The Overdeveloping State

The politics of common sense in Pakistan, 1971-2007
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Submitted to the School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London
for the degree of PhD
I declare that the work presented here is solely my own,
and that no other individual or group has had any part in
the writing of this thesis.
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
28 April 2008
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.
I identify the major shortcomings of Alavi's treatise, namely the static conception of
structure that underlies his understanding of the overdeveloped state, as well as the
derivative conception of the 'superstructure'. I emphasise the need to think about the
unique attributes of the political and cultural spheres of social structure as rigorously
as the economic sphere. In attempting to build upon Alavi's basic insights I engage
with various literatures, including civil-military relations and anthropological studies
of the 'everyday' state. However my primary theoretical inspiration remains the
Marxist tradition, and specifically Antonio Gramsci's ideas of hegemony, historical
bloc, and common sense. With this Gramscian foundation I construct a thoroughly
historicized theory of the post-colonial state that departs from the functionalist view
of an 'underdeveloped' society implicit in the 'overdeveloped' state formulation.
Starting with a brief overview of the colonial period, I map the dialectical relationship
between the accumulation of power and capital whilst also emphasizing the need to
understand the logic of practice in the wider society. In the final analysis, I argue that
the Alavian military-bureaucratic oligarchy and the three propertied classes remain
deeply entrenched within the Pakistani polity but that there have also been qualitative
additions to the ruling coalition, namely the intermediate classes and the religio-
political movements/clerics. The latter two have become part of the ruling coalition,
or 'historical bloc', in the aftermath of the populist period that ended with the deposal
of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977.
Indeed I contend that the two new members of the historical bloc have been crucial to
preventing the reemergence of popular politics in the post-Bhutto period by
cultivating personalised patronage ties with the subordinate classes. This is what I
have termed the 'politics of common sense', and this legitimation of oligarchic rule
'from below' is the qualitative addition to Alavi's theory.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Revisiting Alavi's overdeveloped state
Setting the Stage
Building Blocks
Understanding the post-colonial Pakistani state
The Colonial Context
The rhythm of politics and culture
The politics of patronage
Completing the hegemonic project
Coming full circle
Section 1: The Alavian nexus of power
Chapter 2 The Military: Arbiter of power 37
A Colonial Army 39
The National Security State 43
Guardian of the State once more 46
The making of an Empire 49
After Zia 52
Unchartered territory 55
Differentiation within the armed forces 57
Chapter 3 The Bureaucracy: Two sides of the same coin 60
The 'high' bureaucracy 62
The 'low' bureaucracy 70
Chapter 4 The Landed class: Keeping the boat afloat 77
The colonial inheritance 79
The reforms that never were 81
The more things change, the more they stay the same 86
Formal integration 91
Is Pakistan Feudal? 93
The landed class or the political class? 94
Chapter 5: The Indigenous Bourgeoisie: Building new roots 98
From one robber baron to the next 100
The perils of aloofness 103
The new bourgeois and the political sphere 106
The rise of the challenger 110
Reinforcing oligarchic rule 113
Chapter 6: The Metropolitan Bourgeoisie: External Crutch 116
Competing logics inherited from colonialism 118
The emerging politics of jihad 122
Frontline state yet again 125
The Pakistani state: post-colonial or neo-colonial? 128
Section 2: Hegemony in practice
Chapter 7: Islamic hegemony: The power of sanction 130
Islamic or secular state? 131
Nativisation 134
Islamic or secular society 140
The maulvi and the culture of politics 146
The politics of resistance or the politics of common sense 153
Chapter 8: The Intermediate classes: Deepening of capitalism 160
Typologies and histories 162
The brave new world 165
The protagonists 170
The face of change 191
Chapter 9: The Subordinate classes: Beyond common sense? 193
A note on clientelism 194
The politics of resistance and reaction 196
The legacy 201
An unspectacular politics of resistance 205
A note on ethno-nationalism 222
Agency vs. structure 225
Conclusion: The rumblings of counter-hegemony 228
The structural imperative 231
The military as class? 233
The Alavian nexus of power undermined? 235
A new politics of resistance? 239
Glossary 243
Revisiting Alavi's overdeveloped state
While many post-colonial states have experienced prolonged flirtations with
oligarchic rule, over the past two decades or so at least nominally democratic political
processes have become the norm in many countries. I Not in Pakistan, where the
military took direct control of government for the fourth time in October 1999. More
than eight years later, in February 2008, elected rule was finally re-estbalished, but
only with General (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf continuing to occupy the presidency.
Since 1977 when then army chief General Zia ul Haq overthrew the populist
government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the 'military-bureaucratic' oligarchy that acquired
the reins of power when the country was created in 1947 has reasserted itself as the
arbiter in Pakistani politics. This followed the decade 1967-77 during which new
political forces had emerged to challenge oligarchic dominance. In its role as arbiter,
the oligarchy colludes with a still powerful landed class and industrial bourgeoisie to
contain the re-emergence of popular challenges. This conglomeration of forces has,
for the most part, enjoyed the blessings of the western metropolitan countries.
This thesis attempts to explain the persistence of oligarchic rule in Pakistan despite
the fact that substantial objective changes have taken place in the wider society. The
starting point will be Harnza Alavi's theory of the 'overdeveloped' post-colonial state
which remains the seminal effort to theorise on the Pakistani condition.
As I will
show presently, while the Pakistani state retains many of the principal features that
Alavi described over three decades ago, it is not clear that the theoretical assumptions
that underlay the 'overdeveloped' formulation were entirely accurate.
In particular the notion of the' overdeveloped' state implies an 'underdeveloped'
society - a conception that I will assert is far too functionalist. More specifically I will
demonstrate the intimate nature of the state-society relation and thereby shed light on
the coercion-consent dialectic that underlies the oligarchic system of power. By
I For example, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, to name but a few. Having said this, I
take the position that even when elected governments have been in place in Pakistan, the oligarchic
structure of power has remained largely intact.
2 Alavi's formulation, while focusing largely on Pakistan claimed general applicability across the post-
colonial world.
instrumentalising the deeply rooted cultural logic of personalized reciprocity, the state
and dominant social classes have created a patronage-based political order in which
the vast majority of working Pakistanis have been coopted. At the same time the state
is willing and able to exercise brute coercive force - often in the name of Islam - if
and when working people articulate a politics of confrontation.
The thesis will outline the evolution of politics in Pakistan in the post -1971 era
through a selective historical sociology of key classes/groups.3 The periodisation
reflects the belief that a substantive change took place in Pakistani politics in the
period 1967-77. Thus a broad distinction will be made between the pre-Bhutto and
post-Bhutto periods. In the first section of the thesis, the Alavian nexus of power is
discussed, namely the military, bureaucracy, landlords, industrialists, and foreign
capital. This section uses available secondary material and employs some new
primary material through the use of interviews to highlight certain aspects of the
Alavian nexus of power that are absent in the original formulation.
The second section constitutes the substantive theoretical and empirical addition, and
focuses on the subordinate classes, intermediate classes
and religio-political forces. I
will show that an understanding of the politics of these classes/groups 'from below' is
essential if one wishes to comprehend fully the nature of domination that prevails
within the country. This section relies on ethnographic material gathered during
fieldwork at selected research sites across the country, the details of which I will
outline in the methodology sub-section below.
In the final analysis, the thesis is expected to be a contribution to a revised theory of
the post-colonial state on the basis of a thoroughly historicized analysis of Pakistan's
political economy, a method that remains true to the Marxist tradition. Importantly the
defining objective of the thesis is to improve upon the major shortcoming of most
Marxist theorisations of politics in the post-colonial world by conceptualising the
cultural and political spheres as rigorously as - although not separate from - the
economic sphere.
3 Defining whether certain institutional forces such as the army can be meaningfuIly described as a
class is a question addressed in the concluding chapter.
4 Following Harriss-White (2003).
Setting the stage
My point of departure is Alavi's theory. I feel it is important to start with an
explanation of why I have chosen to engage in depth with the 'overdeveloped' state
formulation. In short, Alavi's conceptualisation appears to be remarkably resilient
almost 40 years since it was formulated, and, at the very least, no other theory of the
Pakistani state has emerged to compete meaningfully with the 'overdeveloped'
Alavi's basic contention that the post-colonial state is little more than a coercive
apparatus and that this apparatus is directly inherited from the colonial state is
compelling because the 'military-bureaucratic oligarchy' that was essentially a British
creation is still the country's dominant political force. Furthermore, on the face of it,
the oligarchy continues to remain 'autonomous' of the dominant propertied classes,
namely the landed class, the indigenous bourgeoisie, and the metropolitan bourgeoisie,
mediating between their interests while funneling a major proportion of surplus to
itself under the guise of 'development', as Alavi (1972) suggests. Few scholars of
Pakistan would disagree that the coercive role of the state and its ability to maintain a
consensus with the dominant classes would appear to be the two defining features of
Pakistan's political economy well into the 21 st century.
Alavi proceeds to outline the relative power and influence of each of the propertied
classes, pointing out that the metropolitan bourgeoisie remains the most powerful of
the three, despite having relinquished direct control of the state. Indeed, the United
States has exercised an overarching influence in Pakistani politics since the early
1950s, and, as will be demonstrated in Chapter 6, is the oligarchy's patron-in-chief.
Meanwhile the indigenous bourgeoisie is the weakest of all three classes having been
stunted by the Raj, and the landedclass remains the main intermediary between the
subordinate classes and the state as the major component of mainstream political
While Alavi's theory is substantively different from the orthodox Marxist conception
of the state, it employs the orthodox Marxist method of viewing the state as an
element of the superstructure that is derivative of the prevailing mode of production.
However, crucially Alavi asserts that 'the "superstructure" in the colony is ... "over-
developed" in relation to the "structure" in the colony, for its basis lies in the
metropolitan structure itself, from which it is later separated at the time of
independence' (Alavi, 1972: 62). For Alavi then the post-colonial state's
'overdevelopedness' implies (coercive) power far in excess of the 'underdeveloped'
post-colonial society, including the dominant classes.
While Alavi has improved upon the original 'overdeveloped' formulation in more
empirical accounts that recognise how dominant social classes have changed over
time while documenting emergent social forces, these empiricial insights have not
been employed to revise the theoretical formulation (Alavi, 1990). In particular the
focus remains on a narrative 'from above' and therefore the functionalist essence of
the theory intact.
There have been numerous reformulations of Alavi's theory from within the Marxist
tradition itself. Among the more well-known contemporaries of Alavi, Shivji (1976),
Mamdani (1976), Saul (1974) and Leys (1976) all emphasized at some level or the
other the competition between so called bureaucratic and petty bourgeoisies for
control over the state, thereby suggesting that these constituted the dominant classes
in most post-colonial social formations. The state in this conception remains a
primarily coercive apparatus with little concern for legitimation of its authority. These
scholars' retain Alavi's narrow theoretical emphasis on 'dominant' class and
institutional interests.
On the whole the dependencia approach - of which Alavi's thesis is a variant-
suffered a dramatic decline in popularity in the 1980s. It was argued that this
theoretical method was far too determinist and did not adequately account for the
considerably different historical trajectories of colonialism and widely varying post-
5 In the specific context of British rule in India, Alavi develops the idea of a distinct colonial mode of
production. In particular, he employs a five-point typology and shows that while the mode of
production in India is capitalist, it differs from the classical capitalist mode of production in at least two
important respects, both related to the fact that the system of production developed by the colonial state
sees surplus accumulated and reinvested to benefit the metropolitan society (Alavi, 1980).
6 All of these theorists do correctly point out that the dominant social groups in the post-colonial era are
products of the colonial encounter, and that they remain heavily dependent upon the metropole.
colonial contexts. Statist theories that emerged around this time insisted upon the need
to understand the state as a phenomenon unto itself rather than a corollary of social
forces (cf Evans et aI., 1985).
As such a comprehensive Marxist theory of the state remains an elusive goal,
although Lenin and Gramsci among others have made important contributions to the
analysis of political institutions.
The famous exchange between Ralph Mi1iband and
Nicolas Pou1antzas in the 1970s implied a recognition that substantive efforts to
theorise on politics and political institutions separate from more traditional mode of
production analyses was essential for the Marxist tradition to continue being relevant.
Gramsci, Mao and others had of course insisted much earlier that there was an urgent
need to consider matters of consciousness and political action in their own right rather
than assuming in rather teleological fashion that material development would
necessarily lead to corresponding forms of politics.
The approach adopted here draws
on the Gramscian tradition. In particular Gramsci' s concepts of historical bloc and
hegemony are widely employed in what follows to further problematise Alavi's
Gramsci was more concerned than most in the materialist tradition with understanding
the terrain of social life in which class struggle actually played out. In other words his
focus was on the political and cultural spheres and the manner in which objective
class interests are subjectively articulated. Thus any system of power becomes
hegemonic when ruling classes exercise 'moral leadership' . Hegemony cannot be
taken for granted, instead it has to actively cultivated and for Gramsci relying simply
on coercive power to maintain social order is an indicator of weakness rather than
7 See for example Lenin (1943) and Gramsci (1971).
8 See Miliband (1977) and Poulantzas (1980). 'The Miliband-Poulantzas debate left many Marxists
with the uncomfortable reality of a still unresolved dichotomy at the core of Marxist political theory,
and for many it brought an end to the idea that there is something called the Marxist theory of the state'
(Barrow, 2002: 43).
9 There is of course a long-standing tradition in Marxism - best represented by Marx himself - to
combine more generalized theorizing on structures with descriptive historical accounts that capture
specific conjunctures (Kaviraj, 1989).
As such the primary addition that this thesis makes to the Alavian formulation is in
attempting to explain how a hegemonic political order has been crafted in the period
since the Zia military regime. Thus I discuss not only the machinations of the Alavian
nexus of power 'from above' but also the manner in which consent is generated 'from
below'. In this reformulation the coercive power of the state - which Alavi specified
clearly - remains important but is insufficient in explaining the persistence of the
system of domination.
Relatedly, the social formation cannot be considered 'underdeveloped' and
fundamentally disjointed from the 'overdeveloped' state. The generation of consent
for the prevailing oligarchic system is only possible through an intimate state-society
relation. Thus my use of the term 'overdeveloping' is metaphorically distinct from
Alavi's use of 'overdeveloped' in that my emphasis is on the oligarchy's attempts to
coopt social forces by expanding its patronage network which suggests anything but a
functionalist relationship between state and society. As I will conclude, in this view
the state is overdeveloping, or in other words extending patronage to more and more
social forces over time. As such, the state is continually changing. 10
In part this reformulation of Alavi's hypothesis illustrates the folly of thinking about
the state only in terms of 'interests', a lesson that Marxists were forced to learn
anyway by the rise of 'statists' .11 Having said this, statists often endow the state with
far too much autonomy from society. More recently there has been a 'cultural tum' in
theorising about the state which reflects the relative marginalisation of culture in both
the 'state-centered' and 'society-centered' approaches (cf Steinmetz, 1999; Sharma &
Gupta, 2006).
There is also something to be gained from the literature that postulates a dialectical
relationship between the formal and legalistic Weberian state and the state that is
subject to societal demands and pressures, the latter neither maintaining the promise
of impartiality nor the aura of unchallengeable dominance. To date this dialectic has
IO I will show in the concluding chapter that, for all of the oligarchy's success in coopting potential
challenges, it will ultimately unable to accommodate all demands for inclusion from both dominant
~ r o u p s and those who want to graduate into the realm of power.
1 Accordingly, Marxist scholarship has had to reformulate some of its central and limiting assumptions
although in the post-colonial context progress has been slow.
been best captured by conceptualisations that distinguish between the state in practice
and the state as an idea (cf Abrams, 1988). Migdal & Schlichte (2005) stress the
importance of understanding the 'dynamics' of states which means considering both
the image and practice of the state in understanding how and why it acts the way that
it does.
Building blocks
Pakistan-specific theories of the state have been few and far between. As such Alavi's
work remains the only thorough meaningful investigation of the Pakistani state from a
Marxist political economy perspective. There have been only limited attempts to
consider the constitution and actions of the state in nuanced terms, building upon the
insights offered by the alternative literatures mentioned briefly above while still
incorporating the basic thrust of Alavi's schema (and other seminal neo-Marxists).
Aijaz Ahmad (1985) suggests that the dominance of the military in Pakistan - what he
calls the governing 'caste' - is explained by numerous factors including imperialist
support, the need to suppress popular resistance (often expressed in nationalist idiom),
and the mandate to maintain the territorial sovereignty of the state vis a vis India, and
cannot simply be explained by suggesting inevitable continuities from the colonial to
the post-colonial. However, he tends to try and situate his entire analysis of the
political realm in a broad and overly-static understanding of peripheral capitalism in
Pakistan, namely that it is characterised by a weakness of the 'polar' classes - the
bourgeoisie and proletariat - and a corresponding expanded role of the 'intermediate'
classes. 12 While these observations are not incorrect, there is little attempt made to
consider the political sphere in Pakistan as constituting its own dynamic - rather it is
understood largely as derivative of a particular mode of production.
Eq bal Ahmad's (1980) more insightful - albeit general - formulation attributes much
more importance to the political institutions that comprise the state, and the fact that
the 'state bourgeoisie' in the post-colonial world continues to predominate only
insofar as it benefits from the expansion of state power and functions. In other words,
political power is a pre-condition for the enhancement of material interests. Crucially,
12 In this case intermediate classes are educated professionals in the employment of the state that are
separated from the process of production.
it is argued that the state cannot be considered 'overdeveloped' vis a vis society as it
relies on dominant social forces, and is in fact incapable of maintaining order without
them. As such therefore colonial and post-colonial society is hardly 'underdeveloped'
given that the state rules primarily through intermediary groups to which it distributes
Bayart (1993) concurs with the idea that the de facto ruling class in post-colonial
societies is comprised of the personnel left in charge of the state apparatus by the
departing colonial ruler, although his analysis is limited to the African context. He
makes the salient observation that the dichotomy of civil and political society is not a
useful one in the post-colonial context, suggesting that a strict separation of 'state'
from 'society' is overly simplistic. Further he posits that the banal practice that
liberals term 'corruption' needs to be understood as a widespread social phenomenon
that is neither a cultural condition nor a negation of modemity.13 Bayart's exposition
also disputes the concept of the overdeveloped state and he prefers use of the
Gramscian idea of historical bloc to explain post-colonial conjunctures.
Another proponent of the Gramscian ideas of hegemony and historical bloc is Ayubi
(1995). He offers a comprehensive analysis that relies on a three-pronged
understanding of societal structure, namely modes of production, persuasion and
coercion, to explain the centralized nature of the Arab state and the nature of its
relationship to the larger social formation. This method seems to capture what Alavi
claims to do but never quite manages to achieve in his formulations. 14
Understanding the post-colonial Pakistani state
It would appear reasonable to adopt a similar approach to Ayubi's to outline the
formation of the Pakistani state and its subsequent evolution. More generally, there is
a need to move beyond the static understanding of structure that underlies the seminal
neo-Marxist theorizations of the post-colonial state, recognizing the great difference
13 Moreover this form of social exchange takes place amongst the rich and powerful as well as the
subordinate classes. On 'corruption' in post-colonial Africa see also Blundo (2006).
14 Alavi also makes nuanced descriptions of the ideological foundations of the Pakistani state and the
political intrigue that carries on within it, but never successfully incorporates these rich analyses into
his theory of the state (cf Alavi, 1987).
across regions of the social formation and the tremendous change that has taken place
in the post-colonial period largely on account of the deepening of capitalism.
The insights offered by Alavi and his contemporaries are necessary in explicating the
state's class content and its orientation, but do not sufficiently capture the complexity
of the political sphere more generally and the actual dynamics of the state's operation
more specifically. A more useful theoretical formulation may benefit from the insight
offered by Chandra (1999) that the colonial state introduces systemic changes in the
colonized society in a manner that calls into question the orthodox dichotomy of
structure and superstructure in which the state is traditionally conceived of as part of
the latter.
The Pakistani experience - like many other post -colonial variants - necessitates a
rejection of the claim that the state - and the political sphere more generally - is a
reflection of the prevailing mode of production. Class formation and the overall
evolution of social structure in much of the post-colonial world is· subject to a much
different dialectical dynamic than that in the west, the specific historical experience of
which remains the point of departure for modern social theory.16
The project of state formation in Pakistan was one that sought to establish rule not of
a particular dominant class, or even of the state as an (relatively) autonomous actor as
Alavi may have suggested, but rather a coalition of dominant forces - or what I will
call a historical bloc. The military-bureaucratic state oligarchy assumed primacy
within this historical bloc as a result of the specific conjuncture in which state
formation took place.
15 See also Bardhan (1998) for a discussion of the post-colonial Indian state.
16 See for example Kaviraj (2005b) for a discussion on the imperative of reconstructing social theory in
non-western contexts.
