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Currently, our society is a hotchpotch mixture of institutions, some of

which are relics of our past which came into existence to solve certain
challenge at a certain point in history. After societal evolution created
new challenges, these institutions lost their relevance but somehow
managed to linger on like parasites. Despite losing their efficacy for
society, these institutions still persist because they serve economic and
political interests of a powerful elite. At the same time, modern,
globalized world has superimposed on us some new institutions.
Democracy and capitalism are two prime examples of modern packages
we have borrowed from the West. There is a constant conflict between
the old and the new. The anachronistic ones don’t fit into the overall
structure that modern political and social fabric demands.

A cursory look at the sitemap of our society will instantly catch two
dilapidated institutions protruding above the relatively smooth social
surface. The most prominent is the institution of feudalism which is still
alive in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan in different shapes. This
institution played its part during evolutionary phase of different human
societies in the past. But now it has become not only a liability but also
spawns many social speed breakers that hamper every effort to initiate
a smooth and progressive journey towards better future.

The economic cost of feudalism is out of our discourse. It is the social

and political aspect that must be considered in detail. There are two
important points in this regard.

The keyword to unlock the mystery of feudalism is “sense of

Possession” which starts with land and animals and like a viral disease,
it gradually begins to engulf other areas of human life. Women are the
prime target of this mindset as they are treated like animals in
landlord’s possession and safeguarded as the tract of land he occupies.
It’s a misconception that we can wipe out gender discrimination
through constitutional or legal route. Feudalist mindset creates ripples
that travel downwards and secretly creep into the deep recesses of
collective social mind. This is why honor killing is perpetrated across
every section of our society. Forced marriages, defiance of traffic rules
and disregard of standing in queue also spring from this feudalistic

From political point of view, this group of landlords is a visible

impediment in the way of creating a truly democratic political culture.
Every progressive party faces the dilemma of being narrowed down to a
small political entity or get sucked up by the monster itself. Basic flaw in
our political system lies in the fact that it is a hostage of the so called
“Electables”. These symbols of status quo gradually dominate the party
and in the end, all political entities look like the same.

Religious seminaries or Madarsas come next in the list of those

institutions that are relics of an old tradition. Its syllabus consists of a
knowledge created many centuries ago. At certain point in history, such
views were radical but time has changed now. Seminaries generate a
mindset that deems itself out of synch with a world which it abhors
because it can’t change it.
This institution of religious education is far more dangerous than
feudalism due to multiple reasons. First unlike the dwindling fate of
feudalism, mainly due to division of land through inheritance, religious
seminaries are expanding and insinuating the minds of new generation
with extreme ideas. Secondly it has surrounded itself with a strong fort
of religious sentiments that makes it impregnable. Let’s explore the
social cost that we have to pay for the mushroom growth of these

In his impressionable age, a Madarsa student gets indoctrinated by

centuries-old ideas. After going through a long process of education, he
steps into the practical world only to face a shocking revelation that his
skills have little value for the society. This bewildered and angry young
man is equipped with a double edged sword. All that is injected into his
mind is hatred against the modern system and its supporters which is
reinforced when society accords him the lower status as, for example,
Imam Masjid. At the same time, he is filled with a misguided belief in
his moral superiority over those who possess higher social status. This
dichotomy makes him a hurdle for society in different ways. He may be
a likely candidate for a terrorist group. He may become a facilitator for
such obnoxious activities. Even in political field, he guards everything
which represent status quo. He instantly threatens to take to the
streets whenever government tries to implement a progressive

On political level, this is the second example of a phenomenon that

weakens state’s authority. A three year ban on Youtube was a classic
example of a situation when government writ was compromised. Our
political class showed hesitation in launching an all-out war against
terrorists because of this section of society. Government can't take bold
decisions in foreign policy, economics or education because of this

While feudalism must be destroyed, religious seminaries are a different

case. These institutions are supporting millions of poor students and
also giving them education. Government needs to take two steps; first
state should expropriate these seminaries, change the whole syllabus
so as to adjust it in accordance with modern world. Secondly the
current teaching staff must be replaced with young teachers who are
well educated from modern institutions. Without taking this bold step,
extremism can’t be rooted out. It will rather continue prevailing at an
alarming speed.

Historically both feudalism and religious seminaries have been in

unison with each other. Both have always been supportive to each
other, reciprocally protecting their interests. Religious thought process
provided the legitimacy for feudalism which in return allowed the
mushroom growth of religious academies in their areas.

Daron Acemoglu, in his famous book, "Why Nations Fail", tells us that
industrial revolution in England became possible because of two
historic events. He states that a strong centralized power of the state is
the first essential ingredient for nations to make progress. For
centuries, England remained mired in dark ages because the central
authority, which was the king, depended on aristocracy and Church
which weakened the state's power to implement independent
decisions. In 1485, Henry VII demilitarized barons which increased stat's
power to exercise its will. The second historical step was taken when
Henry VIII broke with Roman Catholic Church and confiscated all land
and assets of the clergy. These two institutions were the impediments
in the way to make progress and after the task was accomplished, it
paved the way towards industrial revolution which ushered into the
modern era of human history. We need to take the same two steps to
modernize our society and progress as a modern nation.