No Left Turn

Southasia - - BOOK REVIEW -

al­co­hol and horse-rac­ing and weekly hol­i­day on Fri­days.

The chap­ter on Ab­dul Hameed Ch­hapra ob­serves: “The peo­ple of Pak­istan had great hopes in Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto but dur­ing PPP regimes, they were bit­terly dis­ap­pointed. In spite of tall claims their qual­ity of life de­te­ri­o­rated dur­ing Bhutto’s rule.”

The labour unions and their lead­ers were also sup­posed to be the pro­mot­ers of com­mu­nism and so­cial­ism in Pak­istan but their spir­its pe­tered down when Gen. Zi­aul Haq came to power and smoth­ered the labour unions and the Left move­ment into noth­ing­ness. Stu­dent unions also went the same route.

All through Pak­istan’s his­tory, the Left has faced ad­ver­sity due to its ideals and be­liefs, which clashed with the feu­dals, the Is­lamists and the rul­ing elite (mil­i­tary, bu­reau­cracy and the po­lit­i­cal class). The Left­ists were al­ways per­ceived as a threat to the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal cul­ture.

The Com­mu­nist Party of Pak­istan (CPP) was, in fact, banned in 1954. Thi was a huge set­back to the Left move­ment but the Left­ists con­tin­ued to make in­tel­lec­tual, lit­er­ary, cul­tural and so­cial con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety de­spite all the re­pres­sion.

To­day’s Pak­istan is re­plete with cen­trist or right-wing par­ties and even those par­ties that were orig­i­nally so­cial­ist in ori­en­ta­tion like the Pak­istan Peo­ple's Party ( PPP) or the Awami Na­tional Party (ANP) -- and are still quite pro­gres­sive – but they de­serted their Left lean­ings in favour of other po­lit­i­cal ex­i­gen­cies.

In the Pak­istani con­text, the Left­ists still have a chance if they es­tab­lish their dy­nam­ics against feu­dal­ism, quasi-cap­i­tal­ism, im­pe­ri­al­is­tic in­ter­ests, reli­gio-po­lit­i­cal and so­cio­cul­tural fac­tors and demon­strate their rel­e­vance de­spite all the odds. They must un­der­stand the change and unite to carve out a rai­son d'être for them­selves.

Through his in­ter­views, Zamir Shaikh has at­tempted to find the an­swers as to what went wrong and why the Left move­ment ran into fail­ure. Ev­ery in­ter­vie­wee has a dif­fer­ent story to tell and it all adds up to the fact that the Left move­ment is go­ing nowhere – in Pak­istan and in most other parts of the world. The writer is a jour­nal­ist based in Karachi. He writes on na­tional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues.

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