17 'Structures and superstructures form an "historical bloc" ..... [there is a] necessary reciprocity
between structure and superstructure, a reciprocity which is nothing other than the real dialectical
process' (Gramsci, 1971: 366). Gramsci' s use of the term referred to that particular equilibrium, or
constellation of forces which is established at a particular historical conjuncture. This thesis takes this
notion fUlther and argues that the social forces that were dominant in 1947 maintained power
subsequently. Thus the ternl historical bloc as used throughout the thesis refers to the coalition of
dominant forces.
Further the process of state formation has been an ongoing one in that the historical
bloc that existed at partition has been qualitatively altered after 1977, the period with
which this thesis is primarily concerned. In other words, the structure of power has
changed although the state remains fundamentally undemocratic and the dominant
forces that constituted the historical bloc in 1947 continue to be powerful. The
induction of new social forces into an expanded historical bloc however, only
partially explains the resilience of the oligarchic dispensation.
The post-Bhutto conjuncture has been hegemonic insofar as the subordinate classes
have participated in the designated political sphere from below as a matter of
'common sense' .18 In other words, working people directly contribute to the
reproduction of power relations on the one hand by ascribing to the existing
patronage-based rules of the game and on the other hand by choosing not to engage in
a politics of opposition, confrontation, or what I have called here 'resistance'. This
formulation is premised upon a dialectical logic whereby economic, cultural and
political spheres are considered as a holistic unity, suggesting that there is an urgent
need to understand politics and culture in greater complexity than has been done in
Marxist analyses of Pakistan to date.
As I have already stated, in my understanding the state is not overdeveloped, but
rather overdeveloping, which means to say that the coercive power of the state-
which remained Alavi's exclusive focus - has been matched by its ability to engage
various social forces, and most importantly absorb the counter-hegemonic impulses
of the subordinate classes while incorporating new contenders for power within its
fold. In other words, hegemony is a function of both coercion and consent - this
concepualisation differs from that of Alavi who emphasizes the coercive specificity of
the state and accords the state 'relative autonomy' from dominant social forces whilst
completely ignoring the extent and nature of subordinate class legitimation of the
prevailing political sphere.
18 'Broadly speaking, "common sense" means the incoherent set of generally held assumptions and
beliefs common to any given society' (Gramsci, 1971: 325-8). As for Gramsci, although in a very
different sense, in my understanding religion is a crucial element of common sense.
Over time, the military has become the predominant partner within the state oligarchy
- and the historical bloc more generally - and it is the growing imbalance of power
within the bloc in favour of the military which is most likely to undermine the
hegemonic project of the state, propertied classes and new contenders that have
emerged from the Bhutto period onwards. Ultimately however the emergence of a
counter-hegemony that can reorder the prevailing configuration of power depends on
the subordinate classes being able to regenerate a 'politics of resistance' to displace
the 'politics of common sense' .19
In attempting to outline the nature of the hegemonic project in the post-Bhutto period,
it is necessary not only to consider the evolution of the political sphere in the pre-
Bhutto period but indeed to understand the state-society dialectic inherited from
colonial times. Alavi rightly pointed out that the colonial legacy of administrative
dominance had a great bearing on the state structure and political dynamics in the
aftermath of partition and this is where the analysis must begin.
The colonial context
Kaviraj (2005a: 263) points out that in pre-British India, the state was an 'alien' entity
that did not command a presence beyond a symbolic or grand aura and in fact 'was
traditionally seen as a necessarily limited and distinctly unpleasant part of the basic
furniture of society'. Hence it can be asserted that the political sphere of most 'village
communities' was effectively autonomous of the state itself. In this respect alone, the
colonial impact utterly changed the conception and practice of politics.
In numerous senses the 'new' colonial- and by extension post colonial- political
sphere was subject to a host of novel and diverse dynamics which considerably
enhanced its complexity. In the pre-British period, politics was largely 'self-
contained' in that relationships of power were largely confined within the
19 As will be detailed in the narrative to follow, the 'politics of common sense' represents an attempt by
the historical bloc in the post-Bhutto period to eliminate the 'politics of resistance' that had emerged as
a genuine threat to oligarchic rule in the preceding period.
20 This is not to downplay the centrality of the heavily oppressive rents extracted by the pre-British
state from the peasantry, or to suggest that the village was a model of complete economic autarky-
both myths have been debunked extensively (cf Habib, 1995).
'community' and only to a limited extent, between communities?l The role of the
state in social life in general was dramatically enhanced under British rule. For
example, disputes over land or other forms of social property - including women -
were frequently mediated by the state, whether in the form of the police, courts or the
administrative apparatus more generally. Even in cases where 'traditional' dispute
resolution mechanisms such as local panchayats represented the primary means of
resolving conflicts, it was often the case that the state in one or more of its forms was
also invoked.
The advent of British rule was thus a watershed in the practice of politics in the
subcontinent, but not just because of the more obvious interventions in social life by
the colonial state. Other factors must also be invoked in order to explain the
dramatically increased complexity and scope of the political sphere. Arguably the
most important constitutive element of the colonial political sphere was the logic of
capital. As a direct corollary to the Indian social formation's exposure to and insertion
into a burgeoning imperial economy evolved a multitude of power relationships that
extended far beyond the realm of politics that had existed until that point.
That having been said, Washbrook (1990) warns against representing this change as a
break that corresponded directly to the onset of British rule, which was in any case
spread out over a century. Indeed, Indian society in the pre-British period was
undergoing many changes related to its increasing exposure to regional and world
trade, as well as internal social upheavals. An example of an 'internal' change in the
Punjab for example, was the great social upheaval associated with the re-
establishment of economic and political power by dominant agricultural castes during
Sikh rule (Ali, 2003: 31).
21 Just as it is important to steer clear of unchanging and reified notions of bounded village economies,
similarly it is vital to avoid a parallel cultural or political construction of pre-British community. Sarkar
(2000: 246-8) has noted that revisionist colonial historiography such as Subaltern Studies has
romanticised notions of 'community'. In actual fact, before and even during British rule, there existed
highly variegated forms of social organisation across different regions of the subcontinent.
22 In many cases the state's presence would have a direct impact on the operation of 'informal'
mechanisms thereby enhancing the bargaining power of one or both parties to the dispute. See
Chaudhary (1999: 77-81) for a discussion on this dynamic of 'formal' and 'informal' mechanisms of
justice in post-colonial Punjab.
Notwithstanding Wash brook's important observation, the insertion of India into the
capitalist world system is primarily associated with the British Raj. In other words,
the logic of capital came to playa central role in conditioning the dynamics of power
after the establishment of British rule. The magnitude of the changes that began with
the direct subordination of the Indian agrarian economy to the metropole was
immense and unleashed a series of multiplier effects that linked the Indian social
formation to economic and political changes outside India.
Within the Indian social formation it is possible - and necessary - to acknowledge
what could be empirically observed as clear outcomes of the insertion of the
subcontinent into the imperial economy. For instance, the roles of existing actors were
altered immensely; Irfan Habib (1995: 334) discusses how the increasing importance
of usury in the Indian agrarian economy led to the dramatically enhanced political and
economic power of the bania (moneylender). The landlord who was transformed into
landowner by fiat is another example of a 'new' social category?3
In relation to this last example can be reiterated the importance of the state in the
'new' dispensation. The landholder was transformed into landowner by the state, and
not through a long-run process of organic economic change.
In other words the state
was directly responsible for many of the processes of class formation in a manner that
one does not find in the prototypical non-colonial state. The colonial state of course
did not develop, as the European state did, in consonance with organic changes in
society at large, and therefore had many impulses that were alien to the Indian social
formation (cf Saberwal, 1986).
For the most part the state acted in harmony with the larger imperial economy of
which it was a part. Having said this, there remained throughout the colonial
encounter a dialectical contradiction between 'order' and 'change', a feature too of
23 It is important not to be carried away about the power that was vested in landed magnates by the
British; after all many experienced a marked decrease in their coercive powers at the local level even as
they were formally endowed with property rights.
24 Indeed it can be argued that in the modern west the move away from 'feudal' to 'capitalist' forms of
property was a process that took many hundreds of years and was not a function of state fiat. Marx of
course insisted that capitalists 'employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of
society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production
into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society
pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.'
the post-colonial political order. At one level the British may have wanted to make the
logic of capital dominant in the Indian social formation, but the need for the colonial
state to maintain stable rule overrode this principle. So on the one hand, the state
directly facilitated the consolidation of a landed class endowed with formal property
rights in Punjab and Sindh and instituted a legal framework through which land could
be treated as private property in the classical, liberal guise. Yet the same state actively
helped this new class in circumventing the adverse effects of insertion into the
capitalist world economy through legislation such as the Punjab Alienation of Land
Act 1901 and Sindh Encumbered Estates Act 1878, primarily because it feared for its
own stability if its most prized allies were disenfranchised (cf Gilmartin, 1988; Ansari,
1992; Nelson, 2008).25
The fact that the state had to ensure the political compliance of willing intermediaries,
meant, as Ali (2001) suggests, that in many cases the British were impeding the same
processes of social change that facilitated the consolidation of capitalism in Britain.
Even so, while the colonial state's role in the economy was far more extensive than
that of the state in the mother country, it was neither able to impose its will
unilaterally nor was its own evolution - inasmuch as the Raj was a state in formation
- independent of social forces within Indian society.26 Alavi's contention that the state
inherited in 1947 was 'overdeveloped' vis a vis the social formation ignores the
mutually formative influence of each on the other.
Hence the state represented another critical node of the 'new' political sphere
alongside the logic of capital. Importantly, these two constitutive elements could be
contradictory to each other at any particular conjuncture. In general, the state's power
to promote or impede any particular social process was much more tangible than the
'invisible hand' of capital, although it is often difficult to separate the operation of
either. In any case, the evolving configuration of social power was the product - at the
very least - of a unique combination of economic impulses deriving from the larger
25 It was in fact in response to the real threat of disenfranchisement of landed allies of the Raj by more
market-oriented producers that these two pieces of legislation were enacted.
26 This understanding of the Raj in India as a state in formation is based on the fact that the British
established political control over different parts of the subcontinent over a century and proceeded to
institutionalize very different forms of authority in different regions based on the logic of the social
formation they encountered.
dynamics of a burgeoning capitalist world system and also the deliberate political
engineering of the colonial state.
However, despite the state's expanded reach and ability to greatly influence the
evolution of social forms, and even with the 'forcible integration of the segmentary
productive regimes of rural India into an integrated economy', the intemallogic of
practice of Indian society continued to persist and impact the evolution of social
forms more generally and the political sphere in particular (Kaviraj, 1994: 53). As
suggested above, the local unit of analysis in India - whether called the village,
community, or whatever else - featured a distinct politics and culture, conditioned by
and conditioning the operation of the wider economic and political spheres, that did
not simply vanish following the establishment of British rule. The most obvious and
fiercely debated feature of the politico-cultural matrix of pre-British India was the
caste system, but neither is this matrix reducible only to the caste system nor was
caste an undifferentiated objective system across all of India.
In particular the social
order in the Muslim-majority areas of India was quite distinct from Hindu-majority
areas, although variants of caste-ism did, and continue to, exist (cf Ahmad, 1973).28
This analytical separation of three separate determinants of social power as it evolved
beginning with the colonial period, i.e. India being inserted into the capitalist world
economy; the substantially enhanced penetration of the state into social life; and the
pre-existing politico-cultural constitution of the social unit should not lend the
impression that there is a simple determinism in any particular direction or that these
are separate 'structures' as it were. Instead the evolving social forms in British India
and in the post-colonial dispensation are necessarily subject to the structural
constraints imposed by all three of these elements operating as an holistic and
dialectical unity. Wacquant (1985) has coined the term 'organic causality' to capture
this holism.
27 There are also extensive debates over the extent to which the British reified caste and introduced the
of political exchange on the basis of caste identity (cf Dirks, 2001; Cohn, 1996).
8 As will be discussed in subsequent chapters, the importance of 'izzat' or what is loosely translated as
'honour' is a major element of what Bourdieu would call symbolic capital.
29 See also the conception of E.P. Thomson (Ajay, 1998).
Perhaps it is most apt to return to Alavi (1982: 178) here:
In conceptualising economic, or political (etc) 'instances' or 'sub-systems'
in society, they are all too often thought of as empirically separate entities or,
in a structuralist conception, each a separate 'structure' having determinate
relationships with the other 'structures', namely 'economic, 'political', and
'ideological '. This can be quite misleading. The economic 'instance', for
example, cannot be thought of without its basis in particular forms of
property and the latter in turn entails particular structures of power and
ideologies that sustain them. There is therefore a simultaneous determination
of the whole societal structure and none of the component instances, that we
identify analytically, actually exist prior to, or independently of the others.
The rhythm of politics and culture
Based on this sketch of the colonial transformation, it should be clear that mapping
the trajectory of the post-colonial Pakistani state - and of politics in the social
formation more generally - requires an appreciation of the dialectical relationship
between accumulation of capital and accumulation of power, while recognising that
these processes of accumulation are embedded in cultural practices as outlined above.
As such this thesis attempts to move beyond the static structuralist view towards a
more dynamic understanding of social structure that draws insights from post-colonial
studies, anthropological writings on the everyday state and the literature on civil-
military relations, while rejecting the tendency in these literatures to abstract from the
political and economic structures in which power is rooted.
In his analysis of the post-colonial dispensation Alavi simply states that the state's
primary role is to abide by the dictates of peripheral capitalism. In actual fact the state
continues to participate in the actual shaping of an evolving social order while its
fundamental concern is to reproduce the existing configuration of political power in
which it is dominant. Insofar as this requires the state to pay heed to the imperatives
of the international economic order, it does, but this does not mean that within the
Pakistani social formation capitalist culture, politics or even relations of production
necessarily reign supreme.
30 More specifically what is being warned against here is labeling social forms in Pakistan on the basis
of western benchmarks.
Indeed, the empirical problem faced by Marxists studying the post-colonial world has
been that the social organisation of production does not resemble capitalism in the
core countries. The most meaningful response to this quandary has been the notion of
articulation of modes of production, which allows for the existence of different modes
of production contemporaneously?l Other variations on this idea have included a
'conservation-dissolution' relation and a 'blocked' transition (cfBrewer, 1990: 225-
229). However, this 'solution' does not account for the historical possibility of
political and cultural forms that evolve alongside and in dialectical relation to
articulated modes, and instead attempts to explain the existence of these variegated
forms as a function of the articulation of modes of production.
The unique cultural and political forms persisting in the post-colonial world have been
described variously as 'hybrid', 'ambivalent' and 'multiplicitous'. For the most part
such formulations have been propagated by post-structuralists whose
conceptualisations are notoriously devoid of reference to the politico-economic
context within which such forms are emerging, or in other words, from the increasing
subjection of post-colonial societies to the vagaries of capitalist imperialism (San Juan
Jr, 2002: 229-32). Such notions then effectively amount to a crass cultural
essentialism that neither captures the complexity of the forms superficially described
nor situates the 'politics of resistance' that are associated with such forms in a more
comprehensive understanding of the accumulation of power and capital, instead
fetishizing this 'resistance' and stressing the need to celebrate 'difference'.
Be that as it may, Marxist praxis must encounter the cultural and political forms that
exist in the post-colonial world. As Benita Parry (2002: 147) points out:
Because the alterations to "base" and the innovations in "superstructure"
were uneven and unfinished in colonial worlds, the modes of cognition and
structures of feeling inscribed by those conscious of inhabiting multiple
locations and temporalities do not duplicate the turbulent European
articulations of modernity.
31 The convention has been to consider such a state of affairs as transitional, but this represents yet
another example of teleological analysis whereby non-western societies are presumed to follow the
same trajectory of historical development as the modem west.
The suggestion is that it is neither useful to assume the existence of cultural and
political forms in the post-colonial world that mimic those in the modem capitalist
societies of the West, nor simplistically represent the former as a vestige of 'tradition'
as is the practice in static binary representations of modem and traditional. Instead the
unique cultural and political attributes of the colonial social formation need to be
acknowledged, and further it needs to be considered how, alongside capital, these
attributes have shaped the evolution of the political sphere in the post-colonial
The politics of patronage
It is of course critical to adequately consider the continuities and discontinuities
between colonial rule and the post-colonial dispensation in much the same way as the
transition to British rule has been analysed above. In this regard, a number of critical
issues demand attention. In the first instance, as Thomas (1984) suggests is the case in
any newly independent country, the Pakistani state did articulate a certain degree of
anti-imperialism and at least rhetorically claimed economic sovereignty within the
suffocating constraints of the capitalist world economy. However, as Ayesha lalal
(1990) has famously pointed out, in the unique conjuncture of partition, the new
state's sovereignty came to be viewed as dependent on its ability to develop adequate
defence capacity to guard against India swallowing it up even before it advanced past
its teething phase.
As such therefore, the Pakistani state not only retained its predecessor state's
overbearing influence in charting the direction of the economy and the social
formation at large, but was endowed with a popular mandate - protection of the
subcontinent's Muslims from Hindu domination, or in other words the two-nation
theory - to do exactly this.
The question of Islam in the politics of Pakistan will be
32 Importantly, there is little evidence to suggest that most 'traditional' politico-cultural forms are
stationary. On the contrary, there is a substantive dynamism associated with them, as much as there is
with their supposed antithesis, including most importantly, capital. For example, Alavi (1999: 73)
discusses the shift from 'structured' to 'unstructured' kinship as being coeval with increased
urbanisation, suggesting that both the logic of capital and non-economic personal exchange
relationships - both dynamic and responsive to other social forces - need to be invoked to explain
evolving social forms.
33 Of course the newly formed Indian state also retained the unitary structure of the colonial state but on
the basis of very different ideological foundations, best encapsulated in the idea of developmentalism.
See Jalal's (1995) comparison of India and Pakistan's different yet similar political economies.
discussed presently, however, it is essential to bear in mind that the inordinate focus
on defence had serious implications for the manner in which Pakistan was subjected
to the rigours of a ruthless global economy and was also a direct contributing factor to
the establishment of the historical bloc.
In the immediate post-independence period, it was the state that guided the process of
capital accumulation, effectively creating an industrialist class which, as a class
without political power, relied entirely on state favours to prosper (cf Alavi, 1983a).
Meanwhile the landed class that enjoyed considerable social power and dominated all
political parties continued to be the major intermediary through which the state
maintained social control. Even as the landed class started to suffer the effects of
modernisation, its access to the state and ability to manipulate the delivery of public
services meant that it retained considerable political power.
Throughout the period before Ayub Khan's rise to power, the state relied on the
ability of landed notables to engage the popular classes in a politics of patronage that
was built upon the cultural logic of the social formation (even if this logic differed
considerably across different regions) and the overwhelming influence of the state in
social life. Yet the contradictions that arose as capital penetrated farther and deeper
into society were bound to give rise to a politics that employed the language of class
and ethno-nationalism, the latter due to the ethnic imbalance in the composition of the
state. Indeed, the rapid changes of the 60s and 70s brought about a new
confrontational politics - or what I have called the politics of resistance - which led to
the downfall of the Ayubian regime and the rise of populism under Bhutto (cf Zaidi,
2005a; Sayeed, 1980).
As I will detail in Section 2 of the thesis, the politics of resistance was spearheaded by
industrial labour, students as well as intermediate classes associated with the rapidly
changing agrarian economy. Industrial labour in particular was armed with the
ideology of socialism, an idiom popular across the third world at the time. While the
the politics of resistance generated some real material gains for industrial workers, the
peasantry and other segments of the subordinate classes, more important was the
permanent change in the conception and practice of politics that took place. In other
words, subordinate classes could be the subject of a politics of change and were not
bound by fate to powerful patrons acting in the name of 'tradition' .
Yet in the post-Bhutto period it has been noted that patronage politics has reemerged
throughout the entire social formation - subordinate and superordinate groups alike
are involved in personal exchange relationships that do not abide by the logic of
impersonal market exchange, even if they are conditioned by market forces. It is the
purpose of this thesis to understand this displacement of the politics of resistance by
what I have called the politics of common sense.
Notwithstanding the exceptional period of the politics of resistance, since 1947 and
more so in the post-Bhutto period, the state has been a site of struggle for economic
and political resources, particularly at lower levels where state functionaries are
closely linked to society at large (cf Clapham, 1985: 41).34 Meanwhile in the upper
echelons of the state, there has also been a furious struggle for power, a proper
analysis of which requires appreciation of the uniquely privileged situation of Urdu-
speaking migrants and their role in state formation. These migrants had been at the
forefront of the Muslim nationalist movement and were also experienced in the
administration of the state having been loyal servants to the British Raj (cf Ansari,
2005). And it was this group alongwith Punjabi counterparts that eventually came to
be the primary wielders of power in the new state - the infamous military-
bureaucratic oligarchy - with the explicit consent of propertied classes in the western
wing of the country.
