Who is the equivalent of a feudal landlord in Pakistan’s urban areas? Who are the serfs?

Umair Javed in The Friday Times:

ScreenHunter_05 Jul. 13 13.02In the early 80s, when large-scale urbanization began to take place in India and Pakistan, sociologists and political scientists realized that traditional modes of social organization – groupings like biraderi and caste – took different shapes and forms in towns and cities. While there was a surge in populist politics during the 70s in India under Indira Gandhi, and Pakistan under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, subsequent periods saw the re-emergence and consolidation of patronage systems and traditional dhara politics in both countries.

What we now find ourselves with is an incomplete understanding of domestic politics. While mainstream discourse has always found it easy to develop a caricatured sketch of rural politics – tinted in large part by the urban bias and media's portrayal of landlord-tenant relationships – we have nothing of the sort for urban areas, except for Karachi where equally caricatured understandings of ethnicity and gang politics prevail. Who is the equivalent of a landlord in Lahore? Who are the serfs and the haris? Is voting an individual, autonomous phenomenon or is it still a bargaining chip in a vertical patron-client relationship? Unfortunately, in the absence of systematic research, the answers can only be gleaned through anecdotal evidence and casual observations.

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