Communique of Aurat Azadi Jalsa- 2023, held by Women Democratic Front and Aurat Azadi March, on 5th March at Islamabad
(5 March, Islamabad): We are commemorating the 113th International Working Women’s Day at a time when our country is on the brink of economic collapse due to financial imperialism and millions are displaced and faced with hunger, disease, and homelessness due to the devastating floods. This has unfolded at a time when the barbaric patriarchy and brutal forms of violence have established deep roots in the state and society and when the Second Cold War has begun after four decades of proxy war in Afghanistan leading to devastating socio-economic implications for Pakistan.
Currently, a storm of price hikes has hit the masses after an unprecedented increase in taxes and prices by the dollar-starved government attempting to comply with the IMF conditions. We understand that debt servicing and high military expenditures are two sides of the same coin. There is a direct relationship between them, the increase in military expenditures leads to more loans with austerity conditions enabling a withdrawal of public welfare provisions and cuts to the rehabilitation of people displaced due to climate disasters. This nexus must end.
Recognising the intertwined and interlocking nature of these crises, and the prolonged multiple forms of systemic oppression faced by women, oppressed nations, people from persecuted religions, Khwaja Sira, and above all the working class, we believe that the entire system requires an overhaul.
Nothing less than a progressive agenda would work including a decolonized and demilitarized economy and state; a secular and democratic state and society; gender equality along progressive lines, progressive taxation; progressive urban and agrarian land reforms; a voluntary federation that guarantees the right to self-determination to all federating nations; an end to privatisation and subsidies to the elite; free health and education for all; a complete stop to state oppression, national oppression, and genocides of Baloch and Pashtun nations; and above all peace from the borders to the home, which has become a site of patriarchal violence and femicides.
Our struggle will continue till the constitution of an egalitarian state and society, and the liberation of women, oppressed nations, the working class, minorities, the Khwaja Sira community. In addition to our revolutionary struggle, we will also continue struggling for the rights promised by the existing democracy. Our resolutions and demands are:
DEMOCRATISATION OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
- End the annual privileges of $17.4 billion to elite groups – the corporate sector, feudal landlords, real estate developers, the political class, and the military. These include subsidies, tax breaks, bail-out packages, cheap input prices and higher output prices, preferential access to capital and land, and state services.
- Taxation should be reformed on progressive lines including drastic cuts in indirect taxes more importantly general sales tax, and an increase in direct tax. The state must tax real estate.
- Devolve taxation and collection powers to provinces and district governments.
- End all taxes and surcharges on utilities including electricity, gas, and telephone.
- Increase minimum wage to Rs.50,000 (equivalent minimum $200/month). Provide proper service structure for teachers, lady health workers, and young doctors and nurses. End contract system, at least in the public sector.
- Replace the growth-based capitalist model of budgeting and ‘development’ with a progressive socio-economic model of ‘progress’ which caters to the masses and peripheries. To prepare for this shift, clean the curricula from all hegemonic ideologies along class, nation, religion, and gender lines. Redefine curricula on a scientific and secular democratic basis. Abolish single curricula and completely devolve education to provinces. Restore students’ unions.
- Cut military expenditures to increase public expenditures for free public healthcare, education, and housing for all.
- End privatization and drain of public resources to the private sector.
- Nationalise all large-size urban and agricultural land in civilian and military ownerships, and redistribute to the dispossessed. Fix ownership ceiling of urban housing at 1 canal, and agriculture land holding at subsistence level.
- Ban construction of elitist housing societies in existing urban centers, instead establish planned cities with reservation of 33% areas for civic services and labour colonies.
- Construct labour colonies in all metropolitan cities for workers who run the cities.
- End encroachment of real estate on agricultural lands and enforced evictions of kachi abadis and bastiyan.
- Regularize kachi abadis, bastiyan and goths. Transfer ownership rights to the residents and provide them will all urban basic amenities.
- Abolish royalty system and return to provinces their gold, copper, uranium, oil and gas mines; water reserves; beaches and ports.
- Support peace and democracy in Afghanistan and build friendly trade and diplomatic relations with all neighboring countries.
- Instead of a high import tax, ban the import of luxury items to reduce the trade deficit and incentivize domestic industrial development.
- Reject trade embargos and sanctions threatened by the USA and the KSA on the purchase of oil from Iran to bring down petrol prices.
REHABILITATION OF FLOOD AFFECTEES
- The Federal Government must provide resources to flood-affected provinces for rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged houses, agricultural fields of peasants, and their livelihoods. Subsidies to feudal lords must end.
- Special healthcare and livelihood rehabilitation support be provided to pregnant women. Food security be provided to all displaced people.
- End the colonial model of river management, gross negligence on behalf of the state, and sustained dispossession of people and expropriation of their lands.
- Devolve political and fiscal powers from the federation to Provincial and local governments to empower them to better deal with disasters and human catastrophes.
- Clear corporate encroachments on rivers, natural streams, nullahs, and creeks.
RESTORATION OF PEACE FROM HOME TO BORDERS
End imperialist proxy wars
- End state’s involvement in proxy wars. It has provided a natural habitat for the overdevelopment of patriarchy, militarization, and radicalization of our state and society.
Deradicalize the state and society
- Deradicalize all spheres of the state, education system, and social cultures.
- Complete stop to the nurturing and the use of extremist patriarchy as a strategic asset by the state. This policy has led to further degradation of the status of women and Khwaja Sira and an increase in femicides, both in private and public spheres.
- Complete stop to target killing of Shias and Ahmadis and enforced conversions and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls.
End military operations policy and state oppression.
- End war by the state on oppressed nations, and military operations in Baluchistan, Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh. Political solution. Formation of independent Truth and Reconciliation Commissions is the way forward to resolve the national question.
- End enforced disappearances, particularly of the Baloch women; and legislation on criminalizing enforced disappearances.
- End terrorism & target killing by agencies and proxies, clean land mines, and resettle people displaced due to military operations.
We call upon all feminist, socialist, nationalist, and secular democratic forces to form solidarity and unite around the minimum agenda above for the liberation of the masses, women, oppressed nations, Khwaja Sira, and people of persecuted religions and sects.
There is no liberation without liberation for all, freedom at the expense and dispossession of another is no freedom at all.
Democratize, Decolonize, Demilitarize, and Deradicalize!
Women Democratic Front – Islamabad
Aurat Azadi March – Islamabad