Pakistan is a semi-colonial capitalist state. It is a state controlled by and serving a ruling class which combines landowners, industrial magnates and financial robber barons. It is a ruling class which of course has its inner divisions and struggles for their share of the spoils. But the conception shared by many left-wing liberals, Stalinists and Maoists that there exists a fundamental conflict of interests between the “feudal” landlords and the “modern” industrial entrepreneurs and military officers is sheer fantasy. The landlords, the financial and industrial capitalists, the dominant caste in the state apparatus and the imperialist powers are inseparable interconnected with each other and can not exist without the other.
The landlords of course don’t consume the agrarian products of their tenant farmers themselves but sell it to make profit. Not surprisingly Pakistan’s important industries and exports are closely related to the agrarian business. (Pakistan is e.g. one of the world’s leading exporters of textiles and this industry alone accounts for more than 60% of the country’s’ exports.) So while the landlords obviously utilize the old “semi-feudal” methods of exploitation of the peasants (share-cropping, tenancy etc.) they are part of the bourgeoisie and could not exist without the market.
An expression of this is for example the strong support for the PPP (led by a landlord clan) amongst the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the strong support for the PML-N (led by the owner of the steel mill Ittefaq Group and one of the largest producer of iron materials) amongst the landlords.
This super-rich elite controls political life via their parties which are run like a family business (the PPP of the Bhutto clan, the PML of Nawrez Sharif etc.) and they often control the higher and lower civil servants. It is therefore no surprise that only 2% of the population pay taxes.
The military is not an institution separated from these elite but interwoven with it in many ways. Under the military dictatorships of Ayub Khan, Zia and Musharraf the industrial development was enhanced of which the landlords profited too. In fact given the weakness of the domestic ruling class it could only survive because of the existence of a strong military officer caste which either openly took power (as it did for 30 of the last 64 years) or played and plays a dominant role “behind the scenes” as an economic and political factor.
The military officer caste itself has become part of the capitalists. A few years ago Ayesha Siddiqa showed in her book ’Military Incorporated: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’ that retired and serving officers run secret industrial conglomerates, manufacture everything from cornflakes to cement and actually own 12 million acres of public land. They are said to assume a wealth worth as much as £10 billion. Five giant conglomerates, known as ’welfare foundations’, run thousands of businesses, ranging from street corner petrol pumps to sprawling industrial plants. The author estimates that the military controls one third of all heavy manufacturing and up to 7% of private assets.
This ruling class of landlords, industrial and financial barons and the military officer caste is closely linked with the imperialist powers. Without the imperialists support they could not exist.
Throughout its whole history the Pakistani ruling class was in closest alliance with the imperialist powers. The Pakistani ruling class served from the beginning as a vassal of US imperialism and was part if the US-led military alliances SEATO and CENTO. The Zia dictatorship was essential to engineer the US support for the reactionary struggle against the PDAP/Soviet government in the 1980s in Afghanistan and in the last decade the regime in Islamabad helped the US imperialists to wage its colonial war against the Afghan people and even the Pashtun people in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Pakistan ruling class is highly dependent of imperialist support. Today Pakistan is the third-largest recipient of US foreign aid.
Of course the imperialists profit from this and exploit Pakistan as a semi-colonial country. This means that Pakistan is – like most countries in the world – formally independent but in fact exploited and oppressed by imperialist power like the USA, EU or nowadays also the new imperialist power China.
While China has been Pakistan’s “all-weather friend” since decades there has been a significant shift in recent years. For most time Pakistan’s ruling class was clearly subordinating itself to US imperialism. But with the decline of Washington’s global absolute hegemony and the recent emergence of China as an imperialist power, Islamabad is turning now stronger to Beijing. China’s growing hegemonic role in Pakistan is demonstrated not only by the intensive close military ties, but also its place as the biggest trade partner and a central foreign investor, as the building of the major port of Gwadar or the Karakoram Highway, connecting northern Pakistan to western China shows.
Pakistan serves the imperialist world as a producer of cheap agrarian commodities and textiles and it pays billions of dollars each year as interest rates to foreign financial capitalists. (e.g. 8,5 billion dollars in the financial year 2010-11 while the state spent at the same time only a combined total of Rs 31.3 billion ($368 million) under the Public Sector Development Program!)
The struggle for liberation of the oppressed masses under the leadership of the working class therefore cannot be conducted in support of one wing of the greedy robbers against the other or with the help of the West against the domestic “feudals”. This will only make the working class and oppressed a tool for power games of the elite.
The only consistent struggle for the liberation of the working class and the oppressed can be conducted with a program for the full and complete liberation of all parts of our classes - i.e. for all sectors of the workers, be it poorer or better-off, be it male or female, young and old, national, migrant or abroad. And it must be conducted against the enemy of all of us – the ruling class with all its components and against the imperialist powers in West and East.
The working class and the oppressed masses are the huge majority in the country. They have strong allies: the international working class which constitutes nearly half of the world population and which can draw with it the huge masses of poor peasants and urban poor. But this is only possible via a program of permanent revolution which links the single democratic tasks with the goal of socialist revolution and the national with the international class struggle.
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