ANALYSIS: Looking beyond feudal politics in Pakistan

Looking beyond feudal politics in Pakistan

For Ishaq Khan Khakwani, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, the sooner people like him are out of a job, the better.

Khakwani, 58, calls himself and other lawmakers “brokers” between the people and “the oppressive arms” of the state, such as police officers and tax collectors. It is a system held over from British rule, he explained, in which politicians from powerful families act as intermediaries, often using methods such as extortion and false arrests to extract bribes for their services.

Instead, people should be protected by the rule of law, “so that justice is given without the help of people like me,” Khakwani, whose family has been in politics in Punjab province off and on for 45 years, said in a recent interview. “If you provide them justice, people like me will also reform. Even if it destroys our livelihood, this is what reform is all about.”

As Pakistan prepares for elections scheduled for Feb. 18, political analysts say the country’s feudal political system — organized around ethnic tribes, family dynasties and personality cults — has retarded the development of democracy. Numerous seats in the National Assembly have been kept in families for generations, and the military regularly uses political turmoil as an excuse to seize power, the analysts said. [complete article]

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