At higher levels of the state, a commitment to the principles of Weberian rationality
remains, especially insofar as the maintenance of the coercive apparatus of the state is
essential to the reproduction of power relations. However the most prominent feature
of the oligarchic order - like that in many post-colonial societies - is the access of
dominant groups to state resources that greatly increases their power to act as
dispensers of patronage across the social formation. 35
34 This is not to suggest that 'corruption' was absent during colonial rule - native low-level state
functionaries during the colonial period were just as prone to using their positions for self-
aggrandisement or to bestow favours upon their kin as after political independence. However, the
p'ihenomenon has become much over time: ..
.. See Bayart (1993) for an eXposItIOn of sImIlar processes III post-colomal AfrIca.
As will be discussed in coming chapters, the survival of the Alavian nexus of power
has depended on the incorporation of emergent social forces within an expanded
historical bloc - thus the assertion that the project of state formation is as yet an
ongoing one, that the state is overdeveloping. Yet this order relies just as much on the
participation of subordinate classes within the designated political sphere. Hence this
is a hegemonic project insofar as the subordinate classes accede to the de facto
principles of the designated political sphere as a matter of 'common sense'. When the
subordinate classes - or for that matter dissidents from within the historical bloc -
articulate a politics of revolt, or even resistance, the coercive apparatus of the state
always stands at full attention ready to restore order. 36
A Gramscian reading of the participation of the subordinate classes in the designated
political sphere requires an appreciation of the notion of active and passive cultural
affinities, and the fact that at any historical conjuncture, either may prevail (cf Arnold,
1984). Naturally the state's constant resort to coercion and the presence of propertied
classes intent on constantly reinforcing their dominance within society at large
ensures that the passive aspect typically predominates, particularly as this aspect is
familiar and seems to reinforce pre-existing ascriptive ties.
At the same time, the
state and its dominant class partners must constantly pre-empt the emergence of an
active culture within the subordinate classes that might be the basis of a revolutionary
counter-hegemony. In historical terms, the historical bloc was faced with exactly such
a challenge in the 1967-77 period on account of the substantive social changes that
came about as a result of the deepening impact of capital.
To counter this wave of politicisation, the state reconstituted a political sphere that
'systematically inhibit[ed] the articulation of class as a source of overt political
conflict' (Clapham, 1985: 58). While I argue that the subordinate classes necessarily
36 As will be shown subsequently, the use of violence by the state - or even the threat of it - remains
crucial to the powers that be. Nonetheless, the state's resort to unbridled use of force is always a good
indicator that hegemony is unraveling.
37 Some of the literature on civil-military relations suggests alternative explanations for the
inability/unwillingness of society at large to challenge authoritarianism. Linz (1973) for example
suggests that authoritarian rule gives rise to a 'apolitical politicism', or in other words a political
environment in which the mass of people are apathetic to the point of virtual indifference. While this
observation holds some credence, it needs to be infused with insight into the specific structural and
historical context.
perceive politics of this kind to be common sense, this does not mean that class is not
operative. Flynn (1974) asserts that the very fact that coercion remains crucial to the
reproduction of power renders non-conflictual patron-client models inconsistent with
observed realities. In more recent times there has been an effort to distinguish
'traditional' patron-client relations from 'modem' forms (Gunes-Ayata, 1994) or
separate 'political patronage' from 'patron-client relations' altogether (Medard, 1982).
All such analyses are cognizant of the class dimensions of the patronage bond. While
on the surface there appears to be a continuity of patron-client relations in the sense
that social exchange revolves around a deeply-rooted cultural logic, in actual fact
there has been a profound transformation in the basis of patron-client relations,
mainly because of the deepening of capitalism.
It is true that relationships of power in Pakistan - like those in many parts of the post-
colonial world - are heavily personalised in that there exists a personal relationship
between the individual, group, or in my analysis, class; and the weaker individual,
group or class over which the former is exercising power. Historically the debate
within the academy has centred around the extent of mutual reciprocity that
characterizes this relationship with a limited focus on its exploitative nature (cf Scott,
Gilsenan (1977: 179-80) points out that even though the most distinctive feature of
Lebanese politics is the personalisation of power, and 'that form the point of view of
the composition of the elite and ruling families there appears on the surface to be no
radical break in the overall form of political domination.... the economic basis for
that structure has in fact changed profoundly' (italics in the original). He proceeds to
argue that an understanding of personal relations is of course important but should not
be confused with the objective class organisation of society at large.
What I wish to highlight in this thesis is how the subordinate classes have acceded to
a form of patronage politics that has been deliberately institutionalised by the state in
the post-Bhutto period. In other words even though fundamental changes have taken
38 For a detailed discussion of the class nature of patron-client relationships in the South Asian context,
see Khan (1998; 2000).
39 At the very least, this line of reasoning emphasizes the non-coercive nature of exchange, even if the
exchange is acknowledged to be based on inequality
place in the structure of society such that 'traditional' patron-client relationships now
stand eroded, it must be understood why personalised relationships which resemble
the classic patron-client model continue to persist.
At some level the best way to understand this 'change without change' is in
recognising that conventionally exchange relationships in the market are often
understood as 'calculable, noncommittal and single-shot' exchanges focused
exclusively on securing economic benefits (Gellner, 1977: 5-6) whereas what I have
observed across the Pakistani social formation is that even market exchange
resembles a political relationship in which considerations are often more long-term
and are heavily personalised. Nonetheless, 'politics becomes a kind of business, ... is
reduced to economics and recovers the depersonalised character inherent in the
market' (Medard, 1982: 181).
In other words, starting with the Zia period the state has cultivated a complex
relationship with the wider social formation, reinforcing a politics that partially
reflects personal exchange relationships that persist from the pre-colonial period and
also evolving class relations that are a function of insertion into the capitalist world
economy. In doing so it has reinforced the historical pattern whereby - as Medard
(1982: 181) suggests is the case in the post-colonial African context - 'it is political
resources which give access to economic resources'.
Importantly, the subordinate classes have acceded to the politics of common sense not
under the guise of 'false consciousness' but knowing that it is a cynical 'exchange of
organizational muscle for material benefits and is readily renegotiated if clients (or
indeed entire factions) are offered better terms by other patrons or higher- level
factions' (Khan, 2000: 580). In thinking about common sense politics in this way I
seek to show that working people are at one and the same time forced to accept the
logic of the prevailing political sphere yet can always rebel against it.
In institutionalising the politics of common sense, the historical bloc has not in fact
reinforced a capitalist ethic and order in the western sense but in fact has buttresed a
cultural form that is quite unlike the sociological individuation that pervades societies
in the western world. This is not to suggest that there is not a relentless process of
individuation underway across the Pakistani social formation, as will be illustrated in
Section 2 of the thesis, but only to reiterate that historically evolved cultural practice
must be considered when attempting to explain the reproduction of the prevailing
configuration of power.
Yet the fact of the ever increasing penetration of the capitalist mode is undeniable,
and reflects the growing complexity of politics as dominant and subordinate classes
alike - along with functionaries of the state - participate in cycles of accumulation.
In this regard, it is important to consider Breman's (1996) assertion that the
conventional dichotomy of formal and informal sectors of the economy tends to
oversimplify the manner in which accumulation takes place as it neatly separates the
economic and political spheres inhabited by the dominant and popular classes, when
in fact there can be no such separation in practice.
Completing the hegemonic project
In this formulation, the role of Islam in the reproduction of social life is critical, as it
is in most Muslim societies. Islam was a major ideational factor in the creation of
Pakistan, even if the emergence of Muslims as a separate political category under the
Raj reflected the certain Muslims' material interests. As has been pointed out by
Gaborieau (2003: 46-7):
Islam is the raison d' etre of Pakistan: any Pakistani citizen, however liberal
and secular in his outlook, is attached to his religious identity. And any
political move or ideology which would not have the sanction of Islam,
however formulated, would not gain acceptance. Islam, therefore, is a
necessary ingredient of political legitimacy.
40 lalal and Bose (2000: 177) suggest that in Pakistan there exists 'one of the more improbable
combinations of personalised elements of rule with impersonalised ones.' While stressing the formative
role of the state in class formation, Weiss (1991: 22) makes the parallel point that there remains a
tension within society at large between the imperatives of capitalism that demand resources and surplus
to be directed towards the objectives of reproduction and 'local solidarities of necessity' which are
directed towards explicitly non-economic ends.
41 I should note that, just as in the colonial period, the impact of capital has had contradictory effects in
different conjunctures. As will be discussed in detail in Section 2 of the thesis, during the 1960s and
1970s, the Green Revolution precipitated a new politics of class, whereas following the Gulf
Migrations actually helped the historical bloc contain the politics of class and in fact precipitated the
politics of common sense.
More generally, it has been posited by numerous scholars that religion and politics are
inseparable in Islam. However, Ayubi (1991) makes the important point that the
original sources (Quran, Sunnah) did not clarify the relationship between Islam and
the state and therefore the so-called juridical theory of the Islamic state has been a
product of political expediency rather than divine guidance. Eickelman and Piscatori
(1988) further suggest that the presupposition of the union of religion and politics in
Islam is misleading as it presumes that only Muslims are motivated politically by
religious feeling while not attributing enough importance to political structures and
the fact that material interests playa significant role in the shaping of politics in
Muslim societies. Ultimately, the debate over whether Pakistan was meant to be a
secular or theocratic state and the question of Islam more generally will always
occupy a central position within public discourse given that the country was formed
expressly as a state for the subcontinent's Muslims.
At the time of Pakistan's creation, Islam inevitably became the state ideology - in
spite of all the ambiguities associated with its role in the new state - thus ensuring a
permanent political role for the ulama and underlining the need for a powerful and
unitary state
to protect the homeland that Muslims had created from the imminent
threat posed by the Hindu India that it had seceded from. As an accompaniment to the
increasingly complex configuration of politics within the new state, Islam has always
been instrumentalised by the state and its dominant class partners to assert coercive
control when threatened. Given how it has been employed by the historical bloc to
reproduce class relations there can be little doubt of its centrality to the hegemonic
The role of Islam as state ideology has become more prominent following the
dismemberment of the country. Bhutto, for example, used the slogan 'Islamic
socialism' to gamer popular support, while making a concerted effort to establish ties
with the Muslim world to the west given that Pakistan's place in the pecking order in
South Asia had been jeopardised by the events of 1971. The Zia era is remembered as
the era of 'Islamisation' and as will be argued in subsequent chapters, it has been
under the guise of Islam that the politics of common sense - replete with the coercive
42 Of course in theory Pakistan is a federal state but in practice it remains very centralised, committed
to the suppression of difference.
power of the state - has been foisted on the social formation. It also follows that the
newest members of the historical bloc stoutly pledge allegiance to the state ideology.
Coming full circle
Alavi's original formulation remains full of insight so long as it is problematised
further. My contention is that, at the conjuncture of partition the unique construct of
Islamic nationhood and its attendant political machinations brought together a
historical bloc comprising state functionaries, propertied classes of the western wing,
and of course, the forces of capitalist imperialism 43 As J alaI (1990; 1995) points out,
the state oligarchy's predominance - while no doubt partly a function of its historical
position within the colonial social formation - was also a reflection of the concerns
amongst the West Pakistani propertied classes that even a nominally democratic
dispensation might result in power shifting to the eastern wing.
There has been not insignificant conflict between - indeed within - the state oligarchy
and its dominant class partners over time, reflected primarily in the struggle over
establishment of a nominally functional democratic process. The literature on civil-
military relations tends to view the persistence of undemocratic rule in the third world
as a function of, among other factors, weaknesses of political parties and the
superiority of the military as a cohesive and modern institution. However, this
literature is generally silent on the reproduction of structural matrices of power in
which the straightforward civil-military dichotomy becomes an analytical
oversimplification. Heeger (1977) provides the most valuable insight by pointing out
that the Pakistani case proves that even when not in power directly, the military'S
predominance in fundamental resource-allocation and decision-making affairs
remains largely intact. 45
43 It is important to assert that the nature of this historical bloc was by no means set in stone, but that it
was a direct product of the specific conjuncture. For example, urban commercial groups in the Pakistan
areas at the time of partition were almost exclusively Hindu. Resultantly, 'any benefits to society from
an emerging 'bourgeois' ethos were emaciated by [their] emigration to Indian territory at Partition in
1947' (Ali, 2003: 34).
44 As J alaI and many other historians have pointed out, the demographic majority of the eastern wing
represented a threat to the West Pakistani propertied classes and Punjabi and Urdu-speaking state
oligarchy alike, and their alliance was cemented by the perceived threat of Indian aggression which
justified an inordinate emphasis on building up the young state's defence capacity.
45 This is not all to suggest that there is no substantive difference between military governments and
some form of elected rule, which, as will be hinted at throughout the thesis, there clearly is. However it
The relationship between the 'metropolitan bourgeoisie' and dominant institutional
and class interests within Pakistan has also not been without tension and conflict.
Nonetheless, following the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, a reconstituted
historical bloc has reemerged to dominate a social formation which continues to
change rapidly. As Pakistani society has become increasingly vulnerable to the
vagaries of the international market, a multitude of class contradictions have emerged.
Similarly, given the inability of the historical bloc to maintain national unity under the
banner of Islam, conflicts along ethno-nationallines have proliferated. Yet these have
been - and continue to be - evaded by incumbent political power.
To reiterate, this thesis considers evolving social forms so as to understand the
development of the political sphere in the post -1971 period, while positing that
cultural dispositions, political imaginations and practices, and the logic of capital are
the constituents of these forms, and that none can be reduced to a simple reflection of
another. As such this exercise should intuitively be conducted at two heuristic levels,
namely at the level of dominant classes and the state oligarchy and at the level of the
subordinate classes, the purpose of which would be to understand the manner in
which the existing configuration of power is reproduced as a function of both
dominance and consent. In general political economy accounts of Pakistan totally
neglect to consider the latter, perhaps for two largely related reasons; that it is the
ruling classes who write history through the largely brute exercise of power; and that
capturing the logic of subordinate class practices is both conceptually and empirically
very difficult.
Subaltern studies historiography has attempted to correct this shortcoming in the
mainstream readings of Indian history by bringing into focus popular struggles that
cannot be considered simple corollaries of the nationalist movement (cf Chakrabarty,
1981; Guha, 1983). However it can be argued that this seminal effort has increasingly
suffered from an inadequate emphasis on the determining economic and political
contexts within which subordinate class practices are played out (cf Sarkar, 2002). In
general post-structuralist scholarship takes the idea of a 'blurring' of state and society
is indubitable that the oligarchic structure of power has remained intact even during the tenure of
elected governments.
too far thereby ignoring the importance of class, state power, and discourses of
dominance (cf Jeffrey and Lerche, 2001). In any case, it is crucial to understand the
logic of practice at the level of the subordinate classes for another reason, namely to
establish how and why strategies for domination change over time. As E.P. Thompson
(1995: 142) has pointed out, it is never the case that dominant classes can mute any
and all potential challenges to their power, and there often exists a 'vigorous self-
activating culture of the people' that 'constitutes an ever-present threat to official
descriptions of reality' .
Importantly, as has been underlined in the political economy literature on India, the
role of the so-called intermediate classes needs to be considered in depth to fully
grasp the complexity of accumulation processes (cfHarriss-White, 2003). In the
seminal neo-Marxist analyses, intermediate classes often referred to salaried
professionals and state functionaries. However, the role of the intermediate trading,
small-scale manufacturing and wholesale/retail classes has only more recently
attracted greater attention. Without doubt this segment of the intermediate classes
have increased their role in the accumulation of capital by engaging the state
strategically, and more generally reinforcing the prevailing dynamics of the
conventional political sphere (cf Khan, 1998). It will therefore be important to
understand the politics of the intermediate classes as much as subordinate and
dominant classes and institutional interests to construct a holistic picture of the
political sphere.
Most political economy accounts of Pakistan are structured as descriptive
chronological accounts in which six distinct periods are conventionally delineated,
starting with the first II-year period of bureaucratic consolidation, followed by the
Ayub Khan dictatorship, the Yahya interregnum in which the eastern wing seceded,
Bhutto's rule, the Zia dictatorship and finally the post-Zia decade in which four
governments were not allowed to complete their terms in office (cf Ziring, 1997;
Malik, 1997; Waseem, 1994; Rizvi, 2000).
This thesis focuses specifically on the post-197I period, and in doing so will not be
fashioned along the lines of a traditional political economy. The periodisation reflects
the fact that the current Pakistan came into being only in 1971, but arguably more
importantly that the post -1971 period marked a renewed attempt by the Alavian nexus
of power to reinforce a hegemonic politics of common sense in which the
participation of subordinate and intermediate classes was essential to counter a
burgeoning confrontational politics of class that threatened the historical bloc.
Religious groups including the ulama have also become increasing more influential in
the post -1971 period. Furthermore, it is worth bearing in mind that Alavi's own
'overdeveloped' formulation described the state and politics in Pakistan prior to 1971.
In concluding the introductory chapter, I would like to note some methodological
points as well as provide basic details about fieldwork sites. For the most part,
scholarly efforts to theorise on the state have relied on a reified notion of the state,
whether as a conglomeration of interests, or as a coherent set of institutions operating
within the confines of a well-defined rationalism. As I mentioned at the outset, the
major theoretical and empirical contribution of the thesis is reflected in Section 2
where I seek to go beyond the traditional academic conventions and conduct an
'anthropology of the state'.
Given that I seek to debunk the notion of an 'underdeveloped' society that is engaged
only functionally by an 'overdeveloped' state, and illuminate the intimate nature of
the state-society relation, it seems natural to consider the 'everyday state and society'
in different parts of the country (cf Fuller and Benei, 2001). In other words, to
understand the fashioning of the hegemonic politics of common sense is it is
necessary to investigate the actual engagement of the subordinate classes with the
state (as well as the dominant and intermediate classes that are also beneficiaries of
the hegemonic project). Thus I adopt an anthropological method which permits a
thorough investigation of the manner in which the actions of the administrative
apparatus and dominant social classes as well as ideas of the state corne together to
inform the political action of the subordinate classes. Adopting such a method allows
me to simultaneously understand the cultural logic of the social formation as well as
the differential impact of capital in the various regions that I study.
While I have drawn on anecdotal evidence from numerous parts of the country, the
three major fieldwork sites that I identified at an early stage of my research are Okara
in Punjab province, Charsadda in NWFP province and Badin in Sindh province.
designed my fieldwork so as to study at least one site in each province, but had to
eventually exclude Balochistan.
In all three locations, my major ethnographic work
was conducted in one or two villages as well as the major urban marketplace where
the farmers/fisherfolk sell their output.
Of course it must be acknowledged that the empirical material generated during my
fieldwork cannot be considered representative as such and that it offers only a limited
insight into Pakistan's political sociology. 49 Having said this it is important to dwell a
bit on choice of fieldwork sites and why I believe I can draw broader inferences from
the very localized research that I conducted. Both Okara and Charsadda are in that
part of Pakistan that has undergone rapid changes over the past two to three decades
and where capitalism has penetrated the deepest. As such these are also areas that can
be said to have been 'coopted' into the prevailing power structure to a much greater
extent than, say, Badin (and other parts of Sindh) and large parts of Balochistan. As
will become clear in subsequent chapters, I place a great deal of emphasis on the fact
that the structure of power remains exclusive despite the great objective changes in
the wider society. In this regard, the Okara and Charsadda fieldwork sites are symbols
of this growing contradiction.
A final note on the actual methods employed to generate information is in order. I did
not use questionnaires or formal interviews but in a handful of cases. For the most
part I relied on participant observation and open-ended interviews. The most fruitful
engagements came in the form of focus group discussions in which the discussants
often guided the terms of the discussion/debate. Over the course of fieldwork I came
46 Okara city is approximately 120km south of Lahore on the Grand Trunk Road, and part of the Canal
Colony heartland of the Punjab. Charsadda is 150 km west of the federal capital Islamabad and is 30km
from the NWFP provincial capital Peshawar. Charsadda too is part of a relatively rich and fertile canal
irrigated belt called the Peshawar Valley. Badin is on the southernmost coast of Sindh province,
approximately 200 km from Karachi city. Agriculture is also the mainstay here but in recent times
major floods have inundated large parts of the arable land in the district. My fieldwork villages are on
the Arabian Sea and are approximately two hours drive from Badin city.
47 My exclusion of Balochistan from the fieldwork sites was primarily a function oflogistical and
material constraints. However, notwithstanding substantive contextual differences, and in particular the
fact that Baloch ethno-nationalism is now the most radical strand of resistance to the Pakistani state, I
submit that many of my general conclusions do apply to Balochistan.
48 The Okara villages are Chak 45-3/R and Chak 4-4/L; the Charsadda village is Madni, Tehsil Tangi;
the Badin villages are collectively called Zero Goth.
49 This limitation is as much about method as the small number of research sites. Anthropological
studies of the state do not permit broad generalisation because of the emphasis on the 'local'.
to concur completely with the contention of Bourdieu et. al (1999: 610) that the most
successful ethnographic research amongst subaltern groups takes place when the
interviewer and interviewee are 'interchangeable'. 50
' .
50 In other words it is crucial to dispense with the delusion of perfect impartiality; I found that the
richest insights emerged after I had established relationships of trust with the interviewees.
