At an AWL meeting in London on 28 February, Faryal Velmi spoke about Pakistan after the recent elections. In those elections the two main opposition parties — the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) — topped the poll and will have a dominant presence in the next parliament.
They may form a coalition. Whether they can, or will even attempt to, pressurise General Musharraf, who has now lost many of his supporters in Parliament, into resigning as President is quite another matter. One good thing was that the Islamic party alliance, the MMA, lost control of the North West Frontier Province.
During the meeting a phone link was made with Farooq Tariq of the Labor Party Pakistan. For the duration of the election the LPP was part of the All Parties Democratic Movement (a group that included Imran Khan’s party). They boycotted the election. Comrades were able to discuss some of the issues with Farooq. This is what he had to say.
The parties who came top in the election are talking to each other to form a government of national consensus. They have all publicly said they will demand the resignation of Musharraf. They will also demand the reinstatmement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court [his sacking last year led to the lawyer’s protests and state of emergency in Pakistan].
The election shows a very big oppositon to Musharraf, both those who voted in the election and those who boycotted it.
In the last period there have been huge prices, a result of the neo-liberal agenda implemented fully by Musharraf’s regime. The situation is really tough for the working class. There are shortages of many things. Unfortunately the PPP are also following the same policies, also in favour of privatisation. We are organising demonstrations against this. On International Women’s Day we have a protest against the price hike and liberalisation.
Our slogan has been “the army out of politics”. The military are everywhere in Pakistan, in property, business; they are selling shoes they are selling milk, they are selling insurance. The military have done very well out of being in dictatorship for 23 years out of 61 years of Pakistan’s existence. But people don’t like the military doing business and taking over peasants’ land. There is mass discontent in the military, they all want Musharraf to resign. There is a general feeling that we are all poorer because the military have become richer.
We have been fighting for democratic restoration since the 1999 coup. We have held many many demonstrations in the last ten years. Many of us have been arrested, I have been arrested many times.
The last year was very bad. I was living in absolute fear of being arrested. Sometimes when LPP people have been arrested we knew where they are are. Others have disappeared.
The Labor Party has fought for democratic rights all this time. But we don’t think democracy can bring food and shelter. For that we need to fight capitalism, imperialism and fundamentalism, and struggle for socialism.