Solidarity campaign secures release of abducted socialists in Pakistan

On Friday, all of the 11 Marxist activists and members of the Progressive Youth Alliance and the Red Workers’ Front, who were abducted by the Pakistani security forces last week were released. This is a huge victory for the solidarity campaign, which ran on the 25th and 26th of April, both in Pakistan and on an international scale.The 11 comrades, all members of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), were abducted for their part in organising solidarity with the Pashtun movement, which has shaken Pakistani society in the past period. The movement erupted on 12 January after the murder of a young shopkeeper at the hands of a notorious police thug of the Pakistani state in Karachi.

Solidarity with the PTM

In the following weeks, hundreds-of-thousands of Pashtuns began to mobilise throughout the country. They have had enough of the brutality of the security forces and intelligence agencies. One of the main demands of the movement is the release of the more than 30,000 people who have been disappeared by the state in the past 10 years.

PTM Image fair useThe Pashtun movement has shaken the Pakistani state / Image: fair use

Although the movement for now remains primarily dominated by Pashtun, it has brought out much of the corruption, rot and hypocrisy of the Pakistani ruling class and has shown potential to spread to other layers in society. It is clear that the state is terrified of the consequences of such a movement if it continues to develop.

The Pakistani Marxists of the Progressive Youth Alliance, the Red Workers Front and Lal Salaam – the Pakistani section of the IMT – supported this movement from the beginning and energetically threw themselves into it. They raised the key slogans of spreading the movement to all oppressed layers of Pakistani society and to direct it at the rotten Pakistani ruling class as the best guarantee for victory.

IMT at PTM 1 Image own workOur comrades energetically participated in the PTM and advocated reaching out to other movements / Image: own work

Comrades abducted

This clearly alarmed the authorities, who began a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the comrades. Seeing that verbal intimidation did not work they stepped up their aggression on 22 April, after a rally in Karachi where the comrades had intervened successfully with leaflets and by raising radical slogans against the state.

Immediately after the protest, the notorious Sindh Rangers stopped a train carrying four IMT comrades and abducted them. Elsewhere, another three were picked up and on the following day an additional four of which two were quickly released. Thus on Monday, 23 April, nine comrades had disappeared with no information released as to where they were or which – if any – charges had been raised against them.

Pakistan solidarity ImageAt the height of the abductions, 11 of our comrades were detained by the Rangers / Image: PYA

In the wake of the abductions a massive solidarity campaign was launched throughout Pakistan as well as internationally to release all the abducted immediately. The response to the solidarity appeal was very impressive and without it the fate of these comrades could have been much worse.

Throughout Pakistan solidarity protests were organised by the Progressive Youth Alliance, the Red Workers Front and Lal Salaam and supported by a wide range of leftist and progressive organisations. The leadership of the PTM also issued a solidarity appeal calling for protests across the country to take place on Thursday. This initially led to a crackdown on a protest in Lahore where over 35 activists from different left organisations, were arrested by the police. These were, however, quickly released as the main purpose was to stop the protest rally from taking place, and there was also the mounting pressure that was already pushing the state to take a step back.

Pakistan demo 3Our comrades immediately held demonstrations in Pakistan demanding the abductees be freed / Image: PYA


Internationalism vindicated! But the fight goes on

This was a spectacular achievement, in particular taking into consideration the short notice at which the campaign was organised. Thousands of people participated and we can confirm that it had an impact on the Pakistani state which finally decided to release the remaining activists on Friday 26 April. Following his release, comrade Aftab Ashraf, the national organiser of the Red Workers Front, spoke in the following video message to explain their ordeal and thank those who had supported the campaign:

We would like to thank all of you who supported our campaign, which undoubtedly played a crucial role in securing their release, but we also ask that you remain vigilant. The campaign around the broader issues raised by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement continues, including a planned day of mass action on 12 May. As of this weekend, the oppressed Hazaras have joined the Pashtuns in their struggle against the oppression of the Pakistani state. All of this reveals that the Pakistani masses have had enough of corruption and brutality, of being beaten, killed and plundered by the rotten ruling class and that they are beginning to move to take their destinies into their own hands. Their struggle is the same as all the oppressed and exploited throughout the world. We ask all our readers to support their struggle by organising and joining the struggle against capitalism throughout the world. Support the fight for Socialism in a concrete way by donating to the Pakistan Trade Union Solidarity Campaign.