The dynamics of elite politics in Pakistan

Now after the 2018 elections, there is hope that the masses will benefit. However, PTI also consists of illustrious names. The masses need to become a part of the power structure to bring about real change

After every election in Pakistan people celebrate it as the victory of the common people. We saw it in the 1970 election, when people got rid of the dictator and voted in favour of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Similarly in 1977, people got rid of the political elite and welcomed Ziaul Haq, and in 1988, again people decided to elect Benazir Bhutto as the choice of the poor. In 2018, people celebrated the victory of PTI as the victory of the common man. Looking back at the country’s past, have the common people ever won an election? Have they ever been a part of the political structure? The answer is no.

The politics of Pakistan are dominated by 6 major elites from 1947, till now and these elites are not equal in power but they have made alliances amongst themselves and are present in every government. They are the military, the bureaucrats, the landlords/feudals, the religious, the industrial and the professional elite.

Pakistan inherited all these elites from Colonial India, and they were all created by the British to control the locals. For example, the British Indian Army was made up of Indians but was used against the masses. Similarly, Bureaucracy was known as the Steel Frame of British power in India, because they had influence over the locals but were loyal to the British.

A few days ago, an influential journalist was commenting on the reckless elite of Pakistan, while being a member of their ranks.

Pakistan’s power structure is divided into 4 major classes. The first is the governing elite at the centre of the government which is the Prime Minister, Cabinet, etc. The second compromises of the 6 elites we discussed above. The third, is made up of the middle-class which consists of doctors, professors etc. And in the last are the masses.

Masses are far away from the centre of the power which is why they are at the end. This can be easily proved by analysing the composition of the big political parties.

Pakistan inherited all these elites from Colonial India, and they were all created by the British to control the locals. For example, the British Indian Army was made up of Indians but was used against the masses. Similarly, Bureaucracy was known as the Steel Frame of British power in India, because they had influence over the locals but were loyal to the British

The democratic party who championed the cause of socialism, and believed in upholding the rights of the masses, was made by the landlords ie, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and was later joined by the industrial elites.

Similarly, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was founded by the industrial elites with the help of the Military elite. The most vocal party which speaks of Justice is Pakistan Tekreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which is also founded by well to do individuals.

Thus, when these parties come into power, these elites, are given ministries and they end up occupying the position of the governing elite. In front of the world, they pretend to bow down to the party manifesto, but after coming into power they just end up working towards their own goals.

Now after the 2018 election, there is hope that the masses will benefit. However, PTI also consists of illustrious names. The masses need to become a part of the power structure to bring about real change, otherwise power is just transferred from one party to another, without benefiting the lower strata. Despite this, we continue to hope that Imran Khan will fulfill his promises, but the past paints a bleak picture.

The writer is a student of Pakistan Studies at Government College Mansehra. He can be reached at @abidhashnagar

Published in Daily Times, September 4th 2018.