Pakistan 2024: election or revolution?

With general elections planned on 8 February, the crisis and splits of Pakistan’s ruling class and state are intensifying, while attacks on workers, under the dictates of the IMF, are continuing and unemployment and inflation are rising at an unprecedented level. No political party participating in the coming general elections has solutions to any of the problems in this country, and all of the political parties represent merely different factions of the ruling class. 

[Originally published in Urdu at]

The inflation in the last year averaged around 30 percent, but in May last year it went up to around 38 percent: the highest in the history of the country. Food inflation is much higher than this and prices of some essential food items have risen to more than 100 percent in the last year. And these are official figures, which are quite low as compared to the real situation. According to a recent report by the Human rights Watch, “Pakis­tan faced one of the worst economic crises in its history in 2023 with poverty, inflation and unemployment soaring, jeopardising millions of people’s rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living”. Already 37 percent of the population was food insecure in 2018 and this has risen enormously in the last five years. According to another recent report, “The rate of child undernutrition has increased by 50 percent in Pakistan since last year and 44 percent of children under five are now estimated to be stunted.” Pakistan also has the highest number of out-of-school children at more than 28 million according to the official sources.

In such a scenario, there is no enthusiasm among any part of the masses towards these elections, nor is there any hope that these elections can change the living conditions of the workers in any way. Moreover, the ruling class is gripped by ever-more bitter internal conflict. They are fighting over the scraps, and what has been plundered from the people. The prospect of the loot they can reap after coming to power has driven them to the point of insanity. The state institutions led by generals are no different, as they seek new means of looting the people with both hands.

Amidst all the noise, an attempt is occasionally made to play the tune of ‘democracy’, and to seduce the people with false promises and consolations. But the workers know very well that the political parties are nothing but gangs of criminals, ready to commit all kinds of crimes, looting, deception, fraud and hypocrisy to get into power.

In fact, lies, fraud, shady characters, hypocrisy and betrayal of past slogans and statements have become the general hallmark of the politics of this country, none of which are considered crimes by these parties. It is considered a mark of pride to be called a pimp of the establishment. Those who mislead the people to enrich themselves are considered fiendishly ingenious.

This dirty process draws in not only politicians, but also the so-called intellectuals, professors, scholars, religious preachers and hired analysts of the country. All of them are filled with a general attitude of contempt and hatred towards the working class. They consider the poor people to be a burden on this earth, while they flatter the richest as those responsible for the highest and noblest works.

Amidst the elitism infecting Pakistan’s politics, no party representing the working class is present on the political horizon. All parties have consciously stopped addressing the genuine issues facing the masses and deliberately confine the whole political debate to non-issues like attacking each other over personal scandals involving marriages, infidelity and the like. These attacks are also getting more bitter, with compromising videos filmed by secret services of the army circulating on social media now and then. This has also exposed the bankruptcy of the morality and so-called piety of the ruling class. At the same time, hatred among the working class for these filthy rich gangsters is reaching new heights.  

In this political circus of blood and filth, the vilest personalities contest for seats in the parliament in their respective constituencies. The local gangsters involved in various crimes including terrorism, drug smuggling, land grabbing, extortion and others fight among each other to get a ticket of this or that party, to get into the parliament so that they can increase their influence. All political parties rely on such local criminals and hoodlums and patronise their crimes to get support at local level. These local criminals and gangsters, popularly called “electables”, have connections with the police, secret services of the state, media and other institutions to wield power in their constituencies and protect the interests of the ruling class in all instances. These criminals change their loyalties and enter or leave political parties with the speed at which someone changes clothes, adjusting themselves with the changing climate of politics. 

In the last general elections of 2018, hordes of such local criminals and gangsters joined Imran Khan’s PTI, which was being supported by the generals at that time and was brought to power after a massive media campaign in one of the most fraudulent elections in the history of the country. This year Imran Khan and his party are out of favour from the generals. That is why he is in prison and his party has been barred from participating in the elections, and its candidates are forced to contest as independents. In this situation, many local criminals and gangsters under the directions of the generals have left Imran Khan and joined Nawaz Sharif, Zardari and other parties to get a seat in the next parliament. Some are still in Imran Khan’s party to harness the support he has got due to his apparently anti-establishment stance, which is only another gimmick to win back favour of the top generals and return to power.

