Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pakistan

TThe Taliban are not what most of us would wish on Pakistan or anywhere else, but the April 16 New York Times gives a hint of what is unfolding there, and why we can't "fix" it:

Taliban Exploit Class Rifts in Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH, April 16, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/world/asia/17pstan.html?th&emc=th

What this story makes clear is that the Taliban is either leading or unleashing a long-overdue social revolution in the countryside, a rebellion against the power of the big landlords, and that is what all the "experts" have been so concerned about, why they fear and predict this "insurgency" will spread to all of Pakistan!

I've been shaking my head over every story coming out of Pakistan for years, asking: "What is really going on below the surface? This doesn't make sense!" We've been shown a country going unstable, but no satisfactory clue as to why. Finally here's a clue. We can be sure there's more, much more, but this piece of the story at least makes sense!

There are indications in the story that the fact that peasants were rising against their landlords under Taliban leadership was well known to journalists, perhaps five years ago, certainly by three years ago; yet only now has the Times deemed it necessary to share this information with the broader elite, the professionals, academics and "top 1%" who make up most of its readership. A Google search shows that the story was not picked up by other media; perhaps it came with a tag indicating "not for mass consumption"!

How does this square with Bhutto's land reform? Was that incomplete or corupt, leaving unfinished business? What about the Taliban in Afghanistan is unclear. Is the same thing happening there? The revolution of 1978-79 was also a revolt against the landlords, which failed and was crushed despite half a million Soviet troops trying to save it, but the class conflict in the countryside must still be there, as presumably the surviving landlords or their families returned to claim their land. Where is the reporter who will tell us whether unleashing a peasant rebellion is also powering the Taliban's success in Afghanistan?

Nor is there any hint here as to how this affects Pakistan's large urban working class. Are the Taliban championing their cause also? Could urban working people tolerate its call for Sharia Law? Pakistan's labor movement represents barely 2% of the non-agricultural workforce, yet it is active, militant, uniting, and winning victories, working with the basically corrupt Pakistan Peoples Party. What are their leaders thinking and saying? What they will do if Pakistan goes critically unstable? Will they be able to lead the working class? Is there an underground workers party that will suddenly emerge? Will they then join with the Taliban-led peasants or oppose them in a battle of competing revolutions? Our media rarely gives a hint that they exist at all. But without this information, our ability to understand the danger of and motives for US intervention in Pakistan, and our understanding of the need to block the Obama Administration from broadening US involvement, are very weak.

The Pakistan crisis has the potential to develop into a nightmare: US troops and mercenaries, with vast fleets of armed robots, wading into the midst of a titanic struggle between a long-overdue peasant revolution, led by religious fanatics, and a long-overdue workers revolution led by we don't know who, in a nuclear-armed nation ten times the size of Iraq, with India sitting on the wings ready to take advantage! This must not be allowed to happen!

The US can't fix Pakistan or save it from itself. Our "Empire" evidently cannot by its nature bring progress and democracy to anyone, no matter what the intentions of the people at the top, any more than the Soviet Red Army could save a revolution in Afghanistan. Theirs just wasn't that kind of an army anymore, and neither is ours. We've done enough damage already.

For better or for worse, the people of Pakistan (and Afghanistan) must be left free to work this out for themselves! Perhaps we do have a role to play though in persuading India to stay out of it too!
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