Democracy and Feudalism
03 July, 2007
By Dr. Tanvir Hussain Bhatti
Democracy cannot blossom in the suffocating ambiance of feudalism. Feudalism is not an economic system. It is stagnant mentality, which has permeated most of the institutions of the state. The tin pot dictators engrossed in class-consciousness crave to maintain status quo. They want power and prestige by deliberately keeping the public illiterate and backward, so that no one can challenge their writ. The siblings of feudal lords inherit landlordism and pass it on to the succeeding generations. The moribund genes of feudalism cannot tolerate mutation. They degenerate after transformation by democracy.
Feudalism has been present in the genesis of Pakistan because the majority of the hammer men of the Muslim League were cashed up landlords. The Quaid-i-Azam, having full beans of democracy, did not get sufficient time to groom the public to imbibe egalitarian principles. He kicked the bucket during the formative phase of the country. His untimely death was a bolt from the blue for the nascent nation, who has attached great expectations on his uprightness. His eternal rest provided lacuna to the feudal lords to ascend to the throne, who ruled the country like palooka candy-butts rather than dedicated responsible leaders. They placed national welfare at the backburner and were preoccupied by their insatiable egocentrism.
Frequent change of the government due to political wrangling generated perpetual political instability, which provided vacuum to the army to intervene that driven the first nail in the coffin of democracy. Ayub Khan transferred power unconstitutionally to Yahya Khan, who had his own axe to grind. He upset the applecart by launching army operation against the dwellers of the Eat Pakistan, which inundated the streets of Dhaka in civilian blood. Erratic developmental priorities of Ayub Khan and high-handedness of Yahya Khan sidetracked and alienated the people of the East Pakistan. Spurious propaganda of the over ambitious politicians added fuel to the fire that mounted the tension between the constituent wings, which culminated in the cleavage of the country.
The heartrending calamity of the East Pakistan brought Mr.Z.A.Bhutto to power. According to the renowned historian Lawrence Zhiring, Mr.Bhutto, who projected himself as the champion of democracy in the Third World, could not tolerate the opposition government in NWFP and Balochistan. Therefore, he decided to deal with his political rivals with iron hand. Oppressive activities of the FSF, which was created by the Quaid-i-Awam plummeted his popularity. Spate of vehement protests by the opposition, due to alleged rigging of the 1977 elections by the PPP, ended with Mr.Bhutto’s incarceration and execution by the succeeding authoritarian regime. The subsequent leaders also shoddily failed to change the fate of the country.
There is no continuity of policies due to wrestling for political authority. Ayub’s “Industrialization” and “Basic Democracy”, Z.A.Bhutto’s “Nationalization”, Zia’s “Islamization”, Benzir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s “Privatization” were just cosmetic measures. The ulterior motive of these policies was to concentrate maximum power and to linger on government tenure. These plans terminated with the ending of the rule of their initiating regime. The fate of the “Enlightened Moderation” and the “Devolution Plan” kicked off by the current regime would not be very different from their predecessors. The succeeding regime considered its duty to wind up the plans commenced by the forerunner. Therefore, this adhocism has proved abortive to change the destiny of the nation.
Elections provide a ray of hope to the disappointed public having wolf at the door for a transmutation. The up in the dough amateurish politicians raise hollow slogans to delude the cash strapped ignorant teeming millions while canvassing. But after winning the polls, they visit their constituency once in a blue moon and turn a blind eye to the social welfare. These so-called well-fixed legislatures start flooding their coffers with wads of notes after triumph. Therefore, their vacant rumbling catchwords and sugary assurances, vehemently publicized during the elections campaigns, cut no ice. Thus, the public development has remained in the doldrums, as the masses are still breathing at subsistence level.
The incompetent muck mucks deem it their right to flush plentiful public funds. Thus electoral process has become an income generating nasty commerce instead of empowering responsible persons to change the fortune of the nation by paving the way for the country to make progress by leaps and bounds. The political authority provides umbrellas to the political tycoons, and their near and dear ones to built business empires. They use their scandalous nexus for import permits, price manipulation, hoarding, tax evasion and debt write off. Thus the elections have widened the socio-economic gulf by enriching the people, who are already wallowing in pelf and plenty, and further impoverishing those not having a pot to piss in.
