Related article: ‘Peasants for Democracy’ demand Aitzaz Ahsan to be a prosecutor in the Taseer murder case
Cross-posted from Pakistan Blogzine
It is a fact that voices of urban elite and urban middle class (known as Fake Civil Society FCS) remain dominant in Pakistani establishment and media. The voices of the majority of poor Pakistanis, particularly those from rural backgrounds, remain ignored or suppressed.
There is therefore a need to form a group of farmers, labourers and poor people to organize and convey their voice to Pakistani establishment and media. Such group has been created namely Peasants for Democracy (PFD).
The founders of the PFD invite all socio-economically disadvantaged rural and urban Pakistanis to join this group. We will however ensure that the PFD does not get hijacked by the urban elite and urban middle class, i.e., the opportunists of the Fake Civil Society (FCS) who we deem responsible for 99% of all sociological, ideological and economic problems facing today’s Pakistan.
Peasants for Democracy (PFD) is an umbrella group of mostly non-urban and poor individuals outraged by the consistent misrepresentation of the people of Pakistan by the urban elite and their urban middle class paraphernalia (FCS). We came together at a meeting in Hussain Chowk (D.I.Khan) on February 2, 2011, which was attended by a number of ordinary citizens including three farmers, two brick kiln workers and a school teacher. An IT student (school teacher’s son) took down the minutes and circulated by email.
The PFD believes in complete equality on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity, caste or economic status.
The PFD opposes all FCS organizations and individuals who are known for colluding with the military establishment (and their proxies in media, mullahs and judiciary) to derail democracy and malign politicians.
We respect the right to free speech and encourage discourse. We however strongly oppose those who suppress and misrepresent the voices of the majority of Pakistanis, i.e., peasants, labourers, farmers and those from rural and poor backgrounds.
We will work against the turn towards extremism and hypocrisy in our society.
Rise up to be a part of this movement against the enemies of the poor people of Pakistan.
Rural People Constitute the Majority and the Wisdom
Pakistan is an agricultural country. About 25% of the country’s total land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 23% of GDP and employs about 44% of the labor force.
Only 33% of the population lives in urban areas (dominantly in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi etc).
Nearly one-quarter of the population is lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, even without urban centres, there is a large number of deprived and poor people.
According to a report:
In Pakistan, the urban population living in katchi abadis varies between 35 and 50 percent. The growth of these informal settlements in the two mega cities, Karachi and Lahore, has particularly been massive. In the former, these settlements increased from 212 in 1958 to more than 500. In Lahore, there are more than 300 katchi abadis, while in Faisalabad, at least 40 percent of the population lives in these abadis.
Source: daily times
Dr Ayesha Siddiqa writes on the rural-urban divide in Pakistan and its implications for political landscape:
There are more urban people, especially the middle class educated ones who have access to national resources through the government or the market, who are concerned about corruption and the credibility of the political leadership, although they do not have any choice in terms of better options. Still, in all probability, this class of people will not leave the comfort of their homes to stand in a queue to cast their vote. But they will crib at home about the pathetic nature of politics.
Then there are people belonging to the lower classes in the cities who will go and vote depending on how active their party of choice and its leaders are in taking them to the polling stations. Many of these people are committed to ideological agendas and are diehard supporters of the PPP and PML-N.
Then there is the 67 per cent population in the rural areas that is not bothered with the middle class’s definition of credibility. This is the segment which has an important role to play in the national elections.
The political perspective of the rural voter is quite different from the lower class, committed voter from the urban centres. While the poor city dweller gets excited by slogans of social equality and expectation of better socio-economic opportunities, the rural voter calculates from the standpoint of the general norm of the political system. This means that this voter responds to a patronage-based political system in which each party provides facilities and rewards to its workers and supporters. This has nothing to do with the villagers’ lack of education and more with his sharp perception of socio-political realities.
Perhaps, the village folk are sharper in their calculation of what they want and how to get it. The rural people know that Pakistani politics is all about patronage where reputation is not based on how clean you have been but on how much you can deliver to your constituents.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise because all powerful groups provide patronage to their members. The military and civil bureaucracy provides patronage to its members and cronies. Similarly, all political parties have their own clientele.
The problem, in fact, is that the common man has fewer benefits and little access to the trickle-down of resources under bureaucratic governments. Such governments put up a show of deciding things on merit which means that there are fewer openings for the common man who cannot boast of academic or other credentials.
Political parties, because they depend on the support of voters, have to provide opportunities to their supporters.
Furthermore, political parties are comparatively less pretentious about merit than bureaucratic governments. Although there is no evidence that governments run by bureaucrats or technocrats care more for merit, they generally pretend to be meritocracies which means that their patronage is limited to a select group of people and not the general public. The typical cronies of bureaucratic regimes (civil and military) are the fairly educated middle class.
Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that so many people turned up at Bhutto’s reception at the airport (in Karachi in 2007). This further strengthened the public perception that Benazir Bhutto is powerful and could win elections as well which, in turn, would mean that she would be in a position to bring benefits to her clientele. The rural voters, particularly in Punjab and Sindh, appear to be impressed by this fact more than anything else.
An educated middle class Pakistani will probably say that these simpletons vote because they are uneducated and cannot free themselves from the clutches of the feudal. But then this is not the trap laid by just the feudal elite. Feudalism has permeated all organisations and social levels in the country.
Moreover, the ‘simpletons’ realise that this is essentially a bureaucratic state where the only merit pertains to an individual’s ability to twist the law and provide its clients access to the resources of the state. The efficient civil and military bureaucrat will never allow the system of governance to function in a manner so that the common man is freed from the clutches of the feudal. So, why blame the simple people of this country or get upset about their lack of education? Their decisions are actually pretty good and serve their purpose. (Source: The urban-rural divide -By Ayesha Siddiqa: Dawn, Nov 2, 2007)