Of Punjab’s partition, castes & martial races

Published: January 8, 2012
The writer is a director with Hill Road Media and a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar 

The writer is a director with Hill Road Media and a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar [email protected]

We were looking at the importance of caste in explaining the dominance of the army in Pakistan.

At Partition, Pakistan got two-thirds of Punjab, while India got one-third. More Punjabis live in Pakistan than in India. However, in the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, there are four Indians from the Indian side of undivided Punjab. They are the Singhs of Ranbaxy, Mittal of Airtel, Jindal of Jindal steel and Thapar of Avantha. There is no Punjabi from Pakistan. Why? Because the conversion of Hindus has been the conversion of castes, not individuals (for a moment, let us discard the myth Muslims feed themselves about their Arab/Persian/Central Asian origins). All four of these individuals are from trading communities, Baniya and Khatri.

Few mercantile Hindu castes took up Islam. The Lohanas of Gujarat, who produce India’s and Karachi’s great Memon/Vora/Khoja communities, are among those who did. Lohanas dominate the economy of Karachi and its stock market. But not many Punjabi trading castes took up Islam. All Baniyas and most Khatris in Punjab remained Hindu while a few became Sikh.

My hypothesis is that the division of the Punjabi nation in 1947 produced a Pakistani Punjab that was heavily weighted in favour of the martial castes. The trading castes, which tend to be more pragmatic and balance society’s extremism mostly left to come to India. This has produced the imbalance which explains Pakistan’s fondness for a state dominated by soldiers. Gen Pervez Kayani runs the state’s foreign policy, security policy and most of its economic policy because the majority of Punjabis are comfortable with the idea of a warrior being in charge.

India is ruled by a Punjabi from the Khatri trading caste, Manmohan Singh of Chakwal. The question is: Can caste be a predictor for such things? Yes it is. I did two studies that demonstrated it to me. The first was on the castes of the 55 Indians in the Forbes list of billionaires. The second was on the castes of those Indians who did honour killing. (They can be found here and here). A reading of them will show to what extent the behaviour of Indians in these aspects is predictable by caste. I see no reason for this to be different in Pakistan, an area that used to be India till 65 years ago and has the same culture.

In India, honour killing is done by particular castes that feel honour. The Baniyas and Brahmins don’t murder their daughters for falling in love. It is the peasant, mainly the Jat, who does this. Even within the peasantry, there are some that don’t do honour killing because there’s no honour to be had in their culture. The peasant from Gujarat does not do honour killing because unlike the Punjabi, his culture is mercantile.

If we were to look at the castes of famous Pakistanis, we would begin to see a pattern. To illustrate this, I’ll name some Pakistanis from trading castes and you will see what I mean. Pervez Hoodbhoy (Lohana/Khoja), Abdus Sattar Edhi (Lohana/Memon) and Najam Sethi (Khatri). These three men represent the best of Pakistan.

It is not my intention to say that the qualities of these three great men emanate entirely from their caste. But the fact is that their castes have a culture of sobriety that produces such men with ease. This is difficult for the peasant castes, who dominate the population of both India and Pakistan. Their caste and cultural traditions are about honour, not pragmatism.

General Kayani, who is a Punjabi from the martial Gakhar caste, has made the statement that “Pakistan’s honour will not be traded for prosperity”. Only a warrior would make that statement and only a nation of warriors would accept it. In India, we have far more people like Hoodbhoy and Sethi and Edhi to counter those Indians who think like Kayani.

Pakistan’s problem isn’t that it doesn’t have any people who can resist the warrior-like tendencies of the state. Its problem is that it doesn’t have enough of them because of the partition of Punjab.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2012.


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Reader Comments (87)

  • SS
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:06AM

    Very nice article..what an explanation with great examples. I am impressed


  • Baryaal
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:11AM



  • Salahuddin
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:24AM

    very intersting research and analysis. Superb.


  • harish
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:37AM

    excellent article, i am highly impressed by your intelligent analysis.

    Caste does play a major role in determining attitudes in south Asia. Things that have been practiced over millenia don’t go away easily.

    It is a well known fact that in India, despite the modernity that we have embraced today, the traditional caste structures have played a major role in determining professions in the modern economy.


  • faraz
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:44AM

    These so called martial races of Punjab were allotted this status by the British because they served loyally in the British army and helped savagely crush the 1857 revolt. Before 1857, these Muslim martial races had little role in the armed conflicts of the region. Sikhs who were just 9 percent of Punjab were ruling these martial races of Punjab and large part of NWFP! Before Punjabis, the Bengalis had been given the status of martial race and used as mercenaries. How many wars did the “martial’ Ghurka’s fight before British rule? Europeans armies slaughtered each other for centuries; now where is their martial ethos? British suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day of battle of Somme; why are they wining over few hundred casualties a year?


  • Adil Shah
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:48AM

    Excellent analysis. Makes it easy to understand the madness in Pakistan.


