Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Elections

As Pakistanis go to the polls on Feb 18, 2008, the role of the feudal class in Pakistan as power brokers is getting scrutiny from the world media. Some Pakistani feudals and politicians, including Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of PPP, Syed Fakhr Imam of PPP, Imran Khan (Tehreek Insaf), and others argue that the feudal influence is overrated. They say the feudal power is declining and represents more of a mindset than reality. However, the media men traveling through rural Sind and rural Punjab are finding that most, if not all, of the candidates of the major parties are big landowners. And the people living on their lands must choose from them. When asked by the BBC correspondent Shoaib Hasan why none of the farmers or other poor people consider standing as candidates, a group of village people burst out laughing.

Here are some of the foreign media reports that caught my attention:

William Dalrymple, writing for the Guardian in London says: "There is a fundamental flaw in Pakistan's political system. Democracy has never thrived here, at least in part because landowning remains almost the only social base from which politicians can emerge. In general, the educated middle class - which in India seized control in 1947, emasculating the power of its landowners - is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan the local feudal zamindar can expect his people to vote for his chosen candidate. Such loyalty can be enforced. Many of the biggest zamindars have private prisons and most have private armies."

Writing about Mumtaz Bhutto, whose son is a candidate for parliamentary seat, Aryn Baker of Time Magazine reports: As one of Pakistan's largest landowners, Bhutto is both a victim and a perpetrator of the corrosive feudal system that has shaped Pakistani society for most of its 60-year history, and still dictates how politics are done today. Bhutto's family has owned this patch of fertile land alongside the Indus River for nearly half a millennium, and on the wall of his stately home is the family tree to prove it. (He is a cousin of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.) Sharecroppers till the lands, exchanging half they produce — rice, wheat and sugarcane — for a place to live, seeds and fertilizer. And patronage. "If my tenants are happy with me, they work more efficiently on the lands," says Bhutto. "You help the people and they will help you." That exchange extends into the political realm. Bhutto isn't running in this year's parliamentary elections — he's retired — but his son is. With some 10,000 acres of land being cultivated by a vast network of thousands of sharecroppers dependent on feudal largesse, the Bhutto family can count on a large turnout of supporters at the polls.

BBC South Asia service talks about the power and influence of the feudal lords near Multan in Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi's district as follows: The term "feudal or "feudal lord" refers to the large-scale landholding families in Pakistan.By dint of their landholdings, which they rent to tenant farmers, the feudal lords are able to exercise immense financial and political influence. In many cases they are also able to claim the loyalty of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of "murids" (devotees) who believe they are directly descended from local saints. On top of this, they usually control the "station and katchery" (the police and the courts) which ensures the compliance, willing or not, of the local populace.

Regardless of which party or parties emerge as the winners on February 18, one thing is certain: The power and the influence of the feudals will be very well represented in the corridors of power. And the ordinary people of Pakistan will continue to be at their mercy in the name of democracy, unless the military refuses to cede power to the elected feudals.

Amidst all the cries for democracy, independent judiciary, human rights, and fair polls in Pakistan, nothing will change fundamentally on Feb 18. Regardless of the party labels and promises, the feudal power will endure in the name of democracy. The choices remain narrow for Pakistanis: Choose between military and the feudal class. There is no third choice as long as the middle class remains small and unable to exert any real influence. The only hope for real democracy lies in continued robust growth of the middle class over an extended period of time of another decade or two. There are no guarantees that feudal rulers will permit that.

22 comments:

Farid said...

How True, we need a dictator who can implement true land reforms.

Azra said...

Fully agree with the comment what is really needed is an international Marshall Plan style effort toward transforming Pakistan from a feudal/tribal to an industrial society. Such an effort will face major hurdles from the feudal leadership of the major political parties in Pakistan.

To do that the first logical step would be to abolish the parliamentary form of government as the Pakistan assemblies will always be dominated by feudals and tribals. When it gets beyond their leadership capacity, the political power will pass on to the religious extremists who, as you've rightly pointed out, are bred by the deprivations generated by the lack of productive capacity of the feudal system. Unfortunately none of our intellectuals/ analysts, mostly from the urban middle classes, have the intelligence to recognize this very basis cause of our socio-economic backwardness and so instead of trying to find out ways for remedying this cause, are always demanding for applying the 1973 constitution in a manner so as to concentrate more state power in the hands of the feudal and tribal dominated assemblies.

One alternative is to have a Presidential system with the President elected directly by the people. The National Assembly to be abolished as this will have no role to play with the Local Governments in place enabling grassroots representation of the people. Similarly the Provincial Assemblies be abolished and Provincial Governors elected directly by the people. These steps will result in a tremendous savings to the national treasury which funds can be put to better developmental use such as health and education.

This may be a more practical solution than dictatorship which is too dependent on the efficient performance of one single person who would probably be difficult to get in the country. The military generals do not have the politico-economic training necessary to understand the root causes of the problems facing the country, so very soon become more "constitutional" than the politicians thus throwing away the opportunity to bring in the much needed socio-economic reforms.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's report on water related corruption in Pakistan:

"Pakistan’s irrigation network has always served the privileged elite at the expense of the poor. World Bank and government programs have consistently favored feudal landowners. When the irrigation system was established, the government failed to recognize the land rights of the original inhabitants and allotted irrigated plots to rich landowners and military personnel. While large and very large farmers control 66% of all agricultural land in Pakistan, almost half of all rural households own no land. A World Bank evaluation noted in 1996 that the bank’s projects "provided large and unnecessary transfers of public resources to some of the rural elite."9

The top–down engineering approach to Pakistan’s water sector has also caused massive collateral damage downstream. The Indus Basin Irrigation System starves areas of Sindh province – and particularly the Indus Delta – of water and sediment. And because the sediment trapped in the reservoirs does not replenish the delta, close to 5,000 square kilometers of farm land have already been lost to the sea. Meanwhile salt water is intruding 100 kilometers upstream in the Indus. The lack of water and sediment is destroying flood plain forests that are home to hundreds of thousands of people and mangrove forests that help protect the coast against storms.

While the downstream areas suffer from a water shortage, wasteful water use is wreaking environmental and economic havoc in the command area. Over–irrigation and inadequate drainage have caused the water table to rise across a large area. As a result, about 60% of all farm plots in Sindh are plagued by water logging and salinity."


