Which political party wins in Punjab

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The man who created the state of Pakistan almost 'with his own hands', the brilliant lawyer Mohammad Ali Jinnah, justified his request with the following sentence: "Islam and Hinduism ... are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are in fact different and distinct social orders ".

Anyone who is a little familiar with South Asia will recognize in this sentence not only the reference to incompatible socio-cultural values ​​but also the clear rejection of religious fanatics. These values, which certainly include religiosity, will be dealt with in the following in terms of content and related to Pakistani voting behavior. First of all, I am interested in two equally relevant theses: On the one hand, the values ​​differ significantly from the Western worldview and understanding of democracy. On the other hand, they are neither homogeneous nor unchangeable aspects of a static worldview. Rather, they are contradictory and changeable in themselves.

My starting point is the thesis, which is undisputed in ethnology, of a society that allows and appreciates many individual peculiarities, but does not recognize the individualism we are familiar with as a basic value, let alone allow it. In concrete terms, this means that an individual is not only perceived as such, but also articulates the possibilities and messages of his collective. For the most part, these qualities are not acquired but assigned. What is meant are "primordial loyalties", given ties to supra-individual sizes such as family and clan, clan and tribe, ethnos and region, caste, sect and religious order. In addition, attachments acquired, such as those with a saint or college, army or administrative service, are subsequently treated as imputed. Anyone who joins a certain community or a certain service then belongs to a corps that is considered just as permanently as an assigned category.

This is to emphasize the obligatory character of these super-individual sizes. The individual does not decide for or against his tribe or his "batch mates" in the army, but as part of the whole is subject to its rules and loyalties. The part stands for the whole. Perhaps it enriches or damages the whole. Here is a brief example: When President Ayub Khan staged elections in 1965, the opposition gathered behind a single opposing candidate, Miss Fatima Jinnah, the elderly sister of the founder of the state, who practically earned her brother's status.

To this day, close relatives of political leaders stand for their deceased fathers, brothers or spouses. Benazir Bhutto, for example, never represented the generally radical utopias of her father Zulfikar. On the contrary: she headed the conservative student union of Oxford. But the political content of father or daughter was equally irrelevant compared to the common code that everyone understood, namely that infinitely wealthy landowners in the Sindh province competed against the supremacy of immigrants, the army and the other provinces. Of course there were also infinitely wealthy landowners on the other side.

These given reference values ​​and loyalties cross and contradict each other regularly, so that their mandatory character is supplemented and modified by tactical selection options. Because the "primordial loyalties" are not congruent, some always have to be broken. Treason is inherent in the system. Political dynamics arise from the question of which of the mutually contradicting loyalties are kept and which are broken.

I could now introduce the numerous combinations, but that would tire you out. So I choose the more familiar route of historical description. Why has India, but not Pakistan, evolved into what foreign observers like to call a "solidified democracy"?

Upper citizens, the military and Islamists

My answer is rather short and therefore certainly vulnerable. It concerns the Pakistan movement of the colonial times: the concept of a state for the Indian Muslims was rather weakly represented in the area that today makes up the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Rather, it was developed in northern India, where Muslims were clearly in the minority. The political representatives of the Pakistan idea were liberal bourgeoisie and princes who saw their influence in an independent India threatened. These Muslim leaders were elected in 1946 according to a suffrage for property citizens when they moved a year later - along with numerous other refugees - to the new capital Karachi to develop the new constitution as parliament. Unlike in India, this task remained unfinished. Why was it permanently delayed?

The answer points to the first central contradiction: a democratic system would certainly lead to the loss of power of the liberal refugees, because their voter pool could never match that of the locals. The latter - that was certain - would have to choose candidates of their own category, i.e. rather uneducated and reactionary tribal leaders and feudal princes and not the foreigners from the east. As a result, Karachi allowed the locals some leeway in the provincial parliaments, but the central power rested with the old established politicians and their old established administrative cadres because both belonged equally to this new ethnic category of refugees. Was not elected.

The benefices were also considerable: Hindus and Sikhs had left much higher assets in Pakistan than, conversely, Muslims in India. In this way, the immigrant elites were able to enrich themselves considerably as long as they remained in power. This form of self-service, this conspiracy by routine officials and questionably elected MPs is, so to speak, the original sin of Pakistani democracy. All later attempts were based on this example and thereby triggered military regimes.

