The Feudalism in Pakistan (Urdu: زمینداری نظام zamīndāri nizam) has a stranglehold on the economy and politics of the nation. The feudal landlords have created states within a state where they rule their fiefs with impunity. The landlord’s influence spans over the police, bureaucracy and judiciary. The majority of the politicians in Pakistan are themselves feudal landlords.
The Bhuttos’ is one of the richest families of the subcontinent, The Bhuttos own around 40,000 acres (161874000 m² or 161.874 km²) of land in Sindh and assets worth billions of dollars.
Throughout history, feudalism has appeared in different forms. The feudal prototype in Pakistan consists of landlords with large joint families possessing hundreds or even thousands of acres of land. They seldom make any direct contribution to agricultural production. Instead, all work is done by peasants or tenants who live at subsistence level.
The landlord, by virtue of his ownership and control of such vast amounts of land and human resources, is powerful enough to influence the distribution of water, fertilisers, tractor permits and agricultural credit and, consequently exercises considerable influence over the revenue, police and judicial administration of the area. The landlord is, thus, lord and master. Such absolute power can easily corrupt, and it is no wonder that the feudal system there is humanly degrading.
The system, which some critics say is parasitical at its very root, induces a state of mind which may be called the feudal mentality. This can be defined as an attitude of selfishness and arrogance on the part of the landlords. It is all attitude nurtured by excessive wealth and power, while honesty, justice, love of learning and respect for the law have all but disappeared. Having such a mentality, when members of feudal families obtain responsible positions in civil service, business, industry and politics, their influence is multiplied in all directions. Indeed the worsening moral, social, economic and political crisis facing this country can be attributed mainly to the powerful feudal influences operating there.
Although the system has weakened over the years through increased industrialization, urbanization and land reforms such as those introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, oligarchs still hold much power in the politics of Pakistan due to their financial backing, rural influence and family led politics which involves whole families to be in politics at any one time and cross marriages between large feudal families to create greater influence. Many children of feudal families are also argued to take up bureaucratic roles to support family agendas.
To begin with, the Pakistan Muslim League, the party laying Pakistan’s foundation 53 years ago, was almost wholly dominated by feudal lords such as the Zamindars, Jagirdars, Nawabs, Nawabzadas, Mansabdars, Arbabs, Makhdooms, and Sardars, the sole exception being the Jinnahs (merchants and lawyers) and the Sharifs (industrialists). Pakistan’s major political parties are feudal-oriented, and more than two-thirds of the National Assembly (lower house of the legislature) is composed of this class. Besides, most of the key executive posts in the provinces are held by them.
Through the 1950s and the 1960s the feudal families retained control over national affairs through the bureaucracy and the armed forces. Later, in 1972, they assumed direct power and retained it until the military regained power recently. Thus, any political observer can see that this oligarchy, albeit led by and composed of different men at different times, has been in power since Pakistan’s inception.