The Present Government and Feudalism

Tufail Abbas

The following editorial from a recent issue of ‘Awami Manshoor’ represents an insightful analysis of the feudal economic bases of the civilian and military regimes of Pakistan after 1947. Insofar as this country is mentioned we would argue that far from being terminated the pronounced remnants of feudalism and other pre-capitalist socio-economic formations, despite the modifications which ensue from the ‘land reforms’ of the mid-nineteen-fifties, survive as millstones around the neck of the Indian economy and act as retarding factors for the development of the productive forces.

When general Musharraf came to power in October 1999, we had written in an editorial captioned ‘Pakistan at a New Turning Point’ that the military rulers that had come into power in 1958, 1969 and 1977 had not relinquished power of their own. Though general Musharraf has held elections in the country yet he is the real ruler. When the honoured general had arrived he had tried in a press conference to equate himself with Kemal Ataturk. He had also cited Chinese examples to show that he was a champion of the Sino-Pak friendship. He had spoken against the feudal lords. He had also shown the people the way to reforms. His military media in charge major general Rashid Qureishi, too, had talked about the controls of the feudal lords. But what happened? The prime minister of president Musharraf says that there is no problem of feudalism in the country and there is no question of reforms in the agrarian relations.

We had said in our October 1999 issue that today’s Pakistan suffers not only from decadent feudalism but also from the primitive tribal system. Without destroying these Pakistan can neither progress nor survive. You cannot run a train by putting a horse in front of it. Such is our situation that the country’s elected prime minister, who calls himself a champion of democracy, says that president general is his ‘boss’. When an elected prime minister accepts the president as his boss then what democracy do we have and what kind of democracy is it? The situation is worse than even so-called democracy. Taking account of the past fifty years we emphatically say that not only these three years of the general’s rule but even the coming fifty years of the future regimes and the regimes that would come after, cannot bring even a so-called democracy unless feudal system is uprooted in Pakistan.

After the partition of the sub-continent, the so-called capitalist democracy could come to the part which constituted India but Pakistan could not enjoy it. The reason behind that was that the Indian part had developed industries and the power of feudal lords was smashed there. That is why after partition they could destroy the feudal system and bourgeois democracy could be initiated there to some extent. The so-called democracy in India is usually eulogised but we understand that a real democracy can only come under a regime of the workers and peasants and that is impossible without an agrarian revolution. Nehru became the prime minister of India with full powers in his hands. It is only the prime minister who gets all the powers in his hands in a bourgeois democracy. On this side, Qaede-Azam was the champion of bourgeois democracy but he too loved to have the post of a governor general under a feudal system which has all the powers concentrated at the ‘top’, and he became a ‘boss’. The Supreme Court, the bureaucracy and the army were formed to run that system. Had he not died so soon it was possible that the Qaede-Azam too would have tried to get rid of the feudal system like mian Iftkhar-ul-din, Mumtaz Daultana, Khan Qayoom Khan, Zahid Hussain, M. Masood and Haidar Baksh had done. But the country continued to be ruled by the feudal lords. The later regimes, including that of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-haq and now president Musharraf were founded on the foundations of feudalism. This bunch of feudal lords who are nourished by imperialism can also fake elections as a showing off but the power always remains with it and the parliament acts like a cage where these ‘birds’, which are the product of this decadent system, are allowed to twitter in their respective languages. If we evaluate our history we find that feudalism had its roots in the Mughal period. If we see feudalism in the pre-partition period we find that Shah Abdal Aziz and Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan (1746-1824) played an important role in creating a bourgeois mentality among the Muslims through the capitalist banking system. The British empire had tried to destroy the old system by giving property rights to ‘revenue collectors’ and they too became the masters of the landless peasants. Muhammad Ali Johar, Maulana Azad and Allama Iqbal could not understand the efforts of Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan. They could not understand the economic and social power of the Muslims and all the powers dealing with the economic and social issues went into the hands of non-Muslims. When Pakistan came into existence this whole region was under the domination of feudal lords. The religious organisations united themselves with the feudal forces and further strengthened this system. And now we have a situation where 67.5 % population is under the control of these forces which have kept them as hostages. Unless this system is destroyed the ideas prevailing in Pakistan concerning way of life, society and politics cannot change. Such is the situation that the so-called reforms which were carried out during the times of Ayub Khan and Bhutto sahib were stopped by a sharia court from 23rd March 1990 onwards. Why did such a thing happen after all? Not just to keep Pakistan under the yoke of feudal lords but also to maintain the unity of the mullahs with the feudal forces.

