|Pakistani Marxist MP, Manzoor Ahmed, speaks|
|Written by PTUDC|
|Tuesday, 14 January 2003 00:00|
Based on his speeches during his recent tour
Based on his speeches during his recent tour of Britain
Pakistan is in a critical condition at the current time, it is engulfed in a social, economic and international crisis. Military dictator, Gen. Musharaff is in power and can see that he and his government is in crisis as well. In an attempt to escape from this crisis, he held elections for parliament at the end of last year. However in spite of all the hopes of Musharaff the elections have not created any strong government.
There were three main parties that got substantial votes in the elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party, got 25% of the vote and could have won the elections, but they were rigged by the government so they only won 81 seats out of 342. The King's Party, so called because they are backed by Musharaff only got 22% of the vote. The other group was a coalition of all the fundamentalist parties, they got only 10% (65 seats) of the vote. This is an historical high for them, in the past they have never had more than 3% of the vote in any elections, but they have made some gains with the help of the Pakistani secret service, and because of America's 'war on terror'. The situation is that of a hung parliament, in other words unless two of these groups get together and form an alliance no parliamentary government can come to power.
Including the 10 PPP MPs, who they bribed into defecting, the King's Party has the greatest number of seats, but not an absolute majority. This makes the King's Party, which is in fact a coalition of parties, very weak. This is the largest number of coalition parties in the history of Pakistan if any one withdraws its support then the government would crumble.
The democracy is a sham, even after the parliament has decided the law, Musharaff has reserved the right to amend the it, he even has the right to amend the constitution. One man can override the whole of the elected parliament.
Behind the political crisis lies the social and economic crisis that the country faces. The government finances are in permanent deficit. 65.5% of the GDP is spent on debt servicing, and another 40% on defence, which adds up to 105.5%. While only 1.2% of GDP is spent on education and 0.7% on health. There is extreme poverty in Pakistan, and this has been on the increase during the so-called boom years of the 1990s, 52% of the population in Pakistan live on $1 a day, 85% of Pakistan's population lives on $2 a day. This has been the result of the policies of the current government and previous governments, who have faithfully carried out the programmes of the IMF and World Bank.
Pakistan's economy is 56% dependent on agriculture, but agriculture is in severe crisis at the moment because of the high price of fertilisers, seeds, electricity, and fuels. All these prices have been going up but the prices of crops have remained low. Industry is also facing huge closures, in the last 5 years, 7200 factories have been closed. The official figure for unemployment is 10 million, and in the past year alone 1.5 million lost their jobs. This is set to increase, the government wants to sack 1 million public servants next year, and who knows how many in the following years.
On the trade union front, we have suffered the biggest attacks in the history of Pakistan. The electricity sector is facing privatisation. The dictatorship sent the army in to run the sector, and in the last few years the new army directors have taken a tighter grip and implemented brutal measures. The right to organise has been revoked and the union was banned. They sacked more than 20,000 people, and there is no right to appeal or protest. Similar processes are going on the railways where the union was banned 5 years ago, and the postal and communications sectors, which are all suffering very severe attacks at the present time.
Privatisations are taking place in Pakistan, especially in health and education. But since privatisation, the prices of using them have shot up by as much as 60 times, and there are plans to privatise many more schools, hospitals and other services. It is impossible for the majority of people to pay to use these services. There have been big movements among the unions against this privatisation, but the government sacked all the leaders of that movement, all the teachers, doctors who led the movement.
The military state hangs the ever-present threat of war with India over the heads of the workers, to divide them along religious and national lines. This has a totally pernicious effect and merely demonstrates that the ruling class is unable to solve any of the problems of Pakistan.
The PTUDC is fighting against the attacks of the ruling class and the state. We are fighting both a political struggle and an industrial struggle in the streets and in parliament. We oppose the government attacks on trade union autonomy and democracy. We are opposed to the cuts that the government is implementing at the behest of the ruling class and the imperialists. Workers face extreme poverty and, unemployment and uncertainty over the future of their jobs.
The PTUDC requires the support and solidarity of workers, and trade unionists around the world. We are trying to unite, organise and give support to the trade unionists in Pakistan. Many of our comrades have been imprisoned in the past for the struggles that they have waged, and when this has happened it was the strength of the campaign within Pakistan and the solidarity internationally which got them released.
We also need the help of the international working class in the form of financial assistance, the work we do is extremely important and we rely only on the ordinary people in Pakistan for that money. That is why we have organised a tour of Britain in order to meet MPs, trade union leaders, and ordinary workers to seek support, affiliation, and financial aid.
The Struggle continues!