The Great Plague and all the havoc that it wrought is often accredited with bringing about, ironically, instrumental reforms throughout Europe. This was particularly so for England. The Great Plague empowered the serf and paved the way for him to enshrine his standing in subsequent events of great weight.
An apt word used for such events is that of a ‘critical juncture’: a crossroad of sorts, just with the odd monumental consequence that goes on to strike the path of a nation. Unfortunately, these happenings do not come with a signpost articulating this caveat. And it would seem, or at least to the sane mind, that these junctures went largely unnoticed by our state institutions. That, or they chose to cruise by, blissfully or of necessity.
The Plague and the labour shortage it brought about forced the feudal lord to cede legitimate rights to the common man working on his land. This political inclusivity, in turn, triggered greater economic rights and thereby the Glorious Revolution. Ousting the absolute prerogative of the monarchy, Parliament took up the mantle, in the name of the people. Further down the line, these changes would bring about the Industrial Revolution. What is unfortunate, however, is that when one sets about to survey the annals of Pakistani history, there is no record to be had of our riding similar waves: for lack of a paddle, perhaps.
Pakistan also has an elected body of representatives just as the English Parliament did those odd three hundred and fifty years ago; whether it can be said to legitimately protect the interests of the state’s people is much more dubious. Perhaps, this is where the deviation is to be had with its colonising counterpart. And while one may rightly point out that Pakistan has neither had a monarchy to subjugate itself to, nor any colonies to exploit, it would be unobservant if one was unable to see the contrast between the two.
Prima facie, the Pakistani political structure may boast its democratic premise. Upon further inspection, however- nothing too intrusive, of course- it does not take much to realise that the political structure is largely extractive one; it works for the interest of the ruling oligarchs.
The British Parliament at the time of the Industrial Revolution was an entity that truly represented the spectrums of society and their broad interests, not just the elites’. Wading into the murky waters of Pakistani politics, perhaps the same cannot be said.
For one, Pakistan has never really found itself in a period of innovation where it would be allowed to herald a diverse set of people who would want to safeguard their interests, thereby doing away with the influence currently brandished by the homogeneous representative of today. This may, in turn, be due to underwhelming property rights and a judicial system that is more than comfortable in taking its time. No sane person would want to spend their time on a cause lost even before its realization; the oligarchs have a convenient system of stagnancy in place.
Add to that the fact that our people are particularly inclined towards dynastic politics, as evident in the torchbearers of the PML-N and PPP leadership, and we see a messy dish averse to such dynamism. Even if we were to conjure up these fictitious men, one cannot help but think that even they might well be prone to taking a day off on the eve a momentous bill or two is to be passed. Notwithstanding, Pakistan is still on a parallel of kinds to the dynamic Britain of the yesteryears: just on the opposite trajectory, and as any person mildly versed in mathematics would tell you, that does not mean the two cases are not parallel.
These extractive political institutions have in turn compounded a festering system of economic exclusivity, which have rolled into existence a vicious cycle. One that bars the common man from making any strides. Far from it, the provision of basic commodities is often elusive. This, coming from an agricultural country that has always been self-sufficient in sustaining its belly portends a worrying call.
Mafias in Pakistan are seen to cause shortages, earning windfall profits. These unscrupulous practices are accommodated by the political system. The state can have multiple inquiries tasked into these mafias. The Competition Commission of Pakistan may well publish that there is indeed evidence of collusive cooperation between sugar mills; not much is expected to come out of this prophetic revelation. Concepts of accountability are abstract, with many a person branding it to be skewed in its one-sided wielding. Recent calls to expedite corruption cases from the Prime Minister merely add to the heap. The fact that they are against the opposition- traitors of the state- is even more commendable, that is what our accountability entails.
The PDM is the latest to underscore this deformed justice. The state rhetoric may well be to brand those opposed as corrupt beings or, beyond that, as miscreants conspiring for hostile foreign elements, yet there is this palpable feeling that, just maybe, this narrative is one of ancient folklore.
Perhaps this is an age on the cusp of paying no heed to the pied pipers. A symphony of chaos where some semblance of reform seems to have come about. Whether this can lead to an overhaul of the status quo is unarguable, a much more contentious point. Perhaps little victories, in all their incremental glories are all that we can pray for.