  • Babloo
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:59AM

    Irrespective of weather you agree or disagree, the author makes his points emphatically. I have myself seen that Banias and Khatris among Indian castes excel in trade while the brahmins excel in scholarship, politics, academics and adminstration. The reason may be just that those qualities are encouraged and inculcated and become part of the culture of the respective castes over centuries and has absolutely nothing to do with genetics and there are many , many exceptions to the rule also.


  • ZP
    Jan 8, 2012 - 2:25AM

    Is this for real? The PM is spending $40 billions on military while his citizens are in the condition they are. Why this obsession with caste and its myths? A third of “Brahmins” could not even read and write. And throughout India’s history, the “Baniyas” failed to help India’s economy to grow while Pakistan was achieving better economic growths despite its limited start and resources. Furthermore, most of these “Baniyas” made money by being close to your rulers or because of Westerners. Some are self-made for sure but the same case could be found anywhere in the world. Environment and adaptation play important roles in sparking businesses. Pakistani businessmen are doing well in Dubai etc. If the environment has been more conducive, businesses will prosper in Pakistan.

    Please don’t take pride with your billionaires. A product of neo-liberalism, they hold a fifth of your nation’s wealth. Time for Occupy Bombay.Recommend

  • Mj
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:27AM

    Your analysis makes sense. Whereas European peasantry had centuries to develop, ours has been thrust into modernity without having the tools or the willpower to adjust to a modern, civilized, and democratic way of life. To extend your analysis further, I’d say that what Qadri did was a malignant and mutated kind of honor killing draped in religious attire, after all, one often hears proclamations of protecting the honor or ‘hurmat’ of the apostle uttered as an excuse and justification. It may also describe the broad support his action garnered in many social circles. Just my two cents.


  • va
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:51AM

    impressive analysis with great insights.. not sure how it would be welcomed by emotional pakistanis.. get ready for brickbats..


  • Hari Sud
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:51AM

    Good Work Aakar Patel. I have been your fan for long time.

    You missed one point. A whole lot of Punjabi Hindu Khatris left Pakistan in 1947 to go to India. They were the source of prosperity for West Punjab, which now is in Pakistan. They came to India, started a fresh, enriched the indian society and as you noted produced 4 Billionaires from East Punjab alone. This forced migration from West Punjab to East Punjab and rest of India could have been avoided and West Punjab (Now in Pakistan) be made as prosperous as East Punjab (India) is. But the rabble rouser of that era placed economics and public welfare far behind as opposed to the agenda of martial races.

    Then again, India, by getting rid of rabble rousers during 1947 cross migration to West Punjab became a culturally richer land.

    Who is the looser, West Punjab and overall Pakistan.

    Hari Sud


  • venky
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:04AM

    Nice Analysis. The castes have always been a major factor in Indian culture. It does not matter, whether Pakistan or India since both have a common culture. Religion cannot do away the caste in them. After all growth of our future generations have always been on the basis of same castes as seen in our arranged marriages.

    As for the last paragraph, I would like to add that most Muslims who are sober and business minded have stayed back in India (like the Lohana’s/khoja) making it more difficult to resist the trend of national pride over prosperity.


  • Giri
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:06AM

    So there is no casteism in pakistan is refuted here. Also they identify with islam, their actions and demeanour are mostly caste centric. Author has done good analysis. If you look at the brahmin nobel laureates CV Raman, SB Chandrasekhar or the genius mathematician Ramanujam, Ramakrishnan there is something in the caste that makes it easier for them, as their ancestors have produces most scholarly works like vedas or upanishads.


  • Maria
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:39AM

    Silly article with simplifications based on castes which have no meaning in Pakistan. Perhaps you can tell us how someone born in a martial caste cannot become a professional- but wait, the most martial warriors of all were the Germanic tribes and they have produced the most original thinkers, scientists, writers and social activists. At he same time Germanic races- be they originally Nordic Vikings or Prussian peasants have always been the most fearless and martial fighters. Getting back to Pakistan, take a look at the native martial races of Pakistan and you will indeed see a degree of race mixing and influences that are not evident in India. This is simple geography. Pakistan is at the Northwest frontier of the subcontinent where other races mixed in. Maybe you want to say that purer “Indian” type races in Hindustan are better at business than martial Pakistanis? I would disagree because I think it has all to do with the opportunity afforded and the dominant culture- not race per say.


  • Boota Gujjar
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:46AM

    Obsession with billionaire coupled with self-ageandizement view of one’s own community is visible in this article. Self-aggrandizement need not to be pitied against another community, or perhaps it’s not possible to obtain it without it. I suggest author study the Punjabi Sheikh community of Punjab, which is generally considered the trading community in Punjab and are found in every city of Punjab. The richest man of Pakistan–Mian Mohammad Mansha–also belongs to this community. I’m even embarrassed to provide these details. Someone with slight journalistic talent should have been able to get this information. Recommend

  • Indian
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:50AM

    Article and its examples are impressive.


