One class enrols all
are more traditional than others, the PPP–PML-Q combine has still to come to terms with this new reality. This is why the alliance prefers to work by old logic and work away from the main urban centres occupied by the new middle class. The PPP–PML-Q alliance is content with holding an Eid milan party in Mandi Bahauddin and a public meeting in Vehari at a distance from the old centre of politics that Lahore signifies and preserves in its changing manifestations.
Via this by and large small-town and rural-areas route, the alliance is hoping to bypass their opponents and, crucially, the urban-centric media that thrives on championing causes close to Mr Ahsan Iqbal’s new reality.
Exactly where does this middle class exist and what does it look like no one is sure. Is it, maybe, a collection of white-collar professionals and educated urban citizens, joined by justice campaigners and civil society organisations at large? Perhaps it is more spread out than this.
As classical definitions fail to keep pace with the times, the terminology is getting loose. It’s been a while since the experts undertook — or borrowed from outside — a worthwhile division of people in classes, so no one is exactly sure where the lower class gives way to the middle and to what extent it continues.
The estimates are rough and definitions vary. This is a long debate but quite clearly the realisation of something new on the PML-N’s part and the consequent rise in its public profile indicates that those who stick to the old political divides and slogans do so at their own peril.
In a 2011 write-up, a pro-Bharatiya Janata Party commentator pointed out how the ‘ghareeb’ or the poor had gone out of the Congress refrain during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. The old slogan ‘Congress ka haath, ghareeb kay saath’ was altered to ‘Congress ka haath. aam aadmi kay saath’.
This aam aadmi or average citizen accorded some dignity to the man in comparison to the previous ‘poor-man’ title which could have been found to be too offensive in the changed times. It was recognition of a change by a party which boasted of its socialist credentials that the decisive masses of votes — the emerging middle class — could no more be labelled as poor. Parties in Pakistan pretending to have a socialist present or past could take a cue from the Congress in India. If nothing else, they can at least pretend that, in pursuance of the slogan they had raised many long years ago, the ghareeb has been promoted to the more respectable class status