Rich people, doing rich things in poor Pakistan

Published: December 6, 2013

The elite mindset will always want the upper hand and the underprivileged will always remain grovelling in their shadows.

It has been 65 years since Pakistan’s independence. During this period, Pakistan has seen a lot of transition. From Ayub Khan’s industrialisation to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s socialisation, to Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation to Musharraf’s enlightened moderation and war on terror, we have had our fair share of ideologies and doctrines.

Being a 22-year-old, average Pakistani guy who hasn’t seen most of these periodic transitions, I can naively (and safely) assume one similarity between all of them – the class divide in our society has remained unchanged throughout these six and a half decades.

Every now and then I come across drawing room discussions where people, in their own interpretation of patriotism, talk about how countries like India still have caste systems which are driving their lower income groups into the ground.

To be honest, the class system that thrives in our own country is far worse because unfortunately, we do not even acknowledge that it exists. It is a silent hollow gap in society that persists without anyone noticing, or paying attention.

Where can this class divide be seen you ask?

The NADRA office in Defence, Karachi — an upscale neighbourhood — is a good example. It is an executive branch boasting air conditioning and vastly better and faster services than those of their counterparts.

Or visit our passport offices, where they have a system of what they call ‘urgent passport renewal’. Let’s be honest, anyone who has applied for urgent passport renewal knows that it takes more time than the period specified. I have applied for early renewals two times so far, and have never received my passport in time.

So you want your passport renewed in time? Just fork out money and the date of renewal is guaranteed.

The passport office gives a clear cut message — if you have the money, you will have your issue resolved in no time. If you don’t, well then, tough luck – wait in line and pray. People who are privileged get a better system.

The difference of quality between private and public education is another, astounding discrepancy. It is common knowledge that teachers in public schools are paid next to nothing, are ill-trained and have no interest in their work. Due to this attitude, the quality of learning suffers, and this is just one of many issues plaguing public schools.

Most of my family members live abroad and send Zakat frequently for the purpose of educating children, but the money always comes with a disclaimer: please spend the money on private education for underprivileged children. You can clearly see the irony here. There is no faith in public education, yet that is the only affordable option available for the vast majority of Pakistanis.

The most mind boggling instance of  the class divide that I have encountered is in luxurious clubs, such as those in DHA, one of which has a sign that states: ‘servants not allowed’. Such a sign is such a straightforward example of the class divide that I actually appreciated their (ugly) honesty.  It did however remind me of what I see in pre-partition movies about British clubs in the subcontinent, putting up signs like:

‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’

The vocabulary may have changed but the message is still the same today.

What we privileged elite forget is, if we didn’t like it then, why do we think anyone would like it now?

In another drawing room discussion, I was having a casual conversation with a politician from an influential party. He told me some things that my mind had a hard time comprehending, but nonetheless it wasn’t far from the truth.

In his own narration of how the class divide is perpetuated, he explained that it is not a coincidence that only one percent of the population form the elite, 14 percent form the middle-income group and the rest are those who sustain this 15 percent. He claimed the elite do not let schools function and there are still many ghost and non-functional schools in Pakistan.

It is a hierarchy, according to him, and it is purposely built this way. He concluded the argument by stating,

“There should be four children born in slums to maintain the standard of one child born in your house.”

During the past decade I thought that these hollow gaps here and there are the trickle-down effect of the mindset that the British left us with before shipping off, but now I believe that it’s not the mindset, it’s just the double standards we have inherited from them.

Its human nature. You love it when you think you have power and edge over another being. The rich can get away with anything: from bribing the police to carrying out illegal activities openly, just because they have ‘contacts’ with those in power.

There is no limit to what money can buy and let you get away with in Pakistan which is why there will always be ‘people like them’ and ‘people like these’. The elite mindset will always want the upper hand and the underprivileged will always remain grovelling in their shadows.

It might take Pakistan a long time to become the country that we all want it to be, but for that we have to recognise the terrible class divide that thrives in our system. If we decide to move about this country in our own little bubbles, ignoring the fact that we have become a society defined by class differences, then the dream of living in a free nation would need another 65 years to become a reality.