Chapter 2
The military: Arbiter of power
In discussing the Alavian nexus of power it is instructive to start with a short
discussion of Alavi's original conceptualization and how the present work adds to or
departs from this conceptualization. I will attempt this for each corporate institution
and class, starting off with the most dominant of them all, the military.
Alavi's view of the military is encapsulated in the term 'military-bureaucratic'
oligarchy. In other words the military and the bureaucracy were somewhat
indistinguishable in Alavi's theoretical schema. He viewed both institutions as
comprising the 'state' and therefore implied that their interests (and various other
features) were essentially congruous. In more historical writings, Alavi necessarily
distinguished the two, noting for example that the Ayubian regime was not an
instance of 'military rule' as military men had little role in matters of administration
(Alavi, 1983a).
In the main, I wish to emphasise the importance of theorising the military and
bureaucracy separately, so as to add dynamism to Alavi's formulation. Alavi himself
acknowledges that over time a shift takes place within the relationship between the
bureaucracy and the military in favour of the latter, but his theoretical schema does
not reflect this. So, for example, while Alavi does mention that the military and
bureaucracy do accumulate capital under the guise of 'development', he makes no
attempt to distinguish the means and methods of either corporate group, which, as will
be shown presently, is crucial to understanding various aspects of oligarchic rule. In
particular he tends to marginalize the fact that the accumulation of capital is
dependent on the accumulation of power.
Alavi also pays very little attention to the ideological bases of oligarchic domination.
In particular he does not consider how and why the military comes to secure an
exalted position within the polity on account of Pakistan's constitution as a national
security state. This oversight also reinforces the notion that there is no meaningful
distinction between the military and bureaucracy whilst also ignoring the importance
of legitimation of oligarchic rule 'from below'.
As such, through the Ayub period, the imperative of national security had already
been firmly established which meant that the military's role as arbiter was being
taking root. While this role was disputed by some of the underrepresented ethno-
national groups, and particularly the Bengalis, in Punjab the military was considered
the undisputed guardian of the state. Jingoism vis a vis India was widespread, whilst a
belief had been inculcated within the rank and file of the military as well as the wider
west Pakistani public that the modernization spearheaded by the military was making
Pakistan into a model third world state. Even so the military was not at this stage the
'mediator' of the historical bloc that it would become in the post-Bhutto period.
Ironically the skewed modernization policies of the Ayubian regime were the primary
cause of its downfall. Within Pakistan and indeed in much of the third world,
populism was the vogue in the late 1960s and the Pakistan People's Party led by
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto managed to capture public support amongst the newly politicized
social forces in Punjab and Sindh, namely students, industrial workers and
intermediate classes associated with secondary and tertiary sectors of the agrarian
economy. Meanwhile the secession of the eastern wing dramatically undermined the
military's power. In the subsequent period, the military's political role as well as its
image was resuscitated by the Bhutto regime. On the one hand this was reflected in
the continuing expansion of its corporate interests while on the other its coercive law
and order function was consistently invoked by the government.
The politics of common sense has emerged as a distinct form of political engagement
throughout the wider social formation in the post-Bhutto period, in conjunction with
the reemergence and consolidation of the military as Pakistan's preeminent political
force. It is imperative, therefore, to elucidate that it was only with the military at the
helm that the historical bloc could have countered the politics of resistance that
characterised the 1967-77 period. But first it is necessary to discuss the colonial roots
of military power. I will dwell briefly on the unique nature of civil-military
administration in the northwest of India during the colonial period and then go on to
show how the Pakistani military acquired a symbolic association with the post-
colonial nation-state itself.
A colonial army
Punjab under the British constituted a remarkable experiment in social engineering
insofar as the introduction of perennial irrigation canals in the heartland of what is
today Pakistani Punjab dramatically altered the social structure of the region and
accordingly vested in the state unprecedented power to mold the social order (cf Ali,
1988). The colonial project in the Punjab was premised upon the firm belief that the
northwest frontier of India was the crucial buffer that would protect the vast British
empire - extending as far east as Australia and New Zealand - from potential
aggressors to the west and the north. The rank and file of the British Indian army then,
particularly after 1857, was derived disproportionately from the Punjab and the
Pakhtuns of the Northwest Frontier.
The state then proceeded to effectively buy the
loyalty of this volunteer army through the systematic issuing of land grants in the
canal colonies. The end result was the creation of a nexus of military-bureaucracy-
landed notables that has persisted beyond the end of colonialism (Tan, 2005).
As such a unique form of government was institutionalized, popularly known as the
Punjab school of administration in which 'authoritarian' tendencies were not only
present, but were in fact encouraged. Military men were inducted into positions of
civilian authority in repudiation of the well-established colonial principle (Tan, 2005:
219). Even the electoral regime created and refined by the British from 1919 onwards
reinforced the unique civil-military regime, based as it was on a very deeply ingrained
principle of distribution of patronage and heavily skewed towards rural-military
interests. 52 The rural notables-state oligarchy nexus of power championed the
tremendous social and economic modernization that took place in the province
throughout the century of British rule, and has continued into the post-colonial period.
There were the dramatic economic effects of cantonment towns, the highest density of
51 The 1857 War of Independence (or Sepoy Mutiny as the British called it) also signaled a clear shift
in colonial thinking in terms of recruitment patterns such that the Punjabis, Pakhtuns and Gurkhas - the
so-called martial castes - became the recruits of choice. The northwest of India therefore became the
heartland of the army replacing previous recruiting grounds in the eastern and northern parts of India
(cf Cohen, 1998).
52 The electoral regime in Punjab was deliberately crafted to ensure that the latent oppositional
tendencies of urban areas were subordinated to the pro-establishment vote of the rural areas. More
generally the British expanded 'democratic' institutions in India in the hopes that 'India's democratic
urges could be contained and ensnared in these institutions, which served the colonial state's needs;
that they were incapable of providing launching pads for a broader oppositional politics and were
controllable through networks of resource distribution.' (Wash brook, 1990: 42).
railroad track in the subcontinent, a formidable road infrastructure, and the like
(Dewey, 1988: 138).
It is clear therefore that the relationship between state and the rapidly changing
society in Punjab set the stage for the continuation of civil-military administration
following independence. Fieldwork interviews with officers of the Pakistan arm/
indicated quite clearly that the 'garrison state' model in which civil and military
power were considered two sides of the same coin was seamlessly interwoven into the
worldview of the administrators of the new state. 54
Arguably just as important was the support from colonial society at large for this form
of administration. On the whole, the agriculturalist that was the mainstay of the social
order envisaged by the state benefited considerably from this order and therefore
could be counted upon to stand by the prevailing social and political order (Dewey,
1988: 148). Meanwhile the unirrigated and relatively poor Potohar plateau in the
northern part of the province was the major recruiting ground for the army, and was
kept relatively underdeveloped so as to ensure the loyalty of the majority of the
subaltern population that was almost entirely reliant on recruitment to the army for its
livelihood (Pasha, 1998).
In essence this short historical survey of colonial Punjab allows us to make two
distinct theoretical inferences. First, Alavi's contention regarding the power of the
military-bureaucratic oligarchy in the post-colonial period is only partially accurate.
There is no doubting the clear historical legacy of oligarchic rule in what became the
dominant province in Pakistan, and further that oligarchic rule was supported directly
by at least one propertied class - namely the landed notables
- that was part of the
power sharing arrangement in the new state.
However, Alavi's analysis neither
53 Interview with General (Retd.) Hamid Gul, 22 January 2007.
54 The most obvious example of this shared understanding of politics and administration was the
induction of the first indigenous Commander-in-Chief of the army, Ayub Khan, into the 1954 cabinet
as Minister of Defence; the civil bureaucracy and complicit politicians clearly did not see the need to
make the army subservient to civilian authority.
55 The upper peasantry which was also quite cozy with the state may be considered a distinct class in
the mold of the Russian kulak.
56 According to Alavi, the post-colonial state mediates between three dominant classes - under colonial
rule it was the landed notables in what were to become the Pakistan areas that were clearly ascendant in
considers the historical roots of military-bureaucratic accommodation (in any
particular region), nor the manner in which this accommodation evolves. More
importantly, Alavi sees the colonial state as being fundamentally disjointed from the
social formation in which it was ensconced, instead theorising the state as constituting
the superstructure of the economic base in the metropole. In actual fact, as the history
of colonial Punjab suggests, there is a highly complex and mutually constitutive
relationship between the colonial state and the social formation that is based on
established as well as newly evolving economic, political and cultural foundations.
The implications of this discussion are clear in the sense that the military's direct role
in administration and its concurrent garnering of public resources was deeply
institutionalized (its influence and support base concentrated in the Punjab), and this
pattern could be expected to continue. 57 As such therefore this chapter seeks to trace
the development of the military's independent corporate empire and confirm the
argument made by Siddiqa (2007) that as time has passed, and particularly following
the Zia dictatorship, the military's need to maintain a firm grip on power is largely
explained by its desire to expand its economic interests. 58
As will be argued in subsequent chapters, the state oligarchy that existed at partition
has changed considerably, as have the three propertied classes in Alavi's formulation.
Crucially it has been the military's ability to lead the other members of the historical
bloc, as well as new contenders for power that have emerged since the 1960s that
explains the persistence of the Alavian nexus of power from above. 59 Having said this
comparison to the very small indigenous bourgeoisie, whereas the foreign bourgeoisie was represented
by the colonial state itself.
57 The preeminence of many migrants in the high bureaucracy in Karachi did not necessarily undermine
the military's claims to power-sharing; the imperative of 'national security' guaranteed a central role
for the soldiers.
58 See also Rizvi (2000) who argues that the various 'hybrid' civil-military regimes that have existed in
Pakistan, particularly during the 1990s, reflect the military's commitment to a principle of coming into
power directly only if its corporate interests are threatened.
59 Having said this, it is important to bear in mind that, as a general rule, post-colonial militaries are
neither conceived of nor equipped to undertake the administrative function which is typically the
preserve of the civil bureaucracy. In this respect we differ with the extensive literature on civil military
relations in the decades which asserts that third world militaries were better equipped to lead post-
colonial states into the era of independence primarily on account of their superior organizational
capacity (cf Huntington, 1968; Perlmutter, 1977). Similarly, as was pointed out in the introductory
chapter, the civil-military oligarchy requires dominant classes - and particularly landed notables - to
mediate its exchanges with the popular classes. Thus in conceiving of the military as the dominant
force within the historical bloc in the post-Bhutto period, it is crucial to reiterate that the military
exercises power only because it does so with the consent of other members of the historical bloc.
the military's embeddedness within the patronage-based political system has in recent
times given rise to increasing alienation because of its growing economic and political
clout. The military's rapid rise to the pinnacle of economic, political and social power
is in fact the greatest threat to oligarchic rule because it has endangered its historical
relationships with other components of the historical bloc whilst also exploding the
myth of its selflessness amongst the subordinate classes.
The military's ability to divert surplus to its independent economic enterprises has
been a direct function of the polarization within Pakistan between pro and anti Bhutto
camps from the 1970s onwards. The military acquired the mantle of mediator within
the historical bloc as the symbol of the anti-Bhutto camp. In this role of mediator, the
military has become landlord, industrialist, and even civilian administrator.
It can
therefore be argued, that Alavi's observation about the relative autonomy of the state
and its mediatory role in the immediate post-colonial period needs to be adapted to
account for the post-Bhutto period in which the military has effectively acquired
relative autonomy and mediates the interests of all other members of the historical
My focus here is on the reemergence of the military and the support offered to it by
traditional and new contenders for power in the post-Bhutto period. Crucially, the
military reasserted its image as guardian of Pakistan while projecting the state as an
entity beyond the reach of the subordinate classes which, in the name of Islam, would
rigorously impose order. The historical bloc was committed to rolling back the gains
made by the subordinate classes during the late 1960s and 1970s by slowly but surely
reducing the latter's influence on state policy and posture, thereby eliminating their
potential to capture the state.
The historical bloc consensus once again crushed the
possibility of a democratic process taking root in favour of maintaining the existing
oligarchic order.
60 Siddiqa (2007: 108) suggests that the military 'cuts across' or 'penetrates' other classes. This is
consistent with our analysis, but is perhaps an inappropriate metaphor. The conceptualisation of the
military as a distinct 'class' will be explored in the concluding chapter.
61 This appears to correspond to what has been called the 'colonisation of the state' by the military
(Lowy & Sader, 1985).
62 I will analyse the popular upheavals of this period in greater depth in Section 2 of the thesis.
The national security state
The new state was formed under tumultuous circumstances that provided an
opportunity for the bureaucracy, military and propertied classes of the western wing
to emphasise the imperative of national security at the cost of promoting the fledgling
political process. This imperative was simply not questioned by any political actor or
for that matter within society at large (Rizvi, 2000: 76).64 The role of external powers
and particularly the United States in reinforcing this unique conflation of interests in
which the military eventually rose to a dominant position will be discussed in Chapter
6. In any case, the military's ascent followed from the inordinate importance
associated with 'national security' from the very beginning.
In the early years following the inception of the state, the military garnered a hugely
disproportionate share of public resources in the form of the official defence budget
taking as much as 70% of the budget expenditure in the first year (Siddiqi, 1996: 70).
Over time, the size of the official defence budgets has decreased, at least in relative
terms. That having been said during fieldwork it was apparent that a broad cross-
section of society unanimously concurs that the military's 'institutionalised
corruption' has increased over time. For example it is now common knowledge that
the military has transferred pensions for its retirees into the civilian head of the budget
so as to make its own budget appear more modest. Dissident intellectuals have also
made it a point to assert the difference between combat and non-combat defence
Nonetheless, it can be safely asserted that the military has not been able to secure as
big a share of government expenditure as in the immediate post-partition years or the
period following dismemberment in 1971, especially given the exponential increases
in the debt repayment burden over the past 20 years. On the one hand the military has
augmented its resource flows by allying itself closely with its American counterpart
63 This term is being used in the tradition of Ahmad (2000) and Johnson (1985).
64 Nationalist sentiment, and the anti-India consciousness in particular, was concentrated primarily
amongst the migrant communities of Punjab and urban Sindh. Ethno-national groups on the margins of
national discourse did not ascribe to 'official' nationalism largely because they were often victims of
military aggression on the part of the centre.
65 Interview with Kaiser Bengali, 3 May 2007. See also Cheema (2003: 44): 'Many defence items are
camouflaged and are listed under some other ministry's budgetary allocation. These are known as
hidden allocations - resources allocated to the non-defence sector but whose outcome forms a
significant part of the overall defence activity' .
through official assistance agreements (to be discussed in Chapter 6). However, as
will be shown, American (and other) aid assistance has been erratic. Accordingly, it
has been the military's systematic and autonomous accumulation of capital that began
with its entry into power politics under Ayub that has guaranteed its corporate
Underlying the military's ability to manipulate state affairs and divert surplus has
been the discourse of internal law and order. This discourse has been multi-pronged.
On the one hand it has linked the external threat to territorial sovereignty with internal
dissent (Cohen, 1998; p. 45). On the other it has emphasised the perceived ineptitude
of politicians. This perception was consolidated at a very early stage as parliamentary
government failed to take root in the first decade of the country's existence, with
different factions competing to win favour with a powerful civil bureaucracy. Over
time the military - and importantly a significant section of the intelligentsia - has
propagated the myth that it offers stability and direction in comparison to politicians.
During fieldwork it was clearly observed that the project of demeaning politicians has
been a successful one. All across the social formation, cynicism about the intent and
performance of politicians is rife.
Finally the military'S aura was built up through 'heroic' episodes of assistance to
civilian authority in the wake of natural and man-made disasters (Rizvi, 2000: 77_8).66
As - if not more - important have been public disturbances such as the Ahmadi riots
of 1953 when the first martial law in the independent country's history was imposed.
By taking responsibility for the restoration of the public peace the military very
deliberately cultivated an image for itself as the ultimate guardian of the state. The
key to maintaining this self-created image has been to limit its public interventions
and contrasting itself to the 'callous' and 'self-absorbed' politicians and even
bureaucrats that ordinary Pakistanis interacted with on a regular basis (Siddiqi, 1996).
Following the dismemberment of the country in December 1971, the public myth of
the military's omnipotence was crushed. This was reflected in scathing attacks on
military professionalism in major newspapers; editorials lamented that the military'S
66 See Moore (1969) for a perspective that celebrates the military's role in nation-building.
humiliating surrender in east Pakistan was a direct outcome of the military's
negligence of its professional duties during its prolonged time in power (cf Shafqat,
1997: 166). Accordingly the Bhutto regime was presented with an unprecedented
opportunity to relegate the military to a position of subservience to civilian authority.
More than thirty years removed from the experience, military officers today narrate
tales of Bhutto' s viciousness towards the military and the fact that for at least the first
two years after coming to power he systematically undermined its internal authority
The anti-Bhutto sentiment appears to derive from the fact that what was
considered the military darkest hour - the surrender in Dhaka - perversely marked
Bhutto's coming to power, even though many of the military officers interviewed
clearly believed that Bhutto was at least as responsible for the debacle as Yahya Khan
and other military men.
In any case, despite the fact that the PPP regime had a unique opportunity to attack
the edifice of the national security state at a fundamental level, Bhutto preferred to
emphasise the failings of a few 'fat and flabby generals'. 68 Perhaps more than any
other regime in Pakistan's history, the PPP government reasserted the national
security paradigm and particularly the anti-India imperative, thereby providing a
golden opportunity for the military to reemerge as a major actor in the power-sharing
arrangement. Defence expenditures increased markedly under the PPP government,
while it also initiated the nuclear program which has subsequently become a major
pillar of the national security state.
Bhutto also employed the military liberally to quell internal dissent against industrial
labour in Karachi and urban centres in Punjab, thereby also rehabilitating its
complementary law and order function. Perhaps most crucially, the military was
called in to crush a nationalist movement in Balochistan in 1973, a mere 18 months
67 Interview with Brigader (Retd.) Shaukat Qadir, 15 January 2007. See also Shafqat (1997: 167-181);
the manner in which Bhutto removed General Gul Hasan and Air Marshal Rahim indicated his almost
unchallengeable authority over a demoralized military.
68 Bhutto's personal assistant Rafi Raza puts this down to Bhutto's belief that the military was a
permanent fixture on Pakistan's political landscape and it was thus futile to try and eliminate it (Raza,
69 Defence expenditures in 1974 reached an all-time high of 8.4% of GDP; in no year since Pakistan's
founding has defence expenditure been higher than 7.2% (Hashmi, 1983: 105).
after the eastern wing of the country had been lost because of the historical bloc's
unwillingness to fashion an equitable power sharing arrangement. Historically the
military's image of guardian of the state has been synonymous with the use of force
against nationalist movements for autonomy (Alavi, 1987: 106-7). The Balochistan
episode reignited the flames of chauvinism in the Punjab against oppressed
nationalities and was central to the restoration of the Punjabi-dominated military's
prestige. Military officers interviewed during fieldwork agreed that it was Bhutto's
invocation of the military's classic 'restoration of order' function that allowed the
soldiers re-entry into the corridors of power.
Guardian of the state once more
The Bhutto regime's liberal use of Islamic idiom ironically paved the way for the
intense ideological stresses of the Zia dictatorship. Given the highly polarized society
that the Zia regime sought to neuter, the use of Islam as the apparent guiding principle
for government was quite logical especially in light of the long history of
instrumentalisation of religion in Pakistan. Crucially Islam was the guise under which
flagrant use of force was justified, and it was this unbridled use of force that
undermined the confrontational class politics that constituted a major threat to the
oligarchy and the propertied classes, the details of which will be discussed at length in
Section 2.71
Following the Ziajunta's coming to power, it became apparent that the restoration of
even a nominal democratic process would likely condemn the military to the cowering
position that it had suffered through during the Bhutto years.72 Thus the modus
operandi for both old and new contenders for power in the post-Bhutto period has
been to prevent the emergence of popular challenges to status quo. My interactions
70 Interviews with General (Retd.) Hamid Gul, 22 January 2007; General (Retd.) Talat Masood, 24
November 2006. Officers active at the time concur that the immediate cause of the Zia coup was the
PNA movement that raged for four months - many skeptics believe that this movement was supported
by elements within the state keen to get rid of Bhutto but needing a pretext to do so. See also Jalal
71 During fieldwork in the national archives it was observed that under the Zia regime numerous
notifications issued by the 'Political Section' of the Interior Ministry entitled 'action against
objectionable literature and books having material against Islam' gave law enforcers an explicit
mandate to arrest and harass dissidents under the pretext that they were 'anti-Islam'.
72 In fact the generals that carried out the coup clearly feared for their lives in the event of Bhutto's
return to power; perpetrators of military coups were subject to the death penalty under the 1973
with serving and retired civil and military officers, as well as propertied classes
indicated this consensus clearly, although the most obvious anti-Bhutto (read: anti-
populist) biases were found amongst military officers and urban capitalists (both big
and small), both insistent that military leadership was essential to reestablish 'order'
in a highly polarized society.