Please read here for more details.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the transcript of an NPR report on feudal power in Pakistan and how it enslaves people on the large feudal estates in Punjab:

LAURA LYNCH: The midday sun throws a harsh spotlight on weathered faces. Women crouch low, searching for, then plucking out barely ripe tomatoes. Every crease and crevice in their feet, their hands, even on their faces is dusted with dirt from the fields they farm. They work from dawn to dusk - and the landowner gets most of the income. Nearly two thirds of Pakistan's rural population are sharecroppers. One of the male workers, Abdul Aziz, says they all owe their livelihood to their boss - so they support the political party he supports. He has always voted for the Pakistan People's Party he says; the party of the late Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto and other wealthy landowners like her had always been able to count on the loyalty of those who toil for them in the fields. At her gracious home in Islamabad, Syma Khar traces her lineage - both familial and political - through the photographs she keeps in the cupboard.

LYNCH: Khar is a member of the provincial assembly of the Punjab - the largest province in Pakistan. She is also a member of one of Pakistan's most powerful families. The pictures are from the Khar family estate just outside the city of Multan. The sprawling property includes fisheries, mango orchards and sugarcane fields. Thousands of people work there - most are loyal to their masters. Syma's husband, his father, brothers, nieces and nephews have all turned that to their political advantage to gain office. The workers are by and large, poor, landless and uneducated. Pervez Iqbal Cheema of Pakistan's National Defence University says that's the way most feudals want to keep it.

PERVEZ IQBAL CHEEMA: A feudal, in order to maintain his influence, will be probably not very happy for extension of education or health facilities because as long as they have a minimum interaction with the outsiders then the chances of new ideas germinating or causing some trouble are relatively less.

................
LYNCH: That star power was evident when Benazir Bhutto staged her return from exile in Karachi in October of 2007. Though it was later marred by a suicide bomb attack, the Bhutto power base in rural Pakistan bussed thousands of loyal followers in to cheer her arrival and dance in the streets. Even after she died, Bhutto's political machine ensured her husband eventually became President. And her son, Bilawal, inherited the party leadership even though he's only 20 with no political experience. In a back alley off a busy road in Rawalpindi, boys are just starting a late afternoon game of cricket. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, rights activist and professor of colonial history at Lahore University of Management Sciences, keeps an office a few floors up. Akhtar sees the staying power of the feudals - and gives credit to the military. It is Pakistan's other power centre - staging four coups in the country's 62 year history. Akhtar says the military, interested in holding onto its own sphere of influence, finds a willing partner in the feudal class.
.........
KHAR: If they don't' keep that attitude then people will be doing daytime robberies because they are illiterate people. They will, you know, kidnap the daughters they will take away the children they will take away the properties, they will kill each other. So a boss has to be a boss. He has to have that sort of attitude.
.............
LYNCH: As a farm worker empties her bucket of tomatoes into a crate there is no smile of satisfaction - the day's work is still far from over. There's little chance her life will change soon. Several land reform programs have failed to change rural life in Pakistan. And failed to loosen the grip of Pakistan's large landowners on the country's politics.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a 2008 Guardian story by Dilip Hiro on Pak feudal power:

The roots of feudal dominance lie in history. The Pakistan Muslim League, the parent of its present two versions, is the descendant of the All India Muslim League (AIML). Formed in 1906 to promote loyalty to the British Crown while advancing Muslim interests, the AIML was led by Muslim grandees and feudal lords. It was not until 1940 that it demanded partition of the Indian sub-continent, with Muslim majority areas constituting independent states. Unlike the anti-imperialist Indian National Congress, it lacked an economic programme favouring small and landless peasants, and trade unions for industrial workers.

Given the traditional peasants' servitude to landowners, and almost universal illiteracy in rural Pakistan, where most people lived, electoral politics became the privilege of large landlords, who controlled vote banks. During elections their choice of a party depended on self-interest: which one will supply or raise government-subsidised irrigation water and/or fertiliser; or build roads to the villages they owned.

This continues. A recent report in the Observer from Old Jatoi (population, 3,000) in Sindh is illustrative. While the peasants working for the local grandee, Mustafa Jatoi, live in shacks, his spacious house is surrounded by green lawns and high white walls, with its driveway chocked with Toyota SUVs and Suzuki Mehrans, now deployed to transport him to drummed-up rallies.

His electoral rival, Arif Jatoi, too has similar assets. But he takes time off to fly to Islamabad to seek extra development funds for his area from the prime minister, allied with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

In the more populous Punjab province, the Lahore-based Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a PML-Q candidate, charters a helicopter to campaign in his rural constituency, promising to bring a gas pipeline to the villages. The family's fortunes have come from textile factories. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif and his brother, the leaders of the opposition PML-N, have amassed millions from their industrial assets.

It would be naïve to expect such super-affluent Pakistanis to advance the interests of landless peasants or poorly paid factory workers.

The near-monopoly of power by the Pakistan Muslim League was broken in 1967 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir, established the Pakistan People's Party. He coined a catchy, all-embracing slogan: "Islam is our faith, democracy our polity, socialism our economy; and all power to the people." It won him the sobriquet of "a socialist demagogue".

While advocating socialist economy, he never uttered the term "land reform". He could not. He possessed 12,000 acres of rice-growing land. He behaved as haughtily as any other feudal lord. So too did his daughter, Benazir. The corruption and the affluence of her and her polo-playing husband, Asif Zardari, are widely known.

Just as with the Jatois elsewhere in Sindh, any electoral rivalry is between competing estate owners. In the Bhutto-Zardari case, it is Benazir's cousin, Mumtaz. Owner of 15,000 acres of arable land worth £12 million, he earns an annual tax-free income of £345,000 in a country with per capita income of £350 a year.

In a recent interview, Mr. Bhutto waxed eloquent about his last summer holiday at Hotel Splendido in Portofino on Italy's Amalfi coast while his peasants suffered the humid heat needed for rice to grow. It was a break from his normal summer forays to apartments in London's posh Mayfair or Knightsbridge.

The glaring scandal of the present election campaign is the total absence of the long-overdue debate about land reform, where the state takes over the land above the legal ceiling and distributes it among landless peasants.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of how Pakistan has changed in this decade by a Ahsan, a blogger on Five Rupees:

In the last decade, this picture has changed dramatically due to three central factors.