Adil Siddiqui

Adil Siddiqui

Currently doing his bachelors in business administration from Bahria University, Adil loves travelling and aspires to become a business man. He tweets as @adilsid11

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

  • Abbas

    The poor have the power of their votes. Yet they always vote for some one who lives in a 1800 acre riwand palace or who owns almost all land in Sindh. Who is to blame?Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Many who belong to the ‘upper’ classes have worked hard and slogged it out . Its easy to get ancestral property its tough to maintain it . Whats wrong if people want to maintain their hard earned status ?Recommend

  • Amir

    Awesome piece of writing. Kudos! Inshallah this alreafy_cracked system of exploitation will be soon replaced by our Creator Allah·s system though the implementation of Quran in our personal and collective lives. Qurango dot comRecommend

  • Asim Fiaz

    Though fully support writer’s views about class divide in our country, but I think disallowing servants’ entry in clubs has nothing to do with class divide. it’s actually meant to teach the visitors self service.Recommend

  • Agha

    You have raised valid points but i think the class difference does not end here in Pakistan. Religion and sects have come to play a role in increased discrimination and hate. This type of class difference is similar in ideology to the caste system in India which we so like to criticize.Recommend

  • sherrry

    learn to live with it asapRecommend

  • Parvez

    I thought that was a good attempt at trying to decypher a complex issue. What I did notice was that you made no mention of the failure of the judicial system, an institution which is instrumental for keeping the balance and without which no civilised country can exist.
    Hope to read more from you.Recommend

  • Zainab Izhar

    Great piece! It actually pinpoints the problem.

    We must learn to respect! Even those privileged and educated fail in doing that.Recommend

  • Veritas-Probitas

    You may or may not have not realized this but in this article, where you are lamenting the class divide and the unfair privileges that the elite in Pakistan enjoy while the majority suffers, you have quite explicitly alluded to your own status as part of the elite.Recommend

  • The Great Pakistani Kaddoo

    I am afraid you are right and as an average Pakistani , I agree with your observations.Recommend

  • MHZ

    Finally, someone cares!
    Good article. . Needless to say that almost all the things you said were pretty accurate and “elite” enjoy a far better state of life than the Middle or lower classes.
    In worst cases, signs like “Servants are not allowed” can be observed, as you have mentioned here..Recommend

  • Necromancer

    What club is it which says no servants allowed, can anyone please tell me name of that clubRecommend

  • منتقم

    Mr. Siddiqui, you are welcome to move to your original country if you don’t like it here.Recommend

  • Kublai

    Poor little thing. The traversing from drawing room
    to drawing room. Carrying all the burdens of being
    elite on his puny shoulders. Making sure we all know

    he is elite. Discoursing with thug politicians. Oh !..the
    trials of being elite ! Am all choked up.Recommend

  • Pappu

    What about “Non Muslims Not Allowed” signboard outside Islamic Heaven??Recommend

  • Kublai

    Excuse me. You have heard of fixed elections?
    Buying votes? Intimidation? People are illiterate.
    They are told to go put their mark on a lion. Get it?
    Ethnic hijacking.Recommend

  • Mukhtiar Badshah

    The Root of all evils is this “Class Society System” of OursRecommend

  • Omar Naveed

    Pakistan is amazing to live if you’re rich and a nightmare if you’re poor.Recommend

  • Osman

    Poor do have power to vote, but they are not to blamed for our leaders there are two main things. Firstly, they don’t have better option people like you and me don’t reach them we don’t have enough in our pocket to help them in there time of need. Secondly, we all know that our system for voting is not yet that much reliable. It will take time to fix the second one.Recommend

  • Osman

    I don’t want to disagree with you. Yes this is some what true but the problem of Rich and Poor does not exist only in our region. This has been a battle since the world has made. It is a defining truth that Rich do exist so do poor. Specially in those countries which are striving to compete in this new ”Economic War” world, and are currently having this problem and sooner this will haunt them as we economist say this is the Opportunity cost. Have you ever met good rich people if you haven’t than you should because there are some rich that can practically buy you but the things they do for poor, you wont even have the heart to do it.Recommend