  • Jehanzeb
    Jan 8, 2012 - 4:54AM

    Mr Patel – Thanks for this highly insightful piece. You understand Pakistan’s socio-psyche better than most Pakistani academics. I completely agree that one’s caste has a great part to play in developing their social attitude and behaviour. We need less Rajputs and more Khatris and Aroras if we need to bring about a change to our macho adn tribal worldview. Since it can’t be genetical, the change (or evolution?) has to happen through education, urbanisations as it de-links or weakens one’s tribal/caste ties, and capitalisam as it develops financial interests strong enough to overcome honour-based caste-ism.


  • Siddique Malik
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:27AM

    “Warrior”? What a waste of the word! Warrior is someone who makes sacrifices for the goof of his people. What Pakistani generals have done over the years and decades taken most of the country’s resources and blown them on their cantonments, luxurious villas, farms, etc. By the way, Kayani has been COS for the past few years. How about past army chiefs? Was Musharraf who caused so much destruction a Punjabi? I really wonder on what planet does Mr. Patel live. All this talk of races and castes and this and that is just intended to brainwash Pakistanis into believing that Pakistani generals are some kind of supermen who must not be opposed. This article is a part of the army’s technique to confuse Pakistanis.
    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.


  • frank
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:28AM

    But not many Punjabi trading castes
    took up Islam. All Baniyas and most
    Khatris in Punjab remained Hindu while
    a few became Sikh.

    There are millions of so-called ‘Sheikhs’ in West Punjab. If you ever enquire about their family names you will find they are all Vohras, Sethis, Saigols, Uppals..in on other words Khatri subcastes.

    It is the peasant, mainly the Jat, who
    does this. Even within the peasantry,
    there are some that don’t do honour
    killing because there’s no honour to
    be had in their culture.

    Female infaticide is a high caste trait. Bedi Khatris who belong to the same clan as Guru Nanak started to consider themselves superior to other Khatris because of this fact, and as a consequence also took up female infanticide.

    If we were to look at the castes of
    famous Pakistanis, we would begin to
    see a pattern. To illustrate this,
    I’ll name some Pakistanis from trading
    castes and you will see what I mean.
    Pervez Hoodbhoy (Lohana/Khoja), Abdus
    Sattar Edhi (Lohana/Memon) and Najam
    Sethi (Khatri). These three men
    represent the best of Pakistan.

    Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Jat), Prof Abdus Salam (Jat), Salman Taseer (Kashmiri), Ustad Nazir Butt (Kashmiri), Pervaiz Musharraf (Syed), etc etc


  • Siddique Malik
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:33AM

    There is a typo in my post earlier post. I meant to say “for the good of his people.”


  • azmat hasan
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:48AM

    What about Khojas of Shahpur, Jhang & Lahore- all places in Pakistani Punjab. And what about the richest Pakistani, billionaire Mian Munsha from Chiniot, a part of Pakistani Punjab


  • ouchi paghri
    Jan 8, 2012 - 6:05AM

    Please, do look up definition of peasant before you use it freely. A peasant doesn’t own his land, but rather works on someone else’s land. Most of Jats and other farming casts of Punjab own their land; they do not work on someone’s land. Also, read the billionaire list again, you will see Mian Mohammad Mansha of Pakistan there as well. And he is from Punjab. I will also suggest author to study Punjabi society more thoroughly–and also Punjabi Sheikhs.

    P.S. author seems to be obsessed with casts.


  • non-conformist
    Jan 8, 2012 - 6:12AM

    Nice analysis. Keep it up, dude!


  • vasan
    Jan 8, 2012 - 6:29AM

    There goes the theory that Islam is an equalizer and muslims dont follow castes like many hindus do. What happened to the “Arab origin” caste people ?


  • monafiq
    Jan 8, 2012 - 7:03AM

    very good article………………………..the warrior mentality has brought to this juncture……………….it is not going to change. hence prosperity of Pakistan and strength of Pakistan Army are inversely proportional.


  • Tayyab
    Jan 8, 2012 - 7:19AM

    Accurate and well written , speaking out what needs to be spoken of


  • Jan 8, 2012 - 8:00AM

    Wow is right…..interesting and incredible hypothesis…enjoyed the Live Mint articles as well. Lingering historic cultural values unique to each community does have incredible impact for the individual, for the community and ultimately for the nation. Better quality thinkers and doers needed, such as progressive pragmatic merchants rather than reactionary high honour warriors.


  • Arifq
    Jan 8, 2012 - 8:50AM

    Balay, Balay! If we were to assume your theory to be correct then how come a Martial Punjabi army has lost two wars against the Banya Indian army?


  • Ak
    Jan 8, 2012 - 9:06AM

    @author – I love reading your articles. They have good arguments backed by facts. Also your argument about mercantile communities vs peasant communities is a valid one and that’s what is reflected in the politics of North Indian states. This is also stated by Gurcharan Das in his book India unbound.


  • Toni
    Jan 8, 2012 - 9:23AM

    If that was true then what explains the Arab uprising… Millions of Arabs came out on streets to protest against military-type govts. It’s the economy stupid!! If people of Punjab had economic self- sufficiency they could care less about ”honor’ that generals boast about…


  • Feroz
    Jan 8, 2012 - 10:12AM

    A lot of thinking and research has gone into this study, I am impressed. This is a perspective I could not think of even in my dreams. Keep up the good work Sir, such articles will help readers open up their minds and develop their own independent analytical skills.