The Sharif gangsters

An attempt is once more underway by the generals to present Nawaz Sharif, the three-time Prime Minister of this country, as a messiah, and to pave the way back to power for him and his party. The list of Nawaz Sharif’s crimes against the working class of Pakistan is very long and since being brought to power during the brutal dictatorship of general Zia ul Haq in 1980s, he has always protected the interests of the capitalist class of this country. He is the most serious representative of the bourgeoisie of this country and has used every opportunity to attack the working class and intensify its exploitation.

nawaz sharif Image DFID UK Department for International Development FlickrThe list of Nawaz Sharif’s crimes against the working class of Pakistan is very long / Image: DFID UK Department for International Development, Flickr

In addition to protecting the interests of the ruling class, the scale of corruption and looting by the Sharif family has reached unprecedented proportions. He and his family have used power to craft a path from rupee millionaire to billionaire to trillionaire. But rather than diminishing, his lust for power is increasing and several members of the Sharif family are quarrelling among themselves for the slot of next prime minister, finance minister and others.

More than this, the Sharif family considers the Punjab Chief Minister position to be a handmaiden to their house, ever since Nawaz Sharif took this role during the dictatorship of general Zia in 1980s. After Nawaz Sharif his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif became the chief minister of Punjab several times starting in 1998 and then went on to become the prime minister of the country. Last year Shahbaz Sharif’z son Hamza became the chief minister of Punjab for a brief period.

During the one and a half years when Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz Sharif was Prime Minister from April 2022 to August 2023, the Sharif family once more made history for the scale of their looting, while mountains of atrocities were committed against the workers.

Before coming to power last year, they claimed that they would ‘reduce’ inflation and unemployment through various means. But when they came to power they claimed they were helpless to do anything and inflation, devaluation of currency and economic crisis reached new heights, while these rulers made huge sums of money out of corruption and shady agreements. It was said that ‘difficult decisions’ had to be made, by which they clearly meant that the masses would have to take the hit, while the wealth of the capitalists multiplied. In other words, hardships were imposed on the poor people, while subsidies and incentives were showered down on the capitalists, who already lived in luxury.

Shahbaz Sharif’s Minister of Finance, Ishaq Dar, also a close relative of the Sharif family and who had his third term in this ministry, was presented as the messiah who would solve the economic crisis, actually brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy, and all the burden of this crisis was shifted on to the shoulders of the working class. In this one year, it became clear that the Sharif family’s lust for loot is only on an ascending spiral. They wouldn’t hesitate for a moment in stealing the last morsel of bread from the workers of the country.

The economic massacre will continue. The masses’ anger is increasing every day against such anti-people politicians, who brutalise workers and then present the architects of their misery as messiahs. As soon as the people get a chance, they must take revenge for all of these atrocities.

The corrupt Pakistan People’s Party

The role of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is no different. It is an equal participant in all these crimes. During the prime ministership of Shahbaz Sharif, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto, in coalition with the PML-N, continued robbery from the post of Foreign Minister and is an equal participant in all the anti-people decisions of this government.

This party now also represents a faction of the ruling class, and it is spending all its energies on protecting their interests. A media campaign is using some fake controversies to bolster the image of Bilawal, leader of this party, and it is said that there are some serious differences between Bilawal Bhutto and his father, Zardari. This tactic is used to distance the son from his father’s notorious corruption and looting. It is a new soap opera with which this faction of the ruling class hopes to fool the public. But everyone knows that father and son have been looting hand-in-hand, and that Zardari is often called Mr. Ten Percent (after the amount he always reserves for himself), has increased his cut of the commission, while his son is taking this looting to new extremes.

Bhutto Image World Economic Forum FlickrA media campaign is using some fake controversies to bolster the image of Bilawal / Image: World Economic Forum, Flickr

This father and son government has been in power for the last 15 years in Sindh, where the hunger, disease and poverty afflicting the workers have increased manifold. Protesting teachers, doctors and nurses have been victimised and even subjected to the worst violence and torture.

