On Wednesday 21 October four people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a university in Islamabad.
This attack was the latest in a series on prominent, government, institutional and military “targets” in Pakistan, by jihadists associated with or in support of the Taliban in Pakistan. It was retaliation for the Pakistani military’s incursion, now a ground offensive, in South Waziristan.
The Pakistani government, acting under pressure from the US, want to destroy, demobilise or otherwise disorganise the Taliban in this region, which forms part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan and borders Afghanistan. Like the south of Afghanistan, these border areas of Pakistan are heavily populated by Pashtun people. Some of the Pashtun tribal leaders and people are now part of the Taliban, or are associated with it, or support it. But that is of little consequence to the thousands of “civilians” who are now pouring out of South Waziristan.
The main factor behind this war is the US war in Afghanistan. The US want a more ethnically representative and more stable government (an aim not helped by the massive corruption in Afghanistan’s recent election). But before they get to that point they have to weaken the Taliban.
The US have now enlisted Pakistan despite the fact that the Pakistani military has been, and remains in large part, reluctant to go on the offensive against the Taliban. Recently the US government agreed an increase of $7.5 billion over five years in non-military aid to Pakistan. That was the bribe.
The problem for the Pakistan People’s Party government is that in order to “defeat” the Taliban they will also have to deal with the myriad of jihadist groups, some actively nurtured under General Pervez Musharraf’s military government, that hide out and prosper in Pakistan. The recent past has seen many of these groups (who are most active in Pakistan’s most populous region, the Punjab), integrate and collaborate with each other and with either the Afghan Taliban “refugees” or the Pakistani Taliban.
Socialists and trade unionists who have to operate in the cities where Islamist violence is increasing will find their job harder. In such a situation anyone can become a victim. On 15 October a leading trade unionist, Master Khudad Khan, was killed in Peshawar. He happened to be passing just as a suicide bomber was carrying out his deadly mission.
Master Khudad was the deputy general secretary of Pakistan Workers’ Confederation and a founding member of Bonded Labour Liberation Front. The Pakistan Workers’ Confederation is the main trade union body in Pakistan.
The Labour Party of Pakistan, of which he was a member, are now campaigning for his body to be released to his relatives.
The campaigns of comrades in the LPP for workers’ rights, against the corrupt capitalist government of the PPP, and against the Islamists, is more urgent than ever.