The first and most important factor is the explosion of private electronic media. In the 1990s, it was difficult for most Pakistanis -- the vast majority of which cannot or do not read newspapers -- to get information that was not government-sponsored or, less mildly, propagandistic. ....

This picture has changed drastically, as anyone with even a cursory interest in Pakistan will be able to tell you. There are now dozens of news channels in Pakistan, each with their own ideological and partisan bent. Some are national-level, others more regionally and ethnically focused. The trend began in the early part of this decade and has plateaued only recently, as the market gets sated. And while few of these channels will win awards for calm understatement or presciently sedate analysis, the fact remains that the media -- if it can be spoken of as a collective -- has given voice to a mass of the population previously unheard from. It has become a player of truly monumental importance for its ability to shape, mold, and excite the public. It is, at once, sensationalistic, blood-thirsty, xenophobic, conspiratorial, humorous, investigative, and anti-government. And yet its arrival on the scene is more than welcome, first for providing the venue for disenfranchised interests to make themselves known and second because the alternative is much worse.

The second significant factor, related to but distinct from the first, is the rise of communication technologies in Pakistan, particularly cellular phones. In 2002, there were 1.2 million cell-phone subscriptions in the country. By 2008, this number had risen to 88 million -- an increase of more than seven thousand percent. In addition, more than one in ten Pakistanis had access to the internet by the end of the decade; low by advanced countries' standards but an astronomical rise by Pakistan's. These developments in communications meant that political narratives became congealed and disseminated at speeds never heard of before, and that information and the wider "war" for public opinion became incredibly hard to win if a battle was lost at any stage.

The third major factor is the economic growth that took place in Pakistan in the first half of the 2000s. Pakistan's GDP doubled between 1999 and 2007, and more than kept pace with population growth, as GDP per capita increased by almost sixty percent between 2000 and 2008. More to the point, this growth was overwhelmingly powered by expansion of the service sector, which is concentrated, quite naturally, in the urban centers of the country. For the first time since independence, the term "Pakistani urban middle class" was not a contradiction in terms.

This development had two effects. First, and more trivially, the urban middle class did what urban middle classes do: they bought televisions and computers. In turn, that allowed them to plug into the private media explosion in ways simply unimaginable previously. Second, it shattered the elite-only edifice of Pakistani politics, and made challenges to government based on Main Street issues -- the price of flour, the lack of electricity, the selective application of the rule of law -- a viable process. Fifty years ago, Seymour Lipset wrote one of the canonical articles in Political Science on the process of democratization, its relationship to urbanized middle classes, and how the demands and values of the latter lead almost inexorably to support for the former. Here was living proof of Lipset's analysis.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are interesting excerpts from an analysisof how Pakistanis in Britain (70% from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir) vote in British elections:

But there are those who are angered by what they see as the tribalism of Mirpuri politics being transferred to the UK, where clans stick together and elders make decisions for the whole extended family.

"The vote is a very private and individual matter for any person," says Khwaja Sohail Bashir, 54, a British Mirpuri businessman and political activist who has recently settled back in Pakistan.

He says only voters themselves can understand the issues that affect them, and questions whether Pakistani politicians would appreciate what is happening with the British economy or the National Health Service and take that into account when trying to influence opinions.

"Every community should maintain its culture, it is what makes Britain such a beautiful society," says Mr Bashir. "But voting has got nothing to do with culture."

But others, like Rose FM's manager, disagrees. "These links cannot be broken," he says. He talks of the British government itself trying to promote connections between far-flung Mirpuri communities.

"We have had British politicians from various parties come to these very studios in Mirpur, talking about their agendas, so why shouldn't our politicians go to the UK?" he asks.

'Everybody does it'

But Mirpur's influence on this election does not stop at encouraging people to vote one way or another.

Sitting in the garden of a large villa in Mirpur, a British citizen who has been a taxi driver in Halifax in Yorkshire for more than 20 years, talks of a practice which has become widespread here.

For obvious reasons the man, in his fifties, does not want us to publish his name. He describes how people are going door to door asking Britons to blindly sign proxy forms for the upcoming elections, allowing someone else in the UK to vote on their behalf.

"They said I didn't have to fill in any details, just to sign my name at the bottom of the form," he says, smiling. "So I signed two."

He laughed as he told me he had no idea who was going to vote on his behalf, and whom they were going to vote for.

"I personally know 25 other people who did the same thing, lots of people just on this street, but everybody does it."

Many others, among the contingent of thousands of British citizens thought to be here, have admitted signing proxy forms in this way.

While proxy voting is a mechanism which does allow British citizens abroad to cast their vote, many will undoubtedly look upon this way of doing it as unethical.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a opinion piece in the Guardian today praising Pakistan's "maturing" of democracy:

A comparison with Afghanistan illustrates the significance of Pakistan's reforms: President Hamid Karzai is trying to take control of the appointment of the electoral complaints commissioners, whose integrity was instrumental in curtailing the widespread fraud that marred his re-election last year.

In Pakistan, the recent constitutional reforms reduce the president's discretion to appoint election commissioners by giving the opposition a voice in this process.

However, the reforms go far beyond the issue of elections, restoring key features of the original constitution of 1973, adopted after the secession of East Pakistan, today's Bangladesh. The constitution foresaw a parliamentary system of government and significant competencies for the four provinces, but soon power shifted to the president, a trend that became even more marked under the periods of military rule by Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf.