  • Raj
    Jan 8, 2012 - 10:13AM

    What about Shahs in Pakistani Punjab? Are they not traders or Baniyas? Why anyone of them is not a billionaire?


  • Pure
    Jan 8, 2012 - 10:15AM

    This is great. So why do Egyptians love their military and leaders from within it?
    Why are strong arm, coercive tactics and strong men remain role models in Islamic countries?


  • Nadeem
    Jan 8, 2012 - 10:21AM

    Well explained argument.


  • daredevil
    Jan 8, 2012 - 10:40AM

    Belong to a caste may be one of the reasons for Pakistan’s outlook (if there is one) and its travails. The writer is taking a cut and dried view of the things. And the people doing good in India did because of scores of other things, including democracy.Pakistan needs an overhaul, no doubt, and a rethink sooner than later.


  • Jan 8, 2012 - 11:39AM

    @arifq “how come a Martial Punjabi army has lost two wars against the Banya Indian army?
    Majority of the Indian army also consists of warrior castes like Jats, Rajputs, Jat sikhs ,Gurkhas. I think you miss the point of article.


  • Jp
    Jan 8, 2012 - 11:39AM

    Wonderful article. Very thorough research & analysis. I am really impressed by your articles


  • Simon
    Jan 8, 2012 - 11:43AM

    It is a nice hypothesis and would be accurate predictor in old Rural India but as we urbanize this stratification will also be a relic of old times, am sure this is true for Pakistan also.


  • Jack
    Jan 8, 2012 - 12:51PM

    The point is that military-type governments have managed to last so long in Muslim societies because most of your heroes (after the first 4 Imams following the prophet) have been kings and military heroes. As a society, you glorify strength and military prowess over learning and wealth creation – hence it was easier for those castes and groups to accept Islam as well.
    The point is not that there are absolutely no mercantile castes in Pak Punjab, only that they hardly exist in comparison to Indian Punjab. And being of a community does not automatically make you a billionaire. Pls note that none of these Indian billionaires made their money in Punjab. The author’s hypothesis is definitely a good one – most of the Indian blue-chip companies outside knowledge-based industries (read IT) have origins in Bania family entrepreneurship.


  • Nanggdharangg Pakistani
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:29PM

    Highly thought-provoking and a sheer delight to read !! Thank you for this.


  • Sanjay Sharma
    Jan 8, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Pakistan has lost much of its gains after its creation by not adopting for ‘complete democracy’. There is no doubt that in a brahmin family, education is the uppermost idea of progress whereas in baniya family, they generally avoid marriages of their daughters to non-businessmen. It speaks volumes about the societal norms. Rajputs and Jats are not good traders. Nor are they generally good acadmicians. But with the uninterrupted democracy, as a means of developing the nation, Indian society, as a whole, has gained a lot and now every state in India has its own kind of trader, martial and peasant communities. Take the example of Daudi-Bohra in Gujrat. They are non-hindus, but they are maverick when it comes to business. A Muslim, who happened to be India’s one of the most popular Presidents, was earlier known as ‘Missile Man’ (Dr APJ Abdul Kalam), A Sikh, who brought India out of economic woods, is one of the longest serving Prime Minister (Dr Man Mohan Singh). A Catholic Itallian Christian lady, who was adopted as daughter-in-law, is running the most powerful political outfit in India and mother of a ‘future Prime Minister’ (Sonia Gandhi, Congress President). Political lightweights of a state don’t give much heed to the central leadership, when it comes to the welfare of their own people. These are the fruits of uninterrupted democracy. I have not doubt if Pakistan continues with unhindered democracy, and political class is elected by popular mandate without any coersion, she might be a very vibrant economy soonar than later. You know, peace is the main mantra of brahmin-baniya community for their educational and economical quest. One can try these habits, if it is helpful to the society for bringing it out from self-distructive opinions.The article has tried to let us know the salient features of caste system, which sometimes makes mess of good things when people lean much over it, but a peacefull democratic nation gets laurals from all quarters.


  • Ali Wali
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:04PM

    I am not sure about caste and it’s association with jingoism or philanthropy. My village is next to general Kayani and my brother was his college mate, I know Ghakkars are dove, while ours is a settlers clan whose uneducated members salivate at any prospect of violence, I know it is not caste but education which defines our actions or our response to any situation.


  • Ali Wali
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:38PM

    Ha! Should we assume that so called martial races are murderous with no hope of redemption, this article defies logic. Wondering why Ghakkhars of Gujarkhan are among the most business minded people in the UK, and there is even a Ghakkhar billionare in London. Education education and education.