In the three terms in the last fifteen years, the looting of the capitalists and feudal lords of Sindh has reached new extremes as well. Meanwhile, land grabs against local people for the purposes of housing for the elite have continued apace, with notorious police officers like Rao Anwaar, whom Zardari considers as his own child, playing a key role, and breaking records for murders in the process. According to some reports Anwaar has killed around 450 people for the purpose of land grabbing and other criminal activities. The biggest beneficiary of this has been Malik Riaz, the richest man of the country and the king of real estate in Pakistan. It is common knowledge that Zardari and Malik Riaz work in close coordination and both have strong links with the generals.

Rao Anwaar is now being used to clean the image of Zardari and was invited for a TV interview to speak against Zardari. But this hasn’t improved the image of PPP or Bilawal and they are still hated by the working class of the country, especially in Sindh. This process, part of a dirty internecine struggle in the ruling class, is also exposing the role of the media, which is proud to broadcast interviews that serve their interests, whether they are with the killers involved in the brutal murder of children in Army Public School, or heinous criminals like Rao Anwaar. Meanwhile, where the representatives of the workers and the masses are engaged in struggle, it is considered a crime to broadcast their views.

The list of PPP’s crimes is long. We can go back to the agreements made with the independent power producers (IPPs) at the time Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister in the 1990s, the consequences of which the people are still suffering from to this day. These agreements were lubricated by massive corruption on the part of the PPP leadership, amounting to billions of rupees, in exchange for which the Pakistani people were mortgaged to the capitalist class through electricity bills.

Under these agreements, even when the imperialist-backed companies do not generate any electricity, the people still have to pay them through electricity bills in the name of capacity payment. At the same time, these capitalists continue to get all the raw materials they want, including oil, at low prices, without paying taxes or duties, which they then sell on the market at a high price for billions of rupees.

In fact, the anti-people process of privatisation in this country started during the first regime of Benazir Bhutto in 1988. Following the signals of the world imperialist powers, a process in which unemployment and inflation were allowed to let rip, and looting of public assets ran rampant. This has now extended to the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the post office, railways, electricity department and several other institutions.

According to the recent dictates of the IMF, not only are all public institutions to be privatised, including public hospitals and educational institutions, but preparations are being made for the forced dismissal of millions of government employees. Similarly, the pension system is being abolished, and all the other basic facilities available to the public, which were in a bare state to begin with, are being auctioned.

In this process of privatisation, the capitalists have become well acquainted with how to exploit such opportunities for plunder, and they’ve made trillions of rupees as vendors of healthcare, educational and other basic needs at high prices on the black market, in which all the political leaders take their cut. The incoming government, irrespective of the party at its head, will continue the same process and intensify these anti-people policies.


In the upcoming elections, PTI is under attack by the other parties, the generals and judiciary. They have been denied their famous election symbol, a cricket bat, and their candidates are opting for different symbols in different constituencies. Also, many of their leaders have been arrested, including Imran Khan himself, and many have been forced and coerced to leave the party and join other parties. Some new parties have also been launched by the establishment with the deserters from PTI. PTI workers are also not allowed to hold election rallies and public meetings, and threats or arrests are made if they try to organise any activity. But despite this atmosphere PTI is still trying to participate in the elections and keep itself present in the race. Though it is quite evident that attempts are being made to cut the size of this party now, which was favoured some years ago by the generals and was brought to power as a counterweight to the Sharifs, Zardari and other heavy weights in the politics.

Generals here always try to balance between different political parties and continuously pitch one against the other, so that they can pull the strings and emerge as a force above all this political circus. This shows the bonapartist character of the generals, and especially the army chief, who always try to balance between different factions of the ruling class and pose as an arbiter in these faction fights. Now they are busy cutting the size of PTI which they built themselves in the last two decades. In this process PTI also got popular among the senior army officers and their families, which are still fanatically clinging to this party. This support is the most worrying factor for the state authorities and they are trying their best to change the course, but to no avail. PTI still enjoys support among some sections of the petty bourgeois, especially among the army officers. This layer of the society has actually benefited a lot from the so-called “War on Terror” in Afghanistan by the US imperialism in which the US poured around three trillion dollars in two decades and some crumbs also went to this layer. After the humiliating end of this war, these crumbs have stopped coming and this layer is frustrated and in a deep crisis, which also reflects in the crisis of the state institutions as a whole. While on the other the hatred and anger against the ruling class is prevailing in all sections of the society including petty bourgeois.

