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The Overdeveloping State the Politics of Common Sense in Pakistan, 1971-2007

The Overdeveloping State the Politics of Common Sense in Pakistan, 1971-2007

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Published by Usman Ahmad
This is the PhD thesis of Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Assistant Professor at Quaid-eAzam University, Islamabad.
Abstract: 'Hamza Alavi's groundbreaking study of the 'overdeveloped' post-colonial state represented the first major attempt in the Marxist tradition to capture the specificity of the post-colonial historical experience. Alavi's empirical focus was Pakistan, but sadly the majority of the literature dealing with the state in the Pakistani context has tended to engage with Alavi's theoretical formulation in a very descriptive manner. This thesis is an attempt to address this gap within the literature.'
This is the PhD thesis of Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Assistant Professor at Quaid-eAzam University, Islamabad.
Abstract: 'Hamza Alavi's groundbreaking study of the 'overdeveloped' post-colonial state represented the first major attempt in the Marxist tradition to capture the specificity of the post-colonial historical experience. Alavi's empirical focus was Pakistan, but sadly the majority of the literature dealing with the state in the Pakistani context has tended to engage with Alavi's theoretical formulation in a very descriptive manner. This thesis is an attempt to address this gap within the literature.'

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Published by: Usman Ahmad on Aug 10, 2012
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Alavi's observations about the indigenous bourgeoisie focused primarily on its

mutually beneficial relations with the metropolitan bourgeoisie (implying its

'comprador' as opposed to a 'national' character) as well as the manner of its

accommodation with the military-bureaucratic oligarchy. Only in his later writings

did Alavi actually start to consider the dynamic evolution of the indigenous

bourgeoisie (cf Alavi, 1990). My concern in this chapter is with extending Alavi's

treatment in historical terms to the period beyond the 1970s, and particularly to the

emergence of a new industrial bourgeoisie in Punjab. The major addition is a

discussion of the sociological roots of this new Punjabi bourgeoisie, which became a

major supporter of the Ziaist military regime and has remained firmly committed to

the politics of common sense from the end of the Bhutto period.

Pakistan inherited both the granary of the subcontinent as well as the areas from

which the majority of the military was recruited. As discussed in earlier chapters, the

configuration of power in the new state's most influential province was constituted

primarily of an authoritarian nexus of landed notables/upper peasantry and the civil-

military state oligarchy. The low bureaucracy and landed notables came into contact

with the popular classes, while the military's ability to acquire political power in a

predominantly rural social formation was contingent on its ability to coopt both the

bureaucracy and the landed class. As such, for the first half of the country's existence,

the Pakistani industrialist class had even less contact with the popular classes as it had

virtually no historical link to the complex socio-political fabric of the social formation,

interacting with the popular classes only in the context of the urban workplace.

It is telling that Pakistan's industrialist class is a unique creation of the post-colonial

period. The Pakistan areas were not home to any of the subcontinent's fairly

developed manufacturing industry, which was based in and around the thee major port

cities of British India, namely Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. To the extent that there

was an urban business community in the Pakistan areas, it was almost entirely Hindu

in constitution and migrated en masse following the partition. Accordingly, both the

western and eastern wings of the new state were conspicuous for their almost total

lack of industrial infrastructure, including a distinct shortage of military equipment.

98

Thus, alongside the immediate imperative of building up its defence capacity in the

face of the Indian 'threat', the new state strongly emphasized the need to build up the

manufacturing sector based on indigenous raw materials such as cotton, jute, hides

and skins. For this purpose the Statement of Industrial Policy was issued in 1948.

Import substitution was the almost unquestioned modus operandi, reflected in the fact

that 99% of the substantial economic growth that took place in the 1950s could be

attributed to import substitution (Kemal, 1999: 152-9). The high bureaucracy, in

keeping with its urbanist, modernist outlook, clearly privileged the cause of industry,

considering it the key to the economic survival of the new state.153

Importantly, a substantive class of industrialists that could spearhead the process had

to be literally created from scratch. There was some support issued to the Muslim

League in the period leading up to partition by wealthy Muslim business groups,

particularly prominent Memon families such as the Haroons of Sindh, and the

Adamjees. A handful of influential Muslims business families did migrate to Pakistan

after independence and continued to playa significant role in the teething phase of the

new state. For example the Habib Bank was said to have loaned the new government

Rs. 80 million, which equaled more than half the projected revenue in the first budget

(Rehman, 1998: 9). As such Pakistani business came to be associated with the

primarily Gujrati trading families that crossed the border in and around the partition

period, settling in Karachi on account of their links -albeit tenuous -with the Urdu-

speaking leadership in the new central government (Alavi, 1983a: 46).

It was thus a highly personalized relationship between the civil bureaucracy and an

insular and family-based business community that accounts for the nature of

Pakistan's industrialization process, at least until the nationalizations undertaken by

Bhutto. The industrial bourgeoisie in Pakistan did not emerge as a distinct political

actor in that it did not seek to attain office or any representation in the formal

institutions of the state, relying almost entirely on the largesse of the bureaucracy to

enhance its interests. Unlike the landed class which negotiated with the oligarchy both

153 As suggested in earlier chapters, the oligarchy's perspective on the agrarian economy was guided
less by economic considerations and more by the imperative of maintaining social order; thus
economic emphasis was placed on industry while political accommodation was most crucial in the
rural areas.

99

through direct personal contact and also through the medium of the political party, the

indigenous bourgeoisie preferred a much more explicit patron-client relationship with

the oligarchy.

However, in the aftermath of the political convulsions of the Bhutto period, as well as

the emergence of an intermediate class of traders, merchants and various assorted

middlemen with organic links to the industrial bourgeoisie, the latter has entered the

formal political fray and has helped to consolidate the logic of localized, patronage

politics reintroduced into the polity by the Zia regime. Moreover, in referring to the

indigenous bourgeoisie it is no longer accurate to speak only of the Karachi-based

Gujrati families. In fact the Karachi-based families have been replaced as the

dominant force within Pakistani industry by a predominantly Punjabi industrialist

class that is far more deeply integrated with the local social formation. In any case,

the industrialist class has not challenged the oligarchy for direct control over state

power primarily because it acts in a fragmented fashion with families and groups

coveting their personal links to the state. Furthermore the industrialist class has

always perceived itself to be weak in comparison to the other major propertied class,

the landed notables. Thus it remains committed to oligarchic rule.154

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