Exorcising the feudal

Published: September 16, 2010

Can the culture of feudalism be simply done away with?

Over the last few weeks, various elements from the MQM have launched a scathing attack on the prevalence of the so-called feudal system in Pakistan. The intent behind this needless  criticism appears extremely idealistic since it has yet again been assumed that an uprising will solve the problems of the impoverished.

Moreover, there is a striking dearth of foresight in this scheme that is to preempt the repression caused by the ineffectiveness of the feudal lords. After all, we cannot overlook the fact that “almost half of Pakistan’s GNP and the bulk of its export earnings are derived from the agriculture sector controlled by a few thousand feudal families.”

Machiavelli and incompetent leaders

From a strictly Machiavellian view, an esteemed leader is one who capably strives to embark “on great enterprises” and gives “rare proofs of his ability”. More significantly, he must revel in talent “by honouring those who excel in each craft.”

What is particularly disappointing is that such utopian viewpoints fail to hold relevance in Pakistan. Perhaps that is why it is viable to claim that the political milieu of Pakistan has surpassed all realistic expectations. From a peace-making ideology of equality the nation has transmogrified into a failed state ruled over by a morass of incompetent rulers.

Who replaces the feudal lord?

In this period of disgraceful decadence, there is a need for some basic clarifications which will enable us to understand the essence of the challenges that surround us.

A rational assessment paints a bleak picture of what Pakistan could inevitably become once the spectre of “feudalism” is exorcised. There could be an unavoidable loss of export revenue resulting in a financial crisis. Economic marginalization – typified by poverty and joblessness – would consequently create a climate of chaos. What guarantee is there that the successive social order will be a necessarily less tumultuous one?

Does the feudal system even exist anymore?

It is important to comprehend the view that the feudal system in Pakistan is a basic non-entity. Ayesha Siddiqa explains the justifications for this belief in her book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy.

However, Tehmina Durrani, who has authored a considerable array of literature on feudalism, claims otherwise. Her autobiography My Feudal Lord is known for its depiction of her tumultuous marriage to Mustafa Khar, who she describes as a decadent feudal. However, it is worth mentioning that Mustafa Khar is not included amongst country’s the major landowners.

Durrani’s autobiographical account may represent a false philosophy. This, in turn, calls into question the justifications presented for revolutionary action against the quagmires of feudalism.

Hence, Machiavelli’s ideas on the ideal qualities that leaders should embody set a sufficiently strong example for those who wish to lead a rebellion against a concept that is categorically non-existent. Great enterprises only produce the desired effect when they provide an impetus for collective benefits – or, as Machiavelli would say, when they honour “those who excel in each craft.”


Taha Kehar

A blogger on social events and has previously worked as Assistant Editor for a media magazine. He is currently pursuing Law Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He tweets @TahaKehar.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • parvez

    Nice point of view. Comparing Ayesha Siddiqa and Themina Durrani – like comparing D.H.Lawrence with Jackie Collins.
    I don’t think the idea is to exorcise feudalism but to restrict the feudal mindset.Recommend

  • faraz

    Agriculture accounts for about 20 percent to national GDP and half of the agricultural output comes from livestock. So crops constitute only 10 percent of GDP. While about 40 percent population is connected to agriculture. Its just a myth that we are an agricultural economy.

    There are about 20 million landless peasants in Pakistan and millions of them work as bonded labourers, and you are concerned about exports? In early 19th century europe, intellectuals started campaigning against feudalism and 200 years later you are still concerned about its benifits. Land reforms were undertaken in every country which wanted to develop, and no where did poverty replace feudalism.

    You are right that very few feudals remain but there is still plenty of land occupied by feudals and their families, government and the military. This land should be handed over to those poor peasants, their misery has to end.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Very well written article and equally well response from Faraz. I am concerned, and I think the write is too, that followed by the rapid transition that a supposed revolution embodies, would our collective social system get on its feet again? Ending feudalism would undoubtedly open doors to progress and liberation, but how well would we as a society be able to reap the benefits, when are psyche is still rooted to give feudal class political and economic upper hand? Recommend

  • nadir khan

    how on earth does a picture sindhi topi represent or depict feudalism.
    this is ridiculous!Recommend