Imran Khan Image Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf Wikimedia CommonsEven basic democratic rights came under attack during Imran Khan’s rule / Image: Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, Wikimedia Commons

In the coming elections PTI enjoys a slight lead in popularity over other parties. The only reason for this is that the PTI leaders are apparently under attack, some of its workers are in jail, and the establishment is openly engaged in trying to destroy this party. That is to say, support for the PTI is just an expression of hatred towards the establishment. The people of this country are currently boiling with hatred and anger against the establishment and state institutions, and this hatred is increasing with each spike in inflation and unemployment. Never in the history of this country has there been so much hatred against the establishment.

In 1971, millions of people were subjected to the worst repression in the then-eastern part of their own country, now called Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed, and nearly 300,000 women were raped. At that time, General Yahya was at the top; hatred and anger against the ruling class reached a real pitch, but today it has gone even beyond that level, and in the coming period it may take various expressions. So far, this anger has not found an organised outlet. But when the masses get an opportunity to vent this anger, even indirectly, they will not waste it.

While it is benefitting from a small anti-establishment boost, during its tenure in power under the leadership of Imran Khan from 2018 to 2022, the PTI set records for atrocities against the people, which surpassed all the country’s previous rulers. The massive increase in inflation and unemployment during Imran Khan’s tenure were without parallel. Similarly, some of the worst attacks on the labour movement came under Imran Khan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed. The latter even used baton charges and tear gas against civil servants in Islamabad, and then said he had done so because it was “necessary to test the tear gas as it had been unused for a long time”! 

How much truth Sheikh Rasheed spoke about all the political leaders, including Imran Khan, when, drunk with power, he admitted to using repression merely for his own entertainment! While these parasites live in luxury in their gated communities, hunger and disease stalk the poor, whom they mock and treat like idiots.

Even basic democratic rights came under attack during Imran Khan’s rule. Political activists were arrested and charged just for organising a small protest against price hike or posting a status on Facebook criticising Imran Khan. The attacks on the working class were accompanied with the attacks on women and Imran Khan himself justified rapes and accused rape victims of inciting the rapists. A tragic incident in Sahiwal, where police killed several members of a family in a car on a busy road, saw many people make videos of this killing, which went viral. Imran Khan not only justified this brutality but also helped those policemen get released through courts and coerced the family members of the deceased for a compromise. The list of such crimes is long and masses still remember that, and know that Imran Khan, like other leaders, is a stooge of the ruling class of this country.

The whole ruling class is of the same mentality: they see the poverty and disease of the people as their own fault. If only they were wiser, they would have surely ridden themselves of this poverty. Through this absurd anti-people thinking, they hide from their true crimes and inhuman policies, which they present as a necessary function of the here and now.

In fact, the basic ideology of all politics at this time is one of resignation with the status quo, which is accepted like fate. It is one that recognises the capitalist system as eternal, and along with it, the shackles of slavery. If millions of people are dying of hunger and disease, then that is their fate. If some families and rulers are enjoying every pleasure and blessing the world can offer, living a life of luxury, then this too is their destiny. Our job is merely to accept all this, and keep turning the wheel of life, like the bull, with its bowed head, keeps the millstone turning.

In universities, in political parties, in the columns of the newspapers and on the sets of talk shows, there is not a single voice of rebellion against this state of things. Nowhere can we hear the message that we must overthrow the rulers and overturn these conditions. Everywhere, we hear the same theory, the same thought expressed. What is at present will continue to be forever. After Nawaz Sharif, his brother or daughter will come to power. After Zardari, his son will rule. As for the other parties, even if they succeed, the capitalists, landlords, tyrants and criminals will continue to rule. The workers will face the same torture and humiliation in the police stations and the courts. Their children will continue to starve. Their old parents will continue dying without treatment. They will live like insects, and will continue to be crushed under the weight of the rich and powerful.

