There are indications that US President George W. Bush has been trying to improve his image. The war on terror lauched by him after 9/11 has tarnished his image and now he is the most-hated man on this earth. Now he has pressurised both Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to tackle the issue of terrorism in the tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border. Both the leaders will be meeting Islamabad today to discuss the issue. But one thing should be kept in mind that neither of these leaders ever visited the tribal areas.
They know nothing. They so far have failed in establashing even contacts with the tribal elders. After all the elders can resolve the problem. This time also President Bush has been making mistake. If he wants to improve his image to some extent he must bring honest leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to the corridor of power. He can do this as both President Karzai and President Musharraf are his close friends. Involve the people of tribal areas in the matter. This is the best solution to the problem, but the leaders must be honest.
A Pakistan writer based in Washington Dr Manzur Ejaz discussed the politics of Pakistan. Newspapers in the United States are closely following election news in Pakistan. As I sifted through the lists of contesting candidates and members of the last national and provincial assemblies, I found many familiar faces of Punjabi politicians who were elected as members of national or provincial assemblies in the last few elections. And I observed a pattern: the areas dominated by political dynasties and landed aristocracy had a different set of politicians than the ones in urban centres or among the populations that were home to small peasantry.
I found many politicians from Punjab who were educated at the Punjab University during my time there as a student and later as a teacher. Similarly, I found some faces from the old District Sahiwal which is now divided into three districts; Okara and Pakpattan having been tehsils of Sahiwal, have now become distinct districts.
From the list of members of the National Assembly from Sahiwal (Old), I could recognise a few who were with me in college during the 1960s. I tried to remember if they were active in any extra-curricular activities at college; after all, debating and literary societies were very vibrant in the college in those days. Many of them also moved to Punjab University after graduation where political activity was at the peak. However, I could not remember much about them as far as active participation in college sponsored activities or for that matter political activism at Punjab University was concerned. I wondered how these invisible students suddenly became active politicians once they went back to their constituencies.
On the contrary, many faces emerged from memory lane, which belong to leaders in many forums at college and university. Where have the debaters, writers and activists of that era gone? Why could they not make it to the legislative assemblies and other important public forums of Pakistan? I can see Mujibur Rehman Shami, President of Students Union of Government College Montgomery owning and managing newspapers. I hear about Sajjad Mir, Editor Nawa-i-Waqat Karachi. But where are all the others? Yes, some of them were consumed by different levels of bureaucracy. But my question remains largely unanswered.
One simple explanation may be that the brighter students were consumed by their struggle to survive economically. They could not afford the luxury of politics. Therefore, the political field was left for those who had large properties and could afford to indulge in politics. Privileged economic standing empowered those who were marginalised during their educational period and silenced the brightest who had to run around for bread and butter.
Therefore, ex-Information and Railway Minister, Sheikh Rashid’s statement has some element of truth when he claimed that he is the only major politician who has made it on his own without any family standing in politics.
There are a few others as well. Student politicians who later managed to get elected to provincial and national assemblies include Jahangir Badar and Ghulam Abbas from Pakistan Peoples Party, Javed Hashmi, Liqat Baluch, Farid Ahmad Piracha from Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and Khwaja Asif from Pakistan Muslim League (N). These individuals originally belonged to the middle class and have remained relevant to national politics. However, these examples are few and far. Overall, rich families have dominated rural areas as well as big cities. Interestingly, the middle class primarily rules in the form of military dictators or by becoming their allies.
The main reason for the domination of the large propertied classes is the continuation of landed aristocracy and the prevalence of feudal culture.
Feudalism was abolished in India a few years after independence. Hence most of the prime ministers except Nehru (from Lal Bahadar Shastri to Dr Manmohan Singh) emerged from the middle classes. On the contrary, Pakistan is still stuck with feudal leaders and rich capitalists/traders like Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif or the Chaudhry Brothers.
The domination of the extremely privileged classes does not allow inner democracy in the political parties and, hence, competent individuals from the “common people” cannot reach the top tiers.
Jama’at-e Islami, despite its non-democratic social philosophy, has some inner party democracy. Therefore, the top leadership rises from the gifted ranks. The same process works in the US and other democracies where individuals start from contesting for the local government offices and rise to state and national assemblies. Politicians rising to governorships or presidency also go through the political machinery.