Self-determination for Balochistan

Last week, three Republicans (Dana Rohrabacher, Louie Gohmert, and Steve King) sponsored a bill “recognizing Baluchistan’s right to self-determination.” This sparked widespread condemnation by the Pakistani ruling and military class (who saw the maneuver as meddling in internal politics) and enthusiastic support from several voices in Balochistan (who saw the resolution and the hearings that preceded it as evidence that their case was finally getting a hearing in the west). The problem is that the Balochi right to self-determination is being caught in the same ambush which trapped the Kurds in Iraq: the weakness of their position vis-à-vis Pakistan is forcing them into a compromise with American imperialism, which has already shown itself no great ally of national liberation struggles.

The Obama administration and leading Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the resolution; the establishment line continues to be that Pakistan is more important as an ally than as an enemy. David Dreier (R-CA) spoke to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to assure him that the US is fully behind the national integrity of Pakistan. All mention of the Pakistani government’s role in the horrors in Balochistan was quickly swept under the rug. At the same time, the bill is the latest salvo in the Pakistan-bashing which has been commonplace in the US as an explanation for the Afghan quagmire, the seemingly endless sources of Islamists, and the like; Rohrabacher’s bill is part of a small but vocal line of thought which sees the break-up of Pakistan as important to the “war on terror” and the coming conflict with Iran.

The fight between Christine Fair and Rohrabacher reveals some of the thinking that is behind this resolution. The real injustices done to the Baloch people are being used as sticks with which the Pakistani establishment will be humbled. In fact, offhand comments by members of Rohrabacher’s staff were picked up by the Pakistani press; one of them was overheard saying that the resolution was an opportunity to “stick it to the Pakistanis.” One suspects, too, that the decision to support the Baloch cause was opportunistic; there has been so little debate and discussion about the longstanding grievances of the Balochis in the US.

As Praveen Swami recently reported, the Pakistani military has long conducted a dirty war in Balochistan: assassinations, rape, collective punishment, disappearances. Since the establishment of Pakistan, there has been a dominant strain of Baloch politics which sought independence from Pakistan; there is also a strain which has been coopted into the establishment of Pakistan which prefers unity over independence. The Baloch Liberation Army is only the most recent formation under which the Baloch organized themselves to fight the Pakistani military.

Almost immediately, the Pakistani government cut a deal with Baloch leaders who were living in exile, presumably so that they could both pacify restive Balochis and re-establish connections to erstwhile allies. A package of economic reforms was also announced for Balochistan:

INCENTIVES: The meeting decided that the federal government will release Rs4 billion to the Water and Power Development Authority on account of its share of subsidy for farmers of Balochistan.

A total of 15,000 graduates and post-graduates from the province will be given jobs under the prime minister’s Internship Programme.

They will work as schoolteachers and get a stipend of Rs15,000 per month.

About 2,400 federal government jobs will be filled on merit with the assistance of members of the National Assembly and Senate from Balochistan.

The meeting decided to award one-step promotion to any officer coming to Islamabad from the province on deputation.

It also decided to double the number of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme to 750,000.

The strength of Federal Levies Force will be raised from 3,500 to 6,500 through fresh recruitment.

The meeting decided to increase the number of brilliant students from Balochistan to 500 from 150 for providing free education to them with effect from the next academic year and to create an endowment fund of Rs5 billion to sustain the programme.

The Capital Development Authority will allot plots to the Balochistan government for construction of two hostels for students and officers in Islamabad.

The Frontier Corps will not be move in any district without the permission of the deputy commissioner and will not set up any check-post without the approval of the chief minister.

Confident that it has the ear of the west, the Baloch Republican Party rejected the package and praised the Republican congressmen for their support. While American imperialist interest and Balochi national interest may move in similar directions for a while, they will necessarily diverge as Balochistan is asked to be the military-base-of-the-month (which is the only way, it seems, that independence happens with American backing) against Iran and Pakistan. This is not the preferred option for the American ruling class, but it’s hard to imagine that either Santorum or Romney doesn’t start picking up this line in the debates very soon.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians gets the analysis right, I think:

While any publicity about the discrimination and violence faced by Sindhis and the Baloch is to be welcomed long experience, more recently confirmed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria shows that US and western concerns about human rights violations are merely a fig leaf to provide a cover for the naked pursuit of their own selfish imperial interests.

The Pakistani state’s unjust and ruthless treatment of the Baloch, even when their elected leadership accepted the constitutional framework adopted during Z.A. Bhutto’s government in 1973 in good faith as a step toward equitable relations, is the direct cause of the desire among many Baloch to seek independence; as are repeated ‘actions’ by the military in the rise of the Baloch armed resistance movement – reminiscent of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) in East Pakistan’s war of independence.

