The ghost of feudalism and her happy marriage with Pakistan

A feudal lord visiting his subjects

What is feudalism, how did it come into being, and why?

While the term “feudalism” was only coined as recently as the 18th century, the idea behind it dates back to Europe of the 8th century or the dark ages, a time of cultural, economic, and demographic deterioration following the decline of the Roman Empire. Provided with catastrophic complications of mass migration (a result of continuous conflicts between nations pushing to enact supremacy over one another amid the exit of Roman dominance) and continuous annexations of foreign lands, the elite found it impossible to tend to their lands while working to gain even more. Although the absolute Marx of feudalism remains a mystery, the idea seems to have originated on the basic principles of lords, vassals, and fiefs: the concept installed the elite as “lords” of their subjects [vassals], who’d be provided with land [fiefs] on the promise of submitting their loyalty, service, life, and rights at their respective lord’s disposal.

A European feudalism power pyramid: Kings at top, followed by nobles, knights, and peasants.

The practice quickly spread throughout Europe and within a century, it stretched from the high-rise walls of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to the shores of Mercia and was adapted by the Arab Muslims during the conquest of Andalusia. However, the practice ceased to last under the ever-enlightening European minds and disappeared by about 15th century.

What does Pakistan has to do with it?

People cannot own people and to even think otherwise is a sin equally established before the court of humanity and God Himself.

Feudalism, a practice that celebrates inherited power, takes much unhinged pride in deciding – always under personal gratification – another’s caliber, and categorizes the poor, the hungry, and the huddled masses as inferior, must cease to exist.

The Pakistan Muslim League, the political party that established Pakistan in 1947, was dominated primarily by feudal landlords such as the Rajas, Jats, Ranas, Mahers, Jagirdars, Nawabs, Nawabzades and Sardars. Jinnahs were the sole exception.

Through the ’50s and the ’60s the feudal families retained control over national affairs through the bureaucracy and military. Later on in 1971, they assumed direct power (Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto being of a very large landowning family) and retained it until the military regained power.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto belonged to a powerful landlord family

Even early as 2007, fewer than five percent of feudal landlords owned over two-thirds of the total farmlands and these very people formed two-third of the National Assembly with many executive positions resting within their influence. Feudalism, disguised in the popular term “landlord,” exists in the very roots of Pakistan.

Basically, Pakistan’s political, economical, demographical, and social life revolves around the centuries old practice of feudalism.

Pakistan has everything to do with it. 

How did the feudal lords come to acquire such huge acres of farmlands?

The great Mughal emperor Akbar is often criticized for our modern day feudal system. Although his Mansabdari scheme does lay the foundation of Zamindari, it does not – under any of its law – made the mansabdars (officials) the owners of the land or, so much so, the “spiritual fathers” of their mansabs (subjects). In fact, the Mansabdars were only granted ownership on a non-hereditary transferable basis, which means the mansabdars did not have a right to pass the land to their offspring. But with the downfall of the Mughals, the mansabdars turned into de facto hereditary landlords and petty “lords” of their mansabs.

Akbar the Great started the Mansabdari System

So to answer the question in simpler words, I quote H de Balzac:

“Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”

The “respected” feudal lords stole them.

How does the feudal practices affect Pakistan?

When a worn out practice is established as the running heart of a country then undoubtedly, as history the highest witness, that country is condemned to fail.

Almost half of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the bulk of the export earnings are derived from the agriculture sector and because two-third of it is dominated by fewer than 5% of the total population. With such concentration of economic power, the feudal lords are able to gain much unfair political power, which they ultimately use to increase their influence.

Shahrukh Jatoi (son of a powerful feudal lord) gives a victory sign following his murder conviction at a court in Karachi. Shahrukh Jatao murdered Shahzeb Khan in cold blood.

As reported by international media, the feudal lords of Pakistan establish themselves as “spiritual leaders,” constantly exploiting their subjects’ interests to their own. A culture of feudal impunity exists, particularly in Sindh, Baluchistan, and Southern Punjab, where local police refuses to pursue charges against an influential lord even when murder or mayhem has been committed, moreover, the local police stations are utilized to place the rebels and critics of the subject in discussion. Economic pressure plays a vital role in helping feudals keep their position intact as well. Various methods are practiced, including debt bondage, to keep one’s subjects at bay. Through various studies, it has been firmly established that a number of feudal lords discourage, rather prohibit, their subjects from gaining an education for it will, undoubtedly, weaken their authority.


Feudalism is a harsh reality thousands of people live with everyday but the federal authority still refuses to acknowledge its atrocities. Their only defense revolves around the absurd point that the subjects are “too naïve” to live independently.

A feudal lord visiting his subjects

No wonder Pakistan is falling.


This article was written and edited by the Entremuse Editorial Board. Any unauthorized use of this material is strictly prohibited.

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