More specifically, in the immediate post-Bhutto period, it became important to
conceive of and then build a set of alliances that would allow the military to overcome
its lack of popular legitimacy.73 This political strategy would have to be backed up by
a constant reassertion of the military's ultimate function: its coercive force. Perhaps
un surprisingly, it was the familiar members of the historical bloc that were willing
accomplices of the new military junta; a demoralized high bureaucracy, an industrial
bourgeoisie forever scarred by what they considered to be Bhutto' s whimsical
economic policies, and the landed class, that fit as searnlessly into Zia's schema of
political engineering as it had done in all previous dispensations (Waseem, 1994: 360-
9). The Afghan War also set the stage for a consolidation of the relationship between
imperialism and the military. Finally, the Zia period marked the emergence of the
ulema as a mainstream political force that pushed its way into the historical bloc on
account of Zia's choice of an obscurantist Islam as state ideology; and the
intermediate classes that had been the major force behind anti-Bhutto populism.
The expanded historical bloc was united by the need to undermine the counter
hegemonic power of the popular classes. This explains the remarkable stability of the
Zia regime, even though it reneged on its promise of restoring democracy numerous
times, beginning as early as three months after the July 1977 coup. In other words the
high bureaucracy and propertied classes recognized that only a strong-arm period of
military rule could counter the politics of class that had characterized the Bhutto years,
and thus they accepted the military's leadership.
The political system that the Zia junta created, and which was backed by other
dominant groups, was based crucially on a 'personalization' of power insofar as the
military used the institutions and resources of the state to serve its own independent
73 Interview with Brigadier (Retd.) Shaukat Qadir, 15 January 2007.
corporate interests, whilst patronizing allies, and also attempting to coopt the
intermediate classes into an ever expanding web of state patronage.
personalized form of politics was not a qualitatively new phenomenon but was
institutionalized in response to the more expansive mobilizations along class lines in
the preceding period.
While the Zia regime targeted the whole polity in this effort, it
was most crucial that the intermediate classes be coopted.
In Pakistan today, sifarish (asking for favours) and rishwat (rewarding of someone
who does a favour) are commonplace. During fieldwork, it was observed both in
everyday discourse as well as in the popular media that there is a certain lament about
the cynicism that has crept into everyday social exchange in the form of sifarish and
Popular memory - across the entire breadth of social classes - tends to
position sifarish and rishwat as having become widespread only recently, as opposed
to the more pristine image of society in an earlier period in Pakistan's history. Civil
and military officers tend to associate the ascent of a sifarishlrishwat culture with
Bhutto, but even if the rot started during the PPP's time in power, it became
widespread under the Zia regime.
The post-Bhutto reassertion of a patronage principle in the political sphere will be
discussed at length in subsequent chapters. Nonetheless, as pointed out above, the
politics of common sense is predicated upon the state possessing the credible threat of
coercion. Returning to Gramsci' s schema, hegemony exists in the form of a complex
dialectic of coercion and consent, in the complementary role of state as the repository
of power and civil society as the terrain of 'common sense' action. Ayubi (1995: 172-
3) insists that 'the predominance of the 'political' and the cruciality of the state is in
some ways a function of the lack of class hegemony in society'. While it is true that
no single class is dominant within the social formation, our contention that the
74 Noman (2001) has called this systematic use of state resources 'shadow privatisation', while the
literature more generally describes this as 'privatisation of the state'. See Bayart (1993) for the most
cogent exposition of this idea. The chapter on the intermediate classes will also discuss the possibility
of using the even more suggestive idea of 'criminalisation of the state'.
75 Shafqat (1997: 82) asserts that personalization of power is the 'hallmark of Pakistan's political
76 It can be argued that Bhutto himself initiated this process of personalization, however, he did not
completely coopt the independent class and interest based associationallife that had emerged during
his rise to power. It was only during the Zia regime that the latter were deliberately undermined
through a combination of coercion and cooption.
77 See also Verkaaik (2004).
military has effectively acquired the role of mediator between dominant classes while
representing the omnipotence of state power for the subordinate classes is consistent
with the existence of hegemonic power relations in that the politics of the subordinate
classes has become an 'anxiety from below to find a place in the complex vertical
links of political power' (Ayubi, 1995: 169).
Evidently, the post-Bhutto military regime successfully restated the idea of the state in
the public mind in a manner that made it, at one and the same time, impersonal and
dominant, but also accessible and personalized. In other words, for the politics of
common sense to be truly hegemonic, the military regime had to create the perception
amongst the subordinate classes that confrontation of the kind that had become
commonplace through the 1970s would be met with the severest of consequences and
that relying on localized patronage networks leading to the state was 'rational' in the
sense that the 'class action' was unlikely to lead to a superior outcome (Khan, 2000:
The making of an empire
This rather long preface outlining the historical bloc consensus over the need to
maintain oligarchic rule and the attendant cultivation of the military's image within
the context of a national security state explains the military's gradual ascendance.
When thinking more specifically about military officers as a distinct sociological
group, it becomes clear that, throughout the post-colonial period, the military's
corporate interests have arguably been the single most important factor in explaining
its methods of political action.
Ayub's takeover in October 1958 marked the direct entry of military men into
administrative positions, notwithstanding episodic interventions such as the 1953
martial law in Punjab. Hence the regime's primary base of power remained the
military; '[Ayub] knew the importance of being able to maintain decent standards of
living - not only while serving but after retirement' (Cloughley, 2000: 33). As
military men became cosy with the high bureaucrats that still occupied the preeminent
position in the polity, they became firm in the 'belie[f] that the perks of the officers
78 The highly dynamic nature of the subordinate classes' political actions will be discussed at length in
Chapter 9.
should match those of the civil servants' (Siddiqa, 2007: 130). Most military officers
remain firmly convinced that they are fully entitled to the perks and benefits they
enjoy even today; many even express surprise at the growing criticism that they face
from the general public. Retired military men tend to be more circumspect in their
judgment of the practice?9
Most independent military economic activities that were initiated in the Ayub period
were explained by the need to provide for the welfare of army personnel, a claim that
appealed both to the rank and file as well as the Punjabi heartland that remained
committed to the national security state.
More generally, the military's entry into the
economic sphere in this period through the investments of the Fauji Foundation
reflected its close linkages with the nascent industrial bourgeoisie that relied heavily
on state patronage (Siddiqa, 2007: 130-5). While the military was politically at its
weakest during the Bhutto period, its corporate interests were not fundamentally
undermined. As pointed out above, formal expenditures on defence increased
markedly, while the regime increased salaries at the lower levels of the army, and
liberally issued land grants, ostensibly to win the favour of junior officers and even
NCOs (Rizvi, 1984: 219).
However, it was under Zia that the military definitively emerged as the country's
biggest corporate conglomerate. As was the case with the Ayub regime, the Zia
junta's political dominance depended, in the first and last instance, on the support of
the military itself. This support is what Zia and his corps commanders cultivated, and
it has been the single-minded pursuit of the officer corps' own interests which has
been crucial to the military's continuing dominance after Zia. Over the course of the
11 year period in which Zia ul Haq ruled the country, not only was the confidence of
the military restored following the decade-long demoralization from 1968 onwards,
but in fact the military developed such interests that even following Zia's death, it
79 One telling interview was of a retired major-general who headed the Pakistan Ordinance Factory
(POF) at Wah; he was critical of the dramatic increase in perks and benefits to military officers in
recent years, as well as of the military's encroachment into the ream of the civil bureaucracy. However,
he was later invited to become ambassador to the United States at which point his criticism
dramatically dissipated.
80 The importance of Punjab to the military'S role in nationbuilding needs to be reiterated; the eastern
wing was alienated from the state at large, while the smaller nationalities in the western wing were
relati vely weak politically.
would only tolerate a political dispensation in which its interests were
The most obvious difference between Zia ul Haq and Ayub Khan was the former's
retention of direct charge over the army, which ensured his regular and continued
personal contact with both the officer corps and to a lesser extent, the rank and file (cf
Burki, 1988: 1094-5). Islam was a tool not only to gain political legitimacy within the
wider society but also functioned as the military's unifying ideology, and which
appealed greatly to what Stephen Cohen has called the 'Pakistani generation' of
military men, who hailed from much less elitist backgrounds than the two previous
generations of military recruits (1998: 82). This generation had also spent
considerable periods serving in the Arab world which heightened their commitment to
However, arguably the more important influence that came of this exposure
to the Arab world was a growing attachment to material rewards and a penchant for
consumerism (Rizvi, 2001: 203).
More generally the Zia regime opened up opportunities for the military to access a
wide range of resources and opportunities. Not only was the officers corps given
access to 'regimental funds' that were not subject to any form of public accountability,
there was also a systematic opening up of educational and health facilities for military
personnel, which meant the beginnings of a separate social sphere inhabited only by
the military. The four welfare foundations were allowed to create subsidiaries at will,
and there was a systematic displacement of existing public sector providers such as
Pakistan Railways by military-run public organizations such as the National Logistics
Cell (NLC). Perhaps most importantly, military men were drafted into numerous
government agencies which meant that an increasing number of public tenders and
contracts were issued to military companies (Siddiqa, 2007: 141-8).
Finally there was a consolidation of the long-established practice of allotting land to
both serving and retired officers. While it is true that there had been no meaningful
let-up in the colonial pattern of allotment even in the first 30 years of the country's
8l The most prominent example is Zia-ul-Haq himself who was posted to Jordan in the late 1960s
where he helped the regime of King Hussein to dismantle the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
By this point in time Zia had already developed an intense dislike of the radical secular political
currents then widespread across the Muslim world.
existence, during the Zia period there was a shift from simple allotments to the
systematic creation of military housing societies and encouragement to the military
companies and foundations to actually undertake real estate development (Siddiqa,
2007: 149-50). While the practice of allotments of agricultural land was an old one, it
has been the military's expanding interests in urban real estate that has garnered huge
profits over the past two decades.
Military cantonments in the major urban centres in
particular have been a major source of profiteering as there is no check on the ability
of the military to use land in cantonments for commercial purposes. A 'conservative'
estimate of the value of land in the Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta
cantonments is Rs. 500 billion (Siddiqa, 2007: 189).
After Zia
Given the tremendous expansion of the military's corporate interests, it is natural that
there would be a conscious attempt on the part of the major beneficiaries of this
expansion, i.e. the top brass, to maintain these interests. When Zia did finally restore a
modicum of parliamentary government in 1985, he ensured his (and therefore the
army's) permanent role as arbiter by introducing the 8
amendment in the constitution
giving the president the power to dissolve the assemblies at will. This set the stage for
a recurring theme over the next decade when four governments were dismissed by
presidential decree. However, what is important to understand is that the dismissal of
these four governments - including that of PM Junejo which had been installed by Zia
himself - reflected the alliance of the president with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS),
leaving the third member of the so-called 'troika of power' - the prime minister -
usually isolated and powerless to resist. This system, while extremely debilitating for
the political process at large, was a form of 'civilianisation of military rule' that
allowed the military to avoid the scrutiny associated with directly holding the reins of
government whilst protecting its corporate interests, both through official means and
by way of its independent corporate empire (Rizvi, 2000).
Yet the stability of this arrangement depended on the continuing support of other
members of the historical bloc as well as the robustness of the patronage networks
that underlie the historical bloc's hegemony. For the most part, support to the military
82 While the real spurt in the military's urban land acquisition and commercial activity has taken place
since the Musharraf coup, the practice was systematized during the Zia years.
was forthcoming, at least insofar as the two major political parties, the Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) - both representing
landed and industrial interests - deferred to the military, and even promoted the
military's corporate interests, ostensibly to provide a disincentive to the military from
coming back into power (Siddiqa, 2007: 151-166).
There always appears to remain a healthy constituency within mainstream political
parties that invokes the military, a fact that was evident during fieldwork which was
carried out at a time when the Musharraf military regime was coming in for increasing
public criticism. Pro-government politicians clearly indicated their preference for the
military as it alone possesses the mandate to undermine dissent under the guise of
protecting national security.83 More generally there seems to be a consensus amongst
many politicians that the military is a permanent player and that it is better to be on its
good side so as to be able to enjoy the fruits of state power.
Nonetheless, contradictions within the historical bloc arose throughout the 1990s,
culminating in the sacking of the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999.
In the first
instance this reflected the decreasing patronage of the Pakistani military by external
powers, most notably the United States. More specifically, aid and technical
assistance dried up. However, more importantly, the military was reacting to the
perceived slight on its corporate interests by the Nawaz Sharif government. The 8
amendment was repealed by the parliament on account of the overwhelming majority
that the ruling party enjoyed.
The military therefore lost the ability to undermine the
government through this highly arbitrary constitutional deformity. Secondly, there
was the fallout of the ruling party with the military high command over the Kargil
episode, which was indicative of the military's concern over the foreign policy stance
83 Indeed, the head of the ruling party PML-Q became the spokesperson for the military's
unchallengeable position when he insisted that any anti-military polemic was no less than sedition. See
84 Tension between the PPP governments and the military was most obvious; the PPP has always
maintained somewhat of an anti-establishment image, whereas the PML governments that came to
power through the 1990s were much closer to the establishment. It was thus ironic that it was a fallout
with a military protege, Nawaz Sharif, that precipitated a return to military rule.
85 Of the four government that were in place through the period 1988-1999, only the Nawaz Sharif
regime that won the 1997 election actually enjoyed an absolute two-thirds majority in parliament. The
military has historically thrived because civilian governments have tended to be weak coalitions that
can easily be destabilised. The Nawaz Sharif government was not prone to as much behind-the-scenes
of an increasingly belligerent civilian cabinet. 86 In particular, the military was
concerned that the civilian government was bowing to external pressure - and more
specifically from the Clinton administration - to cap the nuclear program and make
peace with India (Talbot, 2002).87
Meanwhile, the politics of common sense was reinforced through the 'democratic'
interregnum of the 1990s. On the one hand, the military's image of saviour of the
nation was reinforced due to the perceived inability of politicians to establish a
workable political settlement. The inability of any of the four governments of the PPP
and PML to complete their terms was put down to politicians' hunger for power and
self-aggrandisement. Thus the subordinate classes were further convinced of the
futility of 'politics' as a means of addressing their needs and aspirations, a point that
will be discussed at length in Section 2.
A more obvious reason for the debilitation of potential political challenges to the
military was the enhanced autonomy of the intelligence agencies that was a direct
product of the Afghan War of the 1980s (cf Haqqani, 2005). In the first instance, this
effect has been enhanced by the systematic targeting of national politicians, starting
first and foremost with the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and then continuing into
the 1990s with the undermining of successive governments and victimization of
political opponents. This was important as it indicated to the subordinate classes that
even dissident members of the historical bloc were subject to the state's wrath. But
more important has been the 'producing and reproducing' of the state-society divide
by the subordinate classes themselves mostly through the creation of, and propagation
of myth (Mitchell, 1991: 94-5). In other words the omnipotence of the intelligence
agencies is at least partially explained by the hyperbole that circulates openly within
the polity, which enhances the perception of the state's power in the eyes of the
86 Kargil is a remote mountain post in the disputed region of Kashmir. In July 1999, the military high
command with General Pervez Musharraf at the helm undertook a covert guerrilla operation,
infiltrating the so-called Line of Control and occupying Kargil for a period of 2 weeks. India's response
and pressure from the international community forced the military to retreat. Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif has always claimed that the operation was conducted without his knowledge and flew in the face
of a peace policy his government was committed to at the time. See
87 It was under Nawaz Sharif that the military conducted the nuclear tests of May 1998 which resulted
in heavy international sanctions and the beginnings of a balance of payments crisis.
subordinate classes, already subjected to substantive interaction with a state that is
always willing to resort to repression.
Unchartered territory
Thus the stage was set for the third bout of extended military rule under General
Pervez Musharraf. In this period the military has replicated the past pattern of
protecting, and even expanding its corporate interests through three main channels,
namely, the official budget, external aid, and its independent economic ventures
whilst also bolstering its political mandate. The scale of the military's economic
pilfering is unprecedented and reflects its corresponding domination of state affairs.
However, the military is yet to be confronted by a countervailing power that would
constrain its accumulation of both power and capital.
The practices outlined as having taken root during the Zia period have intensified
since 1999. There has been a marked increase in the number of military men in
positions of civilian authority, 89 a large number of them already retired. The influx of
retired officers corresponds to a general increase in the 'post-retirement' benefits that
the Musharraf regime has institutionalized.
This implies that the military fraternity-
which according to Siddiqa (2007: 7) is a tighly-knit group including officers (both
serving and retired) and civilian beneficiaries of the military's economic exploits -
has grown in size and thus it can be expected that the support for the military's
activities has increased accordingly.
The military'S rapid encroachment into all spheres of social life was very apparent
during fieldwork. Not only is the fact that 'faujis' - as military men are referred to-
are involved in a variety of economic and administrative activities a very common
topic of discussion, it is also clearly emerging as a major faultline across the social
88 See also Verkaaik (2001: 357): ' ... several law and order forces run their own agency and often
appear to be interested in each other as much as in anybody else. This also means that the state cannot
be regarded as Big Brother, spying on its subjects through secret activities penetrating private places
and thereby effectively keeping society under its thumb. It instead resembles a troubled, fragmented
family of several brothers who are deeply distrustful of each other and cannot rely too much on each
other in their dealings with the outside world'.
89 DAWN reports that there were 1,027 military men occupying civilian posts in 2003
(http://www.dawn.coml2003/09127/natl.htm) while Siddiqa (2007: 213) puts the figure at anything
between 3000 and 5000.
90 Interview with General (Retd.) Talat Masood.
formation with the distinction between 'civilians' and 'faujis' becoming ever more
acute. This means access to the state and to economic resources is increasingly a
function of one's contacts to military men, much more so than at any other time in
Pakistan's history.
Given the nature of the military enterprise and the fact that there are greater and
greater pressures to reproduce and even expand the scale of the corporate empire, it
can and should be expected that the military will only acquiesce to a power-sharing
arrangement in which its ever expanding interests can be protected. It can be surmised
that such an arrangement is not possible under the 'civilianisation' model that worked
through the decade of the 1990s, precisely because of the enormous expansion in the
military's corporate interests over the past 8 years. This is potentially problematic
given the military's need to take along its allies within the historical bloc, many of
whom continue to demand access to the state as well given the opportunities for
patronage that such access brings with it. However I believe that the withering away
of the military's image as saviour of the nation due to its increasing contact and
conflict with the subordinate classes constitutes the biggest concern for the military.
In particular, a large number of military officers interviewed during fieldwork
expressed great discomfort at the fact that the military no longer enjoys the pristine
image that it once did, and that they are themselves often embarrassed by the
discontent prevalent about the military's overarching position within the wider social
There seems to be a consensus that the so-called Sher Ali formula of
limiting public interaction was a successful strategy that allowed the military the
benefits of power without the attendant fallouts.
In the current conjuncture, this
formula seems to have been abandoned altogether, and the arrogance of the present
military top brass is alarming to many retired officers.
Be that as it may the military's ability to divert resources to its own independent
economic activities reflects its close association with propertied classes in that there
91 Interviews with Brigadier (Retd.) Shaukat Qadir, 15 January 2007, General (Retd.) Hamid Gul, 22
January 2007, General (Retd.) Talat Masood 24 November 2006, Colonel (Retd.) F. Yusufzai, 15 June
92 Major-General Sher Ali suggested to Yahya Khan upon the latter's coming to powerthat it would be
best to handover power to the politicians so as to avoid further possible erosion of the military's image
in the public eye (cf Haqqani, 2005).
has been a willful acceptance of this practice by the latter.
For example, the landed
class in particular, but other corporate groups as well have had to accept the military'S
right to acquire land because they too have benefited from the retention of, or
acquisition of land. Similarly, the industrial bourgeoisie continues to benefit greatly
from the personal contacts that it enjoys with the oligarchy, and therefore would not
dispute the military's claim to pursue its business interests.
Perhaps the most
important inference from this discussion is that which has already been stated at the
outset - that it is state power that underlies class power in Pakistan. The military'S
ascendance to becoming the biggest industrial conglomerate and landlord in the
country is a direct correlate of its control of the state, to varying degrees, albeit most
obviously since the Zia coup of 1977.
Differentiation within the armed forces?
It is important to conclude this chapter with a discussion of the internal dynamics of
the armed forces, as this has serious implications for the continued prospects of the
military to remain politically ascendant. First there is the relationship between the
three services and higher and lower ranks within each service. There is little doubt
that the Air Force and Navy have been historically subservient to the Army in all
senses, namely in size and strength, political influence, and financial clout. However
there is little evidence that there has been any major dissent within the forces on
account of the Army's dominant position. In fact, it is clear that insofar as all of the
forces are sharing in the benefits of the military's historical dominance over state
affairs, differences are limited, or at most, not voiced. In any case, the Pakistan Navy
for example, primarily through the Bahria Foundation, 'has a far more extensive
presence in real estate development' than the Army (Siddiqa, 2007: 193). Meanwhile,
the Air Force has established a virtual monopoly over the aviation industry, including
travel agencies.
