During the 33rd Congress of the Struggle in Pakistan, In Defence of Marxism interviewed comrade Yaru from the interior of Sindh province. His hair-raising personal experience in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the story of how he found the comrades of The Struggle, and his indomitable dedication to the struggle for socialism in the Indian Subcontinent and worldwide is an inspiring example of modern-day Bolshevism and a testament to the calibre of the comrades the IMT is assembling around the world.
IDOM: Comrade, please tell us a little about what conditions are like in the area you grew up in.
Yaru: I come from the desert interior of Sindh. It is a very hard land in a hard country. The conditions of the peasants are essentially feudal, with the zamindar / jagirdar system and its landlord/peasant-serf relationship still largely intact. For millions of people throughout the Subcontinent, nothing fundamental in the relations of exploitation has changed for centuries. With nowhere to go and living in absolute poverty, the peasants are effectively tied to the land and to the whim of the feudal landlords. In many cases they work the landlord’s lands with antiquated farming implements, and the landlord keeps as much as 90% of the produce, with only 10% for the peasant producers. In many cases it is more like slavery.
IDOM: How did you first get politically active?
Yaru: When I was 18 years old, it was the time of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy a mass left-wing populist movement fighting against the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship. Some of my friends joined the MRD and I supported them. I joined them in the struggle because they were fighting against the landlords, the feudal lords. I found this very appealing. I am the son of a peasant. They were fighting for us, so I joined in.
We encouraged the peasants to occupy the lands of the landlords. In response, many landlords kicked the peasants off the land as punishment; they were forced to become refugees in big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, etc. We used to be attacked by the army, the police, and the state forces and we essentially became guerrillas. The labeled us as dakoits [outlaws], but we were never really dakoits or guerrillas. We were simply fighting against the rich in the interests of the poor. We continued our struggle to end the hated regime and to fight for the peasants. After Zia died in a plane crash, Benazir Bhutto came to power . We wrote her letters personally, and open letters in the press, urging her to do something for the people. But she did nothing and instead the repression against us continued.
There were 200 of us in the district of Nawab Shah of Sindh who were forced to take up arms and to go underground to continue our struggle, into hiding in the jungles and mountains in even more remote areas of Pakistan. Then Nawaz Sharif came to power the first time . In—it must have been 1992—there was a military and police operation against us. Earlier on, the police sympathized with us and provided us with weapons, newspapers, food, with everything. But when the army got involved, the police turned against us too. They raided our family’s homes in joint raids. One day I snuck back home to see my family. Someone saw me and reported me to the army. They surrounded my house. I thought, “this is my house, I have my family and my wife here, I don’t want to try and escape and endanger them.” So I went out to talk to the army.
There were some ordinary police and soldiers, sergeants. They asked me: “Where is Yaru’s home?” I told them “I am Yaru.” They couldn’t believe it as there were many myths about how dangerous a dakoit I was. They promised not to torture me and they took me to their Major. The sergeants told the Major that I hadn’t tried to escape or anything and was just having a normal time with my family. The Major then questioned me and I explained everything to him. He released me because all of his subordinates supported me and they could find nothing I had done wrong. The Major warned me that the local police and the feudal lords would not leave me alone; he advised me to go somewhere else. I told him I could not go anywhere as my kids, parents, and family are here. The Major told me that when the army left, the police and feudals would either kill me or arrest me on fake charges. That’s exactly what happened.
A friend of mine kidnapped the children of some very rich people and held them for ransom. Two boys. After 20 days, the family didn’t pay up. So my friend was planning to kill one of the boys. I heard about this and rushed to where they were being held. I told my friends that they cannot kill someone for money. A ransom is one thing, but killing is another. I told him that if you kill this boy that will be the end of our friendship. As they respected me they agreed and did not kill the boy. I told the boys: “You know who I am and have seen my face. Today I am saving your life. But it may come to pass that one day you will be against me.” When they were released, they named me in the police report as the chief of the dakoits who had kidnapped them.
The police raided my home but I was not there. So they arrested my father and held him. I went to the police straightaway and told them I was Yaru. They couldn’t believe I had turned myself in as there was a shoot-to-kill-on-sight order if anyone saw me. I told them they could shoot me if they wanted but that they needed to release my father. They then refused to accept that I really was Yaru without further proof. They went to get my father and he identified me and he was released. They pressed charges against me in the anti-terrorism court. I was sentenced to 25 years prison. I was held in the central prison of Hyderabad, then moved to other prisons in Karachi and elsewhere.