The reform, known as the 18th amendment, moves powers from the president to the prime minister and parliament, and from the federal level to the provinces. The president can no longer dissolve parliament at will, but only in specific, narrowly defined circumstances. The provinces will be exclusively in charge of a wide range of tasks, including social legislation, family law and criminal law. In signing the amendment, President Asif Ali Zadari will lose much of his authority, though he will remain extremely influential as co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a story of arrogance and abuse by feudal politicians in "democratic" Pakistan written in a letter to "The News" in Karachi:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010
I am a retired air vice marshal and have served the Pakistan Air Force for more than 35 years. About 6 p.m. on June 6, I was proceeding with my son to visit my friend's house in Street 27, DHA. While crossing 24th Street near Khayaban-e-Rahat, I saw a big Land Rover / Land Ranger-type vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. This vehicle occupied the central portion of the narrow road and it seemed that it would ram my car. I swerved to the left to avoid being hit. As we passed I told the driver of the vehicle to be careful rather than try and hit another car. The driver took offence and stopped and then started to back his vehicle. I too stopped my car. An argument took place where the young man, no more than 18 years old, driving the car remained extremely agitated and said that he was running out of his patience with me. He came out of his car along with his two guards with Kalashnikov rifles and another older person. They started threatening me and my son. One of the guards became violent and hit me with the butt of his rifle and started to cock his gun as if he would shoot. More arguments took place. Now both my son and I were being attacked. As if this manhandling was not enough, a police escort vehicle with six to eight police personnel, in both uniform and plainclothes, arrived in about five minutes and without ascertaining the facts attacked the two of us. Passers-by intervened and stopped the situation from getting any worse. The boy driving the car also realised that the matter had taken an ugly turn and asked his men to get into their cars which they did and sped away.

My cloths were completely torn and both of us received various injuries. The car's number plate was of Abu Dhabi (No. 80587). It also had an MNA plate on it. I did ask the boy his father's name. To which he arrogantly replied, "Go and find it yourself." After regaining my balance we proceeded to the Darakshan Police Station and reported the matter. We also got our medical done by the medical legal officer at Jinnah Hospital which was submitted for the 'Roznamcha'. Thankfully, the Air Force police arrived at the scene and assisted me fully. Otherwise, as one can imagine, even these formalities could not be completed easily. Whatever happened is sad, but I have the following questions to my countrymen: how can there be an Abu Dhabi-registered car running around in Karachi with an MNA plate stuck behind the huge vehicle? Is the young boy allowed to drive this vehicle? Does he have a licence? Is this young boy entitled to the privileges of an MNA? How did the police escort reach the place and joined in our physical assault? Are the police allowed to escort the young boy and why should they join in the altercation? When will these rulers learn to curb their arrogance and haughtiness and understand that they have been elected to serve the people, rather than harass and beat them up?

It is with great sorrow and pain that I have written this letter. If a senior person like me does not have the safety and is insulted, beaten and physically assaulted by the state police and private guards, what can we expect for the rest of the countrymen?

Syed Ataur Rahman

Air Vice Marshal (retired),

Karachi

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the story of a cat-fight between two of Punjab's women legislators from the PPP, as published in Express Tribune:

Only 12 countries in the world have acted upon the ideological commitment to ensure women’s participation in the formal political arena, as embodied by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action. Pakistan is one of them. Under the Local Government Ordinance of 2001, 33 per cent of seats at all tiers of local government and 17 per cent in the national and provincial legislatures were reserved for women. Given the long history of discrimination against women and their exclusion from politics, this was a revolutionary step.

As a result, since elections in 2002 a record number of women have contested the polls and joined the ranks of legislators. However, concerns remained that women are powerless proxies for male relatives but women members of the PPP Punjab Assembly have put to rest any such concerns with great displays of aggression and power.

For far too long we have associated macho deep-throated growling, shouting and name calling in menacing voices with Sultan Rahi but the women MPs of Punjab are not to be left behind.

On June 14, before the budget for the province was presented, PPP MPA Sajida Mir from Lahore said that there was rampant rigging in rural areas where women were heavily influenced by feudals. She praised Iffat Liaquat of the PML-N who had won an election from Chakwal despite not having the backing of the feudal elite. Now this would sound like a fairly normal conversation to you unless you happen to be a feudal from Chakwal.

Luckily MPA Fouzia Behram, belonging to the same party as Ms Mir, was on hand to act the part (or embody the true likeness) of an enraged feudal from Chakwal. Ms Mir bellowed that MPAs from Lahore are ignorant. And in order to truly put the erring non-feudal in her place, she decided to insult her a little more by labelling her with the most derogatory word she could find in her feudal dictionary —“kammi” which means from a low caste. Ms Mir remained calm and reminded the enraged feudal that this insulted not just her but the philosophy of the party that both MPAs represent, not to mention the majority of its supporters since most of them happen to be “kammis”. This further enraged Ms Behram who then charged towards Ms Mir and tried to slap her.

Ladies, in this day and age of political crisis and misery for the entire country, couldn’t you maybe reserve your passions for topics of greater importance and substance like the budget, the state of education, healthcare or inflation? And could you please try and take the job of legislating on behalf of your constituents a little more seriously than the men who have failed us for so many years?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Jacqueline Novogratz saying Pakistan needs more servant leadership:

I'm in the office of Dr. Sono, one of Pakistan's most extraordinary social entrepreneurs. Born a Hindu Dalit or "untouchable," he has worked for his country since his youth and emerged as one of the most important grassroots leaders in Sindh. He runs the Sindh Rural Support Organization, a nonprofit company that has emerged as the leading coordinator of local relief during the floods, providing food, sanitation, water and healthcare to six provinces, and serves 60,000 individuals two hot meals a day. With him are Sabiha Bhutto and Asma Soomro who Dr. Sono introduces as his "commandants." Both women carry serious expressions that give them gravitas and weight. Asma wears a black shalwar and an olive-and-rust-colored tropical print shawl over her head. Saibiha wears red-and-white narrow striped cotton. These two women led others to mobilize 80,000 people during the flood emergency.

I ask what they learned from the experience. Asma responds, "We learned to really go to their level, speak their language, feel what they would feel, and build trust." This is classic social-organizing language. "During these three weeks, I met a 90-year-old woman. She wanted to see how other people were coping in the disaster because she herself had gone through crises and was herself prepared for what might come. This inspired me a lot."

Sabiha speaks as much with her eyes as her hands. She remembers the sense of panic among people in Shikarpur who were understandably terrified by the threat of floods. "I spread calm to the people, and promised that Shikarpur would make it through the floods. I urged them to help those who were really in need." When local residents wanted to cross the river, she stopped them. She could see what others could not -- buffalos flying through the churning rapids, most of them drowning. Her neighbors trusted her, and lives were saved. I ask what she had learned. "I realize what it means to be brave," she answers.

Neither Sabiha nor Asma consider being a woman a hindrance, even in conservative parts of Pakistan. "People know that we are here for them," says Sabiha. "We've earned their trust." Between them, they've delivered sixteen women to the hospital to enable them to give birth during the crisis period.

