democracy
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sahib Khan |

For the first time, PML(N)-led government is about to complete its constitutional tenure in Pakistan and the next elections are expected to be held in the mid of 2018. Earlier, the elected PPP-led government made history by completing its first constitutional tenure in Pakistan from 2008 to 2013. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are two major parties in Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)  emerged as a 3rd political party in the elections of 2013.

Strategies of political parties for 2018 Election

Former federal Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat and former Chief Minister Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar joined Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) respectively in Punjab Province.

As the next elections are drawing nearer, winning strategy being adopted by every party, thus trying to assimilate winning candidates in different provinces, especially rural areas. Even the PTI leadership has started to induct different winning candidates

A change was PTI’s mantra. However,  Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) now plans to contest the next elections with winning horses at the forefront.

The party (PTI) appears ready to assimilate individuals who have strong personal clout in their constituencies to maximize strength in national and provincial legislatures necessary to form the government. Such trend of politics is seen since long in Pakistan where the new parties were formed but mostly with the same winning candidates changing their loyalty and affiliation.

Recently, former federal Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat and former Chief Minister Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar joined Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) respectively in Punjab Province. Similarly, former Chief Minister Sindh Liaquat Ali Jatoi joined PTI in Sindh province. Also, many others are being expected to change their loyalty in the future.

Read more: Democracy in the West and Pakistan

Electables are influential

Winning candidates not only have influence over respective constituency and its economy but also government machinery like district governments especially Police and other institutions by getting their close relatives or aides appointed.

The winning candidates have a huge influence in their constituencies because of land-holdings and other businesses.

Former Chief Minister Sindh and PML-N leader Ghous Ali Shah. Shah said “we have to form government and we need winning candidates and winning candidates can be those who have thousands of acres of agriculture land in their constituency because majority of local people would be peasants harvesting his land”.

Winning candidates have influence in their constituencies and that shows how they use the government machinery to their advantage.

Read more: Watch this short video: Do elections bring democracy?

‘Thana-Kachehri’ politics in Pakistan

Winning candidates from their clan can lend due or undue favors to them in what commonly called Kacheri (Courts) or thana (Police Station) matters and it does not matter for them whether candidates have ability to deliver in policymaking.

A majority of feudal or landlords are Sardars – Tribal heads. All tribesmen are supposed to obey the orders of their Sardars. Besides, more consideration while voting is given to an individual based on Biradri (clan).

Winning candidates from their clan can lend due or undue favors to them in what is commonly called Kacheri (Courts) or thana (Police Station).

Candidates having a long experience of contesting elections developed nexus with local power brokers at unions and village level rather than lower tiers – voters. This is a reason PTI has welcomed joining Mr. Jatoi.

Read more: Judiciary of Pakistan: preserving democracy or saluting gangsters?

Uneven distribution of Agricultural land

The land distribution in Pakistan was highly unequal as 5% of large landholders possess 64% of the total farmland and 50.8% of rural households were landless, Dawn reported.

According to Agriculture Census 2010 – Pakistan Report issued by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Almost 64 % of the population of Pakistan resides in rural areas and earns its livelihood, directly or indirectly, from agricultural activities.

Agriculture contributes more than 21 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment to 45 percent of the total labor force. About 85% of rural labor are working as tenants (peasants) on sharecropping basis on lands belonging to large landlords. However, many are deprived of their due share.

Ghost schools

Report on “Profiles of Land Tenure System in Pakistan” said the feudal-tribal order has ensured the continuation of patriarchy in rural Pakistan.

According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, the literacy rate of the population is 60 percent as compared to 58 percent in 2014. The data shows that literacy rate is higher in urban areas (76 percent) than in rural areas (51 percent). The male literacy during 2015 was 70 percent and that of females was 49 percent.

Thousands of schools are closed in rural areas yet ghost teachers are drawing salaries, However, the standard of education in opened schools is very low. These are main reasons for landlords holding more power.

Read more: True democracy in Pakistan needs the 1973 Constitution to be followed

False promises

After winning elections, they start to make themselves strong by accumulating more wealth through different means. Due to this, the voter has almost no freedom to make independent choices about voting and even other personal matters.

Report on “Profiles of Land Tenure System in Pakistan” said the feudal-tribal order has ensured the continuation of patriarchy in rural Pakistan.