Friend and comrade in Pakistan released!

I received the following from Farooq Tariq of the Labor Party of Pakistan:
Thank you for your immediate response on the arrest of Ammar Ali Jan, general secretary Labour Party Pakistan Lahore. He was taken to a court by Kot Lakhpat police this morning. On hearing the arguments, the judge ordered to release him on bail bond of Rupees 30,000. Rabia Shahzadi advocate and member of Lahore LPP committee represented Ammar Ali jan in the court.

Ammar was picked up by CIA police yesterday afternoon. they dodged him to come along to Liberty police station where he was handed over to Kot lakhpat police.

Today, we had tremendous response to our message on SPN and facebook. We also sent an sms to all our contacts.

Asma Jehanghir former president Supreme Court Bar Association called me to offer her help in the court. She also advised how to go further on this issue.

Thank you Asma for this timely advice and offer of legal help.

Scores of Ammar friends and party activists were at the police station along with leaders of Progressive Youth Front. It was here when Ammar along with local youth led a demonstration in 2010 against continues power cuts. He was arrested at the time along with five others. This successful blokade of the main road led to a complete victory at the time and WAPDA has to buy a new transformer from private company on urgent basis to provide the electricity for the whole area.

On our demand, Saad Rafique member national parliament intervened in support of the youth and forced police to release all of arrested one. However, police arrested Ammar on the charges that were dropped at the time.

Labour Party Pakistan Lahore will organise a protest demonstration against this arrest and has called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

Friend and Comrade arrested in Pakistan

If solidarity actions are possible from abroad, I will post details here.
Ammar Labour Party

LAHORE – Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) Lahore general secretary, Progressive Youth Front (PYF) organiser and Beaconhouse National University (BNU) teacher Ammar Ali Jaan was arrested by CIA personnel from Ghora Chowk around noon and placed in the Kot Lakhpat police lockup for being an absconder in a road blocking case registered in 2010.
According to sources, Ammar left home around 12pm and stopped at the Ghora Chowk petrol pump where four-five police officers asked him for ID, and began to check his vehicle. The police officers reportedly claimed that his chasis number was incorrect and he would have to come to the police station. Once taken to the CIA office Liberty Police Station, he was told that he had been arrested for an outstanding FIR against him at the Kot Lakhpat police station. He was later taken to the Kot Lakhpat police station where he was put in lockup.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Kot Lakhpat police Naib Muharar Abid said Ammar Ali was an absconder in FIR 555/10 registered on August 10 2010 under sections 147, 149, 353, 186, 290, 291 of the Pakistan Penal Code, for blocking a road. He said that Ammar was arrested by the investigations wing. However, asked to clarify why CIA police were involved, Abid said, “Anyone can arrest an absconder.”
Investigating Officer Zulfiqar Ahmed could not be reached.
LPP has called for protest outside the police station in the morning.

Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg

The book is quite interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its passionate defense of the legacy of Rosa Luxemburg from her many detractors. I read the book as a companion piece to Reform or Revolution, which a number of people in Austin are reading at the moment.

While the book has many things to recommend it, I found two arguments to be particularly provocative (either because I haven’t heard them before or because they didn’t strike me the first time I heard them – I can’t decide which).

First, Frolich argues that the historical conditions were against the German Revolution (1918-23) from the beginning:

And to top it off, there was another fact of the greatest significance: history provided the movement with no direct or imperative objective that could be brought about only by revolution. Peace and land were the two great slogans which had carried the Russian Revolution to victory, but in 1918 peace was already a fact, and defeated German imperialism was prepared to pay anything for ti, providing it could retain power at home; and although a broad section of the small-hold peasants made a rather precarious living, land-hunger was not strong enough to rouse the rural areas into revolt. Having been kept until then in complete servitude by Junkers and rich land-owning peasants, the agricultural labourers made only hesitant use of the ‘coalition right’ and their new-found political freedom. The working class was certainly in favour of the socialization of the economy, but the greater part of the masses came to realize what this demand meant and how it could be carried out only after all chance of doing so was irrevocably lost (263).

Frolich adds to this grim picture the following proviso: “However, there was one factor which forced matters to a fateful showdown: sections of the working class were armed.” This makes it appear as though the German Revolution was really only ever about the disarmament of the German working class so that German capitalism could force through its own agenda on the German workers. If the revolutionary prospects were not really all that good, then all revolutionary action in Germany in 1918 really did amount to putsches.

