Advances in Anthropology
Vol.4 No.2(2014), Article ID:46091,6 pages DOI:10.4236/aa.2014.42008

Perception of Local Community and Biradari on Panchayat: An Exploratory Anthropological Study of Biradari in Village Saroki, District Gujranwala, Pakistan

Abid Ghafoor Chaudhry1, Aftab Ahmed2, Shaheer Ellahi Khan3, Sajjad Hussain4

1In-Charge Department of Anthropology & Sociology, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

2Anthropologist, Association for Social Development, Islamabad, Pakistan

3Anthropologist, Islamabad, Pakistan

4Regional Development Network, Islamabad, Pakistan


Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 21 January 2014; revised 18 February 2014; accepted 15 March 2014


The rural areas of Pakistan are well woven in the Biradari system which is also a social status carrier and an ethic attachment. The Biradari system is very much operational and playing a well participatory role in almost all kinds of community and local matters and issues ranging from very minor conflicts to big social disputes. The prime focus of the study was to explore the role of Biradari and community opinion regarding its respective role as Panchayat. The study was conducted in village Saroki of District Gujranwala where structured interview guide and participant observation were used as the key tools to explore the correlation of especially Biradari system with Panchayat. The research unveiled the role of Biradari by exploring the two sides of the pictures, including positive functions of Biradari and perception of communities about their negative role with a special focus on dispute management, resolving issues through traditional methods.

Keywords:Biradari, Panchayat, Social Class, Traditional System

1. Introduction

Biradari is an endogamous and inborn ethnic part of an individual occupying a social status of superior or inferior position of social respect in distinction with other particular subdivisions (Velassery, 2005). Biradari is generally associated with denotative occupation and, is a congested social classification, which makes it endogamous (Hutton, 1963). Biradari represents the innate affiliation and social position of one’s forefathers belongs to the analogous racial groups and the compilation of castes. “Aboriginal” group identities frequently debated, such as family bonding, kinship ties and caste association, or relationship with community faction, play an supplementary important role in determining voting behavior in the south Asia, than individual political affiliations (Wilder, 1999; Mughees, 2006).

India’s history shows the caste system as stratification of people by class, religion, area, clan, gender, language, profession and social differentiation. Although this or further classes of differentiation exist in all human societies, problem originated when one or various dimensions overlap each other and become an exclusive source of structured ranking and inadequate access to treasured possessions like wealth, income, supremacy and status (Sekhon, 2000).

Biradari system is always a significant feature of rural culture in Punjab history. Due to insufficient social security arrangement and civilian benefits at national level, the obligation of kinship ties and caste is very much essential in the socio-economic and politico-cultural life of rural masses. The Biradari and village level mediation parties called “Parya” and “Panchayat” are very much functional in rural areas to solve the socio-cultural issues at primary level (Ahmed, 2013).

Panchayat is an old institution in south Asia forming on a body of supreme dominant authority of rural peoples, those were responsible for collection of taxes, resolution of social and material disputes/conflicts, and maintenance of law and rule in the particular society. In the Mughal period, Panchayat was also play an active and significant role, such as handling of financial issues, sacred/religious matters and other wide-ranging issues, the Panchayat, would make the ruling (Mughees, 2009; Saran, 1941).

In Punjab province of Pakistan, Biradarism is a key attribute of social organization and daily life. Biradari system affects the socio-political setup at national and community levels. Biradarism is a more authoritative factor of voting behavior than party attachment, apart from when the two candidates belong to same Biradari (Andrew, 1999). Caste/Biradari system has endured in Indian subcontinent for centuries. Persons of every Biradari are guided in their every day social lives by a set of rules and regulations associated with marriages, profession, pleasure, and most other social spheres (Ahmed, 2013; Chaudhry, 2012; Kolenda, 1985).

Biradari system goes forward to stay alive, while the chief castes would like to uphold their power and status. A piece of the explanation lays in the reality that caste chain of command and caste knowingness have been socially internalized in the course of centuries (Caste-Based Discrimination in South Asia, 2009).

It is commonly observed that most of the people would like to show their caste and ethnic affiliation(s) in rural areas of Punjab and as well as in the middle class of urban areas. It is worth mentioning that the rural masses are keener about their sub-castes. In central and upper Punjab, more common castes who are involved in certain levels of authority and politics are ruling are Gujjars, Jatts, Arain, Rajput, Rana, and Syed, while in southern Punjab Baloch, Arain, Syed, Qureshi, and Jatoi are more notables. These castes are most of the time engaged in such activities that are either positive or negative to hold the power and prestige in their respective areas by participating in politics in local as well at national level.

Caste system is not always seen in a positive or productive way to achieve results and at times criticized as the unjust nepotism and favoritism. On the other hand, it is also observed that still a lot of people participate in negative activities such as racial discrimination with obvious lower castes, create conflicts with other caste on land and other social and material issues, and also hinder in community development if opponent caste is in power. In this research, both male and female respondents were selected as part of sample, so it may cover different aspects, opinions and perception of both male and female of the community.

2. Materials and Methods

The research was conducted in village Saroki of Tehsil Wazirabad, District Gujranwala (Pakistan). To collect the opinion from the targeted population a sample of 150 respondents were selected randomly from field.

A structured questionnaire along with an in-depth interview guide was developed to cultivate the information and data on the different dimensions of the Biradari system at local level. The tool(s) were piloted to ensure the quality and efficiency in the data collection. A formal meeting with the village elders and community leaders was conducted to build the rapport and to discuss the objectives of the research study. The data was collected with the consent was analyzed by using SPSS software.

