Why should feudals apologize?

Published: June 30, 2011
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We must try to understand people and they come from before we pass judgments and condemn them to hell.

I have grown up hearing all the stereotypes on television in newspapers.

Feudals drive big jeeps (who cares how many books they read?).

Feudals are the reason the country can’t prosper.

Feudals abuse people in the name of tradition.

But this ‘wadera’ boogeyman image is not accurate. I’m not saying that exploitation of the poor does not exist in rural Pakistan, but the facts that are often ignored are:

Exploitation is not exclusive to the agricultural community.

For every landlord who mistreats the people who depend on him for a livelihood, there are at least three who are actively working to provide services (services that every government has failed to provide) such as education, medical care, and some sense of security to their people.

I would even go as far as to argue that urbanites treat their domestic employees far worse and with much less kindness than a rural agriculturalist.

How many factory owners attend the wedding of an employee or an employee’s child?

Agriculturalists actively participate in their people’s weddings, and in many cases even pay for each and every wedding that takes place in the vicinity of their land. When someone dies in the rural area, this so called “evil feudal” is often the first person to help make arrangements for the funeral, and ensure the deceased’s family is looked after.

How many factory owners or bankers or businessmen can you name who do the same?

When was the last time you attended the wedding of your driver’s son?

Do you even know how many children your servant has?

The other aspect of the “feudal tradition,” that is criticized, is the concept of the jirga or fasila. This is when a person in the rural community, whose opinion is respected by both parties (this is not necessarily the richest man in the area) is asked to settle a dispute.  There are some cases (such as the case of Mukhtaran Mai) where these parallel judges have abused their position and have passed judgments that are inhumane to say the least. There is no justification for such horrible acts. But, just like we did not abolish the judiciary for setting Raymond Davis free, or exonerating some of the men who raped Mukhtaran Mai, we cannot do away with a system that in most cases works – especially if there is no alternative.

‘Feudals’ or rather people who are perceived to be ‘feudal,’ especially young men, are often stereotyped as nasty characters with a ‘Napoleon’ complex.  It is partially an urban legend that feudals crash parties, kidnap and rape young women, and shoot anyone who tries to stand in their way.

The stories that these people choose to ignore are the ones where a drunken young man from a prominent business family harasses a ‘feudal’ youth at a party, then follows him home and in the process of the confrontation shoots the feudal’s brother and servant.

Or, what about the young entrepreneur who kidnapped his girlfriend after she tried to breakup with him, locked her up and raped her for three days straight?

The point is that in Pakistan money leads some people to believe that they are untouchable and can behave in any way they wish, with those who are less fortunate or weaker than them. These people can be ship-owners, industrialists, farmers, stockbrokers, lawyers, doctors, or people from any other background.

What I believe the media needs to do is acknowledge that Pakistan’s problem is not evil feudals. There are people in every part of society that do evil and unthinkable things. These people should be dealt with as individual criminals and people who share similar backgrounds should not be stereotyped.

Every citizen of Pakistan must make an active effort to stop trying to find scapegoats. Blaming one group for all problems of a country leads to criminal acts.

So, let’s try and be more tolerant as a society. Let’s try and understand where people are coming from.

Instead of flying off to Thailand to go snorkeling, why not visit Astola Island?

Instead of dying to get invited to Royal Ascot why not drive up to Shandur and watch polo played, the way the people who invented the game play it?

Pakistan is a beautiful country, filled with many wonders and many different types of people.  Let’s all try to understand these people and the places they come from before we pass judgement and condemn them to hell.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 30

An earlier version of this article stated that the author belonged to a feudal family, this was incorrect and we would like to apologize for the regrettable misrepresentation.

 

 

Basharat A Durrani

Basharat A Durrani

A businessman who enjoys fishing, riding horses, plays polo and travels as much as possible.

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