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IT’S NOT THE TALIBAN, ITS THE FEUDALS STUPID; To Defeat The Taliban, Pakistani Feudals Must Die

 

Feudalism in Pakistan

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The Feudalism in Pakistan (Urdu: زمینداری نظام zamīndāri nizam) has a stranglehold on the economy and politics of the nation. The feudal landlords have created states within a state where they rule their fiefs with impunity. The landlord’s influence spans over the police, bureaucracy and judiciary. The majority of the politicians in Pakistan are themselves feudal landlords.

The Bhuttos’ is one of the richest families of the subcontinent, The Bhuttos own around 40,000 acres (161874000 m² or 161.874 km²) of land in Sindh and assets worth billions of dollars.

Throughout history, feudalism has appeared in different forms. The feudal prototype in Pakistan consists of landlords with large joint families possessing hundreds or even thousands of acres of land. They seldom make any direct contribution to agricultural production. Instead, all work is done by peasants or tenants who live at subsistence level.

The landlord, by virtue of his ownership and control of such vast amounts of land and human resources, is powerful enough to influence the distribution of water, fertilisers, tractor permits and agricultural credit and, consequently exercises considerable influence over the revenue, police and judicial administration of the area. The landlord is, thus, lord and master. Such absolute power can easily corrupt, and it is no wonder that the feudal system there is humanly degrading.

The system, which some critics say is parasitical at its very root, induces a state of mind which may be called the feudal mentality. This can be defined as an attitude of selfishness and arrogance on the part of the landlords. It is all attitude nurtured by excessive wealth and power, while honesty, justice, love of learning and respect for the law have all but disappeared. Having such a mentality, when members of feudal families obtain responsible positions in civil service, business, industry and politics, their influence is multiplied in all directions. Indeed the worsening moral, social, economic and political crisis facing this country can be attributed mainly to the powerful feudal influences operating there.

Although the system has weakened over the years through increased industrialization, urbanization and land reforms such as those introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, oligarchs still hold much power in the politics of Pakistan due to their financial backing, rural influence and family led politics which involves whole families to be in politics at any one time and cross marriages between large feudal families to create greater influence. Many children of feudal families are also argued to take up bureaucratic roles to support family agendas.

To begin with, the Pakistan Muslim League, the party laying Pakistan’s foundation 53 years ago, was almost wholly dominated by feudal lords such as the Zamindars, Jagirdars, Nawabs, Nawabzadas,Mansabdars, Arbabs, Makhdooms, and Sardars, the sole exception being the Jinnahs (merchants and lawyers) and the Sharifs(industrialists). Pakistan’s major political parties are feudal-oriented, and more than two-thirds of the National Assembly (lower house of the legislature) is composed of this class. Besides, most of the key executive posts in the provinces are held by them.

Through the 1950s and the 1960s the feudal families retained control over national affairs through the bureaucracy and the armed forces. Later, in 1972, they assumed direct power and retained it until the military regained power recently. Thus, any political observer can see that this oligarchy, albeit led by and composed of different men at different times, has been in power since Pakistan’s inception.

Since the Obama administration currently appears reluctant to ditch George W. Bush’s wrongheaded policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan should distance itself from the U.S., which may be planning a very long stay in Afghanistan. But Pakistan must also put its own house in order.

Second, Pakistan has to uplift its underprivileged areas, which are the main breeding grounds for the militancy. Unemployment, poverty, lack of quality schools, massive corruption, a low standard of living, and the millennia of debilitating feudalism have accelerated the Talibanization of the country. One reason why so many people have joined various Taliban groups in the Swat Valley — an area that is home to 1.3 million people with fertile land, orchards, vast plots of timber, and lucrative emerald mines — is that the Taliban have successfully exploited the profound differences between wealthy landlords and their landless tenants. The Taliban seized power from about 50 big landlords who ruled the Swat Valley and then organized the long-suffering peasants into armed bands. The entire landowning clique fled the Valley, and the Taliban offered the economic spoils to the landless peasants of Swat Valley.

Now is the time to end the feudal landlords’ domination of Pakistan, which has put workers and peasants in a subservient position and kept the middle class out of the highest circles of power.

Pakistan military has decided to deal with the Taliban Frankenstein.

The world was wondering what Pakistan was doing, until it launched a full-scale military offensive last week to halt the Pakistani Taliban, which had taken control of districts only 100 kilometers from the capital.

Pakistanis were glued to their TVs, shocked to see troops of the group known as the neo-Taliban advance unhindered toward Islamabad, set on recreating the Stone Age state their namesakes had established in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

But is it really so? Well, in some ways it is. Over the years, Pakistan has let the situation fester, allowing extremist and terrorist groups to sprout like mushrooms. The country’s chronic socioeconomic problems have left the downtrodden masses three choices: flee the country for greener pastures in foreign countries, become criminals at home, or join militant organizations that promise a better life, at least in the hereafter. When people don’t have the opportunity to live with honor, many choose to at least die with honor.

However, Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban will only solve the problem temporarily.

First, Pakistan has to free itself from the fatal U.S. embrace that has damaged the country greatly. For instance, the U.S. has given Pakistan $11 billion in assistance since September 2001, but the U.S. “war on terror” has cost Pakistan $35 billion, according to Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf’s advisor on finance, Shaukat Tareen.

Moreover, Pakistan’s unholy alliance with the U.S. has radicalized its citizens and exacerbated the terrorism and militancy problems in the country once known for its tolerant peace-loving society.

Feudalism and the Taliban are Pakistan’s evil twins.

Pakistan has to finally eradicate feudalism to end extremism and enter the modern world.

Pakistan must introduce land reforms, build a more vibrant middle class, reduce poverty, improve the education system, build roads, implement infrastructure projects, and establish industry in order to give people more opportunities for a better life. Otherwise, feudalism and intelligence agencies will only create more Frankenstein monsters in the future, long after the Taliban forces are gone.

The writer is a Tehran Times journalist based in Tehran.He can be reached at gj.tehran@gmail.com.

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