Slavery to imperialism

In all this propaganda, the power of American imperialism is blown out of all proportion. We are always taught that slavery to US imperialism is our destiny, and we must go to Washington to beg for our happiness and prosperity. To completely subordinate oneself to American imperialism is considered the height of prudence and intelligence in this country. Every ruler, minister and adviser, not to mention every so-called ‘educated’ or ‘sensible’ person, aspires to rise in life to the level of dirt on the boot of US imperialism.

US Pakistan Image U.S. Institute of Peace FlickrEvery ruler, minister and adviser aspires to rise in life to the level of dirt on the boot of US imperialism / Image: U.S. Institute of Peace, Flickr

Anyone that thinks a little and stands out among them merely advises accepting slavery to Chinese imperialism instead, noting that we should not spoil relations with other imperialist powers. The slavery of the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, is also presented wrapped in religious language and is considered as necessary for the integrity and survival of the country.

In the same continuation of imperialist slavery, the economic analysts of this country present the slavery to the IMF as the solution to all the problems of today. It is well known that the policies of the IMF and the World Bank, which have been running the economy of this country for the past 70 years, have led more than 50 countries, including Pakistan, towards bankruptcy. But despite this fact, the scams of these imperialist institutions are still being sold to the public.

These people, who fill their coffers off the back of the exploitation of the workers, tell us that the IMF is actually our benefactor, and if its policies are properly implemented that all our problems will be solved. In fact, all the financial institutions, including the IMF, only invest to steal billions of dollars here every year in interest on loans. According to a recent report by the World Bank, in the year 2022, developing countries paid $443.5 billion public debt repayment. Due to rising interest rates on a world scale, this amount has increased to historic levels.

According to the same report, it is possible that this sum may increase by 39 percent over 2023-24. In other words, hundreds of billions of dollars go into the coffers of imperialist countries every year from countries like Pakistan, strengthening the grip of imperialism. Poor countries are slipping deeper into imperialist slavery every day. But none of the analysts and intellectuals call this by its proper name: open looting and brutality.

Imperialist war

Leaving aside the economy, we also have the open defence by every section of the ruling class of the imperialist war and bloodshed. With regard to the recent Israeli massacres in Palestine, the intellectuals of the ruling class hold the Palestinians responsible for all these atrocities. Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, including a large number of children. And yet, all the political parties and the whole establishment of Pakistan remain silent, or restrict themselves at best to the lightest condemnations. Israeli imperialism stands acquitted by the ruling class of Pakistan.

It is clear to the whole world that these atrocities have the open support of the US and European imperialist powers. The Zionist state of Israel could have done none of this without their support. But despite this fact, our cheerleaders of US imperialism remain undeterred in openly supporting the latter and the capitalist system that underpins it.

Recently, Pakistan’s army chief visited the US, a visit that was hailed as extremely important for the political and security situation in this country. On his visit, he also met with important defence officials, including the Secretary of State of the United States. But on no occasion was the massacre of Palestinians protested, nor has the US been condemned for supporting Israel.

No political leader, religious leader, scholar, nor political analyst has risen against the rulers who trade in the blood of Palestinians. None have condemned the duplicitous role of the state of Pakistan.

US imperialism has dictated the policies of this country since the beginning and sponsored dollar jihad, the so-called war on terror, and now wants the recognition of the state of Israel. The Pakistani ruling class has openly supported all these imperialist policies leading to bloodshed and plunder of this country and the whole region, including Afghanistan, and are now flirting with the idea of recognition of Israel and bargaining with the Americans. In the current Israeli war against the Palestinians, this ruling class is once again acting as a mere broker for imperialist interests. This has driven the workers’ anger against the establishment and its minions to extremes. They are openly condemning the atrocities committed against the Palestinians, and have been even prior to 7 October.

In contrast, the Minister of Information in Balochistan Jan Achakzai, has demonstrated his complete willingness to satisfy every desire of US imperialism by offering them a military base from which to conduct drone attacks in the neighbouring countries.

Volcanic anger is brewing

In summary, the conflict between the ruling class and the people is intensifying. It may erupt like a volcano at any point in the near future. The initial signs of this coming explosion may already be seen.

