Elite, middle class and devolution 

The path to empowerment

Cultural, political and economic pre-dispositions institute a formative society till it grows to the canons of human rights and rule of law. Inherently, a society retains an aristocracy and there is nothing immoral about it. As long as, the aristocracy remains succumbed to rule of law, there is no unwarranted exploitation in the society. Nevertheless, that is not the case with the ever dominating elite in Pakistan.

The elite in Pakistan is above the law. That roots deep into the foundation of society’s embedded class system, colonial hangover and autocracy. Almost, all social, religious, ethnic, economic and political assemblages are represented by their clan-elite in the collective life of the state and society. Consequently, all these diverging clan-elites formulate a common invincible elite. Astonishingly, the religious elite, inherently opposite in code, also has carved a charter of co-existence with other clan-elites. History indicates that these divergent elites never resisted one another. rather secured a common elite clique.

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Elites in Pakistan monopolise state and society. Their de facto resistor regulates social, cultural, economic and political orders at the expense of the public at large. That weaves religious, cultural and political narratives to control the logical wits of the common people. It wheels the people politically so that no middle-class leadership nor party may emerge from the ashes of middle-class despondency. It exploits the economy and develops cartels. It defeats the administrative and judicial checks and balances. Such expansive influence is impossible until all power clusters safeguard one another and sponsor the joint interests of a common clique. Public institutional bureaucracies also join the elite factions as the former has powers and the latter resources.

How divergent clusters of power join hands to arrange a common elite. Marriage is a binding force among different elite factions. Marriage is a social contract and that can effortlessly be extended to business and political contracts. Preferably, all clan-elites including public institutional bureaucracies marry one another and that makes an invincible elite. Although, the clergy elite, is a part and parcel of the elite clique yet often they remain aloof in inter-marriages. Hence, the elite clique becomes a powerful cartel and leisurely decides the fate of the people at recreational elite clubs over a cup of tea. One can easily grasp the orientation of the elite if one has ever feasted at Gymkhana Club, Lahore.

All over the world, this is the middle class that resists the elite. Conversely, this has not been the case in Pakistan. Village middle class is more prone to class structures, colonial hangover and power corridors. The obsession to conquer “title” among village folk is voracious and that halts them from resisting the status quo. But, then, that is all changing. The urban elite is always more resistant. The middle-class dilemma propels the middle class to join the elite rather than challenge it.

Finally, people should resist the monopoly of elite oscillating cultural assimilation, narrative formation and political construction. The middle class needs to raise the bar and should politically unite the factions of downtrodden people in order to form the governments of choice.

Since long, a culture has been weaved on human sensitivities that becoming a part of the elite is the panacea of all their ills. Therefore, all are interested to join them rather than battling them out.  One can imagine the obsession of middle-class youth to join the civil services, judiciary and military because this opens a window for them to join the envied elite club. The middle class and intelligentsia are not supposed to join them but to resist them for the rule of law.

Can fetters of the elite be shattered? Apparently, this is a misleading idea. But, there is always a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. Presumably, to hope that a faction of the elite might wage a war against others for emancipation of people is stupidity. Hence, these are only the people who could exercise their democratic potential to hold the elite accountable. Democracy is the best mode that empowers people against totalitarianism and they should not compromise on the ideals of democracy, representation and participation. Otherwise, the elite shall continue to exploit the people. Beware, there is no Godot coming.

Pakistan needs national political parties representing the middle class in content and candidature. Almost all contemporary political parties represent the elite at variance and that is displayed in their party candidature. This is the tipping point where the elite is always reassured in power. How can political parties be people’s representatives when they represent factions of the elite? This is the vivacious conflict of interests. How can a landlord represent a peasant? That is a basic conflict of interests. How can an Industrialist or business tycoon represent employees or smaller entrepreneurs without falling into a conflict of interests? Hence, it is imperative that people take their social, political and economic representation back to their fold and elect their peer representatives. Ultimately, power belongs to the people of Pakistan, hence, they should now be ready to guard that against all odds.

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Decentralization is a code to emancipate the people and that is guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan. Elite in Pakistan depend upon a central mode of domination. Decentralization is the administrative knockout to the elite. Elite does not allow devolution of power because that will empower people at the grassroot.

A devolved local government system is elemental to create middle class leadership. Concentration of power is the goal of the elite, unlike devolution that remains the motivation of the people. If people, once, take over the political power at the elementary level of devolution, that will pave the way for them to periodically take over the power at provincial and federal levels. Devolution, political representation and rule of law are essential to break apart the nexus of the elite.  The more the people are politically represented, the less the dominance of the elite.

Finally, people should resist the monopoly of elite oscillating cultural assimilation , narrative formation and political construction. The middle class needs to raise the bar and should politically unite the factions of downtrodden people in order to form the governments of choice.

Although this seems improbable, yet this is the only way forward to make the invincible elite wane. Pakistan shall never prosper with this unruly and insatiable elite. Let the common people empower themselves.

Tariq Mahmood Awan
Tariq Mahmood Awan
The writer is a civil servant serving in Punjab and leading a society for implementation of Administrative Federalism. He can be reached at [email protected]


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