The report said the unequal distribution of assets ensures the economic dominance of the feudal-tribal class and the socio-political order continuously reinforces their power. Members of feudal-tribal families are or have been leading office-bearers in all political parties or are legislators and ministers.  The feudal-tribal chieftains enjoy de facto judicial powers and preside over jirgas and pass judgments on disputes.

Read more: Is PML-N a threat to democracy?

Why is feudal system strong in Pakistan?

The lack of employment and educational opportunities in secondary urban areas and the substandard quality of civic services therein has failed to create the pull effect for the rural population to break out of the feudal-tribal stranglehold.

Prior to the establishment of the district government system in 2002, the Commissionerate system ensured that there was a countervailing administrative and judicial locus of power in relation to the political power of the feudal-tribal elite. Of course, the elite enjoyed significant influence over the district administration; nevertheless, the latter did exert a degree of check on an arbitrary action on the part of the Sardars, Waderas, Chaudharys and Khans.

The system introduced in 2002 concentrated administrative, judicial, and political authority and provided the feudal-tribal chieftains unchecked monopoly of power.  Effectively, the administrative and judicial structure of government became formally subservient to the political class in the district.

Also, the same landlords were politically strong in their respective districts due to which the same people got elected every time which gave them more power to block any struggle against the feudal system, it further stated. It further points out that 76pc of rural families in Sindh province are landless and work on land owned by a large landowner as tenants. Given that tenants live on government land that is generally registered in the name of the landlord or live on the landlords’ lands, they are susceptible to eviction at any time,” the report states. The extent of deprivation in terms of residence with thatched walls is the highest in Sindh (71pc) and the lowest in south Punjab (32pc).

The report says that fear and violence is pervasive almost everywhere in the Sindh province. In upper Sindh, tribal leaders have created their own militias and are engaged in regular warfare — forced occupation of government (usual forest) land, lands belonging to rival tribes, kidnapping and so on. Criminals, taking advantage of the diminishing writ of the state have mounted their own reign of terror.

“The lack of employment and educational opportunities in secondary urban areas and the substandard quality of civic services therein have failed to create the pull effect for the rural population to break out of the feudal-tribal stranglehold,” it states. The 2010 floods that washed away most of the villages presented opportunities to rebuild planned villages on high ground and with drainage to protect villages from future flooding. However, the feudal-tribal leadership opposed relocating the villages as they would lose control over their workforce, vote banks and most of their debts, it stated.

Former technical adviser to the chief minister of Balochistan Dr. Kaiser Bengali said that his previous tenure of working with the Sindh government taught him that “politicians who own land, back in their villages, are not in favor of any development or education related projects”. He said that people made fun of him when he tried to initiate a debate on land ownership and rights of farmers. “I was told that Sindhis are happy being where they are until the floods in 2010 made people migrate from parts of Sindh to Karachi.”

He said the Razzaqabad camp in Karachi was congested with people affected by the flood, mostly farmers, who did not want to go back. “Watan cards were quickly distributed to tempt people to go back to their villages. The government initiated Watan Card scheme to compensate losses of farmers, they have suffered to their crops in Flood 2010. Support received by large farmers amounted to a token 2% of their losses.

Read more: Is the Pakistani Army working overtime to make democracy sustainable?

Pseudo-democracy and its solution

No change until voter is not fully empowered economically and socially in rural areas of Pakistan. If a common voter is not empowered financially and he would not cast vote independently to elect his representatives who can work for his betterment.

Such form of elections and forming democratic government did not benefit the common man living in the extreme poverty because their representatives have won elections. The way they used and they are encouraged to further use in future to win the elections. They have used the power and their assets like land and business where the common voter is employed as peasant and worker.Such system is going on since British Era where the life of common voter became miserable.

Such system is going on since British Era where the life of common voter became miserable. Besides, there is not alternative for common people and they are becoming prey to religious groups working in the different areas in a country where the religious groups have given some relief to them but such affiliation is promoting religious extremism and intolerance in the society.

No change until voter is not fully empowered economically and socially in rural areas of Pakistan. If a common voter is not empowered financially and he would not cast vote independently to elect his representatives who can work for his betterment.

The local voter can be empowered through education and land reforms as majority of them live in rural area. Large landholdings should be distributed among landless farmers and atmosphere of land equality be created to make farmers prosperous. Otherwise, it would be feudalism creating more space for other groups like religious parties.

Sahib Khan is an Islamabad-based Journalist having Sindh background. His major interest is into domestic politics. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy

Sahib Khan is an Islamabad-based Journalist having Sindh background. His major interest is into domestic politics.

Comments & Discussion