I have spent much of the last two years in the backwaters of southern Punjab. The objective has been to understand how politics works there. And, specifically, how it is that the same people — mainly waderas — come to be elected time and again. The reasons are many and complicated. But a single factor stands clearly above all others. This has to do with the control that waderas exercise over the local thanas. Two aspects of this control need to be understood. First, how is it used? And, second, how is it maintained and perpetuated?
But before addressing these two issues, it is important to understand the role of the thana in these impoverished rural communities. It is no exaggeration to state that rural life revolves around the thana. It is the only forum where local people can seek relief from oppression and tyranny. The thana is the ultimate arbiter, not only of crimes ranging from petty theft, to murder to land grabbing, but also of disputes between individuals or groups. The situation is exacerbated because all parties involved — the victims, the criminals, and the disputants — are poor and illiterate and have no recourse to legal help. Hence, decisions can be arbitrary, subject to external influence and difficult to challenge.
And since it is the wadera who controls the thana, he becomes the de facto ‘ruler’ of the community. How does he use his power? In many ways. If a cow is stolen from a poor farmer he will not be able to register an FIR (which is called a ‘parcha’ in the local language) until the local wadera instructs the thana to do so. If the wadera is unhappy with someone, he instructs the thana to issue a concocted FIR (or a ‘jally parcha’), which promptly leads to the arrest and possible torture of the hapless victim. I know of waderas who provide refuge and succour to wanted criminals (or ishtiharis). These criminals steal from the community — animals, money and jewellery — for the purpose of providing income to the wadera. They are also used as private goons to beat and threaten peasants who are otherwise not intimidated. The thana is fully aware of these activities and the identities of the criminals. However, they cannot be touched because they are under the protection of the wadera.
Put all this together and a sordid picture of terror and oppression emerges. I travel in these areas and the fear of the wadera is almost palpable. Which peasant, in his right mind, would want to annoy a wadera who can make his life hell on a whim?
And what is it that gives the wadera his power over the thana? The answer to this reveals the shocking complicity of provincial chief ministers in promoting this abomination. Legally, all authority is vested with the SHO of the thana. He does not need to take instructions or even give the time of day to any wadera. But any SHO who does not accept the complete authority of the wadera is promptly transferred out of the area or penalised in other ways. And since the authority to do this vests with the provincial chief minister, such instructions can only be issued from his office. I know of cases where local waderas, who were unhappy with their SHO, travelled to Lahore and waited hours outside the chief minister’s office to have the transfer instructions processed.
So, the root of this evil rests squarely on the shoulders of the provincial chief ministers. These are the same people who, without even a tinge of shame, talk publicly of justice, equity and decency in government.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2012.
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*It is the best article actually the need of today. I have also noticed these things in southern punjab. Most of the rape attempts are performed at local thana, also SHO protect them. Poor people are just let down by cast system mainly a chaudry or a wadera is responsible to run thana. Thanedar is a private servant of that wadera. This is actually wadera shahi of that area. It is not only in back areas but also can be found in civilized cities as well. Getting justice from judiciary is not in every one reach, people are poor, bribery is on top in the courts, situation is worst. Only the hope is from the God. Poor people kneel down in front of these waderas because they had no other option rather they cant move any where. Mr Nadeem has pointed out his best. *
This police culture not only prevails in South Punjab but it also dominate all areas of the country except those areas which are ruled by special laws. Police is a tool in the hands of government by use of which it rules the country. Now in Punjab Shahbaz Sharif is using district administration and police for winning support of public in upcoming elections. DCOs and DPOs who work for him and oblige local PMLN leaders they are being rewarded in form of promotion. Police stations and Patwarkhana are centres of collecting bribes and this bribe is shared among the high ups in the channel. Anti corruption establishment is also a party is on the side of district administration and police. It is an open secret that every day police extort money from disputants with out any fear of impunity. But there is no one who can dare to make them accountable. If some one report against them they are rather dragged and harassed. Recently two persons lifted a pajero from a house of UK returned citizen. He reported the matter to police but police did not take cognizance of it. Then someone told him that police register the case with some bribe. The citizen then paid some amount and his case was registered. The thieves were influential and had contact with political leaders. They approached police station and got the accused released. Thereafter police called the complainant and told him that the case was false. He produced vehicle's documents and proof regarding theft. But more than a month has passed police has neither arrested accused nor did they recovered the vehicle. Now the complainant had exhausted his stamina and money to pursue the case. The facts are known right up to DIG but every officer has refused the complainant their assistance.
I think to understand village Ghana influence, one needs few hours to sit on tv stall to understand its dynamics! Plus, it is just to malign a wadera to say he is the most influential man. In reality, it is police itself, or we can say that it is partnership between police ( police always comes first) and wadera. All postings are done by signatures of police high ups. This means if higher police authority is honest, they will not appoint a corrupt SHO. Simple sir. Appointment of corrupt SHO is proof of full partnership of IG, DIG, DPO. There are many instances when big wadera pay in hard cash to SHO to get their work done. Thus, sir, it is not the will of wadera only but the practical partnership of State to maintain this system. Any one trying change - he will be silenced, whether he lives in village or City.
What are the land holding limits in Pak ?
The abolition of the Zemindari System is one of the cornerstones of Indian Revenue system.
Hasn't Pak done the same ?
The writer deserves praise for telling exactly what is prevalent in Pakistan. The waderas and police are complicit in crime situation throughout the country. The gangs, criminals and extortionists are working for the waderas. Only solution is the reform of police and the local governments. Smaller provinces is another solution. In Turkey every 1.2 million people have their own province and every province is divided into at least 5 municipal govts.
@p r sharma...unfortunately these are the bitter facts. I know such waderas and local justice system. @Arif Jatoi...yeah it is so simple in theory but practically it is impossible.
This SHO/Wadera nexus is continuing from the time of British Rule in Sub-Continent. This is how the 'Raj' survived by providing a protection in the name of SHO (Station House those days meant the key local's house who is willing to support the Raj and should be provided protection). We got independence but could not get over shackles of colonialism - even the so-called middle class parties like MQM believe in this Raj-style-waderashahi by forcing appointments of the SHO in Karachi through CM/PM/President/Threat! How can we expect anything better for the poor people of the country when after 65 years of independence we have continued the colonial mind-set that has stalled the country's progress and resulted in a 'democracy' that gives us leaders like Sharif's, Gilani's, Zardari's and now the Raja himself!
Same Situation is floating like a flood since the centuries in Sindh.. Woes Unheard!! :L
land reforms required here....
Great read. Wadera system needs to change, and the change can only happen at the top. The Sharif's and the Noon League must be shown the door.
Looked like old hindi movie script. .unbelievable!! the author has not cited the instances,witnesses interviewed, evidences,. This is not investigative journalism and does not carry the credibility. I neither deny nor accept the author's assessment and conclusions. The whole matter appears to be exaggerated.
Nadeem Sahab - An informative article. Thanks for sharing your insights. I think the solution to the problem is civil sector reforms, autonomy of police, and devolution of power and responsibilities to the lowest levels (building alternate power base to that of a typical wadera). As per my knowledge, PTI is the only party pushing for all these reforms. Even though the issue of land reforms comes to mind, as per my knowledge, many of the current 'waderas' continue to exercise considerable influence over communities despite limited piece of land. Furthermore, land reforms have not been that successful in the past even after multiple attempts in 1960s and 1970s.