ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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21st Century Socialism in Pakistan?

Three Marxist political parties in Pakistan are coming together to merge into one party of the left. In retreat for many decades, this is an important fi rst step for the revival of left-wing politics in Pakistan and strengthening the democratic politics of the country.A participant in this unity move explains the context and the challenges for the new united party of the left in Pakistan.

It is rare for Pakistan to be in the news for something other than suicide bombs, Hindu and Jew-hating mullahs and a very peculiar (and vulnerable) type of postcolonial democracy. A plethora of institutions, classes, ethnic groups and prominent individuals animates narratives of Pakistani modernity, most notably the omnipresent military and those who would challenge the men in khaki, including ethno-nationalists like those presently leading an insurgency in Balochistan.

Conspicuous by its absence in almost all such accounts is the Pakistani left. Even informed observers of Pakistan might have little or no knowledge of leftist forces in the country, at least in the contemporary period. Students of history will know that the Pakistani ruling class visited a great deal of repression upon leftists during the cold war when the country was the frontline against the Soviet bloc. Despite having to operate in extremely dire circumstances, the Pakistani left exercised not insignificant influence on the polity, and society more generally, until the 1980s.

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