  • Realist

    Or live in 600 kanals modest house in Bani gala, Islamabad.Recommend

  • Shani

    servants not allowed because they are there with the employer on duty. and the employer has business in the club, not servants, hence not allowed. its not as if this sign is outside a restaurant. clear your head a bit before spending hours on writing unnecessarily long blogs just for the sake of it.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    What choice do we have in elections? You have the lame and tested lion. You have the most corrupt and murderous party in the world, which unfortunately is the only left option. Then you have the new hope who is alarmingly speaking for the militants more than the people who voted him in.Recommend

  • Kublai

    Pardon me, excuse me,..Is there a country where

    it’s amazing to live if you are poor? [ Besides changing into
    Tarzan, living off the land. Hunting/fishing and weaving your
    own clothes, and praying the chimps don’t get to the bananas
    before you do.]Recommend

  • Cosmo

    To the author:
    This so true even in India. I highly appriciate the simplicity with which u have trued to explain every point in your article. Am gonna share this one on fb and hopefully my indian freinds can read and get thinking.

  • Haseeb

    I think poor people are also human. Why we think that poor people do not have mind to think up to the mark? According to me poor people are the pillar of any country. Additionally, I think in Pakistan poor are playing a vital role in development of our country through there skills.Recommend

  • Mehar-un-nisa

    u raised a very good point dude! keep it up!Recommend

  • Mustafa Alvi

    I read the first paragraph. Couldnt waste my time further. Anyways my comments to the writer are that um people in DHA actually pay their taxes? Ever took that into account?Recommend

  • Sudais

    So true. I’d have to disagree with your description of the PPP as the “only left option”, though. “Liberal” and “leftist” are often used interchangeably these days, which shows us how distorted our political culture has become.

    The PPP is a moderate liberal party that is pro-American, and believes in what’s often called the “free market” (ruthless capitalism, in other words). Any left-wing tendencies it might once have had are now long gone.Recommend

  • Omar Naveed

    Let me guess, electricity, gas and lack of security is a great start. In America or Europe if you’re poor you still have a shelter and food to survive and still get paid enough for essentials needs.Recommend

  • thinktank

    by slapping the face of a rickshaw driver for BLOCKING his view or insulting some one with dark skin i hate these burger bachas who think they own this countryRecommend

  • thinktank

    nope they are too poor to pay taxesRecommend

  • thinktank

    the day i see burger bachas play a positive role in pakistan other than visiting some random intl resturant in pakistan and eating disgusting sushi from there ill call it a dayRecommend


    The title don’t go with judgements!!!! Summing-up its actually degraded moral set-up and unwillingness of poor to change overall scenario of their sphere.. A beggar want his child to beg even he has money to send his child to school,his women conceive baby every year although he know about free family-planning treatment centers.. Who to blame???? IS The Rich a hurdle to their common personal decisions ???Recommend

  • exposingindia

    60, not 600Recommend

  • exposingindia

    in America if you are poor you are on the streets, dont confuse america with EuropeRecommend

  • Anwaar

    and what is this Islamic Heaven? .. Please elaborate….Recommend

  • Maha

    “Jannat” OR a place where there will be rivers of milk and honey and gardens of grapes with many beautiful women for each muslim man to…..Recommend

  • Sane

    Yes BJP and RSS are not allowed in Pakistan.Recommend

  • 123

    Its not just Pakistan, its everywhere, nobody cares for the poorRecommend

  • ptr

    I have seen this Rickshaw driver slap thing multiple times here in Lahore, it is seriously painful to see someone poor getting humiliated by someone rich and powerful.Recommend

  • Logic

    Very immature article. Look again at Pakistan, 85% are being sustained by 15%…not the other way around. I know of countless poor people (my grandfather being one), who educated their kids strictly and now we are part of upper class and are doing very well. Opportunity is there, unfortunately, poor people are being penny wise and pound foolish. Majority of them would rather send their kids to do some kind of low paying job than send them to schools. That’s what is keeping the awam jahil…not the 15%. There needs to be nationwide focus on changing the minds of the poor people so they value education – that’s what will secure their future and establish proper democracy.Recommend

  • Anwaar

    i like the part “many beautiful women for each muslim man to…..” … :PRecommend