What’s the matter with Punjab?

I came across this great analysis by Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo on the contradictions within Punjab politics:

The anomalies of Punjab’s politics

As the representative party of the progressive, anti-imperialist forces of Pakistan, NAP emerged as the most articulate forum of the oppressed classes, communities and nationalities of Pakistan in the short span of two years since its formation in 1956 (PNP) – 1957 (NAP). As the NAP grew stronger and its programme became popular, repression by the state and criminalization of politics at the hands of the reactionary forces also became more intensive.

Every two or three years the dominant class had to invite the armed forces to crush the rising popular discontent and protect their vested interests. As Punjab had unfortunately become a strong bastion of reactionary vested interest groups and assumed their leadership, NAP could not grow into a popular all-Punjab political party. Our party comrades in Punjab had to encounter formidable obstacles while trying to organize the party. In East Pakistan and the smaller provinces of West Pakistan, the party stood on strong foundations because the party programmer reflected the people’s aspirations and needs; hence they responded positively. In Punjab, the situation was different and therefore our Punjabi comrades had to bear the brunt of state excesses on the one hand and on the other, face allegations of working against the interest of Punjab (interest of Punjabi elite, actually). The people of the other provinces, by thoughtlessly blaming Punjab and Punjabis for all their problems, also hurt the sentiments of our Punjabi comrades, One must give due credit to our Punjabi comrades for standing firm on their political and ideological commitments in the face of all these adversities and provocations.

Punjab had most of the time suffered from a deficit of popular political leadership. It had often remained under the domination of civil and military bureaucracy, feudals and mullahs. People’s movements were made ineffective or irrelevant in what is today known as West Punjab, to ensure that the source of recruitment for the armed forces was not affected.

On the other hand, Punjab was in terms of skill, enterprise, education and productive potential, far ahead of all the other provinces of Pakistan. Though East Pakistan was the majority province in terms of population, all the sources and levers of power were monopolized by Punjab – civil bureaucracy, armed forces, education, skill – all were under the command of Punjab. It was also the stronghold of feudal power. Making use of these instruments of power, the ruling elite of Punjab denied legitimate participation to others in the country’s governance. All policies and plans were drawn up by them, for them and any obstacle in their way was removed with the help of the bureaucracy and the armed forces. It has been like a cycle – some sort of toothless democratic dispensation running the country for a certain period, followed by army rule replacing it for a few years, then giving way to a civil dispensation for another few years – and so the cycle continues till today.


One response to “What’s the matter with Punjab?

  1. takhalus

    very interesting link and posting..did you read the interview further down that talks about Najam Sethi and the group of leftists from Punjab who joined the Baloch revolt.

    It is interesting to contrast his writings with Sherbaz Mazaris book..Bizenjos commitment to his ideology transcended his sense of loyalty to the Baloch nationality. Also he managed to depersonalise his relationship with ZAB, unlike Wali khan & Mengal ..by the very nature //were targetted, responded by making ZAB’s ouster a point of celebration (understandabaly as their families were brutally targetted).

    Bizenjo was probably right …

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