Dr. Sono jumps in and says, "Last week, I received a phone call from a nearby village. The caller said people were drowning. And you know, I love that village." His eyes twinkle so that you can feel that love. I adore Dr. Sono for being so exquisitely alive and caring. He continues:

I called Sabiha and Asma and told them to go to the village and help people escape before the flood waters came. It was 10:30 at night, and still they went. This is a dangerous area, and women especially can be killed going out at night. But they went. And by midnight, the village was empty and there was not a single drowning.

The conversation turns to Pakistan's future, and what can be done about corruption.

Corruption is a big problem here. But we are seeing changes. We have minimized corruption at the district level, and now we have to translate that to the top level. We also have to focus on educating people at the grassroots, too, so that they begin to question government. This way, we can start to end corruption.

This way, the world can change.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts fom a recent Op Ed piece by Maliha Khan published on Chowk.com regading the need for land and tax refoms in Pakistan:

In September, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported that “Fewer than three million of Pakistan’s 175 million citizens pay any income taxes, and the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio is only 9 percent.” This is one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world. Mohsin Hamid writes in his Dawn News Editorial that in comparison to Pakistan, “Sri Lankans pay 15 per cent of their GDP in taxes, Indians pay 17 per cent, Turks pay 24 per cent, Americans pay 28 per cent and Swedes pay a fat 50 per cent.”

The main reason behind Pakistan’s low tax-to-GDP ratio is tax evasion by the country’s elite. Federal officials, including ministers (even Prime Minister Gilani), only pay taxes on their government salaries and not on their personal assets. Although the government promises to take steps toward tax reform, it continues to dodge the issue every chance it gets.
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Recently, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a coalition partner of the PPP-led government, submitted the Redistributive Land Reforms Bill in the National Assembly. Land reform is a major potential contributor to tax reform. The bill proposed by MQM aims to “reduce the wide disparity of income and opportunity between the rich landlords and the poor tillers of the soils…” According to the World Bank, “More than two-thirds of Pakistanis live in rural areas, of which about 68 percent are employed in agriculture (40 percent of the total labor force).” Due to inequality in land distribution, there is a wide gap between landlords and peasants. Approximately 2 percent of households control 45 percent of the land. If implemented, the new bill will establish a limit on family holdings of irrigated land at 36 acres and 54 acres of arid land. Furthermore, the bill calls for the resumption and redistribution of all excess land amongst its landless cultivators, landless tenants, and small land-owners by the government, while also compensating the previous land owners.
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While the new bill specifically addresses land redistribution and agricultural development, it will indirectly play a great role in the expansion of the Pakistani tax base. In his article, “Doing Tax Reform Right: Think Big, Think Bold,” author Salahuddin Khan makes the case for “abolish[ing] all income tax and in its place introduce[ing] a gradually increasing property tax on real estate owned.” He points out that while liquid personal assets such as cash are easy to hide, real property cannot be hidden, and is therefore easier to tax. Khan also suggests incentivizing the ownership of smaller portions of land by making it “disproportionally expensive to own over certain thresholds of land.” The case Khan makes supports the undeniable link between tax and land reform. But even though his suggestions may be great, they are useless without any kind of land reform first.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Christian Science Monitor report on the adverse role of the big landlords on recovery from floods:

"Islamabad, Pakistan —
Like millions of other farmers across Pakistan, Abdur Razzaq of district Kot Addu lost the majority of his crops and livestock to the floodwaters that swept through the country in August. He estimates his financial loss this year around $3,000 – a huge blow given the poverty in rural Pakistan.

But his problems are compounded by the $2,000 in rent he owes to his feudal landlord, who, he says, is not inclined to forgive.

“If I ask him to defer payment, I would only have to pay back with greater interest,” he says. Instead, Mr. Razzaq says he will sell his animals at a discount and attempt to start fresh.

Those who refuse to pay – or can't – are forced out of their homes by armed gangs sent by the landlord’s family, and sometimes set upon by dogs.
"


"According to leading Pakistani historian Mubarak Ali, author of “Feudalism,” the problem lies with Pakistan’s two largest political parties, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and the Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N), whose representatives in southern Punjab and Sindh province consist almost exclusively of wealthy landowners.

Since the floods hit, Pakistan’s rural landowning class, who use their money and influence to gain seats in parliament, have made headlines for being conspicuously absent from their constituencies in their hour of need, diverting floodwaters to save their own lands, and for failing to disburse aid money entrusted to them to pass on to their communities.

-----
The practice extends up the chain of command in Pakistan's government. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi both hail from large feudal families in southern Punjab and have the added bonus of belonging to families with ancestors who are considered saints in the Sufi Islamic tradition. "


"Pakistan’s Army, the country’s most powerful institution, meanwhile, is unlikely to be the agent of change, says Dr. Ali, because of its own vested interests. “Over the years, the Army has granted large amounts of land to retired generals and brigadiers. So it’s not in anyone’s interest to have any land reform.”
--------
“I always call it feudal democracy because it’s not the people’s democracy, and they are not interested in solving the problems of common people,” he says, highlighting the mismanagement evident during and after the floods.

Despite the fact that agriculture accounts for almost a quarter of Pakistan’s economy, Pakistan's lawmakers have seemingly safeguarded their own interests by ensuring that there is no agricultural income tax."


"In rural Sindh, where, through a combination of wealth and religious standing, landlord power is most pronounced, thousands of laborers remain in bonded labor for debts accrued by their forefathers, and are confined to their villages to carry out hard labor till their death, according to IA Rehman, secretary-general of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which regularly undertakes missions to have such laborers freed.

--
If the workers do not return to their fields to cultivate the lands, this might undercut the position of the landlords there, says Ali. But he’s not hopeful.

“The whole local administration is under their control – the police and the bureaucrats. So it’s impossible to have any peasant movement," he says.

“They [the landlords] are brutal towards their peasants, to make them realize that they don’t have any power, and if you disobey they are in the power to punish you and put you in prison. Fear is their tool to dominate their people.”

Riaz Haq said...

The recent tragic assassination of Gov Salman Taseer has caused many to rethink whether the South Asian Barelvi or Sufi Islam is really more tolerant than Deobandi or Wahabi Islam imported into Pakistan from Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, the followers of Barelvi Islam have not hesitated in supporting blasphemy laws, and they have shamelessly cheered the murder of Salman Taseer who spoke for repeal of such laws.

