Elites in society are those in positions of great influence and leadership within their nation or community and who have superior power, authority, and talents. This pervasive influence also extends to Pakistan, where different elites of society are now active. These elites include landlord elites, dynamic elites, religious elites, bureaucratic elites, industrial elites, judicial elites, taxing elites, and elites within the media. Members of these elite groups successfully influence decision- and policy-making processes inside their respective institutions, governments, and businesses. To further their interests, they take advantage of these institutions and mechanisms. They play a largely negative role in Pakistan, controlling every aspect of society. No government, semi-government, or private entity is immune to their influence. Therefore, this article aims to highlight and analyze the role of three significant elites, i.e., bureaucratic elites, religious elites, and feudal elites, in shaping the political landscape of Pakistan during the early years of its formation.
- Bureaucratic Elites:
Bureaucracy remained the most powerful institution during the colonial legacy. After partition, Pakistan continued the same colonial practice, undermining representative institutions’ role. The article, therefore, sheds light on how the bureaucratic elites have played a pivotal role in the politics of Pakistan and how they have served their interests and provided the Pakistani state with irreparable damage.
First, Ghulam Mohammad, a bureaucrat specializing in financial matters, did not know politics. He dismissed Nazimuddin even though he had a majority in the legislation in 1953. By doing so, he violated the rules of the parliamentary system of government. Soon after this, in 1954, he dissolved the 1st constituent assembly of Pakistan just because, in its draft, the powers of the Governor General were curtailed.
Moreover, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, was also a bureaucrat. Although some of his works are admirable, for instance, he presented the draft of the constitution of Pakistan in 1956. But to remain in power, he blocked the publication of a report. The report has extremely criticized the role of bureaucratic elites in Pakistan. Chief Justice Cornelius gave the report, the “Report on Pay and Chief Service Commission 1959-1962,” primarily known as the Cornelius report.
Other than this, Iskandar Mirza was also a civil servant. He served as the Governor General of Pakistan from 1955 to 1958, and in 1958, he became the President of Pakistan. As he was criticized for his controversial actions, he dissolved the national assembly, abrogated the 1956 constitution, and ordered Ayub Khan to impose 1st martial law.
The question arises: Why do these elites cause damage to the state? So, after independence, Pakistan didn’t get highly trained civil servants. The total number of civil servants in the (ICS) Indian Civil Service before partition was 1,157; out of those, 101 were Muslim civil servants. Unfortunately, out of those 101, only 95 decided to migrate to Pakistan. Furthermore, the ones who migrated to Pakistan didn’t belong to the areas of the newly-born state. Therefore, they had no clue how to administer the new state. Other than this, the government of Pakistan relied on junior civil servants. Many of them were assigned huge responsibilities which they never performed before.
Hence, as their duty was not to handle the country’s political matters but in the absence of representative institutions, they were supposed to do so, making them power-hungry. After getting into power, they tried to maximize their interests. They only took the decisions or made the policies that suited them, as evident from the above examples. Political instability was created in Pakistan as they were busy pursuing their self–interests.
- Religious Elites:
Soon after the creation of Pakistan, two dominant groups emerged. One group was the bureaucratic elites, and the other was the religious elites. The religious elites wanted Pakistan to become a theocratic state, and they wanted to rule the newly-born state. These religious groups have also created a lot of trouble in Pakistan after their creation.
For instance, when Liaqat Ali Khan presented the Objective Resolution in 1949, the Deoband School of Ullemas was quite satisfied. Still, the Jamat-i-Islami criticized it and claimed it had taught modern Western ideas. Jamat-i-Islami was also feared by the influence of Ahmedis (their rival sect). Due to their tussle with each other, the Ahmedi riots broke out in 1953, resulting in political instability all over Punjab province, and the 1st Martial law was imposed in Punjab due to the uncertain situation.
Many of these Ullemas questioned the concept of elections, Parliaments, consensus-based constitutions, and women’s rights, respectively. They were against modern education, research in humanities, and co-education.
These religious elites have played a strong role in creating chaos and violence in Pakistan. These religious elites had insufficient knowledge about Islam and only used Islam to fulfill their interests. They played a huge role in the politics of Pakistan. Moreover, these ullamas sometimes contradicted their views. For example, on one hand, these religious Ulemas supported the candidacy of Fatima Jinnah when she was competing for Presidency in 1965 and claimed it was not against Shariat. Still, on the other hand, two decades later, the same Ullemas criticized Benazir Bhutto when she was competing for the position of chief executive just because she was a woman. So, it’s crystal clear that these religious elites were not sincere with Muslims they just wanted to rule the country and were only playing with the sentiments of the masses to legitimize their authority.
- Feudal Elites:
In 1939, when Congress placed the idea that they wanted to introduce land reforms, many feudal lords were not satisfied with the decision because those reforms would ultimately limit the land an individual feudal lord could allocate. Therefore, they joined the Muslim League and fought for independence. They claimed a separate homeland not for Muslims but to save their interests.
After the creation of Pakistan, most of the Muslim league members were feudal lords with no political wisdom. After the death of Quaid e Azam, the party was now controlled by Feudal lords such as Nawabs, Sardars, Maliks, Chaudaries, and Rajas. 2/3 members of the legislature belonged to these landlord elites. These feudal lords maintained their control over the national affairs of Pakistan through bureaucracy and military in the 1950s and 1960s.
After gaining political power, they established greater influence over judicial administrators, our public, as well as police. With the help of these institutions, these landlords have made their path to the provincial and national assemblies of Pakistan. Moreover, the famous definition of democracy is “rule of the people, by the people for the people,” but in the case of Pakistan, it is “rule of the feudal lords, for the feudal lords, and by the feudal lords.” Most resources and population were there in the province of Punjab; therefore, the Punjabi feudal elites played a major role in the politics of Pakistan.
These feudal lords were competing with each other for power. Before the creation of Pakistan, differences existed between the Mian Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot (a big land owner and later a member of the Muslim League) and Mian Mumtaz Dulatana (a wealthy Punjabi land owner and later a member of the Muslim League), but after the creation of Pakistan, their rivalry grew more. They created a factional divide in the Muslim League. Their differences were not ideological but based on personal rivalries.
The Dulatana joined hands with the noon ministry and tried to defame Mamdot’s ministry by accusing the ministry of charges of corruption. But the Dulatana soon indulged in clashes with Noon. Moreover, these feudal lords introduced various land reforms to spoil the land interests of their rival group. For example, land reforms were introduced in 1952 by the Dulatana ministry and were objected to and therefore considered invalid by the Noon ministry in 1953 respectively.
Therefore, as mentioned earlier, these feudal elites only migrated to Pakistan because pursuing their self-interests in India was difficult. Hitherto, they came to Pakistan and maximized their political power and influence. Due to these feudal elites, Pakistan faced political instability, corruption, and social unrest. They have control over half of the resources and wealth of the country. They were living a luxurious life while more than half of the population was deprived of their basic rights just because of them. They played their political role to serve their interest by suppressing the masses.
Pakistan has suffered a lot because of its elite class. Soon after independence, the elites controlled the resources and political institutions of the country. All of them, be it religious, bureaucratic, or feudal elites, have only served their interest. Most of the time, the religious elites have formed a nexus with the feudal elites to gain their objectives. Their core interest was to maximize their power. They didn’t sincerely work for the betterment of the country. Hence, the elites have played a major role in damaging Pakistan. If they had worked with devotion for the country’s bright future instead of maximizing their interests, Pakistan would have been in a much better state today.
The Author is an undergraduate student at the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She has a keen interest in International affairs, Foreign policy, non-traditional security threats, and the geo-political structure of the world. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org