The Structure of Power in Pakistan

M Asadi

A class/power structure analysis of the country reveals that it has changed dramatically since the military backed by the Americans incorporated itself in the power equation formally in 1958, in what was hitherto a feudal dominated, agrarian state, cultivated by the British during their colonization of India. The next big change in the power equation was the military dictator Ayub Khan promoting the underdeveloped local bourgeoisie as a bulwark against the feudal elite whose power he was attempting to usurp, (we cannot talk about a “developed” business class at this time when the country’s production and trade is dominated by primary products and most of the population is rural) leading to SOME industrialization, massive inequality and also land reforms for that very end- i.e. to weaken the feudal elite and not to end inequality since inequality increased during his tenure.

The next change in the power equation came with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who laid the foundations of the first populist/democratic political party in the country, altering the discourse from ideologically driven, opportunistic use of religion and national sentiment to social issues involving food, clothing and shelter and thereby incorporating the people for the very first time into the power equation. Himself from the feudal class, he was initially supported by that class against the military/bourgeoisie nexus. The people were with him because this nexus, like all technocratic, change driven “engineering” in societal structure by the power brokers had led, during the Ayub era  to cultural shock driven grievances. Implementing/announcing a socialist agenda in these circumstances is politically expedient when you are going agianst organized power blocks of the military/business class nexus, but they are not enough to challenge established blocks until you have an already existent power block on your side- and hence we saw the feudalization of the Pakistan People’s Party- a similar move was attempted recently by the middle class political party, the PTI in a disorganized manner, by incorporating members of the civilian militarists and feudals into their group while talking the people talk.

This same feudal elite shifted sides which led to the hanging death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, followed by rule by the military and the business class they had cultivated, with a brief period of controlled feudal rule when the people got disgusted by the military which loses its legitimacy rapidly in ALL countries when it rules due to institutional precedent, it is out of touch with people’s cultural heritage and attempts social change technocratically top-down. This was the reason why the PPP (still the only public support base in the political arena, the middle class PTI is still a long way away from public incorporation- the military tested them and realizing that it would be a failing proposition let them float in the wind) was brought to power by the US/Army nexus after Musharraf’s military dictatorship. Now the military has partnered with its old allies, the business elite, to run the country, the eclipse of the old feudals- it is no present eclipse, it represents mere manipulation by the real power brokers, America and its indigineous occupation force, the Pakistan Army- when the Army loses legitimacy, it supports the feudals because they still have an organization that was populist in its inception and retains that power base, the feudals lost their real power long ago, when the feudals try to get a foothold the military supports the business class.

Minus obfuscating details that look at a person’s character or private conscience, these issues require an institutional analysis involving the power structure of the country, colonized historically by the British and now colonized by the Americans from afar through their local/indigineously staffed military.

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