  • Jack
    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:42PM

    Madam, the point being made by writer seems have completely missed you. He did not mention professionals at all! And comparing martial races in Europe with the caste system in the sub-continent is rather silly. The castes (martial/ mercantile) in Pak and Indian Punjab have retained their relative competences in the armed forces/ business until recent times – this is not true for most other societies – how many people with names like Major/ Carpenter/ Taylor/ Mason/ etc will you find in such professions today? On the other hand someone with the name Rana is more likely than an Arora to be in the armed forces than a businessman today, although there will be exceptions (the Indian General to whom Gen AK Niazi surrendered in 1971 was an Arora btw). Further, the writer has mentioned specific castes within Pak Punjab – and has given advance notice to people like you who insist on foreign forefathers even in the Punjab heartland. My sympathies.Recommend

  • Waseem
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:06PM

    A very simplistic analysis of a complex issue, supported by self baked and half cooked statistics.
    Is there any scientific method to your analysis? Recommend

  • GAM
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:09PM

    Interesting and quite a plausible theory. It would also be interesting to check the caste of the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Lakhwi and the dalits of India under Mayawati and the Repulicans (Ambedkarites) in India. The increasing militancy they show is also similar.


  • Abbas
    Jan 8, 2012 - 5:58PM

    @ZP: yes ZP-you need some serious education. One of the things the blogs make you do is freedom of speech but also it allows to display the level of ignorance.

    India has 1.3 trillion GDP and it spends 37.7 billion on Military. It foreign reserves are 300 billion surplus. No international loans. While Pakistan lends a mere 3 billion after repeatedly asking funds from US or IMF to pay bills for next 6 months. its Military budget is 6.41 billion. NOW WHO IS SPENDING MORE?? WHO NEEDS TO WORRY MORE? Ask a kindergarten child about this because you seem to have great difficulty understanding the reality.

    Having a billion dollars or even 50 billion dollars today will not save Pakistan from failure because its religious problems and majority of its intolerant society’s religious priorities are so serious that the chances of survival are slim.Money does not win respect- its the culture and tolerance of the society and secular freedom that wins respect-an idea your nation will not understand ever.

    Hyderabad, Deccan


  • Pradeep
    Jan 8, 2012 - 6:09PM

    This is oversimplification. The author is very selective in his choice of evidence. The author unfortunately is ambivalent in his position of whether this concept of caste determining thought is good or bad.


  • Homa
    Jan 8, 2012 - 7:41PM

    Very intelligent.


  • Arifq
    Jan 8, 2012 - 7:56PM

    Based on your argument presented, Indian army is dominated by the martial race thus their victory over Pakistan armed forces, which implies superiority of the martial race concept in matters of warfare and the Banya could not have defeated the Punjabi or martial race. Then the same concept should apply in all other situations and martial race shall rein supreme! Interesting observation, clearly not a world for nerds, poets and mercantile societies, as pernyour argument.


  • Saharanpuri
    Jan 8, 2012 - 8:00PM

    Mr Aakar Patel has forgotten to add biggest business house who too had origins in Pakistan i.e Munjals of Hero group.

    I find the article fascinating .Unlike India Pakistan is a feudal country.The gap between rich n poor is huge.The children belonging to poor strata of society for last 3 generations hv been totally brainwashed .If India ceases to be the enemy specially for pak defence forces then Pakistan itself wud cease to exist.

    So Indians shud be practical & remain on their toes all the time.We can never be friends with Pakistan as Pak Military can never forget Bangladesh & its so called reason of existence.


  • kumar
    Jan 8, 2012 - 8:03PM

    Looking at this from a scientific {neuroscience} point of view, there is no evidence that different castes have a different genetic makeup that accounts for their different behaviours. This article smacks of ‘eugenics’, the discarded ‘scientific’ theory of Nazis which preached that people are inferior/superior based on their ethnicities or castes etc. I can quote you hundreds of examples of the so called ‘mercantile’ Jindal caste that have rabid militarist views.
    Kumar from Indian Punjab.


  • Fawad
    Jan 8, 2012 - 8:23PM

    Aakar Patel is always insightful and interesting to read. The caste-based hypothesis in this article has some plausibility and it very likely that it is one of the factors in the development of society in West Punjab. However, I think Aakar overstates the caste influence and skips over the the far more significant sociological effects of lack of human development (education etc.). To really validate the strength of his argument a data-driven methodolgy is required which can assess the influence of caste along with other variables on a reasonable sample size. The argument as stated is thought-provoking but anecdotal and one simply cannot draw any firm conclusions from it.


  • Sadia
    Jan 8, 2012 - 8:34PM

    Your hypothesis is not supported by facts. Why is Rajasthan in India an industrial hub despite being inhabited by martial people? How about many lower castes upward movement in Pakistani Punjab?


  • Amin
    Jan 8, 2012 - 9:18PM

    Honour killing also occurs in many Islamic countries of the Middle East where there are no Castes. how does the author explain this?


  • Jan 8, 2012 - 9:42PM

    Caste has some bearing and some validity,how much,it will be very difficult to verify.There is some truth to the theory.But any work can be debunked,any set of deta can be proved valid or invalid.They , depend on who wants to prove or disprove,but some facts stands on their own merit and seem to withstand scurtany.More Brahmins find education and school,more bania and khatri find business natural and more sikh and rajput find army and military as career.I for one hailing from particular community find logic,reason and rationality more condusive to my make up than violance and barracks as refuze.But than ,it again my preferance or my caste genes.I do not know,like ,many things,I do not know.I have no reason to doubt the columnist.Good day.