Today's political leadership is believed to be the country's fourth military dictatorship, but the number is not entirely correct. The state of emergency was declared for the first time as early as 1953. However, the military voluntarily withdrew to the barracks after four weeks. The reason for this was religious unrest. Led by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the mob took to the streets against the Ahmadiya sect, but also against the liberal elite of the refugees. Today we would speak of an Islamist uprising, at that time this expression did not yet exist. At that time - and in the following three decades - the Pakistani Islamists received various support from the USA because they were seen as an anti-communist bulwark. This external funding has been taken over by Saudi Arabia since the 1980s.

In fact, the Islamist parties have only ever won a small percentage of the vote in elections, primarily from the urban petty bourgeoisie. You were against the establishment of Pakistan and against democracy. The Jamaat-e-Islami in particular is organized as a cadre party based on the Bolshevik model and has survived the long periods of prohibition in the underground. The Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI) represents an important Puritan theological school, while the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Pakistan (JUP) represents an important Gnostic tradition. All three basically ignore the primordial loyalties and biases, they largely negate the ties to family and caste, to ethnos and region. Your claim is universal. You pursue a world domestic policy, even if not one with the content we like. Although the Islamists never had 10% of the electorate behind them, they were always a political factor that could mobilize the streets. They made respected fellow citizens of a sect formally "non-Muslim minority" and they enforced the fatal blasphemy laws.

Accordingly, the reverse conclusion is obvious: Those who do not necessarily want to promote the rise of the Islamists should either support the traditional dignitaries in Pakistan with the strange understanding of democracy, or those modernist, universalistic forces in the military who have only experienced democracy as a self-service shop. Finally, another variant is conceivable that came into play between 1977 and 1988 - but not in recent years - namely that of the Islamist-inspired military.

Ayub Khan and the integration of the Pakhtunen

Back to history: When the politicians called the military again in 1958, General Ayub Khan could no longer be used, but sent her abroad or into retirement to end the mismanagement. He cracked down on corrupt leaders for more than three years, then joined them. I do not want to go into this point. More important is the shift in political focus in the Ayub Khan decade. The dictator moved the center of power from Karachi, the stronghold of the refugees, to the north, near his own lands. The new capital Islamabad touches the federal states of Punjab and the border province, i.e. the areas of Punjabi and Pakhtunen, the largest ethnic groups in the country. Ayub Khan himself was a Pakhtune shaped by the British-Indian army. The army of the new Pakistani state consists almost entirely of members of these two ethnic groups, and their generals were in charge for the long term. In short: the predominance of the refugees was broken in 1958 in favor of the locals. Domestically, Ayub Khan has brought Punjabi and Pakhtunen to the gears. In doing so, he averted at least one fundamental threat that related to the Pakhtuns' identity.

It is well known that half of the Pakhtuns live in Afghanistan, the other half in Pakistan. The British had conquered the Pakhtunen areas north and west of the Indus, but had failed because of the warlords beyond passes in what is now Afghanistan. Since the 20th century the leaders of the sterile autonomous tribal areas have received state subsidies, while the fertile areas are administered by the ordinary government of the frontier province. In 1947 the tribal assembly or jirga was held there everywhere, which resolved the entry into the new state of Pakistan. That was not a matter of course, because the best-known - also democratically elected - Pakhtunen leaders were close to Gandhi and were against Pakistan. That is why they were imprisoned for a long time - at short intervals - until the end of the 1970s.

What was Pakhtunian politics back then? In fair elections in Pakistan, most Pakhtun votes always went to a party now called Awami National Party, which has been run by the same family for three generations. If the Führer was imprisoned, the wife took over his position. This Pakhtun party initially dreamed of unification with Afghanistan. But nothing came of it because Pakhtunen dominated the border province, but did not make up the majority of the population. The majority are made up of traditional landowner clients and other ethnic minorities who have always voted for Pakistan in elections.

We can therefore state that either there were no elections, or they did not go properly, or the non-Pakhtun majority prevailed. This was also regularly led by renegade Pakhtuns. The tribal code does not provide for any ruling bodies. Every Pakhtune is a khan, a free man, and this is especially true of the closest relatives. In Pakhtu the word tarbur stands for cousin as well as for enemy. The cousin of the permanently imprisoned Pakhtunen leader allied himself with Prime Minister Bhutto in the 1970s and was therefore murdered, so that the victim's son has represented pro-Pakistani parties in various cabinets ever since.

To sum up: Since the 1960s, Ayub Khan has shifted the focus of power northwards at the expense of the refugees. The Pakhtuns, who were initially skeptical, then increasingly identify with the new state. The fundamental and irreversible change occurred in the 1980s, when millions of Afghan refugees had to be accepted into the border province, which in no way sparked enthusiasm among the Pakistani brothers. Since that time the country has been inundated with drugs and weapons, and since then the dream of a Greater Pakhtunistan, that is Afghanistan plus western Pakistan, has finally come to an end.

