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In history, feudalism (the term "feudalism" is used to describe pejoratively "anything reactionary, old-fashioned, or resonant of aristocratic values", Oxford Dictionary), has appeared in different forms. The feudal archetype 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. Pakistan suffers not only from decadent feudalism but also from the primitive tribal system. [1] In pakistan remote areas periodically run into vast estates — comparable to medieval Europe — in which the landowner runs the town, perhaps operates a private prison in which enemies are placed, and sometimes pretty much enslaves local people through debt bondage, generation after generation.[2]

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.

Almost half of Pakistan's Gross National Product and the bulk of its export earnings are derived primarily from the agricultural sector controlled by a few thousand feudal families. Armed with a monopoly of economic power, they easily pre-empted political power.

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 and Sardars, the sole exception being the Jinnahs. Pakistan's major political parties are feudal-oriented, and more than two-thirds of the National Assembly (Lower House) is composed of this class. Besides, most of the key executive posts in the provinces are held by them.

Through the 50s and the 60s the feudal families retained control over national affairs through the bureaucracy and the armed forces. Later on 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.

This feudal elite has migrated into politics, where it exerts huge influence. And just as the heartlessness of feudal and capitalist barons in the 19th century created space for Communists, so in Pakistan this same lack of compassion for ordinary people seems to create space for Islamic extremists.

According to Tufail Abbas,President of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaaz, and Editor-in-Chief of the monthly Urdu journal Awami Manshoor ‘’This feudal system has made the people of Pakistan pathetic.’’[3] Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent analyst and author of the book ‘Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’, argued that there is no feudalism in Pakistan.[4]

Related Books

  • Naim Ullah, Mohammed. 2003. Pakistan Under the Stranglehold of Feudalism (Pakistan Jagirdari Zamindari Nizam Ke Shikajije Men): A Nation Under the Agony of Fundamentalism, Rehmat Publications
  • Alavi, Hamza. 1980."India: Transition from Feudalism to Colonial Capitalism." Journal of Contemporary India 10: 359-399.
  • Coulborn, Rushton. 1968."Feudalism, Brahmanism and the Intrusion of Islam upon Indian History." Comparative Studies in Society and History (review of Sharma, Indian Feudalism) 10: 356-374.
  • Gopal, K. K. 1962."Feudal Composition of Army in Early Medieval India." Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society 28.
  • Gopal, Lallanji. 1963. "On Some Problems of Feudalism in Ancient India." Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Res. Inst. 44: 1-32.
  • Habib, Irfan. 1974. "The Social Distribution of Landed Property in Pre-British India (a historical survey)." Historical Probings in Memory of D. D. Kosambi, 264-316. Editors R. S. Sharma, and V. Jha. New Delhi: Peoples Publishing House.
  • Mukhia, Harbans. 1981."Was there Feudalism in Indian History?" Journal of Peasant Studies 8, no. 3: 273-310.
  • Pearson, Michael N. 1985 "Land, Noble and Ruler in Mughal India." Feudalism, 175-196. Editors Edmund Leach, and et al. Sydney: Sydnay Association for Studies in Society and Culture.


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