Colonialism: An Impediment to Pakistan’s Progress
From the obsession with a fair complexion to our school systems, impacts of colonialism linger in Pakistan. To this day, we go through daily routines that the British shaped during their reign here. The aftermath has even affected our armed forces.
Introduction to Colonialism
Colonialism refers to subjugating indigenous people. It is controlling an area and people in that area by a single power. One state subjugates another by conquering the populace, exploiting it, and imposing its own cultural values on it. It might even force its own language on the locals as well. Till 1914, the Europeans managed to colonize most nations around the globe.
Imperialism and colonialist practices are linked aspects. The former encompasses the usage of influence and power to control other states/nations, resulting in the latter.
History of Colonialist Practices
In ancient history, the Greek, Egyptians, and Phoenicians all carried out colonialist practices. Thus, from 1550 BC, they introduced the concept of establishing colonies that took advantage of surrounding resources. All to increase their own power.
Modern colonialist practices started during the Age of Discovery. In the 15th century, Portugal was seeking out other civilizations outside Europe. As early as 1415, the Portuguese set up colonies in Ceuta in coastal Africa. This colony lasted until the late 20th century.
The Portuguese went on to conquer Cape Verde, Madeira and Spain. In 1492, Christopher Columbus set off to search for a western transit to China and India. He came across the Bahamas, where he dissolved the Spanish Empire. Therefore both Portugal and Spain were now at loggerheads concerning their conquests and colonies.
France, the Netherlands, Germany and even England all followed suit. They started their own empires throughout the globe. Although colonies began spreading far and wide, most nations enacted independence. The first such example was the 1776 American Revolution and the 1781 Haitian Revolution.
Pakistan and Colonialist Backgrounds
In 1600, the British East India Company began trading in what was then the Indian subcontinent. The traders hired local guards to watch over trading posts. With time, these guards trained further and were organized by British officers into small armies of the EIC’s quarters at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. By 1748, Major Lawrence began commanding these small armies. The British started imposing military reforms. Soon enough, these small armies rose to unprecedented power.
The most crucial evolution started with the 1857 War of Independence. This war sealed the locals’ fates and allowed the British to institute direct British rule by 1858. Recruitment for the British Raj began. The recruiters emphasized on employing from areas with notable military history, loyalty and a dearth of political finesse.
Therefore, Punjabis overtook the British army. To this day, Punjabis have a hold over most institutions in the country.
The British tried many recruitment forms. From 1919 to 1939, the British carried out training of Indian troops so they could (at least) command Indian subordinates.
As mentioned, the structure of the Pakistani army bears close resemblance to the army structure of British India. Then, officers were recruited on the basis of their caste and class. Hence, to this day, certain regiments carry more pride than others. Servicing in these regiments was passed down from generation to generation. Withal, the only thing that changed is the nationality of senior officers. The pride and ego attached with certain positions is still there. So is the happiness of serving these senior officers. Remember, they were once British. It is safe to say that we still believe in a servitude attitude towards them.
Feudalism is taking over Pakistan. Feudalism is a common by-product of colonialism. Administration is thoroughly corrupt, partly because of bureaucracy and red tape.
And what about the slow (but sure) decay of Urdu? It is very normal to encounter a young child who will be embarrassed because of his English accent. Or another who will hide his skills in the Urdu language.
The economy of Pakistan is struggling because of the vast imports. Locals are choosing foreign produce over domestically produced goods. This strains the country’s balance of payments as imports begin exceeding exports.
The colonial complex is an internalized stance. It refers to the demeanor of cultural or ethnic inferiority. Because of lingering colonialism impacts, the colonized will feel inferior to those in power. Even if the colonists have left!
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we are still largely dependent on our colonizers. The British instilled this belief of dependency when they were exploiting our land. However, we are following through with this mindset. In 1947, Pakistan came into being. In 1948 (and until 2016), we managed to amass a debt of $78.3 billion from the USA. We have also received more than 660 million pounds of aid from the UK.
Pakistan’s politics thrive on the golden ‘divide and conquer’ rule the British left behind. People divide in the name of religion, culture, ethnicity, and moral values. There are over 180 political parties in the country. Each party promulgates its own ideology. Each party has its own followers who are not willing to lend a listening ear to other parties. Some parties have even started exploiting locals under the cover of religion.
Feudal lords in Pakistan maintain the practice of exploitation our British colonizers generously left behind. The so-called noble are given privileges. Instead of properly utilizing them, they pay no heed to the rights of peasants and others on lower social ladders. These poorer classes are snatched of their most basic legal, ethnic and even human rights. Feudalism is so deeply entrenched that it is now a state within a state. They keep up with wildly ignorant traditions like vanni, watta satta and the evergreen karo kari (honor killing).
Democracy in Pakistan is a bureaucratic system with prevalent corruption, insincerity and dishonesty. The system existed during the British Raj to extract as much revenue as possible with little to no accountability. Sadly, the bureaucrats fail to realize that those times are over as they continue exploiting locals.
As if this were not enough, this abhorrent mentality of colonialism is also affecting our social lives. For instance, we are embarrassed of our national language. And we adore the English language. Anyone who understands the success of any nation will understand that language is an important factor. Nations like China and France are proud of their language. Their languages have now taken over most of the world! But Pakistanis refuse to so much as acknowledge their own mother tongue.
Locals are fascinated y the prospect of moving abroad. They focus their struggles on shifting to a western country where they can live according to the cultural and societal values they believe in. Pakistani society is crumbling as the brain drain continues unforgivingly.
All in all, as deeply rooted as the problem is, the solution is not as difficult. As a relatively young nation, we still have time to learn from our mistakes. And to truly appreciate all we have been given in the form of the beautiful country that is PAKISTAN.