European Journal of Law Reform


Colonial Legacy of Pakistan and Genesis of a New Constitution

Legitimacy of Power, Land Ownership and the Enlightenment

Keywords British colonialism, Zamindari system, Sufism, French Enlightenment, social contract
Authors Zia Akhtar
Author's information

Zia Akhtar
Zia Akhtar, University of London, Grays Inn, Coventry University.
  • Abstract

      The state of Pakistan came into being in 1947 after inheriting the laws of the British colonial rule based on a framework that has allowed the land-owning stakeholders to compete for influence and power. The constitution of the country has been reconfigured to suit its rulers, including the military in power and the largest constituency is the land-owning class which maintains its presence in all the elected assemblies that have formed the legislature in Pakistan. The ideological underpinning and the electoral system have been inherited from the British rulers and with it the zamindari system also which provides the landed gentry its power base. The issue is to what extent is the feudal system tilted towards maintaining the status quo that gives those in the land-owning class their privileged status. The power of the nobility known locally as the jagirdars command a mystical allegiance drawn from their privileges of birthright. This article defines the colonial legacy that has permeated the constitutional framework through laws instituted by British rule which persists in the corridors of the legal and political hierarchy. The argument presented is that Pakistan has to sever its colonial inheritance and emerge as a redefined state by adopting the intellectual preamble of the French Enlightenment that will bring about a revised system that can also be sustained in the light of dispensation based on a social contract.

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