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is feudalism still alive in pakistan

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    is feudalism still alive in pakistan

    is feudalism main feuture of paksitani
    rural life. how pakistan can use islamic justice to eliminate this social inequality
    and restore diginity to individual human being

    read the follwing article


    By Hafizur Rahman

    THERE are sound reasons for reformers who have the good of the country at heart to insist that Pakistan can never change for the better unless feudalism in its various forms is completely wiped out. The hold of feudalism is not only on politics and the economy; it causes greater devastation to the social fabric particularly in the villages.

    Though how an end to feudalism can be brought about, and who is going to make it happen, is something that at least I can't predict. God knows if even my grandchildren will see it in their lifetime. There are no signs of the dreamed-of Salahuddin Ayubi in the offing, but he continues to be named as the possible harbinger of salvation. A noble being and a conqueror and infidel-basher, Pakistanis prefer Ayubi to his countryman Ataturk, the real revolutionary reformer, because the latter did not say his prayers and never listened to the ulema.

    And how can we be certain that when (and if) the long-awaited Salahuddin Ayubi does come he will not turn out to be a feudal himself, for, after all, he was a king and emperor and not a Sufi or an Abdus Sattar Edhi. Also, if he is a genuine reformer, he may find that it was easier fighting the combined might of Europe during the Crusades than it is to deal with landowners, the World Bank and the IMF at the same time.

    That apart, my purpose today is simply to highlight those tentacles of the feudal octopus that deal with rural social life in Pakistan and are eating into its vitals, and not go into their political and economic depredations. For this I cite, as an example, the recent news report from Muridke, a small town near Lahore, of how two young boys from a poor family killed their two sisters aged 16 and 18 in desperation and despair. The girls were harassed and mauled by the chaudhries of the village whenever they went out, and the boys and their father could do nothing to prevent it. To them putting away their sisters seemed to be the only way out.

    The chaudhries of any village, even if they don't own the place, consider themselves de facto proprietors on the strength of their clout with the administration and the police, and any poor man standing up to them must suffer in one way or another. With rare exceptions they are the gangsters of the locality, the mafia, and they know that their opponents are most vulnerable where their women are concerned. This kind of thing is going on all the time in Punjab and Sindh.

    According to the news report, the Ferozwala police has registered a case of double murder against the brothers who, incidentally, told newspaper correspondents that the guardians of the law knew what was going on but chose to act as helpless spectators, made helpless either by their fear of the influential chaudhries or being the latter's "eating and drinking companions." This too is going on all the time in our villages.

    There is another aspect of the current feudal scene which came to my notice when I was writing this piece. The Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, was reported to have addressed a letter to the provincial governors warning them to beware of the activities of the feudal gentry (who have monopolized politics in the past) about whose intentions he has received alarming reports in connection with the forthcoming elections at the local government level.

    He had been informed (said the general) that feudal landlords in Punjab and Sindh were bent upon ensuring that a new leadership should not be allowed to emerge from the people through these elections and weaken their own hold on public affairs. They were said to be colluding with local bureaucrats and the police to get false cases registered against qualified prospective candidates with good reputations who were likely to offer themselves for election. This is a political matter but it can have far-reaching social implications.

    I have mentioned the vulnerability of the rural poor. In the tragic case of the two brothers and their two sisters, only teasing and harassment were alleged by the boys, but God knows in what other ways the chaudhries have been satisfying their macho manhood through helpless women. The ultimate objective is of course sex, for what else can a poor woman give to the landlord? Another favourite ploy is to make the women of their opponents parade naked in the village.

    I always have grave doubts about the statements of ulema when they claim that the people of Pakistan want the Shariat to control their lives. How can that be? How can people with no morals, no sense of decency, and no scruples, demand the Shariat which is opposed to everything bad and evil?

    The nature of feudalism in Sindh has two characteristics. The destitute agricultural labour binds itself to the landlord, the wadera, for a loan from him for a certain period, and till that period is over and the loan is paid off he is like a bonded serf. There is no escape for him, and if he does try to get away, he and his family are put into private jails that are a special feature of Sindh's feudal life.

    Also, the wadera always has his eyes on growing girls among the agricultural labour, most of whom are Hindus. If any of them is good-looking her fate is sealed. She is abducted and married off to a surrogate after being converted to Islam, but is used by the feudal chief. To escape victimization the girl is forced to confess that both her conversion and her marriage were of her own accord.

    It is thus that the feudal hold has perpetuated itself in the villages of Punjab and Sindh, where it seems that even the fear of God does not move the self-appointed masters of the villagers' destiny. As for the Muridke horror, what is there left now in the life of the parents whose young daughters have been killed by their brothers and the boys are in jail for the crime?

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    [This message has been edited by rvikz (edited December 14, 2000).]