Pakistan: Unstoppable history

Dr. Manzur Ejaz
Dr. Manzur Ejaz

WASHINGTON DIARY: Unstoppable history

by: Dr Manzur Ejaz, USA

Courtesy:, September 8th, 2009

The village’s isolation has ended and society has started interacting and amalgamating itself although in an uneven and extremely anarchic manner. Along the way it has generated some weird trends and ideologies but that is how history unfolds.

While retired military officials in Pakistan were spilling beans, a Chilean judge ordered the arrest of 129 ex-military men found to be involved in human rights violations, and the murder or disappearance of leftists and members of the Communist Party. But in Pakistan, ex-military bosses are publicising their political crimes without any fear of legal consequences. It seems that the powerful elite are still protected by unwritten rules.

The lawyers’ movement and the reinstated judiciary have temporarily removed the PCO judges: I am not yet sure if the independent judiciary can survive if the political situation continues to deteriorate. Like the PCO judges, there was a whole class of PCO lawyers, bureaucrats, intelligence moles, political operators, greedy bankers and tycoons etc. Other than the reinstatement of superior court judges, the entire PCO system is not dented and remains alive and well.

The struggle and success of the lawyers’ movement has been a good start towards the transformation of society but it is still in its infancy, given that it is up against an elitist system that has been perpetuating itself for hundreds if not thousands of years. Those at the top, be they Hindu emperors, Muslim rulers, the British colonists or their successors in the Land of the Pure, have not changed.

In the process, Hindu rajas vanished, Muslim rulers disappeared, the British left, but the Rajput, Jatt, Pandits, Syeds and their variations thereof are still there and ruling. The Ghauris, Ghaznvis, Khiljis and Mughals can be seen nowhere except among artisans, shopkeepers and state functionaries.

Nevertheless, this does not mean society has not changed or there have been no upheavals, altercations or adjustments. There were many mini-revolutions like the Sikh movement in the 18th century, but unfortunately, after a brief spell, the old oppressive order was rehabilitated with a few new players. For example, the Sikh movement reverted to Jatt supremacy quite rapidly.

The basic reason for the system’s self-perpetuation is survival of the mode of production and production relations. Symbolically, the peasantry, using wooden ploughs pulled by oxen, remained the basic source of sustenance for society. Millions of isolated villages ruled by urban elites remained the same. And if any changes took place, they were minor.

It is in the last three to four decades that the basic mode of production along with means of production, particularly technologically, has changed: The wooden plough has been replaced by tractors and the village’s self sufficient economy has been totally monetised and commercialised. Now, artisans and workers are paid money wages rather than in kind, which had been the norm for over two thousand years. Nowadays, even the cotton picker ladies get daily wages that would shock my mother were she alive today.

The village’s isolation has ended and society has started interacting and amalgamating itself although in an uneven and extremely anarchic manner. Along the way it has generated some weird trends and ideologies but that is how history unfolds. However, despite some erratic bursts, society has been in search of new and befitting institutions. The movement led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a precursor for the coming changes. The ferocity of anti-Bhutto resistance of the last 30 years was partly so intense because reactionaries were trying to rehabilitate the old system.

The lawyers’ movement was partial, but a second serious effort to bring some order to the anarchic historical process in Pakistan. There will be more intense undertakings in the future to accomplish the task of modernising society. However, while much remains unknown about the future discourse — sometimes, unexpected events take place, and the state is destroyed — the coming few months and years are extremely important.

The writer can be reached at

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