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Caste system of Pakistan by Abdul Q Kundi

The independence movement for Pakistan was based on two nation theory. The theory proposed that Muslims are different from majority Hindus based on religion and the values proposed by it. One of the key difference was that Hindu religion sanctioned division of the society based on a caste system. Muslims refused to accept it and believed in aik hi saaf main khara ho gay mehmood o ayaz. They had good relations with lower caste Hindus which were majority component of it to be a potent political force. But the reality is that the caste system survived post-independence. All independence has done is to replace Gora Sahib with Brown Sahib and Brahman with elites. This fact was recently highlighted by two events. First the Panama Papers leaks exposing international wealth of elite and second Chotu Gang in Rajanpur. Chotu was a small farmer before he became a robber and kidnapper in retaliation to injustice of a local Sardar. Let us look at the various castes in the country to understand this social system.

The largest among the castes are the serfs. They form majority of the country residing in rural areas and shanti towns in all major cities and towns. Economically they earn their livelihood through tilling the farm land in villages as well as employed as maids, drivers, factory workers, construction labor and chawkidars in cities. They survive by creating large families of 3 to five children. Every member of the family works even children. Each child on average brings Rs. 3000 to 5000 to help the family. Upper classes have developed a simple but effective system to keep them trapped in their serf status for generations by destroying the first five years of schooling of their children. Public schools that are supposed to serve these poor kids only function on paper while private schools are out of their reach. Once the formative years of schooling are missed and that critical phase is passed the child is left behind and remain member of the serf class for life. Imagine if these serfs get education they will either not work as maids and drivers or demand higher wages. Only a handful of them break the shackles and rise socially.

The next large caste is educated middle class that mostly reside in large and middle size towns. They engage in small businesses, teachers, office work, lower level bureaucracy, non-commissioned officers in the army, journalists, and police officers. They are the major contributors of the tax revenue of the state by paying income tax deducted at source from their salaries but has no voice in matters of spending it. They are passionate about changing the nation but usually limit themselves to watching talk shows rather than organize themselves in civic and community organizations. Their average monthly income is twice or thrice the size of the serfs but still not  enough to save for improving their financial status. Many of them joined Pakistan People’s Party in the 1970s and Pakistan Tehrike Insaf in 2000s to influence social change but all they could achieve was to bring the chiefs of these parties to national platform. Once that objective was achieved both these men, Imran Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, left them and joined the higher caste of elites.

One of the smaller but most influential caste is the warrior class. They are the officer cadre of the three armed forces. They join these services usually from the educated middle class but as they rise in position they form a caste of their own and work actively to protect it’s interests. They usually consider themselves the sole protector of the state and do not hesitate to abrogate the constitution whenever they singularly feel the state is in danger. They are financially secure and do not fear reprisal of law. They remind me of Janissari created by Ottoman Umpire. These were orphans of Christian parents that died in various wars of occupation. They were converted to Islam and trained as officers to be loyal to the crown. But eventually they grew so strong that Ottoman Umpire was too weak to control them. They became war lords in areas where they were posted to protect interests of the umpire.

The other smaller but influential caste is the Ulema. Most of them have organizations of their own to collect charities and run network of mosques. They depend on support of the people financially and politically. They do not find any difficulty by monopolizing the message of the religion which usually means exploiting the fear of God. After the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan they increased their influence by aligning with the warrior class to initiate a jihad in which they also secured international support. They are still politically not strong enough to secure the majority mandate to rule the country. Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI F quite effectively articulated this weakness when he said that Ulema may not be able to secure majority mandate but they have enough strength to topple the government.

The smallest but the most influential caste is the elite class. They are large industrialists, large media owners, Sardars, gaddi nashins and national politicians. They hardly pay any taxes, have no respect for law of the land, and exploit the resources of the state to enrich themselves. They have properties abroad and consider it their birth right to rule the country. They have muk mukka to protect each other by controlling the larger but powerless classes through fiscal measures and monopoly over private enterprise and political parties. Panama Papers have confirmed what we knew all along that elites are super rich and one country is not enough to keep their wealth.

Pakistan is only an Islamic country in name and one of the most unislamic country in practice. It cannot become the new Medina unless and until the back of the caste system is broken and true equality attained where Mahmood o ayaz has to be treated same by prosecution for breaking the law. It can either happen through peaceful social transformation. Or it could be through bloody revolution which is just around the corner and waiting for a flash point to trigger it.

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