On May 27, senator Mohammad Yaqoob Khan said, “Poor are born to serve the rich.” His remarks may sound offensive but they reflects the pervasive mindset at work not only at home but also in ‘civilised’ countries like USA. British imaams and Arab sheikhs believe that slavery was abolished by Abraham Lincoln, not by Islam. My personal view is that what Lincoln did is tenable under the Islamic concept of maslaha mursala (broader public interest). 

The bitter truth is that inequality has remained a feature of most societies studied by political philosophers like Aristotle, Tacitus, Moska, Michel, Marx, Pareto, and C. Wright Mills. It is a pity that demokratia (power of the people) could never equalise citizens. James Maddison’s idea of having a bicameral legislature to balance the power between the proletariat against bourgeoisie could not bear fruit. Look at the performance of our National Assembly versus Senate, Lok Sabha versus Rajya Sabha, House of Commons versus House of Lords, and so on. 

Nevertheless, all democracies envisioned ‘opportunities for political participation to larger proportions of the population’, and across-the-board accountability (no loan write-offs, plots for Grade 22 officers, sugar and flour mill permits, stratified educational and medicare systems, etc). Democracy is a progressive effort to equalise citizens before law, rather than legalising the malpractices of elites and mafias. It is unfortunate that a senator regards inequality as an unchangeable status quo. 

William A. Welsh says, ‘The rise of democracy has signalled the decline of elites’ (Leaders and Elites, p.1). But, a bitter lesson of history is that true democracy had always been an ideal, never a reality. History reminds us that no system, not even ochlocracy (mobocracy) could ever bulldoze governing elites. The Delhi Sultanate, the Moghul Empire, and the Englishmen ruled through hand-picked elites. The ‘equal citizen’, as enshrined in golden words of our constitution, remained a myth. Even American democracy is run by a handful of specialised people. The majority of the population is a silent spectator, a ‘bewildered her’ (Chomsky). 

AMJED JAAVED,  

Rawalpindi, August 27.