Baluchistan and Sindh

After the border province, I now come to the other federal states. Pakhtuns also live in Baluchistan. They also dominate the northern half of the Afghan border, while the baluches live in the south. What makes them different? In general, Baluch and Pakhtunen belong equally to the tribal societies between Atlas and Indus, Punjabi and Sindhi, on the other hand, are structurally more similar to the Indian caste society. Of course, there are countless transitions and differentiations to be taken into account.

In Baluchistan, the Pakhtuns are known to be particularly strict Muslims. Their solidarity applies to the local clan and also to the tribe or ethnos, but alongside and against it runs the explicitly anarchic demand for private autonomy. Warriors defend themselves in holy anger against traitors, but only achieve the highest reputation if they do not follow group pressure, but stand against the respective leader, against the overwhelming power or against the rest of the world.

But the Baluch are followers of their chiefs, their sardar. Some of these princes are in a sense corrupted by civilization, others live like the sheep and camel nomads of their respective tribe and follow the code that is still valid. Unlike the Pakhtuns, the Baluch are not considered to be particularly zealous Muslims. As an area, the deserts of Baluchistan form the largest province, but the population is the smallest. Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had Baluchi insurgent tribes bombed by the air force and the tribal chiefs killed or imprisoned, but all separatist movements have ceased since the 1980s, given the situation in neighboring Afghanistan.

Simultaneously with this new peacefulness towards the headquarters, a front against the Pakhtunen, allied before, has arisen. It was triggered by political murders, but also by the countless Afghan refugees who ignored the old grazing rights of the native nomads. Today two political parties are fighting as nationalist movements of Baluch and Pakhtunen for control of the province. The fight is carried out often enough at gunpoint and almost completely paralyzes schools and universities.

The Islamist military dictator Zia-ul-Haq systematically promoted such interethnic struggles between 1977 and 1988 in order to secure his rule. In the same way, the mutual killings of Sunnis and Shiites began throughout the country, which have not yet been contained.

In addition to the border province and Baluchistan, Sindh is the third of the small federal states, and here, too, large regions are customarily ruled by tribal leaders who, however, have adapted their lifestyle to the feudal conditions. Some of these tribal princes from Sindh became state and federal ministers for a short time.

Socio-economically, the province is characterized by extremes. About one percent of Sindh's population owns more than 90 percent of the land. These big landowners are unimaginably rich, their farmers unimaginably poor. The same names of the feudal lords have of course also appeared on the cabinet lists in the federal and state levels since 1947. We know the Bhuttos, but we should also pay attention to their opponents, the Khurros, or their long-term allies, the Pirzada. In northern Sindh the Talpur and the saints of Pagara dominate, leading the Hur tribe. Of course, these princes now also have lands in Europe and America and some, like the Bhuttos, have been trained at universities. But their power base is the country that has never paid a penny in taxes. In general, the control of land in Pakistan means as much as the control of the people who inhabit and work the land.

The princes of Sindh demonstrate this through a certain lifestyle, e.g. in the relationship between man and woman. The lawyer Bhutto, who was trained in England and America, naturally also asserted himself violently against his wife. Oxford graduate Benazir Bhutto was of course publicly humiliated by her husband. Many large landowners lock their first wife, the mother of their legitimate children, in locked, darkened rooms for life, while other women are brought in by their subjects. Of course, a prince has his private dungeons and torture chambers, and of course he is involved in countless feuds with neighbors and relatives who are ambushed by armed troops. Traditional vendetta took place on horseback, but today murder is carried out in front of the clubs and hotels in Karachi. Despite numerous bodyguards, for example, the last remaining son of Bhutto was executed in this way by his brother-in-law's assistants, but this is only one example of many, and I only mention it because it describes the alleged guarantors of Pakistani democracy.

This brother-in-law, Benazir's husband, has unashamedly and massively enriched himself during the time of her government and today just as confidently rejects any wrongdoing in court. I am concerned with two value ideas of these ruling classes: on the one hand, the traditional prerogative in Sindh to plunder subordinates quite openly, and on the other hand, the inflexibility and ruthlessness in the face of the superior state power.

The young Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Ayub Khan's support in Sindh against the influence of the refugees in Karachi. But he broke away from his patron in good time to lead a populist opposition in the country to power until he was overthrown by the third and Islamist-inspired military regime in 1977 and killed soon afterwards.

