Future of feudalism in Pakistan

Enlightened Pakistani expatriates in the USA have developed a consensus that the genesis of what ails Pakistan can be traced to the feudal system our former colonial masters imposed on India. The colonizers declared them and their vassals martial race, and used them against their own countrymen for sabotage of the national movement and to fight the inter-imperial wars all over the world.

Enlightened Pakistani expatriates in the USA have developed a consensus that the genesis of what ails Pakistan can be traced to the feudal system our former colonial masters imposed on India. The colonizers declared them and their vassals martial race, and used them against their own countrymen for sabotage of the national movement and to fight the inter-imperial wars all over the world.

The feudal lords treated their peasants worse than one would a slave, forcing them to work in their homes with out any payment, treating the latter’s females as keeps. In the tribal regions the chief used his “seigniorial” right to spend the first night with any bride that took his fancy. The tillers of the land did the owners bidding and when Indians won a semblance of representative governments, the former served as a vote bank .
The inherent weakness of the political party of the Muslims was that, with a few honorable exceptions, the progeny of the same bunch of “traitors” led it.

A special class of feudals is worthy of note. These are hereditary Pirs .

Muslims were historically handicapped as well. They had governed India for a millennium before they had lost power to the British. All trade, commerce, finance and administration had been left to Hindu business class. The latter had honed their political skills and were ready to offer services to the new rulers. The British having wrested power from Muslims naturally discriminated against them and patronized the Hindus. After 1857 Muslims were not just discriminated against; they were actively victimized. A few souls who were able to analyze the situation critically came to the rational conclusion that the only escape for them was through education and collaboration with the rulers.

The reformists did not simply intend to create a collaborationist class. They meant to bide their time, regain vitality and overthrow the Raj when the time was ripe. A lot of nationalist Muslims fought shoulder to shoulder with their Hindu compatriots against the British. Their ranks included a brilliant young lawyer- MA Jinnah.

But even Jinnah, past master though he was of tactics could not over come the combine of British chicanery, the alienation caused by Gandhi introducing Hindu imagery and the illusion of Ram Raj into politics, the shortsightedness and low self image of Indian National congress leaders who would not accept a weak center. Jinnah had to accept ” a moth eaten Pakistan”, moth eaten to enervate it and sow the seeds of perpetual dissension between the two newly independent countries. That led the two nations at each other’s throat, whose priority should have been development of social services, jobs, industry and education.

India inherited the machinery of established Government, a fairly advanced infra structure, a vibrant entrepreneur’ial class, a much larger and developed economic base, and a truly bourgeois national movement and could cope much better with the dislocation and trauma of partition. Pakistan on the contrary was bereft of developed resources, administrative machinery or industry. It had a much smaller and little developed economic base. Its political party was feudal in character, not with standing Jinnah and a few Bombay and Bengali lawyers. Jinnah tried his best, openly declared that the country would not discriminate on the basis of caste or creed. He ordained separation of religion and state. But that was not to be. He died and his successors put him on a pedestal and expediently forgot his instructions.

The obscurantist Mullahs till yesterday vehement opponents  of Pakistan, rank opportunists that they were, climbed on the bandwagon, and as the proverbial jackals started feeding on the trough. They also potentiated the feudal class and pronounced fatwas (religious edicts) against reforms such as civil rights, equal status for women etc. Their main thrust was, however, against land reforms, the domain of their benefactors.  In 1991 A Maulana Taqi Usmani upholding the sanctity of private property in Islam declared ZAB’s land reforms repugnant to the teachings of the religion. India abolished the feudal system in 1948. Feudal system still survives and thrives in what was then West Pakistan-now all of Pakistan
This should, hopefully define with sufficient clarity, the reason India and Pakistan took different paths, why army has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence and why the Indian army sharing the same British heritage has been subservient to the civilian authority.

Pakistanis in the country and expatriates differ on the emphasis they should lay on the various sections of the society for perpetuation of the core evils of violation of civil rights, subjugation of women and their status as commodity to be bartered for land or in exchange for blood money, weddings to the Quran, Honor killing, corruption, poverty, illiteracy, paucity of social services. Correct attribution of the proportion of blame to the components of the evil Quad is of prime importance as adoption of a line of action is dependent on critical analysis.

Let us take up the army first. Do we impute an independent class character to it? Army personnel are derived from all classes of the society though predominantly from a feudal/peasant base yet recruitment from urban bourgeoisie, bureaucrats classes especially in the officer corp. is significant. They are put through a designed and deliberate metamorphosis. They obey the chief regardless of his ethnicity. The chief effectively sheds his ethnic culture. The armed forces are curiously enough a true reflection of the dominant society of the country.

Senior civil bureaucratic services of Pakistan are overwhelmingly of feudal derivation, with a little sprinkling of the progeny of urban bourgeoisie and a rare entrant from the other classes.

Capitalists have a quasi-national character. They are largely in service industries.  Production industries are very much in the nature of consumables like food, Cotton, Plastic, Rayon, Leather goods and china. Heavy industry is minimal. Industrial workers correspondingly lack substance.

A valid query would be that if the army, political leaders and bureaucrats all belong to the same class, why does the army suppress the politicians? The answer should not require the intelligence of a rocket scientist. Family feuds are much worse, and country cousins kill more frequently for share of the land, than urban ones do for money. Bloody feuds over Zar, Zan, and Zameen antedate industrial revolution. No government, civilian or military, has taken any except cosmetic steps to abolish the feudal system. Army has in fact become the largest industry, commercial and financial concern and the largest farmland and urban property owner (defense housing societies) in the country. Retired and active duty army officers serve as bureaucrats, deans, principals and even vice-chancellors of educational institutions.