  • Atiq
    Jan 8, 2012 - 11:47PM

    I expected so much better. Yes, Kiyani is Pakistani punjabi, but does the author know how long Pakistani punjabis have been army chiefs since 1947? Less then 11years out of 64, or less than 17% of the time. If you add Zia, who was an Indian born punjabi, the punjabis have had the COAS post for 22 years. Authors attempt to show punjabi dominance is divisive


  • stuka
    Jan 9, 2012 - 12:27AM

    “I suggest author study the Punjabi Sheikh community of Punjab, which is generally considered the trading community in Punjab and are found in every city of Punjab. The richest man of Pakistan–Mian Mohammad Mansha–also belongs to this community. I’m even embarrassed to provide these details. Someone with slight journalistic talent should have been able to get this information.”

    A lot of Pakistanis seem unaware of the fact that Sheikhs are pretty much all Khatris. Not sure what “Sheikh” refers to, but all the Chinioti Sheikhs I met had last names like Sehgal and Vohra. These are all Khatri caste names.


  • RajX
    Jan 9, 2012 - 12:56AM

    @Arifq: What! That’s news to me. Pakistan has never lost a war. Ever! You are not a Pakistani if you don’t beleive that.


  • RajX
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:03AM

    @GAM: Hafeez saeed is a “caste of his own”. His caste motto is fight from behind while others die for you. You should not mix him up with others.


  • Fahad Ali Butt
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:09AM

    at the time of partition of indian punjab, when hindus of indian punjab were asked their mother tongue they wrote hindi as their mother tongue in the ‘form’ upon which indian punjab was divided into punjab and haryana. so hindu punjabis also do not consider them selves as part of punjabi nation. they more consider themselves as indian or hindu. only sikhs emphasis on their identity as punjabi bcoz they were having lack of identity. so just to fill identity gap sikhs opted to present themselves as punjabi. on the other hand, after 1947, thru continuous campaign, paki punjabis have been made to identify themselves as muslims not as punjabis. otherwise historically muslims punjabis always believed their identity as punjabi whether they belong to aryan or non-aryan race.


  • Shamoon
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:20AM

    We Pakistani Punjabis are Pakistani nationalists and always put Pakistan first. It doesn’t matter what caste or clan we belong to. Pakistan will always come first.


  • Abbas from the US
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:29AM

    Although on a personal level my background is from the Lohana caste However I am in disagreement with the basis of the article. Caste/division of labor is from an earlier milestone in the development and evolution of mankind. To try and apply the basis of caste to the modern day evolved human is contrary to scientific principles. The unfortunate part of a caste based society is that writers like Aakar Patel tend to look at societal development thru the prism of caste while not recognising that since in India caste plays such an important role that it is hard to move beyond the confines of the roles alloted to the circumstances of one’s birth. Post industrialized societies on the other hand offer education as well as political development thru democracy to create the ablity to suceed beyond the role assigned by the economic strata of one’s birth.
    In Pakistan caste never played the same role as it does in India except for religious chauvanism in the politics of exclusion.


  • Cynical
    Jan 9, 2012 - 2:09AM


    I appreciate the honesty and the openness of your comment.


  • stenson
    Jan 9, 2012 - 2:28AM

    Maybe you can also tell us about the original castes of all human beings since we all come from Mother Africa and moved to other parts of trhe world. It’s sad that Indian people still believe that caste explains all sociological phenomenon. And by the way, Punjabis are not a race but a mixture of people such as Jats which came from Central Asians. Different races are settled there but it was the Muslim Mughals that made it an administrative unit and created a sense of Punjani identity but most Punjanis don’t see themselves as a race anyhow.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:18AM

    Hahahahhahahah now one Gujrathi Bunya will tell us who is genious and who is not sixty five years ago two gujrathis did enough mess and they should be brought to internatioal court of justice, for deaths and rapes of all the punjabis.


  • Babloo
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:49AM

    What does ‘pakistan comes first’ mean ? Yahya Khan , Tikka Khan said that as they clung to power and orchestrated misrule and tyranny over East Pakistan. General Zia-Ul-Haq said it, as he staged a military coup and sent an elected Primeminister to be hanged. Mr Musharraf and every army chief that has ruled Pakistan has said ‘Pakistan First’. If claiming to follow ‘Pakistan First’ solved Pakistan’s problems then Pakistan would be the best country in the world. Think intelligently. Words mean nothing , actions speak for themselves.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 9, 2012 - 4:27AM

    Imran khan is from famous Niazi family its a martial race and fighting for them is like joy then
    he is vey smart educated and sooner will be PM of pakistan and Niazis are best transporter busnissman in pakistan what will u say and second thing is why bunya is good busnisman i think vegetable has no protien to fight and also English frangi busnisman first came in gujrath
    and they teach or we can say buys them and then all india shamfully.