Karachi: Hell on earth

This port city in Sindh had around 400,000 inhabitants in 1947. Today there are perhaps 13 million who are vegetating on the desert floor, largely without urban infrastructure. Karachi is the largest city of the Sindhi, but also the largest city of the Baluch as the largest city of the Pakhtunen, and all carry out their armed battles within this metropolis. Above all, Karachi is the center of the refugees who have appropriated Karachi since the 1980s in a political party with numerous splinter groups. The dictatorial leader of this MQM resides in London and therefore sends his troops into street fighting via mobile phone or e-mail if opponents or dissenters appear in any part of the city. The party also toyed with the idea of ​​founding a kind of Singapore on the Arabian Sea, but was then repeatedly needed and bribed for parliamentary majorities in Islamabad. The troops in the big city are otherwise financed by smuggling, especially drug smuggling.

The power center of Punjab

The fourth province, the Five Rivers Country, is the most important political factor in Pakistan with more than 60% of the population. The state cannot be governed without or against Punjab. It is also worth noting that Punjabi and Kashmiri are culturally very close, and many Punjab cities have had high Kashmiri populations for generations. So it is utterly inconceivable that any Pakistani government could remain in power that would abandon claims on the Srinagar Valley.

Like Sindh, Punjab is also shaped by caste society, which most Pakistani certainly do not want to admit, because their castes have no religious basis and the many everyday restrictions of the caste Hindus do not apply to Muslims. But the rural order provides for dominant peasant castes such as the Jat or the Arain, and various artisan castes perform services, while the alleged descendants of the Prophet, the Seyed, enjoy general respect as such. The formerly so-called untouchables, actually the land workers without possessions, constitute a good part of the minority of Pakistani Christians who have to endure a precarious legal situation.

The large landowners in western Punjab were never the old nobility but were privileged in the 19th century as the favorites of the colonial power. There is a lot that separates them from the local farmers, who have always tilled their own land and were open to all innovations. Their clans dominate the political events of the respective districts, and they also set the tone in the rapidly growing metropolises. These farmers are the backbone of the armed forces.

Political decision-making

The two big parties are not characterized by contrasting political content, but rather they are changeable alliances of traditional leaders and their clients. Perhaps the Muslim League is a little more traditional and the People's Party a little more populist, but the difference is insignificant, so politicians can easily switch sides.

The well-known heads of democracy owe their profile to the military dictatorships: Zulfikar Bhutto was a supporter of Ayub Khan, and daughter Benazir only continues the work on behalf of her father. Nawaz Sharif, a skilful merchant from the simplest of backgrounds, earned influence and fortune as a client of the Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq.

Any choice is always primarily a matter of property. Candidates are those who, thanks to their local position, can fill the suitcases of the party leadership and finance the network of local gangsters, who in turn put the electorate under pressure with money and weapons. Once elected, the candidate can be refinanced through public funds.

All of this is no secret and follows the example of the party leaders. On this subject, a brief reference to the 1990s, the decade of Pakistani democracy. On the one hand, the two alternating heads of government managed to finally put an end to the independent judiciary, and on the other hand, they knew how to plunder the country on a lasting basis. Father Bhutto had nationalized the banks in the seventies, so that in the nineties the ministers of the two competing parties could obtain huge interest-free loans on orders that were never intended to be repaid. This is only the simplest of the many opportunities for enrichment.

It is also important that the billions stolen were not invested in the country itself, but in the Gulf and in the safe western financial centers. The big parties were therefore not led by democrats or by personalities of integrity. Rather, they have systematically abolished the separation of powers and bankrupted the country through sheer rascality. The last military coup can only be understood under these circumstances.

The new regime, which has clear Kemalist traits, relies primarily on democratic participation at the local level, if only to eliminate the influence of the old guard of politicians. From autumn, elected parliamentarians and ministers will also be admitted, but they will have to adhere to the military president's guidelines much more sustainably than before.

This president cannot be counted among any of the ethnic or denominational camps. He has no wealth and no influential clan, but he gains his profile solely from the army and the efficiency for which the armed forces still stand. Precisely for this reason, before all other measures, his policy wants to eliminate the many gangs and private armies that have sprung up like mushrooms in the slums of the metropolises in the democratic decade under religious auspices.

The Pakistani state is weak! Afghanistan is in the northwest, Kashmir in the northeast, and in the interior anyone can easily equip themselves with modern firearms. It is therefore a matter of safeguarding the monopoly of force and allowing a kind of bankruptcy administration that gives the economy new leeway.