Sunday, May 26

Elite Capture Of The State

The current political and economic turmoil in Pakistan has led to polarization on a magnitude not only within Pakistan but around most of the politically tense world. Whether you have been awarded the title of a Patwari or a Youthiya, whether your opponents are the Beggars or the Niazis, you are still affected by the universal consequence that the ‘Us versus Them’ political mentality encompasses – an inability to hold the real perpetrators accountable – the elite.

Elites within Pakistan, whether they be military elites, industrial elites or feudal elites, have in essence managed a chokehold not only on the entire political machinery of Pakistan but the state itself. A subtle, yet ironically explicit way through which this chokehold on the state is enforced is political polarization which has historically created a tunnel vision in policy making where political drama and unrest acts as a smokescreen allowing elites to regressive policy making without much accountability. This has allowed the ruling elite to wreck the democratic principle which forms the very edifice of any successful state and to direct all machinery of state, its institutions, legislature and judiciary, towards increasing their own power.

However, this is only a hypothesis, but a hypothesis which proves true on every decision that the state takes. An example being any budget that any Pakistani government has drafted in recent history. Large and disproportionate allocations are repeatedly made to the institutions with the most power, lenient taxes are imposed on industrialists while the ones on the working class are made heavier. The hypothesis is proven true by the deep rooted inequality in Pakistan’s economy. The richest (elite) 20% of Pakistanis hold 49.6% of the national income, compared with the poorest 1% holding just 0.15%.

The elite and poor Pakistanis  effectively live in completely different countries with literacy levels, health outcomes and living standards that are poles apart. According to the National Human Development Report (NHDR) it is estimated that over 37% of public expenditure benefits the richest people in the country, whereas less than 15% reaches the people in the poorest income category which shows there is unfair budget allocation. According to UNDP’s calculations the total dollar amount of privileges provided to Pakistani elites (feudals, powerful politicians, judiciary, military) adds up to around 6% of the country’s economy. According to FBR the middle class and poor contribute 80% of revenue collection via taxes whereas the elite class contributes to only 5% as this further increases the inequality and shows that our tax system is designed to protect the interests of elites.

The final tenet of the elite capture of the state is the state’s authoritarian nature. Curtailing most of the opposition to the ones in power through state institutions and creating further legislation to suppress any opposition that may be left is proof of tyranny. Laws like PECA that effectively limit dissent and the introduction of PECA 2.0 which imposes arbitrary metrics on the arrests of journalists are tools that render the common man powerless at the hands of the powerful.

To conclude, political polarization increases the salience of political identities  and amplifies cognitive biases. This polarization weakens the respect for democratic norms, creates political unrest in the country and slows down economic growth. The elites work for their own interests and create a tunnel vision by using this political drama to secure their own interests and this weakens the country. So the general public should hold the elites accountable instead of indulging in this political drama. The common public should not act as puppets of these political and military elites as they always try to divide people to keep up this political drama and secure their own interests. Instead of supporting these kleptocrats the nation needs to unite to disclose the reality of these elites and end the elite capture of the state.

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