93 Systematic land allotments are enjoyed by a variety of professional groups/state functionaries
including lawyers, journalists and judges. Naturally such groups are then not in a position to dispute the
military's rights to acquire (or even grab) land.
94 In fact, the military today constitutes the biggest industrial interest in the country. In the absence of
so much business being channeled in the direction of the military'S foundations and companies, it is
possible to argue that the private industrial bourgeoisie may have been far more of an economic force
than it is today. See Ahmad (1980) for a distinction between the state bourgeoisie and the private
bourgeoisie. See also Bayart (1993) on the concept of 'straddling'.
The nature of the relationship between the higher and lower ranks of all the services,
and particularly in the army, is more ambiguous. Throughout the history of the
Pakistani military's existence, numerous internal coups have been attempted against
the top brass, primarily by the junior officer cadre.
The vast majority of these coups
have been unsuccessful which suggests that ultimately the military's command and
control system has remained robust in the face of internal dissent. Nevertheless, the
fact that regular coup attempts have taken place does suggest that dissent amongst the
lower ranks remains rife. During fieldwork it was observed that dissent amongst the
lower ranks has increased because of the incredible scale of accumulation by the top
However, there is also a belief that 'the rewards of towing the line are so
many that one would not want to risk it'. 97 Blom (2005) uses the term 'military
syndicalism' to capture the nature of the evolving military corporate empire. She
argues that in spite of the fact that the boundless accumulation of power and capital
over the past two decades has been the cause of envy and competition within the
military, internal dissent remains negligible, and that 'paradoxically, the military's
"privatization" contributes to its internal cohesion'.
As far as the rank and file are concerned, the military's strategic recruitment policies
have engendered a great deal of stability. On the one hand, there is a great deal of
ethnic homogeneity within the rank and file because recruitment is still primarily
undertaken from five districts (Cohen, 1998). This homogeneity is further reinforced
by the fact that joining the army remains one of the only livelihood options for the
working age male population of the arid Potohar region where highly unpredictable
rain-fed agriculture remains the primary livelihood source. In other words, the logic
that underlied recruitment in the colonial period has more or less remained intact, and
has proven to be very durable. Indeed, during fieldwork there was anecdotal evidence
that a substantial number of the rank-and-file had parents or other close relatives in
95 Consider for example the serious internal condemnation of General Yahya Khan following the
surrender in Dhaka in December 1971. The most recent internal dissent was evidents in a series of
assassination attempts on General Pervez Musharraf. The alleged perpetrators, many of whom were
junior and mid-level officers were court-martialed and eventually sentenced to hang. See
96 Many junior officers appear to retain some idealism about the military's nationbuilding role. and also
come into contact with the wider society more than their superiors, and thus face the brunt of the public
97 Interview with Brigaider (Retd.) Shaukat Qadir, 15 January 2007.
the military as well. It is amongst these soldiers that one finds the most resistance to
criticism of the military.
More generally, the central plains of Punjab - the most populated part of the country -
remain the major support base of the national security paradigm and the prevailing
oligarchic system, with a few notable exceptions. Notwithstanding the large and
growing number of landless, the region is the most economically developed in the
country and is networked with the outside world, therefore enjoying the highest level
of upward social mobility. Since the colonial period, Punjab has been the heartland of
the military's power, and therefore the pillar of the oligarchic dispensation. It would
appear to remain so today.
Chapter 3
The bureaucracy: Two sides of the same coin
The introductory chapter asserted that British rule brought with it an expanded
political sphere in which the state, as the main repository of power in society, became
inextricably intertwined with almost all social interactions. In other words, as more
and more basic facets of everyday life became linked to the state - including but not
limited to the resolution of disputes, control and distribution of resources, and
delivery of services
- the state's interventions in social life expanded accordingly.
This is true even in the conception of the state propounded by Ahmad in which the
state rules through intermediaries
as in this case the dominant propertied classes
were backed up by recourse to the institutions of the state, particularly the thana and
The relationship between propertied classes and the state will be discussed at length in
the next chapter, however, suffice it to say that, directly or indirectly, the state's role
in social life increased as the colonial 'public sphere' was constituted Ccf Chatterjee,
2002). This role has increased in the post-colonial period, which means that the role
of the personnel that make the state what it is - the civil bureaucracy - remains crucial
to the exercise of power.!OO
Ultimately the hegemonic project of the historical bloc in the post-Bhutto period has
been predicated upon the overwhelming role of the state in public life, whether direct
or indirect. As the previous chapter indicated, the military has been the mediating
component of the historical bloc, but it has relied on the civil administrative and
security apparatus and the propertied classes as well as the 'common sense'
legitimation of the subordinate classes and the rhetoric of Islamic orthodoxy to
actually exercise power.
98 Many of the aspects of life mentioned here, particularly delivery of services, only became a part of
people's lives with the establishment of the modem state, insofar as the modem state - including its
colonial variant - was the harbinger of the concept of a public good.
99 Which is the pattern associated with the method of indirect rule more generally.
100 Sobhan (2003: 8-9) asserts that the state's already considerable role in class formation and
empowerment has been augmented by the external resources that it has garnered under the guise of
'aid'. See the discussion below on aid, as well as Chapter 6.
This chapter focuses on the administrative apparatus of the state, or the bureaucracy.
Alavi's saw the bureaucracy as the pillar of the oligarchy, and insisted on its relatively
autonomous role vis a vis all social classes. As I have already pointed out, Alavi's
assertions represent his reposition of faith in a static conception of structure whereas
this thesis attempts to derive conclusions from a much more historicized and dynamic
theory. Thus in this chapter I propose two major improvements on Alavi's
formulations vis a vis the bureaucracy.lOI
First the bureaucracy is not a monolith characterised by uniform interests. Alavi
broadly clumps all personnel of the state together into the category of 'salariat', or the
auxillary class of educated and urbanized salaried professionals that competed for
jobs and privileges under colonial rule. Indeed he suggests that it was the 'sa1ariat'
that led the struggle for Pakistan and subsequently inherited the new state. However,
distinctions must be made between the state - and personnel - with which the popular
classes come into contact, and the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. 102
As will be shown below, there is a disjunction between the ethos of the low and high
bureaucracies in terms of sociological background, sensibilities and understanding of
the role of administrator which is why it is impossible to consider the bureaucracy as
an undifferentiated whole. More importantly, the distinct roles of both the low and
high bureaucracies explain the politics of common sense from above, and below.
The second and related point has to do with the 'relative autonomy' of the
bureaucracy. In suggesting that the bureaucracy enjoys the ability to act autonomously
of dominant social classes, Alavi overlooks the fact that the bureaucracy - and as I
will show presently, the low bureaucracy in particular - cultivates direct relationships
with the popular classes, and the question of autonomy should not just be considered
vis a vis the dominant classes. Moreover neither the high bureaucracy (in relation to
the dominant classes) nor the low bureaucracy (in relation to the popular classes)
exercise relative autonomy as Alavi understands it. Instead their composition and
actions are mutually conditioned by these various social forces.
101 In the previous chapter I have already pointed out the need to distinguish the military and
bureaucracy even while acknowledging that they act collectively as an 'oligarchy'.
102 Alavi (1991 a: 156) does broadly distinguish between the salariat at the higher and lower level of the
state structure but only fleetingly.
This chapter then will first analyse the high bureaucracy, one of the components of
the historical bloc, with a particular emphasis on how the relative power of this
segment of the historical bloc has been steadily diminished. This will be followed by
a discussion of the low bureaucracy in which I will delineate the actual mechanisms
through which state power is exercised, by focusing on the exact practices that govern
the delivery of services, provision and regulation of livelihoods, and resolution of
disputes. As already asserted I start from the basic premise that the bureaucracy is not
a monolith characterized by uniform interests.
The 'high' bureaucracy
As has been exhaustively documented by numerous writers (cf Jalal, 1990, 1995;
Sayeed, 1968), when the new state came into being, it was the newly constituted
Pakistani civil service that inherited power from its erstwhile colonial predecessor.
Insofar as this suggests the relatively unfettered ability of the incumbent high-level
bureaucrats to make substantive decisions related to the allocation of resources and
overall political direction of the new state, it is largely unchallenged in the literature.
Yet numerous studies of the bureaucratic structure of the new state have shown the
considerable differences and even conflicts, within the officer corps (cf Kennedy,
1988; Braibanti, 1966). In particular it has been noted that members of the most elite
cadre of the civil service, the Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP), were resented greatly
by members of other cadres and generally that 'staff' officers enjoyed superiority over
'line' officers, or in other words generalists over specialists.
Thus even at the level of the officer corps there is little evidence to suggest a seamless
decision-making structure. However, on the whole, from the inception of the new
state, the 'high' bureaucracy - or in other words the officer corps - was interested in
maintaining the privileged status accorded to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) under the
Raj. As was made clear in the first chapter, the chaotic conjuncture of partition
ensured that the bureaucratic elite immediately acquired a great level of authority. The
deliberate manipulation of unelected bureaucrats such as Governor-General Ghulam
Mohammad ensured that the fledgling political process was derailed during the first
decade of Pakistan's existence (cf McGrath, 1998). Following the 1958 coup, the
bureaucracy retained its power to a large extent as Ayub preferred to rule mostly
through the existing state structure so much so that some scholars suggest that the
Ayub regime could not be described as rule by the military (Alavi, 1983a). The
bureaucracy was the mechanism through which Ayub's modernisation policies were
effected, and even political innovations such as the Basic Democracies reinforced
rather than undermined bureaucratic power.
Indeed it was still the officer corps of
the civil service that made decisions about the allocation of resources.
It was thus that the bureaucracy came to publicly bear the brunt of the mass
mobilizations that took place towards the end of Ayub's tenure. Nationalist sentiment
in the eastern wing was driven largely by the perception that the actual number of
Bengalis in the services was far too low, and that an arrogant Punjabi and Urdu-
speaking dominated 'high' bureaucracy104 was responsible for the systematic
deprivation of the Bengali people. Meanwhile in the western wing the outpouring of
dissent led in large part by students and industrial labour - the politics of resistance -
was also targeted against the high bureaucracy which was seen to be the architect of
unjust policies and committed only to its own self-aggrandizement (cf Ali, 1970;
Noman, 1988; Waseem, 1994). Accordingly, when Yahya took over from Ayub, his
purge of over 300 high-level bureaucrats was widely welcomed (Kennedy, 1988: 77).
In the aftermath of this widespread public resentment and the subsequent
dismemberment of the state, the Bhutto regime undertook to fundamentally alter the
position of the high bureaucracy, reducing its power dramatically, and arguably
setting the stage for the widespread entry of serving and retired military men into
higher-echelon civil service positions under Zia ul Haq. There is a considerable
literature on Bhutto's civil service reforms and more specifically on the manner in
which these reforms once and for all tilted the balance of power within the civil-
military oligarchy towards the latter (cf Noman, 1988; Alavi, 1983a). As far as this
analysis is concerned, Bhutto's reforms ostensibly aimed to undermine the insular and
autonomous nature of the high bureaucracy, and thus assert the authority of the
political leadership over the administrative arm of the state. As has been n o t ~ d ,
Bhutto's efforts were contradictory and rather than being an effort to structurally
103 As will be discussed in the following chapter, bureaucratic power - both at the higher and lower
levels - and the power of the landed class was symbiotic.
104 In the lower reaches of the civil service in the eastern wing Bengali representation was
commensurate with the Bengali share in the total population.
overhaul the post-colonial state were an attempt to sure up his own power by
instituting loyalists at all decision-making levels (cf Raza, 1997; Ahmad, 2000).
In particular the Bhutto period marked a progressive politicisation of the bureaucracy
insofar as this meant that over time high bureaucrats no longer exercised power over
resource-allocation and the general political direction of government independently of
an elected political leadership. While the autonomy of the bureaucracy had been
affected during the Ayub years in the sense that its hitherto largely unchallenged
power now had to be shared with the military high command, beyond the first year of
Ayub's government there was no direct interference into the day-to-day operation of
the bureaucratic structure per se. The tightly-knit cadre system with the CSP at the
helm was altered but fundamentally undisturbed by Ayub (cf Burki, 1969; Rizvi,
2000). Under Bhutto however, particularly with the introduction of lateral entry into
the officer corps, not only was the exclusivity of the high bureaucracy undone
permanently, in fact for the first time since the state's inception, a new power sharing
arrangement took shape at the centre in the form of 'an implicit compromise between
politicians and bureaucrats' (Kennedy, 1988: 83). The high bureaucracy was far less
threatened by direct military recruits than by lateral entrants because of the inherent
similarities in outlook and ethos of the civil and military services (Mahmood, 1988:
Be that as it may, the arbitrary nature of the Bhutto reforms became increasingly
apparent. The reforms did not constitute a meaningful attempt to redress the structural
imbalance between the administrative and representative institutions of the state.
Bhutto's mistrust of the very democratic process that brought him to power ensured
that the administrators continued to enjoy considerable power even if the high
bureaucracy no longer functioned as a coherent whole and interference of politicians
was now possible. As has been suggested in the literature, nationalisation of industry
and most other major policy initiatives under Bhutto increased the state's control over
productive sectors of the economy, thereby expanding the opportunities for political
appointees to distribute patronage on the basis of access to the state (cf Burki 1980;
Noman, 1988). In general during the Bhutto period the focus within the high
105 The shock of the 1973 civil service reforms was even more acute in that the PPP's elected
leadership comprised numerous members of the subordinate classes.
bureaucracy shifted away from the 'civil' services and towards the security-related
institutions of the state including the police because of the regime's regular recourse
to coercion (Ahmad, 1974).
Thus it was an expanded set of state institutions or more accurately, vehicles for
patronage, that Zia ul Haq inherited. The high bureaucracy, demoralized and
fragmented, was immediately inclined towards military rule as this signaled that the
elected leadership of the 1970s was relegated to a position of relative obscurity and
even made a target of repression. Interviews with CSP officers who have since retired
indicated that the' elite idealism' of the first two decades of unchallenged bureaucratic
domination was replaced by a concern with personal survival and a commitment to a
new status quo in which the military was the ascendant power.106 Either way, the high
bureaucracy's prior commitment to oligarchic rule was reinforced.
The institutionalisation of the patronage politics with which this thesis is concerned
accelerated under Zia. In creating a new class of status-quo oriented politicians based
primarily in urban Punjab, while resuscitating the dominant groups that had suffered
under Bhutto, Zia' s military regime was undermining the ideological politics of the
late 1960s and 1970s and one of the pillars of this undertaking was the high
bureaucracy (cf Wilder, 1998). Of course Zia ensured the subservience of the
bureaucracy by effecting a virtual revolution in its upper echelons through the
induction of large numbers of serving and retired military officers who were loyal to
the army chief (cf Zaidi, 2005a: 502). As highlighted by the detailed analysis in
Chapter 2, it was this influx of army officers into the administrative structure that
marked the encroachment of the military into hitherto un penetrated spheres thereby
ensuring the continuing derailment of the democratic process, whilst also preventing
the reemergence of a politics of resistance. In this effort, the high bureaucracy has
been a crucial pillar.
During the so-called 'democratic' interregnum of 1988-1999, the high bureaucracy
became even more prone to politicization due to the highly unstable nature of each
successive regime. In this sense whatever remained of the high bureaucracy's
106 Interview with retired deputy secretary, Foreign Office, Salim Nawaz Gandapur, 26 October 2006.
autonomy was further eroded as both of the (extremely weak) mainstream political
parties attempted to manipulate the administrative institutions to gain ascendancy over
each other (cf Chadda, 2000). Each incoming government took the practice of
installing loyalists in important positions to new heights. Career bureaucrats became
even more adept at towing the line of the party in power. Thus the high bureaucracy
became increasingly incoherent in its functioning, which, as a matter of fact,
reinforced the politics of common sense insofar as cynical use and abuse of public
resources increased dramatically.
Nonetheless it is important to emphasise that the high bureaucracy remains a crucial
cog in the historical bloc, because of its direct control over day to day administration
and more generally the state's continuing centrality to almost all forms of social
exchange. All governments in Pakistan following Bhutto's have been keen to keep the
high bureaucracy 'onside' because of the inevitable influence that it continues to
This observation was corroborated during our fieldwork by simply spending time in
the offices of high bureaucrats. For example, the chairman of the Capital
Development Authority - the administration of Islamabad - spends the vast majority
of his time attending to personal requests for transfers, appointments, land allotments
and various exemptions. Most of these requests come from military men (or to a
lesser extent politicians) seeking to distribute patronage but requiring an
administrative official such as the CDA chairman to actualize their objective. In cases
where state resources have been allocated for a public scheme, even when this
allocation has been made by a high bureaucrat, the military executive (or politician)
seeks to be seen as the benefactor. The CDA chairman admitted to feeling 'incapable
of refusing the requests of politically important personalities' .107
As such the major difference between the high bureaucracy before and after 1972 is
that it no longer espouses the elite self-righteousness that the civil service had
imbibed from its colonial predecessor at the time of independence. Indeed, British
officers were part of the Pakistani high bureaucracy uptil 1960 which was a major
!O7 Interview with Chairman CDA, Karman Lashari. 12 February 2007.
reason for its self-confidence and continuing contempt of politicians, who, as was the
case under the Raj, were perceived to disrupt smooth administration (Mahmood, 1988:
32). CSP officers assert that in the pre-l 972 period the high bureaucracy was
unanimous in the conviction that politicians had no business in matters of
administration, including revenue collection and law and order. 108
The erosion of the elitist spirit was coeval with the high bureaucracy's changing
composition. The character of entrants into the higher echelons of the civil service has
changed over time, and particularly following Bhutto's reforms. Very few members
of the English-educated, urbanized propertied classes now take up positions in the
high bureaucracy. Urban high society, which is considerably bigger than in the early
decades of Pakistan's existence, is inclined towards private sector occupations which
are far more lucrative. Perhaps more importantly, the civil service no longer evokes
the image of superiority that it did uptil the 1970s. The bureaucracy's image as
morally steadfast has been greatly eroded, and it is now widely believed that the high
bureaucracy is 'corrupt' and motivated only by self-interest. During fieldwork
interviews it was clear that the sense of responsibility that the high bureaucracy had in
its earlier years - albeit driven by an inherent sense of superiority - has now been
replaced by a deep cynicism and mediocrity that reflects the progressive erosion of
autonomy of the civil service.
Yet what has remained intact is the high bureaucracy's commitment to a
policymaking framework which both reflects the nature of Pakistan's dependent
economy and more broadly the oligarchy's inclination towards the west.
10 While in
the first 4-5 years after independence the bureaucracy did enact a number of
politically astute and independent policies through individuals such as the Governor
of the State Bank and later head of the Planning Commission, Zahid Hussain (Alavi,
108 Interview with retired federal secretary, Tasneem Noorani, 1 December 2006.
109 Interview with retired federal secretary, Tasneem Siddiqui, 7 March 2007. A related point is that the
high bureaucracy is much more porous than its military counterpart precisely because it no longer
espouses the insularity - socially and institutionally - that it did in the first 25 years of the country's
existence. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the military's internal cohesion and corporate ethos
are crucial factors in explaining its dominance of state affairs and preponderant position within the
historical bloc.
110 See Rosen (1995) for a discussion of the influence of foreign advisors on Pakistan's policy
discourse in the early years, particularly in the economic realm. See also Haque & Khan (1999) for a
critique of the lack of autonomy of the intelligentsia in Pakistan's earl y years.
1990), by the early 1950s the bureaucracy and its policy matrix had become heavily
influenced by American economic advisors. 'Functional inequality' in the Ayub
period was the culmination of this foreign-inspired economic policy framework.
More generally, the high bureaucracy has not been committed to long-term planning,
preferring to make policy on the basis of its institutional whim and the political needs
of the time (Burki, 1994). This lack of dynamism and commitment to banal
reproduction of status quo was very evident during fieldwork. High bureaucrats are
largely indifferent to policy matters, and far more concerned with how they will be
accommodated into any new political dispensation.
To the extent that there is an impetus to formulate policy, the high bureaucracy has
maintained its 'urbanist' orientation. This trend at the level of policy has remained
intact, even though the disproportionate number of Urdu-speaking migrants in the
high bureaucracy has decreased. Nonetheless, this urban orientation has had to be
tempered by the state oligarchy's need - in much the same way as the colonial state
needed - to maintain order in a society that has characteristics quite different from
those of the urban, highly educated classes. This is where the role of the low
bureaucracy, which will be discussed presently, becomes so crucial.
It may be suggested that the role of the high bureaucracy has also been reduced as the
state's involvement in the economy declines with the onset of neo-liberalismY I State
assets are being sold to the private sector, downsizing is taking place in those
enterprises still in the public sector, and trade liberalization implies considerably less
revenue than in the era of high tariffs and duties. However, even if these factors are
contributing to a lessening of the state's direct control of the economy, the amount of
resources that continue to flow through the state - particularly in the form of
increasing levels of foreign aid - ensure that its influence remains largely
undiminished. This inevitably means channels for patronage through the distribution
of public monies remain open.
