Feudal lords were created by the “Gora Sab“, the British rulers. I will not call these landlord groups the real culprits, or blood suckers, because there is a history behind giving them powers by the British rulers, that’s the way they were ruling the people and collecting the land revenue from peasants.
It’s not easy to eliminate feudal lords; nobody relinquishes power, it has to be taken. The structure of Feudal Lords was created by British-India government for their convenience a long time ago; it is weakening with time and will ultimately go away. Our country is just 64 years old; maybe we are a little impatient. Getting rid of all the evils of slavery will take some time.
Now I’ll tell you a true story from our history. About fourty years ago when Pakistan was only 23 years old, in 1970 the first elections on adult franchise basis were held in Pakistan. ZA Bhutto won with a majority in the West wing while Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won with a majority too in the East wing in those elections. Interestingly, all the experienced politicians and all those Feudal Lords lost election against the candidates of Bhutto’s Peoples Party. Bhutto’s candidates were mostly unknown common people. Nobody was able to stop that revolution, not the powerful feudal lords and nor their friendly district management, and the myth that education is necessary for political awareness and democracy also proved to be wrong. No powerful person or group was able to influence the voters. That happened 40 years ago when there were no computers, no good schools like Beacon House and Lahore Grammar, and no LUMS or Aga Khan University.
What happened after that? Why are the feudal lords still here? The sad part of the story is that same anti-feudal Bhutto made a “religious peer” and feudal lord, Sajjad Hussain Qureshi, the Chief Minister of Punjab. In the next general elections which were held in 1977, most of the Bhutto’s Peoples Party candidates were again the same feudal lords and the “religious saints”. People at that time said, “Bhutto betrayed us”. We lost the chance to eliminate feudal lords from power at that time and we lost poor’s friendly politician Bhutto too.
Bhutto, however, was successful in killing the powers of 22 families of capitalists through nationalization of major industries of Pakistan; other-wise we may have been talking at this time to eliminate those evil capitalists too. Those big 22 filthy rich families were developed by President Ayub Khan at the expense of keeping the masses very poor. Ayub was actually not wrong. That’s how Pakistan was industrialized, but Bhutto was not wrong too, because those 22 families were too dangerously powerful and had all the money of the country to buy more power and influence and to suppress the poor further for their financial gains. Those 22 families were real blood suckers and only a very strong leader like Bhutto could have annihilated their powers and he did. Though in this process the true capitalism also died and our economic progress slowed down drastically.
To curb the powers and influence of these feudal lords, the governments in Pakistan have done two major land reforms in Pakistan, first by the President Ayub Khan in the 1960’s, and the second by Prime Minister ZA Bhutto in the 1970’s.
There is always some cheating against the government actions, so was in both of those reforms too. The big landlord families transferred the ownership of some of their lands to their loyal peasants and servants, with or without their knowledge, in the names of those who they can control easily. The big landlords however still kept the actual control of all those lands.
To regain control and influence over their people, some of the big landlords which were affected by the land reforms have again accumulated a lot of lands in the last 20 years. In spite of that, there are very few big landlords left in upper and central Punjab province. In southern Punjab and rural Sindh, however, we still have big landlords.
In Punjab, excluding the Sothern part, the big land lords and descendants of religious saints still exist; however, they do not possess much power to influence the voters. They use legal means to attract the voters and supporters all the time. People of Central and Northern Punjab are quite prosperous and there are not any forms of slavery or forced labour issues existing now, nor are any examples of major injustice with the poor people (with the exception of some isolated incidences).
People have a lot of political awareness and for them all the candidates and parties are alike. They understand that the objective of all candidates is to win the seat and to gain power and money for themselves. All those candidates switch parties often, so there is no ideology or cause involved in choosing the representatives.
The issue on the land holding side is actually different. There are too many small landlords like those who possess only two acres or more. The smaller pieces of lands make the agricultural businesses not very lucrative and it’s resulting in lower per acre yield.
In Punjab, politics is the real business of those old time big land owners and religious peers and not ‘Rassa Giri’ any more. They make tons of money from the business of politics, and they need to do a lot of efforts to win their seats. Moreover, their brothers, sons, or relatives are either in the army or in civil service, or doing some sort of business so they have a complete network of mafia working for them to increase their wealth and power and to maintain their very high standard of living.
Now let’s see what the situation in rural Sindh and Southern Punjab is. Over there the feudal lords have again accumulated big pieces of land. In remote areas, big landlords have armed “Dakoo” and “Rassagirs” (robber bands, Dacoits, outlaws) and police either is part of that network or is helpless, so they have their own small small “Rajwaray (a small state within the state)” to enjoy the power and enjoy good standard of life while their children study in USA and Europe.
In Sindh, people have no second option in politics. They have been brainwashed to vote only for a Sindhi party (PPP) because according to them non-Sindhis killed their beloved Bhuttos. Now we have Zardari league in power, from the same clan of Bhuttos. It has gained power with the votes of poor people. Ironically its choice of Prime Minister and the foreign minister is from the same religious feudal class.
Now, if you want a change, you need to get rid of Bhuttos and Zardaris and have to bring in the right leadership.
Karachites are very educated and supposed to have a lot of political awareness, but unfortunately they always vote for a party which is accused of killing a lot of people and is accused to be a terrorist organization. Why? Because they vote on the basis of ethnic background and they will not vote for anybody other than a party of Urdu speaking people. Unfortunately same is true for Sindhis and others Pakistanis.
The moral of the story is that until and unless we stop voting on the basis of language, province, caste, tribe, sect etc, we can’t choose the right leadership.
You can’t bury feudal system and curb their powers until you have the right leadership, and you can’t have the right leadership until you bury the provincialism.
We must bury our history to make our future bright, it’s a trade off. Are you willing to do that?
The Solution: A strong leadership elected by people of Pakistan on the basis of merit is needed, a leadership which invests in the education and training of common people, which spends money to build large networks of physical infrastructures all over Pakistan, which works hard to cut down the slavery in the remote areas of Pakistan, and which brings the real equality and justice in the society.