Pakistan still suffers from feudalism

Jan 04, 2018

If you can’t beat them, pay them

PANICKED from its nest, a quail scuds low across a cotton-field. The hunters spin round and blast away. As the bird drops from the sky, a gang of poor boys in plastic flip-flops races through the mud, fighting to pick up the kill. This vignette of feudal life has hardly changed in a century, except for one thing, says Ehtehsham Laleka, a puckish 30-year-old, whose family owns 7,000 acres of land in this southern region of Punjab province. “In my grandfather’s day we would have had hundreds of beaters like them.”

Feudalism, a curse that has lingered since independence in 1947, is often seen as the biggest blight on Pakistan’s development. In the old days the zamindars (landowners), empowered by British rule, lorded over great tracts of land, housing serfs and often abusing them in return for sharecropping and other forms of menial labour. Whereas independent India rid itself of much of that feudal class,...

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