I also think the Barelvi or Sufi Islam in Pakistan has been hijacked by the feudal-politcal class of makhdooms (Yusuf Raza Gilani, Shah Mahmmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Amin Fahim, etc) to exploit their self-proclaimed lineage from Prophet Mohammad (their so-called Syed status) as a way to maintain their feudal-cum-spiritual power over the poor peasants in Sind and Southern Panjab.

This feudal domination of politics has badly hurt the emergence of real democracy and any advancement of the poor, illiterate rural folks in Pakistan, and contributed to the growth of religious extremism particularly in rural Punjab.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of "India: A Portrait" by historian Patrick French arguing that India is becoming a hereditary monarchy:

Is India sliding into a pseudo monarchy of sorts? In his splendid new book, India: A Portrait, historian Patrick French dredges up some startling data on the stranglehold of family and lineage on Indian politics.

The research finds that though less than a third of India's parliamentarians had a hereditary connection, things get worse with the younger MPs. Consider this:

Every MP in the Lok Sabha or the lower house of the Indian parliament under the age of 30 had inherited a seat.
More than two thirds of the 66 MPs aged 40 or under are hereditary MPs.
Every Congress MP under the age of 35 was a hereditary MP.
Nearly 40% of the 66 ministers who are members of the Lok Sabha were hereditary members.
Nearly 70% of the women MPs have family connections.
Interestingly, for MPs over 50, the proportion with a father or relative in politics was a rather modest 17.9%. But when you looked at those aged 50 or under, this increased by more than two and a half times to nearly half, or 47.2%.

Also most of the younger hereditary MPs - and ministers - have not made a mark and sometimes have been shockingly conservative in their actions. A young MP from feudal Haryana, for example, was seen to be cosying up to extra-constitutional village councils in the state which were punishing couples for marrying outside their caste and clan.

"If the trend continued," concludes French, "it was possible that most members of the Indian Parliament would be there by heredity alone, and the nation would be back to where it had started before the freedom struggle, with rule by a hereditary monarch and assorted Indian princelings." He also worries the next Lok Sabha will be a "house of dynasts".

Most agree that growing nepotistic and lineage-based power in the world's largest democracy is a matter of concern. "The idea of India," political scientist Mahesh Rangarajan told me, "is rent apart by these two contradictory impulses."

But nepotism is a part of India life; and politics mirrors society. Power, wealth, land and status have hinged to a large extent on who your parents were, what they owned and where they stood in society. Most Indian businesses continue to be owned and run by families though the new economy is throwing up more first generation entrepreneurs. Bollywood, India's thriving film industry, is dominated by sons and daughters of famous actors and producers. Three members of one family - Nehru-Gandhi - have held the post of prime minister. If the Congress party wins the next elections and PM Manmohan Singh steps down, there is a likelihood of the dynast Rahul Gandhi becoming India's next prime minister. (It is no surprise that 37% of the MPs - 78 of 208 - in Congress are hereditary compared to only 19% hereditary MPs - 22 of the 116 - in the main opposition BJP.)

Despite French's troubling data, all may not be lost. "Please remember," Dr Rangarajan told me, "the MPs have lineage as a huge plus, but the posts are not hereditary." In other words, if they fail to deliver, they will be voted out of power. Merit triumphed over dynasty in the recent elections in dirt-poor Bihar. So though lineage remains a key factor in politics, remind analysts, it can only give a headstart, and nothing more. Thank democracy for that.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Prof Anatol Lieven, the author of Pakistan-A Hard Country, explaining P2K in an interview with Harpers magazine:

This represents a shocking surrender on my part to SMS-speak, which comes of associating with students!

What it stands for is “Patronage to Kinship,” which is central to the nature and workings of the Pakistani state and political systems. In my book, I argue that this system—especially in the countryside but to some extent also in the cities—revolves around local elites using their own wealth to gain leadership positions in their kinship groups, using these positions to advance in politics and get elected to the provincial or national assembly (whether under civilian or military rule), and then in turn using their influence on government to extract corruption.

However, by contrast with some systems, like Nigeria’s, the benefits of this corruption cannot simply or even mainly be kept for the immediate beneficiaries. In order to retain support, they have to distribute a reasonable proportion of it to their kinfolk and other supporters—otherwise they won’t go on supporting the leaders for very long. Even within quite tight-knit kinship groups, there is usually a rival relative who will step forward to claim the leadership if the existing leader is seen as mean, greedy, and unresponsive to his followers’ needs. There are two good U.S. quotes which illustrate the morality behind this. The first was said about Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago by his supporters: “He dunks, but he splashes.” The second comes from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Highway Patrolman”: “A man turns his back on his family, he ain’t no friend of mine.”

In my book, I describe this system as “Janus-faced.” On the one hand, because of the way in which it maintains kinship links and spreads a certain amount of patronage through society, it helps maintain the existing system’s resilience in the face of the threat of Islamist revolution. On the other hand, it cripples the state’s ability to generate and spend resources effectively on infrastructure, education, and every other form of state service, and it is therefore disastrous for Pakistan’s economic development and social progress.

I argue that the power and prestige of the Pakistani military within the Pakistani system has been due chiefly to its ability to separate itself from the normal workings of the patronage and kinship system, and to operate as a relatively efficient and honest meritocracy. However—and I do wish more of my critics would notice this—I also say repeatedly that the reason the military has been able to do this is that it has in effect functioned as a giant patronage network, extracting a massive share of state resources and spending them on itself, albeit in an orderly way and with some benefits reaching the ordinary soldiers as well as the officers.


http://harpers.org/archive/2011/05/hbc-90008092

Riaz Haq said...

Some 5,800 peasants in Sindh province are set to receive farmland previously designated as government-owned flood runoff. By the end of March, some 92,000 acres will be allotted to women only, according to Christian Science Monitor:

.....When the fields are cleared, Nimat Khatoon, a 50-something peasant farmer who has worked for the wealthy owner of these fields since her childhood has something worth the wait: a four-acre slice of land to call her own.

"It's something I couldn't dream of seeing in my lifetime. We're so happy," she says with a toothy grin, as her children play around her home made of wooden slats and a thatched roof.