Second, Frolich argues about the pivotal events of January 1918, “The truth is: there was no Spartakus uprising … The truth is that the January fighting was cautiously and deliberately prepared and cunningly provoked by the leaders of the counter-revolution.” (285) This argument seems to flow from the first (that the advantage was in the hands of the bourgeois reaction and that there could only have defensive actions by the working class at the moment).

This is fairly different from the picture painted by Pierre Broue, for instance, who argues that there was an attempt to push forward in 1918 when the KPD did not have a decisive advantage (due in part to the adventurist politics of Liebknecht).

Part of Frolich’s argument seems to be the result of focusing on Rosa Luxemburg’s role in the events of 1918, but there does seem to be an important debate here about whether or not any party would have been able to push the German Revolution to a decisive conclusion early on. The proletariat of course gets another go at it in 1923, when conditions are more favorable.

Kerala Nurses on Strike

Nurses across the south Indian state of Kerala are on rolling strikes for pay increases against private hospitals which have been unwilling to meet the minimum wage demands of the state. Just as one strike ends (at SH Hospital in Paynkulam) another one begins (at Amrita Insitute of Medical Sciences). In many instances (like at Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical College) nurses are winning their demands, in part because of the strength of the unions and in part because of the outpouring of support they are receiving from individuals everywhere. Despite demands of 85% increase in wages, throngs of people rallied in solidarity with the nurses.

The strikes were quite militant, causing hospitals in many instances to close down entirely. Even more astonishing has been the rapid growth of the nurses’ unions. Despite being relatively unorganized, the newly minted United Nurses’ Association has grown remarkably, adding over 400 branches in the first months of 2012. Part of the reason for this is clearly the conditions under which nurses labor. Despite the state’s fixed minimum wage at Rs. 9000, most nurses make barely half of that, and new “trainee” nurses make Rs. 1000 in some conditions.

Here’s how Nissar Adoor describes working conditions for Keralan nurses:

Some of the issues faced by the nurses include the following. All hospital management says duty time is only 8 hour, but in reality this hardly the case with most of them made to work beyond the duty time. Most of the hospitals are not providing medical insurance or free health coverage especially given the fact that nurses are more prone to get diseases and infections. Many of the hospitals pay a very low wages, as low as Rs. 1800 a month (which is nowhere near even pathetic the labour minimum wages of around Rs. 6000). While hospitals charge patients anywhere from Rs. 1500-2500 (per day) as nurses fee but nowhere is this reflected in the nurses salary. Private/ corporate hospitals demand bonded contracts, which if broken, nurses are forced to pay more than Rs. 50,000. Even the so called ISO certified hospitals hire untrained nurses thus bringing down the wages of skilled nurses and putting the lives of patients at risk. Male nurses are denied opportunities often because of flimsy reasons, while they cleverly over exploit female nurses by under paying and over-exploiting them. Nurses are punished on flimsiest grounds, cuts in their salary or double duty time are rampant. Besides all these, none of them enjoy any basic rights as workers and are denied trade union rights. Moreover, many nurses are made to endure psychological abuses from the management.

The strikes in Kerala come on the heels of strikes that happened last year in Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta, where similar conditions provoked industrial actions in hospitals there.

In February, hospitals demanded that the Kerala state government impose sanctions against nurses using the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) which requires certain necessary jobs continue during industrial disputes. The Kerala state government responded by accusing the hospitals of doctoring the books and misrepresenting nurses’ wages. Local courts, though, did provide hospitals with police to keep the nurses out and to keep operations going in some place.

The main demands of the strikers include:

  • Minimum wages
  • Extra pay for night shifts
  • No overtime without extra pay
  • No bonded labor
  • Ending the use of student nurses as free labor

Image from Gulf News.

The most puzzling part of the story has been the support from parties across the political spectrum. The CPI and CPM are not big surprises, nor are the Congress and the Congress-led INTUC (Indian National Trade Union Congress). But somewhat surprising are the BJP and the Shiv Sena, who declared hartals in support of the nurses. My best guess is that the massive popularity of the issue has meant that everyone has jumped on the bandwagon (though luckily this means that the nurses are likely to move from success to success even if this muddies the political waters in the long-term).

Afghan/Pakistani left coming together

From DAWN Newspaper

AfPak left-wing parties to work together for peace

LAHORE, Dec 21: Left-wing parties of Pakistan and Afghanistan have got together for the first time and agreed on working jointly for regional peace and progress. They have rejected any military solution to the problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The consensus was developed at a two-day consultation of Leftists from both countries on `Regional Political Context and its Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan` here on Wednesday.They pledged to devote all their energies to building concrete alternatives to the false choice between Nato and the Taliban. They sought the right to self-determination for Afghanistan as well as adequate and relevant mechanisms to support and sustain it.