III A similar point may be made about the growing share of 'informal' activities within the economy,
but as will be pointed out in Chapter 8, the involvement of state functionaries in the 'informal'
economy is substantial.
To reiterate, the autonomy of the high bureaucracy has been steadily undermined in
an effort initially by Bhutto to assert the power of elected politicians, and then
subsequently by the military which has gradually established itself in the top echelons
of the administrative structure. Nonetheless, the high bureaucrat remains an important
part of the historical bloc and it is through him that ascendant military officers, and to
a far more sporadic extent, politicians, are able to exercise state power.
One final point about the high bureaucracy is of crucial import. As suggested earlier,
it was not surprising that the high bureaucracy would respond favourably to the Zia
regime. However, beyond the political reasons for such favour, clear qualitative
changes had already taken place in the social and economic position of the upper
echelon civil servants even prior to the Bhutto period that made it natural for them to
ally themselves with a military ruler who was keen to reward loyalty. In particular,
pay scales of the high bureaucracy have fallen dramatically over time, and as
suggested above, over the past two decades, high bureaucrats salaries as compared to
private sector professionals have become less and less favourable. I 12
However, the colonial practice of issuing of land grants and other perks and privileges
has continued in both the civil and military services, as the second chapter
emphasized in the case of the military. This practice was not necessarily hidden from
public view following the inception of the new state and has been continued without
major censure (Mahmood, 1988: 33). As such, the military and civil services remain
close allies for purely material reasons, even if differences in ethos and self-
perception have developed between them.113 More generally, both the high
bureaucracy and the officer corps of the military recognize the importance of
maintaining control over state institutions and resources as it is this factor that directly
correlates to their material interests.
112 Salaries of civil servants under the Raj were astronomically high and have fallen steadily since. For
recent figures, see Bilquees (2006).
113 See for example the very public announcement made by PM Shaukat Aziz that land grants would be
made to federal secretaries ostensibly to appease the latter in the wake of widespread acquisition of
public land by senior military officers. See http://www.dawn.coml2006111103/nat18.htm.
The 'low' bureaucracy
As suggested at the outset, the vast majority of scholarly analyses of the civil services
implicitly assume uniformity in their composition and practice. But in actual fact,
bureaucracies are typically 'bottom-heavy' and the politics and practice of the officer
corps are considerably different from that of the majority of civil servants. In Pakistan
for example, well over 90% of the bureaucracy is comprised of low-level civil
servants that do not enjoy officer status.
Moreover, when conceiving of the
bureaucracy in post-colonial societies like Pakistan, the stereotype of 'faceless
bureaucrats' is misrepresentative because in actual fact the lower echelons of the civil
service are 'staffed by people with whom some kind of social relationship can or
could exist' (Fuller & Harriss, 2001: 15).
As was asserted in the introductory chapter, one of the basic departures that this thesis
makes from Alavi's overdeveloped state formulation is that it is far too functionalist
to conceive of the state as overdeveloped as compared to an 'underdeveloped' society.
Further, the decisive factor in the resilience of the prevailing configuration of power is
the participation of the subordinate classes in a patronage-heavy vertically arranged
political sphere in which the oligarchy and dominant classes - and increasingly the
intermediate classes - reinforce their political power. For the most part, the popular
classes come into contact with the 'low bureaucracy', and this section will explicate
the composition, politics and evolution of this low bureaucracy.
In post-colonial societies such as Pakistan in which capitalism tends to be stunted by
the metropole and there are accordingly limited substantive formal employment
opportunities in industry, the state becomes the primary site of employment for the
popular classes (cf Alavi, 1987). Indeed during fieldwork it became apparent just how
coveted state employment is, particularly in rural areas where there is little in the way
of alternative for those who can no longer earn an living off land. State employment is
very secure in that it offers regular income, extended periods of leave, and a steady,
albeit minimal, pension following retirement. However, the lure of state employment
extends beyond official benefits.
114 See for example figures provided in Maddison (1971: 143).
I have already reiterated the overbearing power of the state apparatus in Pakistani
society, and more specifically the state personnel immediately associated with the
allocation of public resources, including delivery of services and the resolution of
disputes. The low bureaucracy, including but not limited to the patwari, tehsildar,
station house officer (SHO), and clerk (munshi), is responsible for public dealing of
all kinds, and this has remained true from the inception of the state until the present
day, notwithstanding the numerous experiments in local government, including the
present one.
Fieldwork corroborated in particular the role that the thana and
katcheri play in the lives of the subordinate classes.
The low bureaucracy is thus heavily intertwined with the lives of people, and it can be
argued that this is at least partially a function of popular classes invoking the state, a
hypothesis to be discussed at length in Section 2. In any case, in the course of this
intense interaction with the popular classes, because it is endowed with the power to
provide/withhold services, dispense/deny justice and provide/deny employment, the
low bureaucracy actually shares in the power that is typically assumed to be exercised
by the high bureaucracy. However, the nature of the low bureaucracy's power, and the
manner in which it is exercised is qualitatively different than in the case of the high
In the first instance, the low bureaucracy is staffed by members of the popular classes
themselves, rather than by the landed or industrial classes. A common saying in
Pakistan posits that in any average family, one son will enter the police force, the
other will enter the army, and the third will look for employment in any civilian
department. I 16 There is therefore a very close sociological link between the low
bureaucracy and the popular classes. In this respect alone, there is a clear difference
between the very elitist ethos of the high bureaucracy and that of the low bureaucracy.
While Weber's impersonal rationalism is present in the higher bureaucratic structure,
at least in the design of official policy and in the administering of the coercive
liS This is a carry-over from colonial times. lalal (1995: 10) writes: 'For the vast majority of Indians,
local bureaucrats such as the district collector - quintessential creation of the British administrative
system - disbursed a personalised form of patronage and judicial arbitration within the overall context
of a rule-bound, indirect and impersonalised institutional structure.'
116 Needless to say this may not always be true in the literal sense, but is nevertheless an indicator of
the covetedness of state employment as well as the sociological make-up of the lower echelons of all
state institutions.
institutions of the state, it is almost entirely missing at the lower rungs of the
bureaucratic structure.
Instead there exists a highly permeable and personalized bureaucratic structure which
instrumentalises the cultural logic of the social formation in the sense that intimate
social relationships, whether based directly on shared caste, ethnic or linguistic ties or
otherwise are invoked in the business of the state. I IS This is not to suggest that
impersonal dealings may not take place at the level of the low bureaucracy, or even
that invoking personal social relationships is a guarantee against the use of coercion,
but only that this is a far more overt feature of the bureaucratic structure at the lower
than at the higher level.
To put it more succinctly, at the level of the low bureaucracy, the exchange of money
or favours is not hidden from public view or considered immoral per se, whereas
within the high bureaucracy the obvious exchange of money or favours is typically
considered 'corruption' or nepotism. Impersonal rationalism is not necessarily much
more entrenched in the 'high bureaucracy' beyond rhetorical policymaking;
personalised exchange does take place at the higher echelons of the bureaucratic
structure especially in the form of sifarish but as such there is a limit to the extent to
which the issuing of favours and other exchanges can be overt.
Within the low bureaucracy however, there is a certain 'amoralism' associated with
what would conventionally be called 'corruption' in the sense that such practices
conform to the prescribed norms of society, and in particular the habitual exchange of
favours or what might be termed reciprocity more generally. The comfort of the low
bureaucracy with such practices is explained by it being far more sociologically
integrated with the groups and individuals with whom it comes into contact. Within
117 See Jeffrey and Lerche (2001) for a similar discussion in the case of the United Provinces (UP) in
118 In the context of the Indian post-colonial experience, which bears considerable similarities to
Pakistan, this phenomenon has been described as follows: 'Long-term historical memories and time
tested ways of dealing with power of the political authority took their revenge on the modem state,
bending the straight lines of rationalist liberal politics through a cultural refraction of administrative
meaning.' (Kaviraj, 1997: 235)
the high bureaucracy there is much more of a pretense of uprightness and honesty
whereas at the lower level there is no need to hide how the state actually functions.
Given the state's commitment to a social order based on extraction of surplus from the
subordinate classes for the benefit of the dominant propertied classes in society as
well as the high officials within the institutions of the state, this 'cynicism' is not
surprising. It may instead be more accurate to think of it as a 'lack of ownership' of
the state. During fieldwork it became clear that in the eyes of the low bureaucracy, the
state and its resources are not considered a trust of the people. Accordingly, in the
post-Bhutto period, the low bureaucracy has been emboldened to capture these
resources. 120
The sociological differences between the high and low bureaucracy, while much more
pronounced in the first couple of decades after independence, continue to persist. As
already pointed out, before the civil service reforms high bureaucracy hailed
exclusively from the urban and highly educated classes. This greatly impacted
policymaking trends, and even though the make up of the high bureaucracy has
changed considerably, it remains more or less urbanist in orientation, particularly in
its tendency to parrot externally inspired models. More significantly however, the
high bureaucracy's remains contemptuous in its understanding and handling of 'the
people' .
On the other hand the vast majority of low-level civil servants either hails from or has
some persistent link with the subordinate classes, a link that has been crucial since
colonial times when the language of the state was communicated to the popular
classes through the low bureaucracy. In fact, the colonial state believed firmly that its
longevity was dependent on control over a largely rural social formation and this
119 It should be mentioned that in the first thirty years after the state's inception, the bureaucracy in
general was perceived to be a steadfast institution that was committed to a nation-building project, and
this was reflected in the self-perception of the low bureaucrat as well. Over time however, especially
after the Ayub period when public perceptions about the bureaucracy had already plummeted, the low
bureaucracy started to imbibe some of the more systematic practices of self-aggrandisement that were
believed to be commonplace in the higher echelons of the services.
120 See the discussion in Pasha (1997: 198) in which it is posited that society sees the state as an
'external agent'; there is therefore a societal disregard for the state, amongst state personnel as well,
that is manifest in the abuse of privilege and refusal to contribute to the public good. This is not to be
confused with the 'blurred' nature of the state-society divide.
entailed not only a mutually beneficial relationship with rural notables but an
administrative structure that facilitated a stable order (cf Waseem, 1994).
A stable order meant that the subordinate classes had to be integrated into the power
sharing arrangement. The need for the low bureaucracy to be familiar with the cultural
peculiarities of politics in the rural social formation is easily explained by the fact that
the high bureaucracy itself was not equipped to engage with 'the people' beyond the
propertied classes. Therefore, the low bureaucracy always hailed from amongst the
'natives' as opposed to the officer corps which was exclusively British until the third
decade of the 20
century. From the time of inception of the colonial state, the low
bureaucrat was recruited from the subordinate classes by design; indeed, intermediary
administrative positions such as zaildar, numberdar and others were created by the
state for this purpose (Cheema et. aI, 2006). The low bureaucrat then interacted with
the state's favored large landlord in the area - who was considered the ultimate
authority in local matters - and also provided the crucial link to the people (cf
Cheesman, 1997).
This pattern of politics remained intact in the post-colonial period, but was soon
challenged by the burgeoning mass politics revolving around more expansive
identities such as class that emerged in the late 1960s. While this new political culture
was a product of the cities, it inevitably impacted the rural social formation. It was
therefore essential for the Zia regime - in concert with the other members of the
historical bloc - to reestablish a familiar political system based on the wide-ranging
influence of the administrator at the local level. In fact the Zia regime skillfully
expanded the scope of the local state's functions by coopting the rapidly emerging
commercial classes into the web of state patronage. As will be discussed in Section 2,
this class has a predominantly rural background and therefore was familiar and even
comfortable with the logic of localized patronage politics built around the low
bureaucracy (cf Hasan, 2002b; Zaidi, 2005a).
Cheema (2003) argues that to a large extent a rule-based logic persisted in the way
that the bureaucracy operated until the Bhutto period, and this was reflected in
systematic patronage of large industrial houses and other coherent corporate groups.
However, following the Bhutto reforms and the subsequent institutionalization of a
patronage politics under Zia ul Haq, this rule-based logic of the state was unraveled
and the bureaucracy started distributing patronage through factions at the local level.
As such this analysis implies that the low bureaucracy's importance under Zia and
afterwards was significantly enhanced insofar as it was the mechanism through which
the 'non-rule' based logic of state action was entrenched. Accordingly, the low
bureaucracy became more intertwined with processes of accumulation at the local
level. 121
Interestingly, Cheema asserts that this qualitative change in state action implies a
weaker state insofar as it is less cohesive and rule-bound, and therefore prone to
'capture' by non-state actors. My understanding is slightly different. First it is
important to note that social exchange between the low bureaucracy and the popular
classes in the form of rishwat and sifarish is not a phenomenon unique to the post-
Bhutto period. However, under the PPP regime the distribution of state patronage
became more widespread, and even more so under Zia ul Haq. The reasons for
Bhutto's reforms, as discussed above, were related to the regime's desire to
undermine the authority of the high bureaucracy. The politicization of the bureaucracy
all the way down to the local level was a side effect of the reforms.
In the case of the Zia regime however, the 'localisation' of politics was a very
conscious objective. The consolidation of a political system based on patronage all the
way down to the lower level was far from an incidental development, and reflected
the oligarchy's, and more specifically the military high command's commitment to
eradicating the confrontational politics that was still lingering even after Bhutto' s
demise, and thereby completing its revival from the depths of December 1971.
However, in no way can this development be considered one that weakened the state
per se, in the sense that the state oligarchy's dominance was restored after a period of
at least a decade. That this state was substantively different is indisputable; the post-
Bhutto state was far more prone to capture by a wide array of social groups, and state
involvement in 'informal activities' increased greatly. However, it has been this
121 As already pointed out, I consider the low bureaucracy to have been part of the process of
accumulation at the local level since colonial times, however, what is being asserted here is that there
was an intensification of this process both as a function of the increasing influence of capital as well as
the political needs of the oligarchy.
dynamic - what I have termed the politics of common sense - which has prevented
the emergence of an overt popular political challenge to the Alavian nexus of power,
and thus the historical bloc has become stronger rather than weaker, in large part by
giving parts of the pie to new contenders for power.
As has been asserted earlier, one of the primary arguments of this thesis is that the
post-colonial state has continued to playa defining role in molding the social
formation. New developments in the post-colonial perioq have, at various times, both
reinforced and challenged this role of the state. Hasan (2002b) argues that the state
structure has remained largely unchanged in spite of the dramatic changes that have
taken place throughout the social formation, primarily on account of the deepening of
capitalism. On the other hand Cheema (2003) insists that the state has undergone
considerable changes that have both conditioned and been conditioned by changes
within society at large. In my understanding the state has changed considerably,
thereby losing some of its power to direct the nature of change within the social
formation. Yet the Alavian nexus of power has remained intact by adapting the
exercise of power through state personnel and emergent social forces so as to
facilitate both the accumulation of power and the accumulation of capital.
As was argued in the introductory chapter, while the fact of the historical bloc's
continued commitment to oligarchic rule can be explained - and will be in the
following chapters - the survival of the Alavian nexus of power in spite of the far-
reaching changes that have otherwise taken place in the social formation can only be
explained by the politics of common sense. And given the state's overwhelming role
in social life, including the lives of the subordinate classes, without the low
bureaucracy's engagement with, and cooption of, the subordinate classes, the politics
of common sense cannot persist.
Chapter 4
The Landed Class: Keeping the boat afloat
It is a testament to the widespread significance of land on the socio-political
landscape of Pakistan - and for that matter most other post-colonial countries - that
the landed class figures prominently in the analyses of every other dominant class and
corporate institution. Direct or indirect control over land as the primary productive
resource - and also as an autonomous source of social prestige and power - in a
predominantly rural society122 has arguably been as crucial as any other single factor
in determining the configuration of power that persists in post-colonial Pakistan. 123
While it may be argued that control over land no longer exclusively determines who
wields power in the social formation, there is little doubt that an historical link can be
drawn between all dominant social groups and land (cf Sobhan, 2003: 8-9). Prior to
Bhutto's civil service reforms of the 1970s, 'few individuals from non-landed families
achieved prominence in government decision-making as either civilian or military
bureaucrats; wealth in land, or some relation to wealth in land, appear[ed] to be a
major, but not the only, requisite for political elite standing' (LaPorte, 1975: 92). As
will be discussed in the next chapter, many landed scions have gone on to be big
players in industry as well.
Again here it is instructive to consider Alavi's basic insights on the landed class and
how this chapter will seek to improve upon them. Alavi's primary observations about
the landed class are first that it is the mainstay of most mainstream political parties;
second that its interests are not contradictory to those of the state or the other
propertied classes; and third that there is an 'organic link' between the landed class
and the two administrative institutions given that individuals from landed families are
a major component of these institutions.
All of these observations are not incorrect but need to be supplemented so as to gamer
greater insight into the politics of the landed class and its relationship with other
122 Chapter 8 will suggest that much has changed in Pakistan over the past many decades on account of
the tremendous urbanization that has taken place in the country as suggested by the figure that 56.5%
of Pakistan's population is urbanized (Qadeer, 2000). Qadeer argues that what can be considered
features of urban society are now commonplace in the rural social formation.
123 The two preceding chapters have illustrated how acquisition of choice residential and agricultural
land remains a major incentive for the high bureaucracy and military officers to retain political power.
members of the historical bloc. But first I wish to reiterate what has already been
pointed out in the introductory chapter about the state's inability to rule over the
social formation in the absence of support from the propertied classes, and
particularly the landed class. The colonial state project was premised upon the close
link between the British administrators on the one hand and local influentials - a large
number of whom were transformed into landowners by the British themselves. My
proposition that the state is in fact overdeveloping is consistent with the notion that
rural notables remain structurally integrated into the hierarchy of power that the
British fashioned because it was by instrumentalising the highly personalized
relationship between landlord and the subordinate classes that the state was able to
penetrate social life more generally.
This then leads to my second point, namely that the 'organic link' between the landed
class and the administrative institutions is less important (and arguably less resilient)
than the organic link between the landed class and subordinate classes in the rural
social formation, because, in my understanding, the oligarchic order is hegemonic
only insofar as it coopts the subordinate classes into a state-centred web of patronage.
The landed class provides the 'organic link' to the subordinate classes.
Third I agree that there is no basic contradiction between the landed class and the
state oligarchy, because, as pointed out above, the landed class plays an important role
in blunting counter-hegemonic impulses within the rural social formation. But I
contend that the economic power of the landed class has been undermined to a
significant extent in the period starting with the Green Revolution. And therefore it is
necessary to understand how the state and the logic of practice of the rural social
formation have helped the landed class maintain its political influence.
To appreciate how the changes associated with the Green Revolution and Middle East
migrations have affected the exercise of power within the rural social formation, and
to supplement Alavi's reflections on the politics of the landed class more generally, it
is essential to complete a short historical sketch of the basic skeleton of power
inherited in 1947 from the British.
The preceding two chapters have touched upon the two central pillars of the basic
structure of power - the permanent institutions of the state, or the so-called steel
frame. As already pointed out above, the landed class played the crucial intermediary
function that made this skeleton of power viable. It is the basic argument of this
chapter that despite the fact that the social power of the landed class has been eroded,
it continues to exercise considerable political power primarily because of its
continuing patronage by the state oligarchy, but also due to its long-standing politico-
cultural entrenchment in the rural social formation. The state's continuing patronage
of the landed class explains why the latter - and therefore the major political parties
of the country - does not challenge the oligarchy and consents to remaining junior
partner in the Alavian nexus of power.
The colonial inheritance
It makes sense that the British would prop up and privilege rural notables in an
agrarian social formation the preservation of which they perceived as being largely
functional to their purposes of resource extraction. Indeed, as the military chapter
illustrated, the British created vast agricultural tracts in the Indus Plains where
previously scattered, subsistence-level nomadic populations were the norm. Be that as
it may there was considerable debate within the colonial state - and for that matter in
Whitehall - about the kind of property rights regime that should be instituted in
colonial Punjab. On the one hand there was the belief that indigenous forms of
communal property should be left intact while on the other the creation and
consolidation of the individual peasant proprietor was considered to be essential to
meeting the ideological and material objectives of colonialism in India (cf Nelson,
It is not clear that the perception of a communal property rights regime was accurate
to begin with, and ultimately, in many parts of contemporary western Pakistani
Punjab, as well as in Sindh and to a lesser extent in the NWFP, the colonial state
enfranchised individuals and families that it perceived to be both historically powerful
and supportive of the colonial project more generally (cf Gilmartin, 1998; Ansari,
1992; Cheesman, 1997; Rittenburg, 1988; Low, ]991). This mayor may not have
been in contradiction to the state's otherwise stated concerns; indeed, the British
constantly vacillated between the objective of extracting surplus from colonial society
through entrenchment in the ruthless global trading and production chain, and
maintaining social and political order.