Ms. Khatoon is one of some 5,800 peasants in the province of Sindh to receive farmland, previously designated as government-owned flood runoff, from the provincial government over the past two years. A total of 95,000 acres has already been doled out, and in March another 92,000 acres are to be allotted to women only.

The land allocations could help break the cycle of debt accrued by landless peasants, and serve as a jump-start to those whose livelihood was threatened even after the floods receded.

"Land is the main source of wealth in rural Pakistan," explains Amil Khan, a spokesman for the charity Oxfam, which is assisting the government with the project. "If you have no land you don't have a stake in the system."
Cycle of debt

Indeed, seeds and fertilizers are provided by landlords to tenants who are then forced into high interest rates when repaying their debt. What's more, it has become the norm for landless farmers to receive far less than half the profit from the crops, and use most of that to begin paying their never-ending debt.

The government of Sindh – a province home to Pakistan's biggest landlords – embarked on this project in an effort to redress this widening imbalance. But it has taken on a special significance after the 2010 floods, which destroyed 2 million hectares of crops, pushing landless tenants deeper into debt.
------------
Khatoon's family still owes some 40,000 rupees ($470) to the landlord her family has worked under for generations – a princely sum, which could still take another year to clear – though thanks to her newly acquired land, she's hopeful that for the first time ever, the cycle of debt won't begin afresh next year.
After the floods

It's a rare piece of good news to come out of Pakistan after the floods. According to the United Nations World Food Program, hundreds of thousands of flood victims are still living in temporary camps or shelters, while analysts warn of Middle-East style unrest if food inflation, which has soared to some 64 percent in the past three years, continues to rise as the government prints money to finance its deficits.
------
Food insecurity continues, she explains, because "the livelihoods of the lowest strata are not being addressed. First, they are still beholden to debt cycles." Second, the low-interest loans from the government favor large landowners, she explains, because small-scale farmers usually don't use the banking system.

Dr. Habib says these policies came about because of the influence of feudal landowners in Pakistan's parliament, who have held sway since the country gained independence from Britain in 1947. But the move away from that to the new program is a key step toward undercutting that influence.

The Sindh government initiative distributes high-risk government land that runs alongside rivers and tributaries. This land was previously designated as government-owned flood runoff, but was used by local landlords. Rich landlords have struck back by filing legal challenges via local peasants in their employ, to wrest back land that was in their de facto control.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an interesting Op Ed by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi published by The News:

At a time when daunting problems of security, a weakening economy, crippling energy shortages, inadequate public services and an exploding population are blighting the country’s future, no policy thinking is going on within or among parties about appropriate strategies to deal with any of these.

Instead the preoccupation is with politicking, power plays and deal making for the campaign season ahead, which will start with the senate elections in March 2012. There is little or no focus on issues except in terms of vacuous platitudes or slogans, and virtually no debate on national policies even as parties gear up for another round of electoral politics.

Why is there such a disconnect between politics and policy, between challenge and response and between multiplying problems and the solutions needed to fix them?

The answer lies – in large part – in the persisting nature of Pakistan’s politics that has undergirded both civilian and military rule. The defining character of such politics is that it pivots around patronage and operates principally on the basis of patron-client structures that tie politics to a web of hierarchal relations and obligations rather than to a world of citizens, rights and policy.

This form of politics rests on working a spoils system rather than responding to the needs of the people. Political competition is about gaining access to the spoils of office and its distribution among supporters. Patronage not policy is the driving force.
---
Certain types of social structures give rise to networks of relationships of obligation and patronage. The personalised nature of Pakistan’s politics is closely related to the dominant position enjoyed throughout its history by a narrowly based power elite that was feudal in origin and remained so in outlook even as it gradually came to share power with well to do urban groups. While different in social origin and background, members of the ‘newer’ power elite shared a similar ‘feudal-tribal’ style of conducting politics: personalised, based on working ‘biradari’ or clan networks, characterised by patronage-seeking activity and focused on protecting and advancing their economic interests and privileged status.

Seen from this perspective, ‘feudal’ attitudes reinforced by a social system of biradari and tribal alignments have long spilled into and influenced Pakistan’s urban politics. This has expressed itself in patron-client forms of representative politics.

Even urban members of many parties function much like their rural counterparts, in that their efforts at political mobilisation rests more on working lineage and biradari cleavages and alliances than representing wider urban interests.

Politics embedded in these structures are more oriented to patronage than to issues of policy. When parties become extensions of personalities, influential families, clans and biradaris, the focus is not issue-based politics, but what promotes or cements their ‘clientelist’ networks of support and bolsters their privileged positions.

Electoral competition becomes principally about gaining control of state patronage to cement patron-client relationships and reward supporters. Politics and governance becomes more about leveraging the spoils system than framing policies. Political contests are rarely about issues but reflect a tussle over the privileges and resources that power confers.
---------
To align governance to public purpose, the basis of politics must change – away from patronage and towards policy and professionalism in managing the country’s affairs.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece about democracy and oligarchy by Michael Hudson:

Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history.

Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking its usufruct for the state.

Since the Renaissance, however, bankers have shifted their political support to democracies. This did not reflect egalitarian or liberal political convictions as such, but rather a desire for better security for their loans. As James Steuart explained in 1767, royal borrowings remained private affairs rather than truly public debts. For a sovereign’s debts to become binding upon the entire nation, elected representatives had to enact the taxes to pay their interest charges.

By giving taxpayers this voice in government, the Dutch and British democracies provided creditors with much safer claims for payment than did kings and princes whose debts died with them. But the recent debt protests from Iceland to Greece and Spain suggest that creditors are shifting their support away from democracies. They are demanding fiscal austerity and even privatization sell-offs.

--------------
What is missing is the counterweight to a tiny minority who didn’t set out to be petty kings but who know perhaps realize that there is no one and nothing in their way as things stand. . . . As things stand: things will change. Revolution is as likely as oligarchy; more likely I would say. And revolution has more modern precedents than does oligarchic recession. But I do think that society is not presently well-balanced to restrain finance-capital: so it’s them or us who goes down. Let’s make it them.


http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/michael-hudson-debt-and-democracy-has-the-link-been-broken.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Wall Street Journal on Bilawal Bhutto's first ever Op Ed published in Pakistan's Express Tribune:

Mr. Bhutto Zardari uses his op-ed, published in the English-language Express Tribune newspaper, to enumerate what he sees as his mother’s achievements, including pushing women’s rights. The PPP in the 1980s could have used its popular position to unseat the military-run government of the time, but did not do so, he writes. “The PPP has always been careful to distinguish between the army as an institution and the dictator who abuses his position,” he says.

