Pakistan, the fifth most populated country of 207.8 million has its majority living in rural areas. As per census 2017, population division is 63.6% rural and 36.4% urban. Still, rural society is most invisible and least discussed at various platforms. They spring to life only in election seasons and then conveniently abandoned till the next season. This rural society has a significant role in Pakistan’s development and merits attention for its judicious socio-economic development, however, its decay is visible.
The rural society is transformed, landlord-peasant relationship and economic dependence on landowners has shifted towards economic independence, hence a traditional order based on social status and tribal culture is receding.
It will afford the desired needs and provide an order to govern the rural cum suburban societies
This traditional social culture has long served Pakistan’s rural society where village elders per se the landlords would hold Panchaiyt to manage socio-economic issues and also provide a platform for dispute resolution. The system was honorable and the landlords were highly respected for fairness and responsibility. The elders were to deliver justice and also had to take or give personal guarantees on financial payments and individual character. Life had a balance and an order delivered by a social system based on status in society, largely fair and swift.
Today, the rural social order is in decline for a number of reasons from land divisions, urban migration, economic independence, information explosion to improved literacy are mainly responsible. Experience shows panchayats are now being run by low-quality individuals, the consequence is unfair, medieval kind of order which blatantly abuses religion, tradition, and culture.
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Incidents of Karo-Kari, child marriages, gang rapes and blasphemy based executions are not uncommon but all in the name of justice. Quality in the social order receded as landlords no more reside in villages, the honorable elders of rural society have migrated to cities leaving traditional social order at the whims of illiterate, power-hungry, corrupt individuals.
The supposed state and the govt are also dysfunctional if not absent due to a centralized democratic system that is effectively residing in federal and provincial capitals. Civil administration and lower judiciary are also incapable being capacity deficient and largely politicized.
This has created a vacuum in terms of order, management and economic balance of rural societies. The already unchecked urban migration may further increase if the rural society is not given an effective governing system enable to ensure their socio-economic well being like quality education, a comprehensive health care, employment, locally administered justice and law enforcement.
Where lies the solution
Our rural society needs decentralization based on limited but effective autonomy through a fair share of local taxes so as to provide for their governance, education, health and infrastructure needs. This decentralization is available in local bodies act with tehsils and districts made basic governing units.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules the unlawfulness of “jirgas/panchayats etc” so-called courts: they are allowed in civil matters only as “arbitration forums which may be approached voluntarily”#JinnahZindabad pic.twitter.com/ZRwaRcmvsD
— Alfons López Tena (@alfonslopeztena) January 16, 2019
However, the local bodies acts created by PMLN and PPP governments are ineffective being elitist in nature and politically motivated. Previous act formulated by National Reconstruction Bureau of Musharaf era is a better model and with due modifications can fit well to deliver good governance to the people of Pakistan.
Population explosion in our cities is not only for economic reasons rather the social disorder in rural areas, absence of health, education and housing facilities are the major reasons for families migrating to urban centers. An effective local govt system is the need of the hour. It will afford the desired needs and provide an order to govern the rural cum suburban societies.
Mohammad Zeeshan has served with government in different capacities and writes about policy issues. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.