Personalization of politics is one of the main stumbling blocks in the way of establishing undoctored democracy in the country. The political parties in Pakistan are mere one-man show. Authoritarian leaders, who dictate party policies, head these political parties, which hailed themselves as custodians of democracy. The rest of the members are bound to follow their words as gospel truth, otherwise, they may face ire and wrath of the party leaders or may be kicked out of the parties. These parties do not conduct regular elections within their ranks. Most of the times different party officials are nominated by the party heads instead of elected.
The party in the throne uses accountability institutions as tools to intimidate and revenge their political rivals. Accountability institutions deliberately turn a blind eye to the big scams of the elected and selected officials of the party in power. But, they spare no effort to trawl and put in the cage those unfortunate leaders that are not in the saddle. Therefore, accountability has always been just eyewash or a counterfeit activity.
Constitutionally parliamentary democracy is working in Pakistan but actually feudalism is ruling the roost. The feudal lords have been philandering with democracy since the birth of Pakistan. They preach democracy but practice feudalism. They sermonize egalitarianism but firmly believe in social stratification. They frame laws to drive the masses with steel rod. Time and again they insult, mutilate and amend the constitution that can transfer maximum political power in their messy hands.
To talk about women rights in Pakistan is to show red rag to feudal bulls. The journey of life of this neglected community is full of miseries and agonies. They are physically tortured, mentally strained, socially ridiculed, economically exploited and politically marginalized. We can’t dream of emerging as a democratic country by keeping about 50% of the country’s population sidelined from the mainstream political arenas of life. The media should brainwash a handful of male chauvinists having ingrained hostility towards females.
Even the present Assemblies, docking the largest number of women legislatures in the 60 years history of Pakistan, are deprived of true women representatives. Almost all the nominated female MNAs and MPAs are the kith and kin of the wrinkly big cheese of the country. Those who came to power after contesting the polls are as scarce as honesty in a scam-spattered country.
Student unions were the rearing grounds for those in Queer Street to become democratic national leaders. But the feudal lords could not endure those politicians, belonging to a social class not having a pot to pee in, in legislative assemblies. Therefore, they collectively devise a scheme to ban student unions to permanently draw a line between the cash strapped born with a wooden ladle in their mouth and those in clover born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
Explosive growth alone cannot reduce poverty and socio-economic inequality. During the first Green Revolution of 1960s wheat and rice were produced in hefty volume. During the second Green Revolution of 1970s and 1980s, the production of cotton was greatly enhanced. But only the well-heeled landlords garnered top crust benefits because they easily purchased fertilizers, pesticides and agrarian technology.
Land reforms are indispensable to break the back of deeply embedded feudalism. Land reforms pioneered by Ayub and Bhutto was just transient measures. They badly failed to bridge the gap between the on velvet class and the poor as shithouse rat, because the feudal lords transferred their surplus lands to their relatives and tenants for the time being but after that retrieved it from them ham handedly.
Uncle Sam also does not want real democracy in Pakistan, which can clash with its vested interests in the territory. It has all the time adopted carrot and stick policy to deal with Pakistan. It always pampered those feudal lords, political parties and authoritarian regimes, which could look after American concerns in the region. It has chosen double standards to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds to expand its self-centered hegemonic designs throughout the world under the guise of democracy
Pakistan is passing through miserable phase of institutional crisis, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel, as Shelley says,” If winter comes; can spring be far behind.” The present judicial crisis and the firm stand taken by the Chief Justice Mr.Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has shown a glimmer of hope to the rank and file. The Chief Justice received red carpet welcome by the civilians and the lawyers’ community wherever he visited.
This bears out that the people are fed up with widespread palm greasing, favoritism, nepotism, social injustice, economic exploitation, political subjugation and educational stratification. They yearn for reformation of the present system, which can provide them basic facilities of life and ensure socio-economic justice. Whatsoever may be the decision of the Supreme Court; it would be a landmark in the history of Pakistan because all and sundry have pinned great hopes on it.
Democracy and feudalism are incompatible. Democracy cannot flourish in the prevalence of firmly entrenched landlordism. Democracy would only bear fruit when feudalism would be eradicated root and branch. Change of faces at the wheel would serve no purpose. There is crying need to reform the system that can strengthen the institutions instead of personalities and pressure groups.
The army, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the print and electronic media, the clergy and the politicians should come down from their high horse and play their constructive national role in beefing up the foundations of democracy. They should join hands to uplift the public. They should work for the betterment of the public rather than safeguarding their vested interests, otherwise, their titles would be mere shadows and their crowns sheer empty things.