  • Mustafa
    Jan 9, 2012 - 5:10AM

    “The question is: Can caste be a predictor for such things? Yes it is. “

    NO! There is no association of caste with human behaviour, and therefore it can not be predicted! your knowledge on the subject is very limited, and it lacks scientific validity.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Jan 9, 2012 - 5:50PM

    @Ali Tanoli:

    Imran khan is from famous Niazi family
    its a martial race and fighting for
    them is like joy

    Racial stereotyping is useless beyond a point.
    A good example is Lieutenant-General A A “Tiger” Niazi. He declared on public television that Bangladesh will be independent over his dead body. And within a couple of day, he willingly surrendered before Indian Army and even joked that it was all just a game.
    So, there goes the martial race theory.


  • Saad
    Jan 9, 2012 - 6:22PM

    Sir in Pakistan’s Punjab, people of a lot of ethnic backgrounds live, there is a huge kashmiri diaspora…or i may say Punjabi-Kashmiri clan especially in Sialkot and Lahore ..which is evident from the fact that current CM of Punjab is from Kashmiri Biradri, in the Northern Part of Punjab including Mianwali and Attock Punjabi Pathans live including the Niazi tribe from Siraiki belt, in the south in DG Khan , Mazaris and Lagharis and other Baloch tribes live. Along with that there are small families eg our current prime minister Yusuf Raza Gillani is from the Gillani clan which came from Gillan in Iran, then there Gardezis from Gardez and the list goes on,….Punjab is more of a culture than an ethnicity…Punjabis have one culture but diverse ethnic backgrounds !!!


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:32PM

    The author, in his zeal for justifying the Indian caste system, better defined as apartheid and racism, has totally forgotten about the dons of Mumbai who marry business and violence, like Dawood Ibrahim, or the violence and wanton carnage perpetrated by the people of Gujarat on their own a few years ago.

    This kind of garbage is the meat and potatoes of keeping people in their place and denying opportunity. If you will watch the movie “Malcolm X”, you will see Malcolm’s teacher telling him just that. That he is a black kid, and therefore, it is not his lot to become a lawyer. He is a better fit for being a short order cook. The world, for your information, has moved on a little bit. FYI, the people of Gujrat were the dominant business community in Pakistan after partition, but now, more Punjabis, Pashtoons, and even more recently, Afghans have caught up due to exemplary initiative. There would be more millionaires if not billionaires in Pakistan if Cotton, the major industry in Pakistan had not been brought to a standstill due to international sanctions against this industry.

    If you take a general look at all Muslim countries, it is the army that controls power, not because Turks and Egyptians have a ton of Khatri Punjabis, because it makes western powers happy to have a one window customer in those countries to counter the will of the people.

    Lastly, I would encourage Indians to get over Pakistan. You are the 4th largest economy of the world, so stop comparing yourself to a third world country struggling with internal and internal problems. Go pick on China or USA, for example.


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:43PM

    In America, this was called Jim Crow politics. The assumption was that the black man was less intelligent than the white man, and therefore, worth 1/3. Therefore, the vote of a black man (when they were ultimately allowed to vote) was counted 1/3 that of a white man.

    The world has moved on since then. The Sunnah of our prophet Muhammed Sallalahu alaikhi wa sallam is that of equality. That is the lesson we should be teaching our children.

    Modern science has proved that intelligence and aptitude are independent of race, still, the racists of the world keep trying to perpetrate racism aka ‘caste system’ even where it does not belong.

    The progress made by India has been the result of good public policy. It has nothing to do with caste system.


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:45PM

    FYI, India has the 4th largest GDP in the world. Yet, if you divide it per head, the per capita GDP is not much higher than that of Pakistan.


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 9, 2012 - 10:36PM

    The first C-in-C of Pakistan was Ayub Khan, the son of a farmer from Hazara, Pakhtoonkhwa. Not a Punjabi. The second C-in-C was General Musa Hazara, a farsi speaking Hazara from Quetta Balochistan, the next C-in-C was Yahya Khan, from Peshawar, Chief of Staff Mirza Aslam Beg was Urdu Speaking, Pervez Musharraf was Urdu Speaking. Only Zia ul Haq was a Punjabi from Julandhar.

    At least get your facts straightRecommend

  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 9, 2012 - 11:53PM

    The Chiniotis are Chinese immigrants who became Punjabis in time. Pakistan is more like America, a melting point of cultures. We are by the grace of Allah, not restricted by the chains of the caste system. We welcome Bengalis, Afghans, Khurds, Arabs and Turks, and let them become one with us.


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:00AM

    In Pakistan we are more or less free from the chains of the caste system. Renala Khurd is where Kurd immigrants settled and became Punjabis. Chiniot is where Chinese immigrants settled and became Punjabis. Checha Watni is where Chechan immigrants settled and became Punjabis.

    Punjabis are just not a martial race. Some of the best Urdu poetry was written by Punjabis like Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sufi Tabassum, Nazir Kazmi, etc.
    Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan, Faisalabad is the second largest industrial center of the country.


  • Babloo
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:38AM

    @Shahla Wahid, So Pakistan is 1/2 of wehat it was and in total mess because of Chinese-Arab-Chechen descendents who now claim to be Punjabis ? Which madrassa teaches that ? You have very interesting ideas. Please submit them to Pakistani historians to be included in next edition of Pakistani history.


