The scourge of plutocracy | By Tariq Aqil

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The scourge of plutocracy

THE simplest meaning of the word plutocracy is “Rule by the wealthy” or “Govt. controlled by the rich” Ploutos is the Greek word for wealth and Plouton or Pluto was the name used for the Greek god of the underworld, where all the earth’s mineral wealth was stored according to Greek mythology.

So a plutocracy governs or wields power through its money. The economic growth in the USA in the late 19th century produced a group of extremely wealthy plutocrats.

Huge companies like the Rockefeller’s Standard Oil gained political power and the Rockefeller family was in a position to influence politicians or law makers in the states where their business was based. For this reason many political scientists have said that at that period in time Ohio and New Jersey were Plutocracies and not democracies.

In the present age of democracy almost every country in the world has been a victim of Plutocracy at one time or the other.

Being rich or born in an opulent family is not a crime and those born rich cannot be excluded from the service to their country. Public servants and elected officials with deep pockets can be a great advantage because these individuals can afford to be indifferent to many illegal attractions or incentives provided by the office of public service.

When some students asked the Quaid-i-Azam when they should join politics his advice was that first they should become independently wealthy. The problem is that in most third world countries political office is seen as a gold mine to increase ones fortunes and rise to great heights of affluence by pretending to be public servants.

We have examples of Marcos of the Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia, Idi Amin of Uganda and many others in Latin America. Politics has now become big business and politics now is certainly not motivated by a desire to serve the country but for a deep greed and desire to rise to the heights of wealth and affluence.

In Pakistan it can be a topic of research to look at the source and means by which our politicians become super rich. From the lowest rung of a counsellor in the local Govt. to the position of a cabinet member or even a head of Govt or head of state.

Only a very tiny minority of our immensely rich politicians have inherited wealth. Some may have acquired wealth through fair means but the majority of them have acquired that status of super-rich through illegal, dishonest and unscrupulous means.

Pakistan’s first political disaster was the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan the self-appointed Field Marshall.

Just a few years after taking over the Presidents sons got into business and used their political clout to build a business empire and we still remember the stories about the Gandhara Industries, Hashmi Can and General tyres established by General Habib ullah Khattak and his son in law Captain Gohar Ayub Khan and some other business ventures by the off spring of President Ayub Khan.

Before 1958 Pakistan was ruled by politicians of the old school some of them handpicked by the Quaid-i-Azam himself. The first Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan had two sons but nobody has ever heard of any misuse of political power by the family of Liaquat Ali.

It is also a fact of history that during the military regimes of Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharaf we had the strongest economic performance, but they all used the same type of sycophant politicians to protect and advance their personal political agenda.

The son of General Zia gave up his banking career and became a politician and a businessman. Generals Yahya and Musharraf in spite of many faults did not enrich themselves or their families at state expense.

All the military dictatorships in Pakistan nurtured, supported and strengthened the power of the political mafias including the Sharif Family, Chowdries of Gujrat, and the Asif Ali Zardari group. The backing of the military rulers to politician gave rise to a kleptocratoic and Plutocratic class of politicians and rulers in the country.

The rise of the Sharif Family started in the 1980s when Nawaz Sharif became the Blue eyed boy of the military dictator Zia ul Haque. Today Nawaz Sharif is certainly not a hero or gladiator battling the cause of democracy and civilian supremacy over the army.

He is desperately fighting to save his wealth and his political future and to save the Plutocratic system of governance that he along with Benazir and Zardari have presided over in the past.

Imran Khan with his Utopian dream of Riasat-i-Madina and a new Pakistan has also ridden into power on the shoulders of powerful mafias and plutocratic heroes like Jehangir Tareen, Aleem Khan, Shaukat Tareen and a few others along with the blessings of the powerful civil and military establishment.

The evil order of plutocracy has weakened and destroyed our state institutions in order to loot and plunder unchecked and this has resulted in the social and economic collapse we face today.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

 

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