After an intense political struggle, the Muslims of the Subcontinent achieved a separate homeland on August 14, 1947, wherein they could pursue their own destiny. The story of the country since then has not been uniform for all its inhabitants. The Narrative of the Elite cites the difficulties that the new country faced along with the unrelenting threat from the hostile neighbour. It ascribes the security driven paradigm of the present day to the basic struggle for survival, still continuing, that drove the rulers to seek foreign friends and military aid to counter the enemy across the border. 

On the other hand, the Peoples’ History of Pakistan since the great upheaval that came with the partition of the Subcontinent has been a story of unrelieved struggle for survival. For those who came to the ‘Promised Landand those who received the endless stream of tired, hungry, heartbroken and sick humanity, it was a trauma that has taken decades to overcome, if at all. In the main, they settled in the larger towns and cities occupying the state lands in makeshift housing – the Jhuggi (slum dwelling) and Katchi Abadi (squatter settlement) came into its own and grew. 

The new State, with its new Keepers, teetered from one crisis to another; the communal hostility engendered during the struggle for independence morphed into a war between the two new countries; political inexperience led to a great reliance on the state functionaries, the administrative services, leading to a society without a political strategy. The civil and military bureaucracies trained during the Colonial Period for the objectives of control, suppression and extraction of wealth could not bring about a change in their culture of superiority, arrogance and a feeling of contempt for the ordinary citizen. 

The Political Economy of Urbanism rests on the basic inequity that blossomed through this neglect of the agricultural economy and the rural population. The differential in the value of the land under plough and that under an urban house is the inequity that is the source of wealth for those who can manipulate. Buying of cheap land from the peasantry and selling at tremendous profits to the erstwhile house builders on the periphery of the cities is the inechanisn1 that was developed by both the private entrepreneurs and semi-state Development and Housing Authorities. If the rural land were not so cheap the urban sprawl would not take place or if the land were not a medium of speculation it would not be so wastefully used. The end result of this nature of urban growth is that the inequity increases to unacceptable levels, generating numbing poverty. It has given rise to a food-importing and cement­ exporting economy. This uneven development is alienating people with the resultant social problems. The worst possible equities have come about in the cities and other urban centres. The infrastructure reflects the dominance of the automobile while pedestrians and those using less glamorous modes of transport are put to great difficulty in negotiating the maze of over and under passes. As the towns and cities expand, agricultural land and villages are gobbled up taking away the livelihood of the tillers and their support craftsmen who are thus reduced to the level of unskilled labour working in construction industry. Land-grab movement and the concomitant land mafia make for an insecure crime laden society.

The general state of the debt laden economy surviving amid internal terror and external threat does not make for a happy and stable existence. People’s history of Pakistan is a story of frustrated expectations, misplaced hopes and betrayal by those who could have given them a better quality of life.


Pervaiz Vandal