The October military coup in Pakistan marked a serious intensification of instability in South Asia. The new military leader General Pervaiz Musharraf reassured the 'international community' about his peaceful intentions and the military's determination to try and rescue the collapsing economy and to fight endemic corruption. But, this was only cover for a bitter struggle within the Pakistani bourgeoisie, above all over imperialist strategy.
Pakistan is being savaged by the deepening world economic crisis. Tens of millions live in utter poverty. The economy is bankrupt and survives on international loans. Foreign debt stands at £19.9 billion. The ruling class wallows in corruption and is divided by sharpening struggles, as it picks over the corpse of the national economy. For example,Hasin Sharif, the deposed prime minister, is reckoned to have given his supports and backers £245 million in cheap loans from the bank, whilst the Prime Minister before him Benazir Bhutto has been charged with corruption. Meanwhile it is the workers and poor peasants of Pakistan that is suffering as a result of the dead end capitalism is in.
Pakistani was born out of the imperialist machinations after World War 2, wracked, by religious, ethnic and tribal tensions. Following decades of economic crisis, with the pressures of fulfilling a role in the US bloc, and previous military take-overs behind them, the bourgeoisie in Pakistan, like those in many other weaker countries, is in a state of decomposition.
"With the loss of any concretely realisable project, except ‘saving the furniture’, in the face of the economic crisis, the lack of perspective facing the bourgeoisie tends to lead to losing sight of the interests of the state or of the national capital as a whole.
The political life of the bourgeoisie, in the weaker countries, tends to be reduced to the struggle of different fractions or even cliques for power or merely survival. This in turn becomes an enormous obstacle to the establishing of stable alliances or even of a coherent foreign policy, giving way to chaos, unpredictability and even madness in relations between states.
The dead end of the capitalist system leads to the break up of some of those states which were established late... or with artificial frontiers such as in Africa, leading to an explosion of wars aimed at drawing frontieof wars aimed at drawing frontiers anew." (Report on imperialist conflicts, International Review 98).
Sharif and his fraction's placing of their interests above that of the state and national capital certainly accelerated the decline of the economy. The anti-corruption and economic polices of the new armed-forces-lead ruling fraction, based on imposing austerity on the working class and poor masses, received a wide welcome amongst the bourgeoisie in Pakistan and abroad.
However, it was the question of imperialist orientation that was the determining factor. The decision of the Sharif fraction to withdraw from the parts of Kashmir that Pakistan had occupied in May and to try and improve relations with imperialist rival India, under US pressure, was more than the armed forces and other bourgeois fractions could stand.
This rejection of the US's attempts to stabilise the situation in the region, faced with the accentuation of tensions between Pakistan and India (two nuclear powers) is an demonstration of the consequences of the collapse of the imperialist blocs. With the end of the Cold War the Pakistani bourgeoisie has been pursuing it's own imperialist ambitions without too much regard for US interests. It is no accident that Musharraf should lead the coup. He planned and led Pakistan's invasion of Kashmir.
Speaking after the coup he stated Pakistan's determination to pursue its imperialist aims towards India. "We shall continue our unflinching moral, political and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brethren in their struggle to achieve their right of self-determination. India must honour the UN resolutions and its own commitment to the people of Kashmir. It must also end its repression of the Kashmiri people and respect their fundamental human rights" (The Dawn, a Pakistan English language newspaper, 18.10.99).
He also made clear his fraction's committment to the use of nuclear weapons. "Last year, we were compelled to respond to India's nuclear tests in order to restore strategic balance in the interest of our national security and regional peace and stability" (ibid).
He also emphasized Pakistan's continuing close relations with its main regional imperialist backer China. "We will maintain and further reinforce our traditional and time tested friendship and co-operation with China." (ibid).
The same speech also underlined that "the strengthening of brotherly ties wiening of brotherly ties with the Islamic countries will be a central pillar of our foreign policy". Of particular interest are the developing relations with Turkey, another former firm ally of the US playing its own imperialist game. Musharraf told a Turkish journalist that his first visit would be to Turkey. These imperialist orientations will worsen tensions throughout the continent.
There was a cautious response from the great powers. Britain and the Commonwealth have suspended Pakistan. The US has stopped some aid, but also made some friendly remarks. However, behind the scenes they are very concerned: the US to see Pakistan going alone and trying to reduce the US influence in the region, and Britain to see the main rival of its regional imperialist ally India becoming more belligerent.
The Indian bourgeoisie has expressed its grave concerns and put its armed forces on high alert. Unofficially it has expressed its understanding of the real meaning of the coup "Says a senior government official, if the army coup took place partly because of the army's dissatisfaction with Sharif's wilting under international pressure over Kargil, then the new army rule is likely to take a more confrontational stand with India" (Outlook online, an Indian magazine hostile toIndian magazine hostile to Pakistan).
This can only feed the insane idea of a 'final war' between India and Pakistan being spread by the Indian bourgeoisie.
This madness is matched by the growing justification for nuclear war in the Pakistani military and bourgeoisie, under the guise of a Muslim's duty to "strike terror into the heart of the infidel", ie India.
The perspective for the region is grave and underlines the perspective laid out in the leaflet issued by our nucleus in India against the war in Kashmir.
"The present war may not spread... but it can only be a temporary reprieve. The desperation of both Indian and Pakistani ruling gangs, the bitterness of their conflict, the determination of the Chinese bourgeoisie to keep Indian ambitions in check and the growing free-for-all and rivalry amongst the world's main powers - all this is bound to explode in yet another war in this area. Sooner rather than later. With a far higher level of death and destruction" (WR 227)