Pakistan: The political economy of terrorism

The ferocity of irregularly regular terrorist attacks in Pakistan has become a festering wound on the body politic of the country. Malaise and despair stalk the land. Yet for the masses at large the ever-raging futile debate amongst the dominant intelligentsia on this issue has only served to confuse rather than clarify this curse. It is, therefore, crucial to separate the essential from the inessential and grasp the core of the problem. 

It is not just the physical trauma of those who are the direct victims of this menace but also the psychological wounds that are inflicted upon the masses as a whole that demoralise workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganise the movement and injure the revolution.

Violent struggles can be based on diametrically opposed motives. The present spate of violence in Pakistan has a complex aetiology and even more dubious perpetuators. The bosses behind this orgy of bloodshed may not be only those we are manipulated to assume are responsible. 

This terrorism has a formidable economic base and has morphed into an enormously lucrative enterprise. Suicide bombings and terrorist attacks are extremely expensive affairs. Those investing in them must be extracting exorbitant profits. No capitalist would ever invest so heavily for reasons of piety alone.

It all started with the imperialist counter-revolutionary insurgency in the region where drugs and other criminal networks were systematically set up to finance their dollar jihads. Everywhere they intervened, the imperialists set up such financial networks. Honduras, Vietnam, Nicaragua and so on are just a few examples.

In Af-Pak this network has been expanding for the last three decades and has become a massive accumulation of capital in the form of a black economy that is three times the size of Pakistan’s formal economy. Ransom, murder, extortion, robberies, corruption and other criminal activities also heavily contributed to this primitive accumulation. The so-called ‘non-state actors’ are the cancerous outgrowth of this non-state Mafiosi economy. Sections of the state are involved in this black capital with vested interests and terrorism is often instigated to protect these interests. 

In addition, acts of terrorism also reflect the infighting between constantly splintering factions of terrorist outfits run by religious and sometimes not so religious warlords. This terrorism is multipronged and with frequently changing loyalties as the social and economic conditions further decay. The motives may be partially or totally those of financial greed rather than religious devotion, at least amongst the bosses who run this madness. The involvement of different imperialist states mixed up in this new great game is indubitable. But there are also other forces involved. 

According to a diplomatic cable sent by the then principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore in November 2008, revealed through WikiLeaks, $ 100 million sent by the Saudi monarchy and other reactionary gulf sheikhdoms was routed to some clerics in southern Punjab. Part of the booty was used to recruit and indoctrinate youngsters, turning them into jihadists and potential suicide bombers. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The massive cash pumped into these fundamentalist terror networks by these obscenely rich and hedonistic rulers may never be revealed. The Arab despots are terrified of the historic retribution for the brutalities they are inflicting upon their subjects. They have used the Pakistan Army before and plan to prop up these forces of dark reaction as a battering ram against the mass revolts that can erupt against this tyranny.

In 1970, during the Palestinian uprising in Amman, Jordan, King Hussein used contingents of the Pakistan Army under the command of Brigadier (later General) Ziaul Haq to crush the revolt. More than 7,000 Palestinians were killed. The Israeli prime minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, had sarcastically remarked: “King Hussein had killed more Palestinians in 20 days than Israel had killed in 20 years.” The Palestinians still commemorate the incident as ‘Black September’.

The most agonising aspect of this raucous haranguing about terrorism is that both liberal and fundamentalist analysts not only justify this brutality of the state aristocracy but also try to drum up support for it. Most soldiers being killed are from peasant and poor households. The ordinary people of Pakistan are subjected to daily harassment and torture by the police and other organs of state repression. Extrajudicial killings are a norm. In Balochistan, innocent victims are being picked up and their mutilated bodies thrown around. Economic terrorism, with excruciating price hikes, unemployment and poverty is being brazenly inflicted upon the toiling masses by the representatives of this exploitative system. Hundreds if not thousands, mostly children, are killed on a daily basis through hunger, malnutrition, starvation and curable diseases through this economic genocide, to which the callous elites are oblivious. 

There are innumerable incidents in history when ruling despots used terrorism to dispel and distract mass revolts against them. Leon Trotsky elaborated the opposition of the workers movement against terrorism. “If we oppose terrorist acts, it is only because individual revenge does not satisfy us. The account we have to settle with the capitalist system is too great...To learn to see all the crimes against humanity, all the indignities to which the human body and spirit are subjected, as the twisted outgrowths and expressions of the existing social system, in order to direct all our energies into a collective struggle against this system — that is the direction in which the burning desire for revenge can find its highest moral satisfaction.”

The terrorist insurgency ravaging Pakistan is rooted in the foundations of this economic system of dearth and the structures of the state that have grown from it. The further crumbling of this economic edifice instigates even greater conflicts and contradictions within the state and society. Misery, poverty and deprivation also add to the frustrations, uncertainties and alienation that drive primitive minds in periods of social stagnation to this lunacy of bigotry and fanaticism. The black economy facilitates and greases this process. 

Without the obliteration of the political economy that breeds terrorism, this infinite war of attrition will continue to pillage society. It is the distilled essence of the sickness and organic crisis of Pakistani capitalism. A vast majority of the population is seething with revulsion against fundamentalist barbarity and imperialist brutality. As the oppressed masses rise up in revolt, state and non-state terrorism will be unleashed by the threatened liberal and conservative ruling classes to crush the revolutionary upheaval. But once the working classes unite in a formidable class struggle and enter the arena of history with a Marxist-Leninist leadership, they will be invincible.

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