It’s a challenge to the military to stay out of politics. And it seems that army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for now has no designs to take over the government.

Still, the PPP is a lot less popular in Pakistan than it was in Ms. Bhutto’s day and you sense her son feels that. In many places of the op-ed, it feels as if he is writing as the head of an opposition party, not co-chairman of the ruling PPP.

“We can only dream of what might have been had she lived,” he writes at one point of his mother.

He enumerates the challenges facing Pakistan –from education, to energy shortages to the investment-starved economy – but offers no solutions. It’s easy to forget reading it that the PPP is in power.


http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/12/27/bilawal-bhuttos-first-pakistan-op-ed-marks-mothers-death/?mod=google_news_blog

Here's an excerpt from Bilawal's Op Ed:

What we do know is that there are 86,000 more schools because of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. That, under her government foreign investment quadrupled; energy production doubled; exports boomed. Under her government, 100,000 female health workers fanned out across the country, bringing health care, nutrition, pre and postnatal care, to millions of our poorest citizens. It was under her government that women were admitted as judges to the nation’s courts, that women’s police departments were established to help women who suffered from domestic violence and a women’s bank was established to give micro loans to women to start small businesses. It was under Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s leadership that cell phones, fibre optics and international media were introduced, and the Pakistani software industry blossomed. And it was on her very first day as prime minister, that all political prisoners were freed, unions legalised and the press uncensored. It was an amazing record of accomplishment, made even more remarkable by the constraint of aborted tenures, by constant pressure from a hostile establishment and presidents with the power to sack elected governments.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/312290/on-the-fourth-death-anniversary-of-my-mother/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Trib story on a feudal PPP candidate intimidating election staff in Sindh:

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday withheld official results of the Tando Muhammad Khan provincial seat by-poll (PS 53), taking serious note of Saturday’s assault on polling staff by candidate Waheeda Shah Bukhari.

Bukhari was declared the winner in the initial vote-count – but the situation now is far from a celebratory one for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate.

In addition to withholding the poll result, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza ordered that an FIR be registered against Bukhari, who was caught on camera slapping two women at polling station No. 16 at the Government Girls High School. “It was agreed without demur by the members of the ECP that the official result of the said constituency may be withheld till the completion of the inquiry,” said the official statement.

“The slapping incident shocked the whole nation,” observed members of the ECP. “We condemn the unruly behaviour of a person aspiring to represent the people of Pakistan.”

The CEC also directed the Provincial Election Commissioner Sindh to take necessary action. The ECP also stated that an FIR, No. 33/2012, had been registered against the accused at the local police station under section 86 (3) (b) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976. She has been charged with ‘disorderly conduct at polling station’, an offence punishable with three months imprisonment, Rs1,000 fine or both. It also warned that no one would be allowed to threaten or use force against the polling staff whose services were hired by the commission. It also expressed concern and disappointment over the failure of police personnel present to take action. Ali Asghar Siyal, the Returning Officer of the by-elections in the constituency, lodged the FIR....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/342796/assaulting-polling-staff-ps-53-election-result-withheld-case-lodged-against-winning-candidate/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a recent Khatmandu speech by Pak social scientist Arif Hasan:

.. ...In my city, Karachi, anyone my age will similarly tell you how wonderful Karachi used to be...the calm that we enjoyed was really like the peace of the dead. It was a kind of peace made possible by the feudal system.
------------
I asked an elder from the taluka whom I had met in 1983, now much older, “Sahib, did you have honour killings before?”

He said, “Yes, we used to have one in perhaps ten years. It was a rare occurrence, and we would discuss one for ten years until another happened.”

“Then why it is happening now with such regularity?”

He said, “Now, everyone has become shameless, without honour, so honour killings are taking place.”

I asked, “Why is there no honour today?”

He responded, “The young people, they’ve gone to the city, and they’ve done all the wrong things. The girls have learned how to read and write, they’ve gone to school, some of them have gone to university as well. They have no morals left, so this is bound to happen.”

“You mean this is going to continue like this forever?”

“No, no, it will stop!”

“How and when will it stop?”

His reply was educative: “The honour killings will stop when everyone becomes shameless, then it will end.” Then he added, “But I hope that I die before that day.”

He was a man of the old, feudal rural culture, with its own pattern of behaviour and way of thinking. He was part of it, and it was dying, so he wished to die with it.

In 1992, the applications for court marriages in Karachi amounted to about 10 or 15, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent. By 2006, we were seeing more than 250 applications for court marriages per day in Karachi. Significantly, more than half of the couples seeking court recognition of their betrothal came from rural areas of Sindh. This is yet another indication of how the entire feudal system and its values are in rapid collapse.

This collapse is also heralded by the advances in women’s education. According to 2006 figures, fully 72 percent of the University of Karachi student body is today female. Among medical students, 87 percent are women, and the figure for architecture and planning is as high as 92 percent. In fact, our vice chancellor was so concerned that he suggested a quota for men. I used to teach a class with one boy and 15 girls. That has changed a little now as we have tried to even it out. But the reason is simply that women do better on the entrance tests. There’s no other reason for it.

In 1971, I started working in low-income settlements in Karachi, and a decade later I joined the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). The settlements that we worked in at that time were primarily working-class, and when we went over we were met by older men who were mostly illiterate. They spoke to us in very formal, feudal language – janaab, huzoor, sahib, miyan, “We are all your children and need your protection,” and all that. At that time, in the 1980s, the women hardly worked. Things are entirely different when you go to the OPP today; it’s not what you would call a shanty settlement. It’s mostly the younger generation who will meet you, and they will address you as ‘uncle’ rather than ‘sahib’. The people you meet are bank managers, school teachers, professionals working in the service sector of Karachi.
-----------
... The recent shooting of Malala Yusufzhai has shown what Pakistani society really feels and how it thinks on issues. For the first time the Pakistani establishment – the army as well as the three major political parties – have all condemned the Taliban for the shooting. The people have spoken in the huge rallies, in Karachi and elsewhere. ...


http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html