WASHINGTON DIARY: The feudal battle against the judiciary —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Source : www.dailytimes.com

The contradiction between the rising middle class and the old feudal order has not been reconciled. Against this backdrop, it should not be surprising that, in the last three decades, the only popular movement was in favour of reinstating the independent judiciary

Pakistan is witnessing a classic class struggle where the new urban middle class is trying to break the grip of the old feudal order, which has been in existence for thousands of years. The midnight session of the Supreme Court highlights the fundamental change underway, whether the government was conspiring to take back the judges’ reinstatement order or not. The fear and apprehensions of colliding sections of state institutions are not merely due to some whisperings or concocted media stories, but reflect the fierce class struggle going on in the country.

In reality, the judiciary is not an abstract state institution; it represents the rising middle class’s interests, which cannot be served by the old feudal order. The feudal, however, cannot tolerate any judicial interference in his domain. His wish and his word are the law for his/her subjects, rather than being equally subject to the laws before the courts as is attempted by the judiciary’s actions. Before British colonialism, the Indian subcontinent had no written law. The British imposed a written law but the feudal continued the old practices of ruling by personal dictate.

On the other hand, the rise of a middle class creates both a need and a hospitable environment for the equality of objective written law. Since power is distributed almost equally in the middle class, no one can issue dictates and, hence, an impartial arbitrator — the judicial system — is a necessity and is made possible by the class. However, the contradiction between the rising middle class and the old feudal order has not been reconciled. Against this backdrop, it should not be surprising that, in the last three decades, the only popular movement was in favour of reinstating the independent judiciary. However, the demands by the lawyers were not just to reinstate the sacked judges, but for the judicial branch to be given the space needed for the equitable implementation of law. The enhancement of quantity and quality in the legal profession provided the momentum for a popular movement. However, common people were equal partners in the movement to restore the judiciary.

The movement for restoring the independent judiciary changed the political landscape as well. The second largest party of Pakistan, the PML-N, owes its victory to the lawyers’ movement. It is also not by accident that the PML-N won in middle class dominated central Punjab, while the PPP’s winning edge was provided by the feudal belt of Punjab and Sindh.

The regional pattern of social change has remained constant since the 1970 elections in which the PPP gained a thumping majority. It is ironic that the PML-N has now won in exactly those districts that were the basis of the PPP’s political power in the 1970 elections. Furthermore, most of the PPP legislators winning the 1970 elections belonged to the middle classes.

It was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself who started changing the makeup of his party by replacing the middle class intelligentsia with the feudal elite. Intellectuals like Dr Mubashir Hasan and J A Rahim were replaced by feudal advisors like Hayat Khan Tumman, etc. However, the PPP kept winning in central Punjab because of the strong momentum of 1970, while its base continued eroding in every successive election. By the dawn of the 21st century, the PPP leadership was out of sync with the middle class in general and central Punjab in particular. Mian Nawaz Sharif, despite his theocratic tendencies, captured the imagination of Bhutto’s constituencies.

By the 2008 elections, the PPP was completely out of line with middle class desires and interests. The PPP rank and file were the backbone of the popular movement for restoring the judiciary but its leadership chose to serve feudal interests by first opposing and then postponing the reinstatement of the deposed judges. Everyone knows that the PPP government was practically forced into restoring the judges. Therefore, the governing party cannot take any credit for restoring the judiciary as Prime Minister Gilani claims.

The PPP’s collision with the judiciary is not merely a Zardari-specific issue. There are Miranis, Jhakranis and all kinds of feudals in the ruling party who have been committing various crimes against the people. How can the feudals involved in cases of vani and karo kari accept a judiciary that is keen to prosecute them? How can the old masters, who do not allow the tenants to sit on a cart in front of them, accept an institution that treats every citizen equally? How can these lords with private jails and usage of primitive methods to keep the serfdom system intact concede to a body of middle class judges who, temperamentally, abhor such practices?

Zardari or no Zardari, the struggle between the old feudal system and the rising middle classes is inevitable. The judiciary is proxy and representative of the new order while the PPP is guarding the old interests. It may take years or decades to uproot the old order but its demise is a forgone conclusion. The old order cannot survive if the oxen and wooden plough have been replaced by automotive machines. Nonetheless, no outdated class dies without putting up a fight and that is what the PPP is doing.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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