The course advocated by civil libertarian-reformists would have us agitate, appeal to our over lords, and some how to force the Army to allow “free and fair” elections. Concept of fair and free elections in Pakistan does any have any more validity than voting with a gun on their heads- remember the US line; if you do not vote against Sandinistas, we will make sure you will starve. In Pakistani context the same bunch of nincompoops will return, who will only ask that their hands be allowed in the till too. It was “democratic” ZAB, who by indiscriminately nationalizing all industry and commerce and handing them over to his cronies debilitated the nascent Capital and set it back for decades. That step alone revitalized feudalism . He imprisoned dissidents, curbed civil liberties and emasculated the press much more than any military dictator . They will pursue the same policies of privatizing everything at the behest of IMF and World Bank. They will let Global Capital control the very lives of the people, pushing cost of living so high that life would not be worth living.

We must not forget that except for the Ghazi of Kargil, all army chiefs were invited to take over by the civilians. Nawaz Sharif had an “overwhelming” mandate. He had been successful in dislodging a Chief Justice, a Naval Chief and lo and behold even an army chief. When he was over thrown no body went out on the streets. Most of his minions joined hands with the usurper. Benazir’s PPP leaders also joined the ranks of collaborators .

Pakistan’s tragedy is that it was never allowed to develop institutions. With its internecine feuds the left, dominated by communists, failed Pakistan. Politicians are so keen on regaining some measure of power, however unreal it may be that, that they are prepared to countenance, nay embrace Musharraf, if only he will take off his uniform. This obsession with uniform can only be explained if we accept the contention that the politicos want only the semblance and not the reality of power.

Should we opt for NGOs? Remember funded by corporations-foundations, NGO’s function as the covert arm of the Imperium, distracting attention from failure of the state to do its job. The edge of conflict is dulled. The march to revolution is slowed. The incentive to confront the jackals is diminished. But for the NGO band-aid people might rise in desperation. “Marta Na To Karta Kya” (roughly do or die).

But we have to use the available instruments. We participated in Student union affairs, as it was the easily accessible vehicle at hand. While looking for a more dynamic way we should not discount the NGO path taking care that they do not hijack our agenda.

True and lasting social justice will be obtained through a political party of workers, the dispossessed and the politically aware intellectuals. Academic criticism by small groups of people over a period of time contributed significantly to mass and popular movements as happened in anti slavery, feminist and civil rights movements. Our rallies, protests and seminars might be worth it, if they resulted in heightened consciousness.
Let us, though, not forget that the movements were led by a vanguard with fire in their belly, and they were not funded by Governments.
But times have changed. There is hope.  In the era of instant communications, the Imperium and its agents can not get away with what the Europeans, mainly the British, the pioneers of biological warfare, got away with, in the past. They used small pox laden blankets against Red Indians and poison gas against the Iraqis post WWI. Churchill openly declared that use of gas against inferior races was justifiable.

Historical process is on the side of the people of Pakistan. It and the rest of under developed world, is groaning under the burden of the Imperium and their toadies. They will progress from the current feudal/tribal, fascist dispensations to a Capitalist society. Democracy will follow. Remember, it took European capitalism several centuries to break the shackles of the Royalty-feudal combine; the latter actually helped the demise by fighting the former.

Capitalism inevitably leads to exploitation of the workers. They will eventually rise, not with standing the insidious impact of reformers and half hearted social supports systems. Capitalists sense the impending conflict and throw crumbs; witness the welfarism in post depression USA, post WWII Europe and post civil rights reforms in the USA again.

A common thread that ran through all the “socialist” countries was that they overcame internal and external opposition, and made tremendous and fast headway in material progress. They were able to institute a welfare state, providing basic necessities, food, clothes, shelter, health care, education and jobs to all. That cannot be said of the richest and most developed countries. Capitalist countries were so frightened that third world countries would follow the development model of socialist countries that they poured aid into India to develop it as a showcase to rival China.

But the character of Capitalism is changing fast. Now a conglomerate of national corporations has emerged. Like divine religions they do not recognize national boundaries. They are taking over water, and other resources and the land all over the world. They have patents on crops and manufactories, and they own mineral rights everywhere. Client states are crushed under the burden of loans euphemistically called aid; they have to accept IMF and World Bank dicta-reduce subsidies, increase interest rates, take harsh austerity measures and make the life of their citizens miserable. At the end of the day they force client governments to hand over control of natural resources. If any demur an explosion in the air, an insurgency, and if worse comes to the worst a coup will take care of them.

But what really distinguishes Global Capitalism from national capitalism is that the former does not even pretend to be solicitous of the welfare of the people of the first world. The new mantra is out sourcing. They had to pay a living wage, health benefits, unemployment and pension to workers in the USA. General Motors paid an average of $28.00 an hour to its workers. They pay $4.00 an hour to a South American worker for doing the same job -with no fringe benefits. Numerous other industries, airlines the foremost, have forced their workers to accept a drastic cut in their wages. Ninety percent of software industry is now in India.

My submission is that when the ordinary humans of the first world will become economically destitute, and will be reduced to the state of the third world, they will rise in solidarity with all the dispossessed. Only then would the long and tortuous historical process will be shortened.

origional article here.


Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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