Saturday, June 14

Long March and... a new generation learns to mobilize

History made an entire cross section of civil society of Pakistan learn and transform from its own struggle against rules from above. The Long March ended today at 6 AM with thousands of agitators sending a strong message to those in the corridor of power that they know how to mobilize nationwide and the next time the rulers will not have a chance.

We are in Rawalpindi right now. Last night we went to Islamabad.

A huge number of people in Rawalpindi/Islamabad are disappointed at the decision to cancel the Dharna.

We asked 50 people and 80% of them disagreed with Aitzaz.

Many young lawyers and civil society members were dumbstruck. They were ready for further action but were let down by the leadership.

When Aitzaz started his speech many students and activists, fearing that the Dharna would be cancelled, started agitating.

People present there were not consulted at all before the cancellation. If cancellation was done because of logistical reasons then proper arrangements could have been done and funds could have been raised to help those willing to sit in front of the Parliament. It was done in an undemocratic fashion.

This does not suggest by any means a betrayal nor this can be reduced to the vacillation of the middle class. But one very important reason for such a decision could be the fact that around 6 AM, 80% of the people present were lawyers.

When we left Pindi for Islamabad, it was phenomenal. There was huge public support. various people (old, young) responded to the slogans that we were shouting from the roof of our bus.

From central Punjab onwards, mainly youngsters openly abused Musharraf, in very foul language.

From Pindi, when the convoy started, it was 8 km long.

Till Zero Point, nearly 1.5 to 2 lac people stood on the sides to greet the procession.

From Aabpara onwards, we had to walk towards the main stage. It was nearly a 4km walk. While we were walking nearly 20,000 people were walking ahead of us.

At the main area there were not less than 1 lac people. There might even have been more but certainly no less than that figure.

The overwhelming majority of people were either from middle class or were lawyers.

The general feeling there was that something BIG is happening or rather has happened. And this feeling was that (at least in the short run) politics will not be done in the ways of the past.

The Karachi delegation of IS [International Socialists] is thankful to Messrs. Rasheed Rizvi, Noman Qadir and Salahuddin Ahmed for taking care of us during the journey - coordination, accommodation and ensuring that we are treated well by the host bar associations.

Over all our International Socialist comrades sold 390 socialist Urdu magazine and 415 booklets, over ten thousand leaflets during stopovers of the IS bus and at bar council rallies throughout the Long March. On June 13, 39 copies of Socialist and 82 booklets were distributed as well as over two thousand leaflets. On June 14, during the Dharna, 32 socialist were sold and 1,500 leaflets distributed.

Earlier, only the lawyers' protests were seen as respectful, but after this civil society shall also gain respect and will be seen as "agents of change".

Another transformation was that such a huge number of people can be gathered by a national call.

It’s now imperative to organise a national conference of activists belonging to various shades in the movement. We have to discuss the next call for long march mobilization to strengthen the movement from below.

The Long March has become a milestone for generations to come, it has shown that we can mobilize and organize but still it also shows that the movement, its leadership, has to look towards the forces that would like to forge a compromise between national capital and international capital. A number of times during the Long March, the lawyers' leadership had to look towards political support of Nawaz Sharif, Jama'at-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaaf so as to mobilize masses. It’s these forces of the national capital who can’t fight imperialism on their own but they always like the professionals and the working classes to fight their wars of liberation. The professionals and working classes will surely learn from this historic mobilization.

Burhan and Riaz Ahmed.
Int'l Socialists Pakistan

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