Uzair Ali mentions presence of interest groups
Pakistan’s entitled class – Pakistani system has been afflicted with the entitlement syndrome that has held the country to ransom for most of its existence. The entitled elements have grown in influence and have assumed the role of elite that is not only manipulative but, more often than not, also determines the policy direction of the state. The elite is instrumental in keeping the country backward and has caused it incalculable harm in all fields of national activity. The irony is that this entitlement syndrome has been accepted as a normal scheme of things by virtually all segments of Pakistani polity. The acceptance of status quo has not only enabled the entitled class to keep its grip on affairs but has tremendously strengthened its hold. With the passage of time their domination of national affairs has become almost invincible and it is very rare that their dominance is questioned though many feeble attempts take place from time to time.
The persistent pursuance of the entitled class of its own interests has created a playing field only conducive to its members and it jealously guards its exclusive preserve. It brooks no opposition to its hold and stringently opposes any challenge to its dominance. It ensures that its tentacles are extended to almost all fields of national endeavour and it cleverly places its nominees on all important assignments. No professional or business ventures have managed to save themselves from its clutches and have failed to fend off its encroachment and finding no way out have fallen in line. If it wants to follow policies favourable to industry no one questions it despite Pakistan being predominantly an agricultural country. Such skewed policy priorities have profoundly harmed the national development and it has brought the country to a potentially disastrous pass. The preferential treatment it has got accustomed to has turned the entire governance process of the country topsy-turvy and there appears no way to get out of this rut.
Despite being aware of the importance of agriculture to the national economy, the entitled class has ruined the agriculture sector and has brought Pakistan’s economy to its knees. This class uses the issue of corruption as a smokescreen to hide the fact that the entire socio-economic movement has been manipulated by it. The political forces that are crying hoarse with the slogan of change are completely in the grip of this vicious group that is calling the shots and will remain intact and in controlling position even after the results of any election. Until a deep change is affected in the status of the entitled class there is hardly any chance of positively altering the situation.
Contrary to the general perception, Pakistan’s governance system is not political at all though its perpetrators consistently insist on this assertion and propagates it ad nauseum. The very nature of the governance in Pakistan is essentially oligarchic with few entitled groups holding the levers of power tightly with devising and implementing policies that suits their priorities. Every now and then they face change in their composition but the ones that replace them come with the same spirit and continue playing the same game. The country has witnessed just the change of nomenclature and has never seen a real change and its people do not know what a change really is. This is precisely the reason that the Pakistanis are ever-willing to welcome with open arms any demagogue that promises them change simply because they are not made aware that change comes from within.
The entrenched entitled class is composed of many powerful socio-economic groupings whose ultimate purpose is to take advantage of a given situation as much as possible. The most prominent of these groups is the large host of cronies who are habitual opportunists and keep on good terms with all sectors of governance in the country. They are extremely inter-connected and their network passes from generation to generation. They are typical sycophants who change with the wind but never lose their connections. In the process they are willing to bear any insult, public humiliation and financial loss but keep on the right side of their benefactors.
Then there are members of the traditional elite who take pride in their longstanding connections with powerful segments. They belong to the agriculture as well as well as big business and sprawling service sector. They are distinct in their own way as their essential composition does not change as frequently as those of the cronies. This class considers itself the most entitled due to its longtime claims on the socio-economic privileges. At time, this class has shown courage of convictions but such instances are few and far between.
Though different in appearance and position with the cronies and traditional bigwigs, the small and medium-sized businesses and traders play their own game in tandem with the other two groups. These three groups produce wealth and jealously guard it. They have complete control of supply-and-demand aspects of the economy and use it to their utmost advantage. Many political groups try to elicit their support for furthering their political ends.
Next in line are the salaried class mostly composed of middle-class cadres that not only wield enough power but also generate enough wealth to live a higher-than-an-average life. This class also tries to keep professional expertise within a close circle of family and friends. The segment of this class that work for the government is the most powerful with the capacity for devising policies for any political groups that becomes dominant and to willfully implement them. This group is always pursued by political groups for currying favour and it fulfills their demand after keeping its share.
The position and placement of these entitled groups have not wavered during the last 70 years and they are dominating the national scene as ever before. The only instance of changing the status-quo in Pakistan was the revolutionary rhetoric of ZA Bhutto that gave some hope to the other classes of the polity such as rural and urban working classes including peasants, small farmers, artisans and labourers but that was a short-lived phase and Bhutto soon reverted to the old technique of garnering support through the entitled classes. His minor distraction was not even condoned by the entitled class and he was made a horrible example for any class renegade to follow.
Any meaningful change in the socio-economic structure of Pakistan can come when the hold of the entitled class is broken. The prospect of repeated elections under the guiding spirit of media can possibly turn the tables but it is a long-term prospect. The authoritarian nature of Pakistan can only change when people start to discover their relevance in the system and begin asserting their rights. Change is hidden in a tough process of reshuffling of the relative power of different interest groups with common people playing the role of ultimate arbitrators. There is no shortcut to this requirement and it has to be pursued consciously and with dead earnest without taking into account the negative consequences that are bound to follow in wake of this effort. It is evident now that the hold of the entitled classes has become an existential challenge for Pakistan and it is needed to be supplanted. The Weekender