This feudal system has made the people of Pakistan pathetic. We whine like sheep. We have lost the sense of differentiating between the butcher and the shepherd. We have lost all sensibility, the hallmark of a living nation, to understand our decisions and to put them into practice. We have come to the conclusion that whatever is happening will always continue to happen. We fail to understand that at the time of freedom the big landlords had usurped state power and the feudal system was bestowed upon us by the British colonialists. The sons of these very feudal forces dominate the scene in Pakistan today, especially in Punjab and Sind provinces. The Sirdari system which was present in 1947 continues to dominate in Baluchistan. Similarly, the tribal system continued its political domination in the Frontier province. The rulers of these provinces of Pakistan were neither interested in carrying out any change nor did they allow it to happen because the system was serving them and they were fleecing the people white. The reforms carried out by Ayub Khan and Bhutto were half hearted and half done. Only certain privileged people benefited from these reforms. Very influential people were behind the failure of the reforms. They transferred their lands to relatives and children through spurious methods. Many of them secured their lands by joining Bhutto’s party. In this way they continued to hold political and personal sway. The national and regional assemblies were under their influence.

After Jamali’s ravings about general Musharraf and after calling him his ‘boss’ it becomes clear that feudalism in Pakistan is in secure hands. Jamali has even told the feudal lords that they should increase their holdings without any fear and trouble. Now there is no ban over it. Although South Asia, which includes India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is free from feudalism the prime minister of Pakistan is a landlord, the chief minister of Sind is a landlord, the chief minister of Baluchistan is a landlord, and the chief minister of Punjab is a landlord. Commenting upon the situation prevailing in Pakistan an opposition leader, Kichloo Ali, of Baluchistan has said, ‘What an irony that president Pervez Musharraf had pledged to smash feudalism but his prime minister is strengthening it.’ – just 7% of the landlords own 40% of land. In this situation how can a peasant and a poor person raise his head before these feudal lords? The so-called reforms of Ayub Khan and Bhutto had allowed the landlords to keep big farms in the name of gardens and hunting grounds which were later used for cultivation. A minister in Bhutto’s cabinet, Mustafa Khar, has said that he purchased 150 acres of land at rupees 4000 per acre and converted that into a farm, and by taking advantage of his ministership he managed to bring a canal through his land. In this way, the price of his land was increased enormously. Later, he sold a part of his land at a very high price.

After Prime Minister Jamali’s statements, a sociologist who is an expert in his field and is presently an assistant secretary general in the UNO, has said that Pakistan cannot control poverty until radical reforms are carried out in the agrarian sector. He is least influenced by the claims concerning the development of Pakistan and says that feudalism is a barrier to all kinds of progress. It is a strange thing in Pakistan that here we have landlords in the government and landlords in the opposition. In this way, these robbers destroy the people turn by turn. Everywhere the feudal ideas are in sway. The bureaucracy and the army are full with the people having these ideas and they are becoming new small landlords and land owners. In this worse kind of situation the prime minister’s statement concerning reforms in the agrarian sector will only please the big landowners and especially the big shortcomings present in the share-cropping system would not be removed. There is much weight in what Dr. Ishrat Hussain says in this regard. He says that whatever reforms were effected have failed. The things which are responsible for these failures include loopholes in the laws, manipulations while implementing these laws, and also the influences and pressures of the land owners have played their role. On the one hand, the experts in the socio-economic field have arrived at a common conclusion and demand that unless feudalism and landlordism is totally done away with in Pakistan and if the land remains in a few hands, the agriculture economy will not progress. They put forward the examples of South Korea, Taiwan and especially that of India in this regard where after the demise of feudalism production has increased enormously. Such is the situation in our beloved country where it has stagnated for the last 56 years. The country is in the control of parasitic feudal forces. The imperialist powers, for their own interests, want this country to be controlled by these forces.

Then how the conditions will change? Will the feudal lords and their henchmen change feudalism? How is it possible that the rulers would behead themselves on their own? A long drawn out struggle is needed for that. Only the working class can accomplish this job through an unbreakable alliance with the peasantry and by taking along all other patriotic forces with them. This can be accomplished only through struggles and struggles alone, leading to a thoroughgoing revolution. To snatch back rights one does not go in for favours. Right is secured through struggle.

‘Awami Manshoor’, Karachi, August, 2003.

Translated from the Urdu by Gurmeet Singh.

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