MANY real and mythical actors animate narratives of modern Pakistani life, and particularly its politics: army officers, landlords, businessmen, mullahs, the ‘foreign hand’, and, of course, the proverbial awam.
The vast majority of these narratives place the rich and powerful at one end of the spectrum and the hapless awam at the other, with the occasional heroic general, judge or politician playing the role of game-changer.
Needless to say, the plot in real life is rarely this straightforward. A truly representative analysis of actually existing Pakistan requires us to move beyond the usual suspects and consider less invoked social forces that play major roles in shaping the social and political landscape.
Many scholars of Pakistan and other Muslim-majority societies have argued that small and medium-sized traders and merchants, or what some call the bazaar bourgeoisie, have greatly influenced the economic and political trajectory of these societies in the modern era.
For some the genesis of this class can be traced to the mediaeval period, while for others its modern manifestation is a phenomenon unto itself. Either way, the experts argue, there can be no gainsaying the importance of the bazaar.