Earlier in human history, brute force, ill-informed beliefs, mythological suppositions and superstitions made up the main dictating tools of mass public behaviour. However, intellectual evolution over time has challenged these notions and made them unsustainable in the longer run. Thereafter, the tactic of controlling the means of sustenance emerged as the most potent and consistent force of mass subjugation. Feudalism is a manifestation of such a system.
Ingrained in megalomania, gluttony and superiority complex, feudalism stands for the concentration of sources of subsistence, including land. It aims at dictating public behaviour and social practices by controlling the means of subsistence crucial for survival. All societies at different times and extents experienced it, with its remnants still existing in work. The roots of today’s capitalist economic system lie in the very notion of feudalism that promotes unchecked concentration of economic resources in fewer hands.
Though the developed world has liberated its political system and public psyche from its feudalistic seeds, the capitalistic economic systems still reflect the shreds of feudalism in play. Unlike its peers, Pakistan staggers with the shackles of feudalism even after seven and half decades of its inception. As a paternalistic, megalomaniac and exploitative system, it continues to weigh heavier down on its long-held aspirations of building a welfare state.
Originally rooted in traditional and tribal loyalties, feudalism strengthened its clutches on the subcontinent under British Raj in the 19th century. As a tactic to curb the rebellions and control the masses, the British transferred administrative and judicial powers to the local influential and allocated those large swathes of land. This allowed the feudal lords to establish a cruel estate system by imposing inhumane and self-styled laws in their respective territorial jurisdictions.
Traditionally, the term feudalism has been associated with a social system dominated by influential land owing families. Though the origin of feudalism might be rooted in the ownership of swathes of land, the scope of the same has extended to every aspect of life. Owing to their tribal influence, fellowship and overwhelming tenancy, they successfully moved into politics with the inception of Pakistan in the mid-twentieth century. Thanks to their primacy on the sources of sustenance, the feudal lords built a symbiotic nexus with the other stakeholders-including military and occupied the assemblies both in the federation and federating units. The dynastic political parties and electable that comprise almost 75 % of representatives manifest the feudal shackles on the country’s polity.
This political clout gradually got translated into legal, bureaucratic, judicial, clerical and corporate influence and connections. This led to the politicization of the institutions. Resultantly, all the institutions have forged a reciprocal system of protection and services to each other with their successive political and military. This has led to the evolution of socio-economic, political, educational and psychological systems along the feudalistic and pro-elitist lines.
The feudal mind set and practices continue to take a huge toll overall on society. It acts as a significant wedge that leads to the socioeconomic, psychological, political and social differentials in our society. Far from being a practice, feudalism in Pakistan emerged as an attitude of megalomania and superiority built under the false notions of socio-economic status, ethnicity or tribal superiority. All the individuals and institutions in the country radiate feudalistic vibes. Resultantly, the country has suffered innumerably in all accounts and parameters of assessment.
Politically, the country has been an epitome of shambolic democracy hijacked by the so-called dynastic political parties reining the country. Encroached by the feudal political elite and electable, the country failed to evolve a stable political system built on merit. Economically, feudalism has remained the greatest obstacle to unlocking the country’s economic and human potential. Tax exemptions and evasions, lack of land reforms and inconsistent economic policies manifest the feudal onslaught in the country. The growing marginalization, illiteracy, abject poverty, patriarchy, unemployment, and the broken law and order system are the fruits of the cruel system.
As a legacy of the colonial system, most of the country’s bureaucratic machinery acts as pawns to feudalist wishes and interests. Media, the fourth estate of the state complements the feudally established status quo one way or the other. Moreover, the country’s judicial system, clergy and military also couldn’t escape the clutches of the feudal offensive.
Thanks to a status quo built on feudalistic practices and thoughts, the dream of a democratic, constitutionalist and equalitarian Pakistani society as enshrined by its founding fathers remains a distant dream. The actualization of the dream demands holistic estate, cognitive, legal, economic, curricular, and political reforms. We need to acknowledge that all the suppositions and optimism aside, the aspirations of an equalitarian, truly democratic and welfare state would remain unfulfilled unless the feudal legacy is rooted out altogether.