Anti-Musharraf riots in Pakistan

In Karachi, Pakistan, there have been major riots in the streets as a result of President Musharraf’s removal from office of the Pakistani Chief Justice, Chaudhry. The reason for the removal is that Chaudhry had questioned the legality of privatisations that have taken place in Pakistan at the behest of US imperialism, as well as demanding investigations into the ‘disappearance’ of some 400 political activists at various times over the last few years.

Before Chaudhry’s removal, Musharraf was already unpopular among the broad masses of the Pakistani people, who despised him as a puppet of US imperialism, and who sympathise with the Afghan insurgents who are fighting the US-imposed Afghan puppet government.

The US has been insisting that Musharraf deny refuge in Pakistan to Afghan guerrillas, but any action taken against them simply condemns Musharraf utterly in the eyes of the ordinary Pakistani masses. He had tried to ride two horses by effectively agreeing in September to turn a blind eye to what was going on in the border region of Waziristan. Some 700 Pakistani troops have lost their lives in that region, which it was impossible for the Pakistani army to police effectively. Musharraf therefore simply reached agreement with the local elders that they would be responsible for the borders and he withdrew government forces from the area altogether. As a result, Afghan rebels are safe there – much to the rage of US and British imperialism.

However, Chaudhry’s removal as chief justice has taken away whatever respite from the wrath of the masses Musharraf might have gained. It has also turned sections of the Pakistani middle class against him, with hundreds of lawyers mounting protests and demonstrations in the streets. Musharraf tried to use the ‘good offices’ of the thuggish MQM party (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) to intimidate the protesters. Armed gunmen associated with that party fired on the peaceful protesters and no fewer than 40 people have been killed, but this has ended up inflaming the situation still further.

US imperialism is clearly not happy with the situation in Pakistan, or with Musharraf personally for not being able to control it properly in imperialism’s interests. However, Musharraf does have strong influence in the army, which is more than can be said for anyone who might be brought in to replace him (Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both former puppet prime ministers, are both waiting hopefully in the wings).

Currently, the main message being given off by the British bourgeois media is that, undesirable though Musharraf is, it is not easy to find a ‘suitable’ replacement. The Financial Times, however, is adamant that Musharraf has to go.