Presently the spokesperson of Labour Party Pakistan, Farooq Tariq has long history of struggle against class-based society and fundamentalism. From opposing Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship to struggle for workers and peasants’ rights, he has stood against military dictators and ruthless capitalists, unbowed. He has also served as General Secretary of the same party for many years and general Sectary of Kisan Rabta Committee. In an interview with Viewpoint, he discusses the present and future of democracy in Pakistan and efforts to demonize it through unconstitutional intrigues. Read on:
Do you think a change is afoot, if so, how should democratic forces react?
It is very complex political situation. The change of government is even difficult to foresee. We are not aware of various maneuvers by the ruling classes. We can only judge from the situation that becomes public. From the perceptible situation, it seems difficult that the government of PPP would be overthrown by a military coup. It is possible that a court decision against President Zardari may create an unstable situation. Would a court decision against President Zardari be implemented by the government of Gilani? It is highly unlikely it will happen. They are not ready even to write a letter against President Zardari. The reason is simple: President Zardari is PPP and PPP is President Zardari. A in-house change is also a difficult option. Although, PPP is a minority government, however, other parties do not have many options. They are not in any better position than the PPP. We can say that an overthrow of the government or an in house change is not very likely; however, there will be attempts, conspiracies, efforts and wishful thinking to go for this. Would they be successful? It is very difficult to predict.
If there is change this will not be a matter of celebration. A change at this time would not be a progressive step. It will make the life of the masses any better. This is because of the class character of the opposition that is tied to the IMF, World Bank and WTO. The opposition is not opposing the ‘war on terror’ or the occupation of Afghanistan.
Do you think any ‘change’, even constitutional one like an in house change, would undermine the democracy and would be tantamount to a coup?
Any constitutional change or in-house change will not be like a military coup nor will be tantamount to a coup. The democracy is already very weak because of the bankruptcy of Pakistan’s ruling class including the PPP leadership. The PPP came into power after a deal with a dictator, General Musharaff, and despite a minority government, it went along with all sort of unholy alliances to retain power at the center and in all the four provinces. They did nothing to please the people of Pakistan only who can defend democracy. So any change at the top will not be considered by many as a coup even if it is a result of a well thought out conspiracy. There is a dilemma for many. They are not happy with PPP government. They neither have any illusions in the opposition. They are, so am I, dead opposed to any military coup or intervention. There is perhaps some respect for the judiciary and their decisions. But not as was the case when masses came out for the restoration of the judges. It is very confused, complex, multifaceted, many sided, and intricate situation.
Why is it important that the present government should continue for five years even if it has miserably failed in delivering on any front?
It is the social basis of a government that determines the fate of the government and not its maneuvers and conspiracies. It has lost a lot of support. It is yet another inefficient, indecisive, faltering, vacillating, fickle, weak and inconsistent civil government. To fortify democracy an elected government has to build a social base through an improvement in the lives of poor.
Do you think if present set up is packed off, it would isolate Sindh?
Yes to some extent, but not in decisive terms. Sindh is not the same as it was before the floods. Coupled with severe economic hardships, the Sindhi masses were abandoned by the the PPP landlords. The PPP-base in Sindh is weakened by the flood. Floods have shown the real absolute poverty among the Sindhi peasants. Most of them are not ready to go back or if they go back they will have a different consciousness than they had before the flood. This consciousness is not favoring the PPP. If the PPP government is packed for any reason and for any legal or illegal basis, it will be because of its weakening Sindh base.
The judiciary it seems has been hostile towards this government. How come a judiciary restored as a result of mass democratic movement is undermining democratic process instead of strengthening it?
The judiciary is not hostile to a large extent against this government. The judiciary has given this government a lot of opportunities to go on. The government is taking steps to undo the decisions by the judiciary in many instances. Cases of corruption, nepotism and favoritism are making headlines all the times. The civilian government can strengthen itself by adopting a people’s agenda of poverty eradication, nationalization under workers control and land reforms.
Do you think politicians are also responsible as they have been visiting GHQ secretly, and a few not so secretly while Nawaz Sharif is now lending support to ‘constitutional change’?
Yes, those politicians visiting the GHQ are conspiring to overthrow the government. They include PMLN leaders too. They have done that in the past and they will do it in future as well. However, this time, they are careful not to lend any support to any “unconstitutional” change. They are trying to become the champion of the democracy while they have been doing just the opposite in the past. Our criticism of PPP government is not in consonance with PMLN. They do it from bosses’ point of view. We are against the government and the bosses. Nawaz Sharif has become a very clever, witty and sharp politician. He is forwarding a “change agenda” step by step.
We have also seen PPP appeasing army all the time. Extension to Gen. Kyani was one example. Appeasement has not worked in the past for PPP. We have seen a coup failing in Ecuador this week. Earlier, we have seen failed coup in Venezuela. Why can’t PPP mobilize support Latin style to abort a coup?
PPP has adopted the strategy of pleasing the military generals hoping that they will be loyal to them. Those promoted out of turn will never be loyal to those who have done that. Loyalty is a very relative term. Loyalty remains intact mainly on ideological basis.
The PPP government is not like anti-capitalist governments of several Latin American countries. It is a pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist government. They cannot mobilize the masses to abort a military attempt to overthrow them because they have not done anything to please the masses. They are a failed government by the most undeserving politicians. A military coup at this time will not be retaliated by a mass upsurge in Pakistan because of the appalling record of the civilian governments.
Do you think media or section of media playing a subversive role in this process?
Yes, some of them and particularly the GEO. They are hoping to remove the government by undermining them through their propaganda. However, propaganda cannot assume mass base until there is objective situation of that. The PPP government is been blamed for many wrong doings not because it is a progressive government and is oppose to the agenda of the big bosses. The propaganda by GEO and many others are taken seriously because there are certain grounds to believe them.