A high-ranking government official came to visit the prison during the second Benazir Bhutto government and visited my cell. He asked me if the staff at the prison were torturing me. I told him that they actually treated my quite well. But I told him “you people are the real torturers; I was framed by the government; it is you people who have ordered the jailers to torture us, but they give us food and don’t bother us much; everything wrong is done by the rulers outside the jails.” A report on this was published by the BBC. I was able to appeal in the high court against my sentence. In the end my sentence was reduced and I only served 9 years. I got out in 2000.
IDOM: So once you got out of prison, how did you find the comrades of The Struggle?
Yaru: The feudal landlords started bothering me again and sent the police against me. I remember the words of the Major who said these people would never leave me alone. I connected with a group of Afghan smugglers, involved in weapons smuggling. I told them I wanted to move to Afghanistan; both to see the place and to escape my area, where I was in danger of being killed. They told me, OK, let’s go. When I left, I didn’t tell anyone, as my family would have never allowed me to go to Afghanistan. We went through Peshawar and the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. After 6 weeks, I asked them to send me to Iran or Russia or somewhere else, as I couldn’t go back home. But they said that they couldn’t let me go and they held me captive. They told me that my people back home owed them money. I told them that I had nothing to do with those people or anything they might owe—I’m your guest! But they locked me up.
They had my home phone number and called my brother. My brother contacted a comrade of The Struggle, Piru, who is from my area, a classmate of my cousin, who I had known for a long time, and who was living in Peshawar at the time. My brother went to see Piru in Peshawar and asked him for help. Piru said, “don’t worry, I will do something.” Another comrade of The Struggle, Zakar, got involved and went all the way to Afghanistan to try to negotiate my release. Zakar told the kidnappers that I was a friend of The Struggle, and that they had better release me, or get ready for a fight. Comrades Piru and Zakar spent a lot of time and a lot of money working to get me released.
Once I was released I met with Piru in Peshawar for discussions. It was right before the Congress of The Struggle. They told me that I was treading the wrong path and that they wanted to show me a different way, something new. They invited me to the Congress. In the morning I went to the Congress. All day I sat and listened, and I heard the comrades’ speeches there and I realized, “this is the real thing.” In the night we went to Lal Khan’s house and we had a discussion. He told me, “Yaru, you cannot fight the feudals with a gun. The class struggle is the only way to fight. You must go build among the workers and the peasants. Otherwise, you will be killed.”
This struck me. I felt I had finally found the right people. I was very satisfied. Then I met Alan Woods. I invited him for tea at my home in Sindh. Red salute to comrades Alan, Ana, and Lal Khan; they came all the way to Sindh to my house. All of my family were inspired by the discussions we had. My family said, “OK, these are good people—go and work with them.” My family used to be worried about me all the time. Now they are not worried at all. They know that I am with the right people.
IDOM: And what kind of work are you doing now to build the forces of the IMT in Pakistan?
Yaru: I go and discuss with the peasants and workers in Sindh and explain that they must unite to fight the landlords and bosses. I have helped to form an alliance of 400 workers in the town of Qazi Ahmed. We are organizing a big rally of several hundred workers for May Day in this remote part of Pakistan. The first time we organized a May Day program there were only 5 people, mostly street sweepers, and we were surrounded by the police. I told the police that we had no guns, no weapons, that our only weapons were the May Day poster and the red flags. This year we will have at least 500 people.
I also go to the fields and discuss with groups of peasants and explain to them that the land does not belong to the feudals; it belongs to us collectively. Not only are we imprisoned, but the land is imprisoned. We must free both the land and ourselves. They understand what I am saying. They say, “Yaru is right!” Now they are having discussions among themselves.
No force can stop us from this path. We have passed many difficult stages, but now we are really beginning to grow. I will work in the class struggle for as long as I will live—and we shall win. In my dreams I see red flags and people are carrying those red flags. Whenever I dream something, I work to make it true, to materialize it. We will win! Long live the socialist revolution! Socialist Inqalab zindabad!