressive forces of the oppressor nation and state can only win the trust of the oppressed if they support their rights without hesitation. The achievement of self-determination, with the support of the workers and peasants of the former oppressor nation, is the best way to weaken reactionary forces in both nations. It would create the best situation in which to fight the exploitative classes in both nations. As soon as the system of class exploitation is overcome, the basis for the exploitation of one nation by other nations will be overcome, too.

In these circumstances, revolutionary socialists should support the Balochi national movement. At the same time, we must also point out the class differences within the national liberation movement and the dangerous misleadership of bourgeois and tribal forces. We need to fight for the working class and socialist forces to become the leadership of the national liberation movement. The working class needs to build its own organs of struggle that will link their struggles with those of the whole Pakistani working class, indeed with workers worldwide. The working class movement would use the methods of class struggle; strikes, occupations, the general strike, culminating in a mass political uprising, instead of the petty bourgeois methods of guerillaism. In this way, the national liberation of Balochistan and the struggle for socialism can go forward.