United left in Pakistan brings back people’s issues to national politics

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) formed by 10 progressive parties in Pakistan has been pushing a popular agenda to demand that major political parties shift their priorities and address the bread and butter issues of the people

September 19, 2023 by Abdul Rahman
Left Democratic Front (LDF) Pakistan
(Photo: MKP)

The Left Democratic Front (LDF), an alliance of 10 political parties, organized nationwide protests in Pakistan on Saturday, September 16, against the failure of the political leadership to control rising prices while pursuing their own class interest.  

Protestors marched in several major cities, including Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi, among others, carrying red flags and banners and highlighting the issues of surging electricity prices, food insecurity, and lack of basic services such as education and health. 

The LDF is made up of 10 left and democratic parties including the Mazdoor Kisan Party (MKP) [Workers’ and Peasants Party], the Haqooq e Khalq (HKP) or People’s Rights Party, the Awami Workers Party (AWP), and the Communist Party of Pakistan, among others. The alliance was first formed in 2017 on the common program of fighting to promote the class struggle, people’s democracy, secularism, socialism, and peace with Pakistan’s neighbors. 

Earlier this month, MKP’s Taimur Rahman was elected as the general secretary of the LDF and Akthar Hussain from the AWP was elected as president. The nationwide protests on September 16 were also decided in the meeting.

Speakers at the nationwide protests warned that the ruling class in Pakistan was unwilling to see the imminent danger of the country’s total collapse. They emphasized that the recent deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was a major contributor to the price rise in the country as it included conditions to remove subsidies on essential commodities and services. Pakistan and the IMF signed a deal for a USD 3 billion loan in July this year.

The government led by Shehbaz Sharif has agreed to introduce massive cuts in subsidies to avail the IMF bailout, despite the certainty that these cuts will further worsen the inflation and lead to further deterioration in living conditions for the majority of the people. 

The official general inflation rate in Pakistan was above 27% in August, with food inflation being even higher at 38%. 

Structural economic changes, tax the rich 

Saturday’s protests raised various issues related to the structural collapse of the economy, highlighting the lack of public investment in basic services including education and health, even as the defense forces continue to get priority in government expenditure. 

Speaking in Lahore, the head of the HKP, Ammar Ali Jan, claimed that the landlords, the rich, and the military elites were the primary beneficiaries of the loan deal with the IMF, which did not help common Pakistanis at all. The self-interest of this class was the primary reason that instead of finding solutions to the persistent financial crisis at home, the ruling elite rushed to the IMF, he said.  

On the issue of rising electricity prices, Taimur Rahman noted that the high bills were the result of past unfair agreements between the government and private electricity producers. He said that the government should either renegotiate those deals or nationalize the power companies to bring prices under control. He added that the prices of other essential commodities, such as fuel, were increasing because of the unfair conditions imposed by the IMF.

Power tariffs in Pakistan have surged by up to 76% recently, leading to large-scale popular protests across the country, with protesters complaining that the high power bills have made it difficult for them to meet their other basic needs. 

Akthar Hussain from the AWP, who is also the convenor of the LDF, led the protests in Rawalpindi, where he underlined that military expenditure was too high and other basic necessities were being completely neglected by the government. He demanded that the military budget be reduced and landlords and other rich classes be taxed. 

The Pakistani government spends more than 17% of its total budget on the military, which is one of the highest in the world. Even amid high inflation and a financial crisis, the government increased the defense expenditure this year as well.  

During an earlier demonstration in January, Assim Sajjad, a leader of the AWP, asserted that the major parties in the country were busy in their cynical tussle for power while common Pakistanis could not afford basic food and energy. 

The national elections were originally scheduled in November but the Election Commission of Pakistan has not announced any dates for them so far.