The participants belonged to the Awami Party, Pakistan Workers Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Solidarity Party Afghanistan, Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organization and the event was sponsored by the Swedish Left Party.

Alleging that in both neighbouring states the progressive forces had been pushed to the wall through controlled democracies, they set their aim at working together to resist Nato strikes and standing up as a “third option” to bring peace and make progress on both sides of the Durand Line.

Swedish Left Party representative Ann Carin Landstorm said they supported the dialogue to strengthen left-wing progressive movements and parties. She called for a joint and meaningful peace revolution in the region with the moral support of her party.

She welcomed the gathering after devastating periods of history in the region that led to anarchy, chaos and terrorism instrumented by international imperialistic powers.

Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization`s Faridoun Aryan, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organisation president Arif Afghani and Abdul Qadir Ranto and Nasir Shah of Solidarity Party Afghanistan called for peace in their country and condemned the US-led Nato invasion. They urged the Left to get united on a single platform and resist this regime with sincere efforts.

They called for better relations with Pakistani left-wing parties and expediting the efforts to resist the “war on terror”.

Dr Lal Khan, Jamil Umar, Abdul Qadir Ranto and Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan also spoke. — Staff Reporter

Occupy Movement goes to Pakistan! (10/22 in Karachi)

سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی
Anti-Capitalism Movement / In Solidarity with Wall Street Occupiers
اکتوبر 18 2011
پریس ریلیز
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے سے یکجہتی اور سرمایہ داری کے خلاف احتجاج ۲۲ اکتوبر بروز ہفتہ کراچی پریس کلب پر ہو گا
سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی کا قیام
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی کے لیے کراچی کی مختلف سیاسی و طلبہ تنظیموں کا ایک اجلاس پی ایم اے ہاﺅ س کراچی میں منعقد ہوا ۔ اس اجلاس میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنا دینے والے نوجوانوں اور سیاسی کارکنوں کی جدوجہد کو خراجِ تحسین پیش کرتے ہوئے سرمایہ داری نظام اور اسکی لوٹ کھسوٹ کے خلاف ابھرنے والی عالمگیر تحریک کو سراہا گیا۔ اس اجلاس میں نیشنل اسٹوڈنٹس فیڈریشن، انٹرنیشنل سوشلسٹ پاکستان، نیٹ ورک فار وومن، کراچی یونیورسٹی، آغا خان یونیورسٹی، سی بی ایم، آئی بی ایم اور دیگر تعلیمی ادروں سے تعلق رکھنے والے طالبعلموں اور اساتذہ اور محنت کشوں نے شرکت کی۔ اجلاس میں یہ فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ وال اسٹریٹ دھرنوں کی طرز پر کراچی میں بھی سرمایہ داروں کی لوٹ مار، مہنگائی، بے روزگاری، مہنگی تعلیم و صحت، مہنگی بجلی، گیس اور مقامی و ملٹی نیشنل کمپنیوں اور بنکوں کی منافع خوری کے خلاف آگاہی و احتجاجی مہم کا آغاز کیا جائے۔ اس سلسلے میں کئی کمیٹیاں تشکیل دی گئیں تو شہر بھر کے تعلیمی اداروں اور مزدورتنظیموں سے رابطہ کر کے انہیں سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کا حصہ بنائیں گی۔ اجلاس میںیہ بھی فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ لیکچرز، فلموں کے زریعے پاکستان میں سرمایہ داری کے ظلم و ستم، فوجی آپریشنوں ، مظلوم قومیتوں پر ظلم و جبر کے خلاف پروگرامات کیے جائیں گے۔ اجلاس میں طے ہوا کہ ہفتہ ۲۲ اکتوبر کو سہہ پہر ۳ بجے کراچی پریس کلب پر پہلا احتجاجی مظاہرہ کیا جائے گا جس میں شہر بھر میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کی حمایت کرنے والوں کو شرکت کی دعوت دی جائے گی۔
جاری کردہ
(نغمہ شیخ)
برائے سرمایہ مخالف تحریک، کراچی

5000 Rally in Raigarh to Protests Arrests

Live reporting by Bhan Sahu on CGNet Swara (audio in Hindi):

Bhan Sahu is reporting live from a rally in Raigarh in Chhattisgarh where around 5,000 men and women have assembled to protest the arrest of social activists Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel. Both were arrested on 28th May on a complaint of misbehavior by an employee of Jindal steel in a public hearing a year back. Meanwhile high court has rejected their bail application. Bhan says people are expressing their sorrow and anger in the rally and the atmosphere is very charged.