National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: Government exploits Taliban attack on children

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The coldblooded killing of 142 people, including 132 children, at the Peshawar Army Public School was a sad day in the recent history of Pakistan, which has been a victim of the “War on Terror” for more than a decade.

We condemn the Taliban attack on children. We send condolences to their parents, friends, and loved ones. However, we see no solution in renewed military operations, mass hangings or military courts, these will only add fuel to the fire and bring more terrorism and destruction.

Making children and civilians the targets for “revenge” against the military and the Pakistan state forces, has no justification whatsoever. It shows the anti-working class, ultra-reactionary nature of the Taliban, who are not concerned at the loss of the lives of youngsters or other civilians in this, as in many other cases.

These actions do not only kill hundreds of innocents, they also serve as a pretext for the government, the army, the bourgeois parties and their imperialist backers to present themselves as “defenders” of ordinary citizens.

The terrorist attack has unified the ruling class, whose different factions had been in a deep political crisis and open struggle against each other. In August, Imran Khan and his PTI (Justice Party) and the clergyman Tahir ull Qadari mobilised a massive popular movement with the support of a section of the military.

Now, with the development of the “national consensus”, Khan has called off the sit-in and the movement in the name of “national unity”. All the factions back the war on terror, calling it “our war”. This unity strengthens the state. It allows the government and the military to assume extraordinary powers. Shortly after the attack, the government lifted the suspension of the death penalty and ordered the hangings of terrorists.

Now, through a constitutional amendment, parliament has given military courts the power to try civilians on any charge supposedly related to terrorism. This includes crossing borders without permission, which is aimed directly at the many Afghans who have fled the war in their own country. This, and the war in the Pashtun areas, is clearly designed to whip up racism and to keep the mass of the population divided.

The media have portrayed the Peshawar attack as a war on the nation's children and demanded that the revenge should be hangings, death and more war. They have argued for full scale military operations not only in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, “FATA”, but the whole country.

This has created a situation in which not only army units but the police feel free to kill. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, some 450 people were killed by police in the city of Karachi alone. Yet, instead of calling into question the state and its commitment to the war that is breeding the displacement, racism, killing and terrorism everywhere, the media are presenting the state as the solution.

A “people’s war”?
The grief of the parents and children, and the barbarism and inhumanity of the attackers, have been cynically exploited by the media, which are taking every opportunity to use the images of dead and injured children to create an atmosphere of war hysteria. There is a massive propaganda campaign to encourage public protests organised by the state institutions and political parties. This makes it easier for the state to present the “War on Terror” as a people's war against the “national enemy”.

In this way, they hide the brutal face of a state whose military operations in FATA, Baluchistan and now Sind bring death and mutilated bodies ever day. They are using this attack to distract from the daily deaths of hundreds of children due to lack of health services, poverty and hunger.

The future of the nation
The state claims that the nation's future will only be secure if the Taliban can be eliminated. So far, their war has cost the lives of more than 50,000 Pakistanis and forced more than five million from their homes. Still there is no end to this “war on terror”. Just since the Peshawar attack, military sources have reported the killing of 900 Taliban but local media report that many of those killed by aerial bombardment and drone attacks are actually innocent civilians, including women and children.

Far from eliminating the Taliban, military operations are just making the war more barbaric, bringing more misery, destruction, killing and the displacement of ordinary people. It is no surprise that this actually brings new recruits to the Taliban, especially from the youth who have grown up amid all the devastation.

Imperialist war
The ruling class argues that it is our war but, in reality, this is a war to maintain imperialist dominance and plundering, in which our ruling class is playing a dirty role. The recent visit of the army's Chief of Staff to the USA reveals the reality. Washington and Islamabad are expanding this war to cover up their defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Liberals and the Left
Liberals have supported the war on terror from the beginning. Although they recognise that the state has long collaborated with the Islamists, they nevertheless support the state as the only defence of democracy and liberal values against the Taliban.

Many on the left, including the central leadership of the Awami Workers' Party, AWP, essentially accept the same argument. For them, even though they are critical of the state and imperialism, the real danger is the Taliban and so they do not oppose the war. Some radicals on the left also point to the relationship between the state and the Islamists and raise demands such as changes in the education curriculum, a fully secular state or the state control of Islamic schools.

Instead of opposing the war on terror and explaining how it is breeding the violence, such figures are doing no more than questioning particular areas of state policy. This is because of their reformist politics which assume that the solution must be found within the existing state.

Revolutionaries oppose the war not only because it is fundamentally a war to preserve imperialist control of the entire region but also because this is the only way to save the children and women in this region from barbarism.

No to the reactionary war! No trust in the state-forces! Self-defence against Islamist attacks!

In this atmosphere of war, the whole of bourgeois society, government and opposition, military officers and their civilian counterparts, the Muslim clergy and liberals, has been sympathetic to the military operation and the attacks on democratic rights that have now allowed a virtual state of emergency to be imposed on Pakistan.

In such a situation, the working class, the oppressed classes and the left need to take a clear stand against the government's war drive and attacks on democratic rights. The increased state powers, supposedly only aimed against the Taliban will actually be used to impose control over the Pashtun areas and to secure the imperialist “order” at the Afghan border. This will lead to thousands more deaths and refugees and further divide the population along national and tribal lines.

In addition, we must not be under any illusion that the same measures will not then be used against other nationalities, ethnic groups, social opposition, workers' struggles and the left.

Therefore, we must oppose the “war on terror” and all the extensions of executive powers of the government, the secret services and the army. We oppose all the “anti-terror laws”, the military courts and the racism against Afghan and Pashtun people. We call for an end to the war in FATA and the withdrawal of all troops. For this we have to build an anti-war movement and a movement for the defence of democratic rights.

This is not to deny the very real danger that the Taliban, or other arch-reactionary Islamist forces, pose for the workers, peasants, women and the nationally and socially oppressed. But war and state terrorism is not, and cannot be, a solution to these problems.

Instead, we argue and support the organised self-defence of workers, peasants and oppressed communities against attacks from the reactionary forces. The Pakistan left and the trade unions, as well as all progressive and democratic forces, must follow such a course and refuse any support for the state forces and their war drive.

This is the only way to fight against the Taliban since, at the end of the day, the struggle against the Taliban can only be successful it it is part of the struggle against imperialism, war and capitalist exploitation.