National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: As thousands of lawyers protest against actions of military dictatorship - fight for a sovereign constituent assembly!

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This article was written in collaboration between the League for the Fifth International and our supporters in Pakistan. It will be circulated on the further protests of lawyers taking place on Friday and Saturday

On the 9th March president Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on spurious charges including unspecified ‘misconduct’, ‘misuse of authority’ and ‘actions prejudicial to the dignity of office of the chief justice of Pakistan’. The truth is that Chaudhry has been suspended because he has not been the pliant stooge Musharraf had wanted when he was appointed as Chief Justice in 2005. Chaudhry has established himself as something of a maverick and in particular he has taken up the cases of those disappeared by the security services and recently declared privatisation of the state run steel mills unlawful.

In response thousands of lawyers across Pakistan have boycotted courts and protested against the regime. In Lahore there were violent clashes as the state responded aggressively by batton charging demonstrators. The two television channels that filmed the protests, Aaj and Geo, were forced off air for some time after they filmed the protests. When transmission resumed there was no more footage from the protests and, in a clear declaration of intent, the two television channels now find themselves in court, charged with ‘derogatory information about current national issues especially in relation to the reference filed by President Pervez Musharraf against Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.’

Chaudhry is now effectively on trial at a private hearing of the Supreme Judicial Council of Pakistan. In his four page response to the charges, published earlier this week, Chaudhry has accused three members of the Supreme Judicial Council, including its chairman, of unconstitutional behaviour. While, he has protested his innocence inside hundreds of lawyers have protested outside the courtroom, demanding that he is immediately restored to his position and that the charges are dropped.

The Musharraf military regime is clearly making a turn towards authoritarianism in the face of mounting discontent with its rule across Pakistan. Since, the military junta took power in Pakistan in 1999 its rule has been characterised by a total support for US imperialism and a neoliberal economic policy. It committed 80,000 troops to take control of North Waziristan, on the Afhgan border, in the service of US imperialism, hoping to put a halt to Taleban operations. Last year it was forced to sign a peace deal with local tribal leaders in the face of military setbacks and growing popular anger in Pakistan.

It boasts economic growth over the last few years, while ignoring these have only been achieved through a ruthless privatisation and market deregulation programme that have hit Pakistan’s workers and poor. Its promises of 1999 to ‘tackle corruption’ have been shown to be entirely fraudulent – the government is more corrupt than ever and many of those implicated in previous corruption scandals have been pardoned.

The new aggression from the regime today is both symptomatic of its increasing isolation in broader society and the fact that in February Musharraf declared his intention to have parliament elect him for a further five years in February. This is unconstitutional in the absence of new parliamentary elections, which Musharraf’s supporters Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) would be sure to lose if they were not to rig them (as he is widely regarded to have done in the ‘presidential referendum’ of 2002).

The upshot of all this is that Mushrraf needed the Supreme Judicial Council, the arbiters in issues of constitutionarlity, to declare his actions legitimate and those sow the seeds of a further five years of military rule. Thus, any judicial mavericks such as Chaudhry had to be swiftly dealt with.

Now, the masses of Pakistan must show that the latest attempts by the pro-imperialist military junta will be met with fierce resistance. The spontaneous protests of the lawyers were an excellent start. It is vital though that the workers and peasants organisations must not simply support their protest in words but join their action and bring forward their own demands - in particular to reverse the Musharaff neoliberal economic programme.

The protests have certainly have the potential to be transformed into a mass movement against military rule. Many of the leaders of the working class organisations and social movements openly oppose the dictatorship but now must be the time for action not words. We need mass demonstrations, blockades, strikes and direct actions to bring down the regime.

Revolutionary Marxists must seek to turn the anger of the masses towards the fight for the convening of a fully sovereign constituent assembly elected on the basis of recallable delegates. We fight must fight not for a fake assembly under the control of the military, but for a constituent assembly organised by the working class and social movements opposing military rule.

The immediate tasks of the constituent assembly must be to reverse the neoliberal programme of the Musharraf regime, bring the criminal military junta to justice. To sweep away the military dictatorship and ensure it can never be replaced, we fight within a constituent assembly to continue the class struggle against the capitalists and the big landlord by enacting an agrarian revolution that will give the land to those who till it, encouraging the peasants to organise cooperatives if they so wish.

Women must be brought into the struggle for an end to military rule, this struggle must go hand in hand with the fight for the social, political and economic equality of women.

We call for workers control of production, nationalisation of big foreign multinationals and an economy planned for need, separation of religion and the state and equality of all faiths before the law. Above all we call for the arming of the workers and peasants, democratic rights for soldiers, including the election of all officers so that the people – the workers and peasants can never again be subjected to oppression and exploitation.

The military junta has shown itself to be a government of imperialist capital. It must not be replaced with another ‘democratic’ bourgeious government, such as the Pakistan Peoples Party and the former Sharif regime, we must fight to build up organs of working class and peasant power in the struggle for democracy in Pakistan. These co-ordinations or soviets can lay the basis for a new state – that is not an instrument of capital but of working class power that fights for world revolution and socialism.

The present situation shows the potential for a revolutionary struggle for power by the working class. The bourgeois class is divided, the state is weakened and convulsed with internal strife and the social forces exist that can be mobilised on the streets in a struggle against the government. However, there also great danger of a growing clerical Islamist forces who hope to lead the struggle against the government towards the reaction of Sharia law and not liberation.

In the working class movement too the leaderships hope to appease the ruling class rather than struggle for power – this is only recipe for a continuation of the neoliberal attacks, the bosses offensive, against the working class and poor. Pakistan, like so many countries globally, faces an acute crisis of working class leadership. In the coming period a revolutionary party must be built that fights to lead the masses towards the programme of socialist revolution.

• Demonstrations, blockades, occupations and strikes to bring down the regime!
• Fight for a sovereign constituent assembly with recallable delegates
• No more privatisations and deregulations!
• Build a revolutionary workers party!