At present, the popular movement against the payment of electricity bills is in full swing in so-called ‘Azad’ (‘Free’) Kashmir, with millions of people having refused to pay for the past six months. Similarly, in Gilgit-Baltistan, a mass movement against the removal of flour subsidies has begun, and huge protests are taking place despite extreme cold.

Kashmir demo Image Adiala Khan TwitterAt present, the popular movement against the payment of electricity bills is in full swing / Image: Adiala Khan, Twitter

Similarly, thousands of women organised a long march from Turbat to Islamabad against state oppression and atrocities in Balochistan. The movement against abductions of Baloch political activists has developed into a mass movement in Baloch areas of Balochistan and Karachi, and have also spread to several areas of South Punjab as well. The sit-in in Islamabad by the women relatives of “missing” Baloch persons have attracted huge sympathy from across the country, cutting across nationalist barriers. The leader of this sit-in, Mahrang Baloch, has emerged as a new mass leader, and her speeches are being viewed by millions on social media. In Karachi, there have been huge protests in solidarity with this sit-in, and thousands of Baloch men, women and children came out in thousands in more than two dozen different areas of Karachi.

In Chaman, a small town bordering Afghanistan, thousands have been protesting for three months against discriminatory laws against the local Pashtun population. Recently, an enormous movement of government employees in Punjab has seen hundreds of thousands of female teachers participating, vehemently condemning the government’s termination of their employment.

The mass participation of women in movements across the country is also an expression of a fundamental change in society, and we can expect movements on an even larger scale in the coming period. But it is also clear that the leadership of these movements is not in the hands of any traditional political party, and no candidate of any political party can get involved in these movements, or people will beat them up. The millions of men and women involved in these movements see no hope in any political party, or for that matter in the upcoming elections. In fact, the hollow character of the whole parliamentary system and democracy of this country is clear to all. The role of the judiciary as a pawn of the capitalist class is no less obvious.

History tells us that an outdated social system, and the defunct ideas of its rulers, are powerless to stop the advance of revolutionary movements. Elections, parliament, the judiciary, and all the state institutions were imposed on this country by British imperialism, and these institutions and its office bearers continue to defend the interests of the capitalist system and the imperialist powers.

The people have awoken to this reality and the uselessness and burden of the whole edifice of the state is clear. In the coming period, new revolutionary platforms will emerge from outside of these outdated structures. They will start the process of organising the movement, establishing parallel organisations. In Azad Kashmir, we have already seen the emergence of Awami Action Committees, which have become stronger and more active than any of the state or political institutions. At their word, strikes and protests of millions are being organised. Now this process is being replicated in Gilgit-Baltistan as well.

In other areas too, we will see things moving in the same direction. In the coming period, the awakening of working-class politics and the emergence of platforms with real, workers’ democracy will strike a sharp contrast with the swamp of capitalist politics and the so-called bourgeois ‘democracy’. In every factory, in every university and college, and in every neighbourhood, the people will set up new, parallel institutions.

Through them, they will proceed to pose the question of who runs society, and they will seek to solve their problems through their own methods. Lenin and Trotsky, who led the greatest revolution in world history, and their party, the Bolshevik Party, came to power in 1917 not through elections under a bourgeois democracy, but they were elected democratically in a parallel institution that the mass of workers and peasants had set up for themselves, the Congress of Soviets.

The superiority of the Bolsheviks over all others in Russia and the world was due to the party’s revolutionary ideas, on which the basis of which the leadership had carried out a decades-long struggle to build a party. The correct method of Lenin and Trotsky and the revolutionary ideas of Marxism led to the emergence of the slogan “All power to the Soviets”, which actually meant the overthrow of the bourgeois state institutions and establishment of a new workers’ state.

Today, in order to rid ourselves of slavery to the imperialist powers and the capitalist class around the world, the same revolutionary ideas are necessary. A revolutionary party must be built on the basis of these ideas. Such a party is not formed with a view to winning the next elections, but has as its aim the overthrow of the capitalist system through socialist revolution.

At this time, the working class is in dire need of such representation. That is why the workers and youth who have reached revolutionary conclusions need to get organised and become members of this party. The work has already begun to build this party in the ranks of the International Marxist Tendency. Join us!

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