  • Abbas from the US
    Jan 10, 2012 - 4:33AM

    Shahla Wahids write up may be exaggerated but there are elements of truth in it.

    My brother in law’s family in Mumbai has been involved with the Bombay Turf Club since it was opened to Indians in the 1910’s. ( Earlier the British had restricted the club to British Members for horse racing and horse ownership as to who could participate). The first Iraqi Kurd horse trainer was brought over by the family a little after that, and he chose to settle down with an Indian Muslim wife. After that, in the next few decades there were hundreds of Iraqi Kurds who followed and their descendents today are participants in the raising of thorough breds, stud farming, and race horse trainers, to the extent that the same are Indianised Kurds who dominate the auxiliary support for the Indian race courses in Pune, Banglore, and Chennai and the Indian race track circuit.

    Similarly the Nizam chose for political purposes and for the sake of dedicated personal loyalty brought Yemeni tribesman in hundreds, as his personal bodyguards at the begining of the last century and they have become localized Indians interspersed in Hyderabad’s Muslim population.


  • Shahla Wahid
    Jan 10, 2012 - 9:14AM

    There are whole Kurd tribes in Balochistan. They use the last name Kurd. Those in Punjab have lost their Kurd identity have been absorbed in the general population.


  • Cynical
    Jan 10, 2012 - 1:15PM

    @Shahla Wahid

    Allama Iqbal, Punjabi? No wonder people make fun of our history books.
    He was a Kashmiri. His great grand father was a hindu Kashmiri pandit.


  • Abbas from the US
    Jan 10, 2012 - 6:10PM

    I believe, Nawaz Sharif’s family is also of Kashmiri origin, however in the Pakistani Punjab fine distinctions could be made and a seperate category for the sake of identification be awarded to them, but for people from Sindh and the rest of the country, and for that matter the view of non Pakistanis, the Sharif family would be considered as Punjabi as can be.
    Allama Iqbal’s ancestory may be from Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, but for all practical purposes, Iqbal was at home in Lahore and would be considered a Punjabi contribution to the reawakened Muslim thought process for that period.
    Besides, the dialect of Hindku is spoken in the areas where Punjabi intersects with Pashto. And Punjabi was always a written language in the Gurmukhi script till for political purposes as Pakistanis we chose to disinherit Gurmukhi and replace it with the Persianized Urdu for use as a script. Now some would argue that before partition even Hindus and Sikhs used the Urdu script for written communication and the rediscovery of the use of Gurmukhi script from Sikh religious literature has done the same for the Indian Punjabi. But in the end it is all about self perception of identity.


  • Jaz Singh
    Jan 10, 2012 - 7:30PM

    The author seems to be making things up as he goes along. He seems to know next to nothing about Punjab. He says : “Few mercantile Hindu castes took up Islam. …. not many Punjabi trading castes took up Islam. All Baniyas and most Khatris in Punjab remained Hindu while a few became Sikh”
    Is he not aware of the number of muslim khatris there are in Pakistan ? Is it simply a case of him getting very confused because he is unaware that muslim khatris are called ‘sheikhs’ ?
    Perhaps he could even do with reading a verse from the Sikh holy book the Guru Granth Sahib. In it, Guru Nanak remarks how most of the “khatris” are embracing the religion of the turks.
    Honestly, I think the author should go back to basics and pay a visit to Indian Punjab first…. There, I think he’ll soon have to reassess his khatri worship. There, he’ll find that the ruchest, most successful community are the jats. Not the khatris.Recommend

  • Noumaan Yaqoob
    Jan 23, 2012 - 5:58PM

    I think that the basic argument that the caste system of peasents has developed a warrior nation. The author has ignored the basic scientific fact of evolution. He forgets that in modern times 65 years is actually a lot of time to affect and change behaviors.

    I do agree with warrior nation part but not with his reasoning of it, which is too easy to understand, finding easy answers would do research that answers wrong questions…questions asked specifically to obtain easy answers.

    Perhaps the author should pay another visit to Karachi and witness with his own eyes how Memons have been given tough competition by warriors of Pakhtoon Tribes in Karachi. He should also study the cultural demise of the memon brotherhood, challenges they face and how their identity is lost in religious madness. The best time to see this would be during the month of Rabi ul Awwal, in Kharadar district of Karachi.

    Mr, Patel would also learn about the evolution of caste system and the transformation of economy, culture and value systems throughout the country. So please stop providing easy answers without actual research and facts. Recommend

  • shujaat
    Jan 23, 2012 - 8:12PM

    @Hari Sud:


  • Naseem Islam
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:49AM

    Super.We need to know more on what makes Pakistani identity.It is so warped.


  • Ali
    Mar 6, 2012 - 2:36PM

    @Author I agree with all of your statements, which is indeed very intelligent analysis, but please make the factual error about Najam Sethi correct. He has remained the part of London group, a group of communist students, who joined Balochs war of Independence in 1970s. see



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