3. Results

Table 1 shows the distribution of respondents by gender where around 72.7% were male side and 27.3% were females.

Table 2 shows the opinion of participants about the involvement of Biradari to resolve the disputes at community level where round 39.7% of the respondents were of the view that Biradari system is a strong and a very effective way to resolve the local disputes, where as 20% of the respondents think that it is somehow an effective part to tackle down the community disputes and conflicts. Results clearly show that the Biradari system plays a vital and effective role in rural communities to settle the dispute both at primary and communal level.

Table 3 presents the relationship of traditional method of biradari’s decision and its acceptance level at the local community, where decisions are usually taken by the Biradari elders in different situations to maintain peace and effective dispute management of the community. The table is clearly evident that the majority of the villagers agree with the decisions taken by the Panchayat under the supervision of Biradari elders for a range of situations including peace building, resolving conflicts, land and property issues, inter and intra caste dealing and development work within the community.

It is worth mentioning that no respondent strongly disagree with the traditional method keeping in view the cultural complexities and respect of this method at communal level. It is also discovered that the respondents who disagree, usually criticize the structure and role of the Panchayat and Biradari elders instead of developing opinion on the traditional method itself.

Table 4 is showing the opinion of the respondent with respect to the role of Biradari system and how effective this system is in different area(s), which especially covers the area of positive role of Biradarism in social settings of the rural communities. Data show that 21.3% cases were of conflict resolving, 16% of the cases were

Table 1 . Respondent distribution by gender.                          

Table 2. Panchayat (Biradari) effectiveness to resolve local disputes.      

Table 3. Communities easily accept Panchayat (Biradari) decisions.       

regarding the maintenance of law and order, 12.7% cases reported to support lower castes and class issues, 19.4% were about the development of community, in 5.3% cases Biradari helped the community to vocalize problem at higher level for the required solution, While 25.3% highlighted the participation of Biradari in politics for both community and national interests.

Table 5 shows the perceived and reported negative role of Biradari system in a rural community where around 18.0% of the respondents believe that Biradari is a reason of conflict, nearly 32% were of the view that it is only multiplying superior thinking of the Biradari leading to certain disputes and discriminations, round 12.7% respondents take it as a source of discrimination with lower castes leading to violating their rights, nearly 8.7% highlighted it as barrier in development, around 13.3% consider the Biradari as the key to fulfill self interests leading to biased favoritism, while 15.3% respondents were of the view that the power politics of Biradari create an atmosphere of unease in the community.

Table 6 presents the support for Biradari from different social status holder classes of community where around 27.3% of the respondents were of the view that the lower class supports the Biradari system for certain interests. On the other hand 30% were believe that the middle class favors the Biradari system, which shows that there is less support by the upper class of the community as it has various urban avenues to support and vice versa.


Table 4. Positive role of Biradari system in local communities.           

Table 5. Negative role of Biradari system in local communities.           

Table 6. Perception regarding social class support for Biradari system.     

4. Discussion

The fundamental function of caste cannot be ignored both in traditional set up can within the rural settings and also an effective tool in urban settings. People throughout the country are more certain about their caste ties as it serves various functions such as providing pool for matrimonial bonds, resolution of inter-caste and intra-caste conflicts/disputes, creating a nexus of social linkages for extending the web of social contact and also as a source of identifications and claiming a social respect and prestige enjoyed by a particular caste in Punjabi culture (Ahmed, 2013).

Panchayat is an old and active form of diplomatic institution in the sub-continent comprising on a body of supreme of villagers, those were responsible for collection of revenues, adjudication of all disputes, and maintenance of law and order in the community. Later in the Mughal era Panchayat was also institution for cases concerning financial matters, religious affairs and other general cases, the Panchayat, would make the ruling. This system is the ancient shape of democracy (Saran, 1941; Sultan, 1997).

Particular social group’s especially key Biradaries encourage ideas, beliefs and thoughts for their own ends as a source of holding and justifying socio-economic and political power. In some complex societies, having many different groups, a belief may produce cultural supremacy, the ideological control by one leading group over values, myths, and norms (Scupin, 2012).

Biradari system’s significance is seen in various forms ranging from small rural societies to highly populated urban areas. It is evident from the range of opinions by the respondents that this traditional system is still working efficiently and is considered effective in creating productive decisions, however, the critiques think the other way and believe in the rudeness of the application of this system.

In Pakistani society, the Biradari system is dominant and well embedded. The Arains of central Punjab, the Makhdoom of Hala and Jatts of Gujrat generally vote for their own caste and Biradari. During the elections caste based conflicts generally reported. In Pakistani political scenario, it was observed that caste system plays significant role than the political parties. Political parties in Pakistan are vehicle of the castes to acquire power. Caste system is one of the most important sources to originate tension between different segments of society. Caste system not only rules rural politics but also the politics of urban areas (Gulshan, 2013).

5. Conclusion

The ethnicity and caste affiliations are embedded both as a source of identification and necessity which serves with its limitations at rural and urban levels by providing a support and pressure group on various domestic and communal issues. It was discovered that this traditional system and its style of making decisions are embedded in the local wisdom and stand on the structure of inborn ethnicity.

Most of the respondents believe that Panchayat system of a Biradari is indeed operational and fulfills the services on various issues including dispute management, inter and intra caste issues, land disputes etc. It was also found that the Biradari system has its limitations which majorly include racial discrimination.


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