Thus while a wide variety of concerns informed the manner of the state's
accommodations with the rural social formation, ultimately the colonial state shielded
landed notables from the disruptive effects of capitalist integration by allowing them
to retain their land in the face of displacement by more market -oriented producers. As
such therefore, the state was fashioning the manner of integration of the Indian
economy into the larger capitalist world system, aiding and abetting certain processes
while stunting others. '[C]olonialism could continue as a relation of power in the
subcontinent only on the condition that the colonising bourgeoisie should fail to live
up to its own universalist project. The nature of the state it had created by the sword
made this historically necessary' (Guha, 1997: 64).124
The protective measures undertaken by the British meant that the landed class was
very favourably disposed towards the state, aware of how both its strength - that the
British needed its support to ensure the survival of colonialism in India - and also its
weakness - that the state was protecting it from the adverse effects of deepening
capitalist relations - were reflected in the relationship. The two allies had, in a manner
of speaking, intertwining spheres of influence; the colonial administrators dealt with
matters of policy, defence, economic management and revenue collection, whereas
the rural notables had considerable freedom to adjudicate on local disputes: 'For haris
and smallholders, Waderos were the real power in the land. The British authority,
with its police and lawcourts, was remote, spiritually and also physically' (Cheesman,
1997: 91).125 In the final analysis, the state and landed notables were hand-in-glove,
and this was no more evident than in the cooperation between the district
administration and the big landlord(s) of the district: 'This two-pronged political
system - feudalism and colonial bureaucracy - engendered a relatively permanent
124 When Alavi discusses the 'structural imperative of peripheral capitalism', he focuses only on fact
that 'the continuation of pre-capitalist socio-economic forms in non-metropolitan contexts is in fact a
realisation and not a negation of the universalist project of capital' (Brass, 2000: 136). What is crucial
is that the state largely determines this process; Alavi's theoretical formulation does not account for
this essential fact.
125 This is not to suggest that conflicts between the state and landed notables did not take place. There
were many conflicts, some quite considerable, especially where landed notables insisted on more
autonomy than the state was willing to concede. See for example the example of the Hur rebellion
spearheaded by the Pir Pagaro (Ansari, 1992: 57-76).
hierarchy within the community and centralized the political control of the
bureaucracy' (Gadi, 2003: 99).
A very important related point has to do with the broader assumptions made by the
British regarding local custom and tradition, particularly in the Punjab. On the one
hand the British claimed to want to do away with 'backward' traditions that
characterized the native society. On the other hand however, colonial policy was
based upon British perceptions of the social orders and hierarchies that prevailed in
Punjabi society, and in fact the British 'tied their authority to a structure of social
organisation central to Punjabi life, but one defined and systematised, through British
social analysis, by the state itself' (Gilmartin, 1988: 16). Thus there was an
astonishing level of 'mapping' of society - based on British perception - so as to
make policy best suited to control without social upheaval.
In many ways then the colonial state 'reified' existing social identities - including but
not limited to 'tribe', biraderi, qaum and zat - and both during and after the tenure of
the British, both dominant and subordinate classes have employed these identities in
negotiations with the state and within society at large. More generally, the British
promoted a brand of politics that they viewed to be reflective of the nature of the rural
social order, given that they wanted to ensure the preeminence of rural interests over
urban ones. This clear bias necessarily had an impact on the developing nature of
urban politics as well (Waseem, 1994: 41_2).126
The reforms that never were
The state's proactive and highly visible role in public life that is associated with the
onset of British rule progressively increased over time. In other words, the state
became relatively more interventionist in the post-colonial period. In the first instance,
there was an extension of the state's infrastructure and coercive power into areas that
were previously almost completely autonomous including present-day Balochistan
(particularly the former Kalat State) as well as the tribal Pakhtun areas. The state's
presence may still be limited in certain areas, but is clearly more visible than it was
126 In the post-colonial period there is clear evidence that politicization of such identities in urban areas
is also common. See for example Nelson (2008).
during the colonial period. Substantive changes have also taken place in the state's
attitude towards the agrarian sector.
The post-colonial state has been keen to develop an urban, industrial economic base in
accordance with the state-led industrialization orthodoxy that characterized most 20
century post-colonial nationbuilding experiments (cf Thomas, 1984). In conjunction
with the steadily deteriorating terms of trade for agricultural goods worldwide over
the past few decades, this change in the state's posture has necessarily translated into
severe pressures on the landed class. Landed families have not benefited from the
kind of unambiguously beneficial legislation that the British instituted to protect them
from increasing exposure to the rigours of an ever expanding international division of
labour. This has encouraged many landowners to diversify their assets, particularly by
investing in industry. 127
Nevertheless, this has not prevented the landed class from continuing to be a major
part of the power-sharing arrangement within the historical bloc. To understand this
apparent anomaly, one must recall that, at partition, the state exercised little authority
in the vast majority of the country, and only when the provincial landed magnates
pledged their allegiance to the federal government in Karachi was a modicum of
administrative order established. As demonstrated in earlier chapters, the combination
of landed notables' proclivity towards administrative rule and the fear of power
shifting to the eastern wing in the event of national elections reinforced the alliance
between the state and the landed class. Nonetheless, consistent with the highly
factional nature of politics within the rural social formation (cf Alavi, 1971; 1972;
1973), there was a great deal of positioning and posturing during the first decade as
various landlord factions attempted to establish themselves vis a vis others.
It was this perceived chaos and 'irresponsibility' of mostly landed politicians that was
employed as justification for the 1958 coup, and very soon afterwards, for the
announcement of the 1959 land reforms. 128 Allegedly these reforms sought to break
127 During fieldwork in Okara it was established that politicians like Mian Zaman have acquired major
business stakes after establishing themselves as major political players on account of their control over
128 As was pointed out in earlier chapters, the oligarchy was unwilling to run the risk of allowing
national elections scheduled to be held in 1959 on the basis of the 1956 constitution.
the back of the landed class and promote a new capitalist farmer that was not only
more efficient than the traditional landed class but also ascribed to a different social
sensibility that was 'modem' and did not cultivate 'feudal' dependencies. 129 However,
in the final analysis, the evidence suggests that the reforms did not greatly alter the
dynamic of power in the rural social formation at large. In the first instance, the
reforms did not necessarily enfranchise landless tenants (who had to pay for what land
they did receive), but rather only reduced the size of landholdings of the largest
landlords. Less than 1.3% of total land was resumed - of which only a fraction was
actually cultivable
- while evasions were commonplace (Khan et. aI, 2007: 36).
The economic impact (or lack thereof) of the reforms was similar to their political
impact. Even if rural notables were somewhat jolted by the seemingly overt attack on
their interests, they emerged from the experience relatively unscathed. Their sources
of local support remained intact, largely on account of the fact that it was still through
them that subordinate classes accessed the state. More generally, the factional nature
of politics survived the reforms. Indeed on the whole the landed class prospered
through the decade of Ayub's rule as its relationship with the bureaucracy remained
intact (Jones, 2003: 29-35).131 Furthermore, there was no distinctly new class of
'capitalist farmers' that benefited from Ayub's reforms and the green revolution
technologies that proliferated during his rule, rather it was the old landed class that
adapted to, and benefited from, the many changes that took place during this period
(Alavi, 1983b: 239-241).
There is also clear evidence of political accommodation between Ayub and the landed
class, in spite of gimmicks such as the Basic Democracies.
In fact, as earlier
129 This is the perception of scholars that see the Ayub period as heralding a qualitatively new dynamic
in rural areas led by a new capitalist farmer. See for example, Burki (1976). J alaI (1994: 160) points out
that to the extent that there was a middle-sized landlord that was favoured by the reforms, it was in the
form of the retired military and civilian bureaucrat.
130 Khan (1999) claims this figure to be less than 25% while Herring (1983) asserts that it was upwards
131 For a detailed discussion of the impact of Green Revolution technologies across classes within the
rural social formation, see Alavi (1983b).
132 The Basic Democracies was a system of local government introduced by Ayub Khan which was
lauded by many scholars as a new innovation in democracy suited for third world countries (cf
Mellema, 1961). However, the 60,000 or so Basic Democrats ended up being Ayub loyalists, acting as
the electoral college for the presidential election, and ultimately reinforcing the patronage-based
political order. In retrospect, the Basic Democracies initiative served the express purpose of generating
chapters suggested, Ayub's political innovations were not innovations as much as
mechanisms for already powerful rural interests and the bureaucracy to maintain their
power with the general outcome that 'little was done to correct the politics of
landholding and the influence of the landed class remained virtually unchecked'
(Ziring, 2000: 85). On the whole Ayub mistrusted urban politics, while the industrial
class remained aloof from power politics (as will be discussed in the next chapter). In
the absence of an unfettered democratic process, the landed incumbents were the only
intermediaries between the popular classes and the oligarchy and thereby allowed the
personalized politics based primarily on ascriptive attachments reinforced under the
colonial regime to survive a little bit longer.
However, as will be asserted at length in the second section, changes associated with
the Green Revolution in particular were throwing up new contenders for economic
and political power.133 A new, primarily urban, political culture was emerging with
dramatic effect. The landed class, bureaucracy and the industrialist families that
controlled an exorbitant stake in the economy were the natural targets of the
politicization of the subordinate classes, and Bhutto was the man to spearhead the
polemic against the incumbents.
There is a feeling that the 1970 elections represented a tumultuous defeat for the
landed class, given that established aristocrats such as the Pir of Pagaro were roundly
defeated. However, while there was clearly a shift in the basis of political action away
from purely traditional alignments in the sense that the popular classes had been
awakened to the possibility that they could rebel against the existing political order (to
be discussed at length in Chapter 9), the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) did make
alliances with landed families, many of whom were in the fold of the party very soon
after the elections (Alavi, 1983a: 46). Indeed following the 1970 elections, the landed
class and the bureaucracy joined hands to undertake a spate of tenant evictions (Jones,
political legitimacy for an unelected military regime, not unlike the similar local government initiatives
undertaken by Generals Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf (Cheema & Mohmand, 2003).
133 It is worthwhile to briefly spell out what exactly the Green Revolution was. In short the Green
Revolution marked the mechanisation of agriculture in South Asia. It did not constitute a fundamental
break from the process of commodification that, as suggested in the introductory chapter, began in
earnest with the onset of British rule, and in fact intensified it. Among other things, a defining feature
of the Green Revolution was the mass import of new high-yield varieties of wheat and other cash crops
from international agribusiness conglomerates along with inputs such as pesticides and fertiliser.
2003: 428). By the time of the 1977 elections Bhutto's radical rhetoric had almost
completely dissipated in the face of political expediency, and the landed class was the
undisputed dominant force in the party. The two land reform legislations enacted by
Bhutto also told a similar story.
The 1972 legislation followed within three months of Bhutto taking power, and was
clearly designed to further fuel the populist wave that brought him to power. Rhetoric
focused on the 'feudal system of land tenure' and the proposed solutions included the
setting up of cooperative farms and agrovilles, the latter conceived of as peri urban
settlements for the rural poor that would be fitted with all basic amenities (Esposito,
1974). Landlords whose land was resumed were not offered compensation, in contrast
to both the 1959 and 1977 reforms. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, the 1972 land
reforms were less substantive than the 1959 reforms on almost all accounts. Only
0.6% of total land was resumed, while only 61.5% of this land was actually
distributed to landless tenants; only 10% of all landless tenants actually received land.
As was the case during the Ayub reforms, there were a variety of methods employed
by landlords in cahoots with the bureaucracy to avoid dispossession. This meant that
the potential impact of reducing the land ceilings for both irrigated and unirrigated
land was wasted (Khan et. aI, 2007: 43).134
The 1977 reforms remained largely on paper. While the land ceilings were reduced to
100 acres irrigated and 200 acres unirrigated, a mere 74,000 hectares ofland was
resumed, which constituted only 0.09% of total land in the country. Of this resumed
land, a little over half was actually distributed to the landless (Khan et. aI, 2007: 43).
As it turned out, Bhutto managed to alienate a powerful segment of the landed class
prior to the 1977 election but not because of the land reform legislation. It was instead
his nationalization of agro-processing industries in which many landlords had
personal stakes that represented a crucial mistake at a crucial juncture. It was thus that
many landlords supported the agitation led by mandi merchants against Bhutto under
the guise of the Pakistan National Alliance (Alavi, 1983a: 89).
134 The most meaningful of all PPP policies directed towards the agrarian sector were the homestead
reforms of 1972 in which home ownership was granted to large numbers of landless farmers across the
country. See Cheema et. al (2006).
Be that as it may, the landed class emerged from the three land reforms arguably still
the most dominant propertied class in Pakistani society. The avowedly 'progressive'
high bureaucracy and military leadership, and even an immensely powerful politician
such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto clearly required the support of the established landed
magnates to wield power. In relying on the landed class, those in executive authority
were propping up 'feudal power': Until the 1970s, 'primordial sentiments and feudal
power were exacerbated by a 'variable' factor, namely state policy, and were not a
'permanent' social/cultural condition' (Whaites, 1995).
By the late 1960s substantive social changes had taken place across the country, and
most obviously in Punjab. Modernisation of agriculture and the increased availability
of alternative livelihood sources for previously dependent sharecroppers had a
definitive impact on the exercise of power by the landed class. Nonetheless, as the
following section will assert, in spite of the fact that the economic power of landed
notables has been eroded, and even though new competitors have emerged, the landed
class's ongoing accommodation with the state has ensured its continued salience as a
major force in Pakistani politics.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
There is little question that Pakistani society has undergone an enormous
transformation over the past four decades on account of the deepening of capitalism.
Agriculture, which at the inception of the new state, accounted for over half of total
output, now constitutes only 21.6% of the total. Importantly however, the vast
majority of the population still derives its livelihood from agriculture-related activity,
approximately 66%.135 Nevertheless, it is no longer the traditional landed class that
retains exclusive economic power in the rural social formation. A new intermediate
class has emerged which is linked closely to the proliferation of mandi towns, a
development that is associated primarily with the green revolution (cf Hasan, 2002b;
Zaidi, 2005a). The genesis of this intermediate class and its urban counterpart will be
discussed at length in Chapter 8, however, for the purposes of the present discussion it
is sufficient to note that the traditional landed class now does have economic
135 See GoP (2007). The latter figure is highly disputed - Zaidi (2005a) puts the figure at 48%.
competitors but these intermediate class competitors do not challenge the existing
political order.
This thesis has argued from the outset that accumulation of capital is symbiotically
related to access to state power, and indeed, state power often underlies class power.
Thus there can be no question that the historical accommodation of the landed class
with the state cannot be replaced by autonomous bastions of wealth overnight; in any
case it is a matter of debate just how autonomous the intermediate classes' source of
wealth are. In In the first instance all evidence suggests that the landed class has
established links with much of the intermediate class, or the mandi economy more
During fieldwork in Charsadda and Okara, it was observed that traditional landed
magnates have considerable interests in the secondary and tertiary agricultural
economy in towns, or at least have explicit political links with traders and middlemen
operating in this economy. This means to say that members of landed families
themselves have become mandi merchants - as was the case in Charsadda - or mandi
merchants have developed their businesses on account of their links to the landed
influentials, the latter providing contacts within the local and national state - as was
the case in Okara. For the most part then, the landed class has been able to draw
emergent intermediate class political players into factions that the former dominates.
And even when intermediate class factions are able to stand on their own, they
reinforce rather than challenge the politics of common sense, which, in the final
analysis, is beneficial to the landed class.
Historicising this analysis provides a clearer picture of the nature of the change. I
showed in the first chapter that Bhutto's highly flawed attempts to undermine the civil
bureaucracy by instituting loyalists at all levels of the administrative structure proved
to be the first step in the expansion of the state's patronage function. The PPP
interregnum was conspicuous for the fact that hitherto excluded social groups gained
access to state institutions. Previously, the high bureaucracy's insular and elitist
nature limited who could or could not directly access state patronage.
The state's patronage function was further enhanced by the post-Bhutto military
regime, primarily through the medium of local body elections. This allowed the
regime to extend patronage to those segments of the popular classes that had emerged
as contenders for power due to the social changes engendered by capitalist
modernisation. These classes could not initially compete at the national and provincial
level, but were able to make inroads at the local body level. In other words traditional
landed magnates were now having to compete for state patronage with the 'new'
middle classes, a process that Wilder has termed the' democratisation' of patronage
(1998: 200).
The purpose of this deliberate manipulation of the political process was to suppress
the politics of resistance that had existed through the Bhutto period by reasserting a
familiar form of politics that emphasized a vertical hierarchy of power culminating in
the patronage-distributing institutions and/or personnel of the state. Biraderi, qaum
and zat were restored as the loyalties around which political alignments were
cultivated, albeit articulated in a way that accommodated new political actors such as
the new intermediate class. In the process, Bhutto's PPP was greatly weakened given
that 'an opposition party with no access to patronage and bitterly opposed by the
establishment had little chance of electoral success in a system fuelled by patronage
and easily manipulated by the bureaucracy' (Wilder, 1998: 132-33).137
In no way was the Zia regime's political engineering designed to undermine the
landed class but rather aimed to discourage landed politicians from engaging in
populism. In fact, as pointed out in Chapter 2, the purpose of the regime's
machinations was squarely to acquire the support of the dominant classes so as to
136 This is not to suggest that the popular or even the intermediate classes benefited necessarily. In
many cases it meant simply that the dominant class representatives nominated by Bhutto to manage
state institutions gained opportunities to dole out patronage.
137 The first local body elections that Zia held in 1979 proved that it would take a long-term project of
political engineering to undermine the ideological politics of which the PPP was clearly perceived to be
the vanguard. The so-called awam dost candidates in this non-party election that were known by
everyone to represent the PPP, won handsomely in every province but Baluchistan, including many
landlords who, as they tend to do regularly, recognized the importance of being on the side of the
winner (Jalal, 1994: 175).
resuscitate the historical bloc. With some notable exceptions, the landed class's
political loyalties lay not with Bhutto but with whoever was in power, and this was
reflected both in its steady acquisition of power within the PPP after the party's
coming to power in 1971, and also in the immediate abandonment of the party by
numerous landed notables after Bhutto' s ouster in July 1977; many joined one of the
constituent members of the PNA expecting that the Zia regime would favour the
alliance in any subsequent political accommodation (Richter, 1977: 411). In addition,
following Bhutto's deposal, landlords started to freely evict tenants from their lands
both because they were freed from the impediments imposed upon them by Bhutto' s
populism, and because the imperatives of a deepening agricultural capitalism
demanded it (cfRouse, 1983: 264).
Indeed, with the reemergence of ascriptive attachments as a major factor in the
determination of who acquired access to the state, the landed class was able to
consolidate to a large extent its privileged position within the rural social formation,
although it necessarily had to alter its politics given the considerable changes in the
worldview of the landless and small peasantry and artisans through the late 1960s and
1970s. In particular, 'a partnership with the state that ignored the rural middle and
lower classes was no longer feasible' (Cheema et ai., 2006: 15). Ultimately however,
the landed class could maintain a privileged position so long as it accommodated new
political actors into a system that had changed but yet was the same insofar as
factional alliances remained the modus operandi. The landed class still enjoyed
considerable entrenchment as the major intermediaries between the subordinate
classes and the state, and new political actors could not bypass these established
This was quite clearly proven during fieldwork in Okara and Charsadda. Landed
families that have historically been powerful in these regions remain major
intermediaries, many having craftily coopted the populist idiom of the late 1960s and
1970s while effectively stymieing radical political action amongst small and landless
farmers and also making sure to take along a significant number of the new, upwardly
mobile political players based in the town. Indeed, in both Okara and Charsadda the
major landed politicians have been associated with populist parties. For example Rao
Sikander Iqbal is a PPP stalwart
while Asfandyar Wali Khan has a long association
with ethno-national politics. In both cases, there is a careful mix of ideas of 'progress'
with 'continuity' that calls upon shared historical identities.
To take this point further, one must return to the argument forwarded in the
introductory chapter about the persistence of pre-colonial politico-cultural forms. As
suggested earlier in this chapter, the British came across social identities that they
proceeded to politicize and thus reify; these identities were articulated in an entirely
different manner prior to the emergence of the colonial state. In the first couple of
decades following the creation of Pakistan, the state continued to rely on the political
culture that the British had fashioned in which such 'primordial' identities were
instrumentalised. When Zia came to power, and faced with the imperative of crushing
the wave of mass politics on which Bhutto rode to power, a familiar and parochial
identity politics was reintroduced and the intermediate classes that emerged following
the intense modernization of the 1960s were able to gain entry into the corridors of
state patronage. However, this form of politics, although inclusive of new political
actors, was still historically anchored in the landed incumbents that have been the
lynchpin of the oligarchic political system since colonial times.
To expect that economic change will necessarily engender wholesale political and
cultural change is to make the familiar mistake of a dogmatic Marxism, whereas - as
this thesis has argued throughout - it is important to recognize that political
alignments within the state, between state and society, and within society at large
must be considered as being a product of numerous factors, including capitalist
modernization, the 'autonomous' nature of the state machinery, and the evolved logic
of practice within the social formation. This does not mean that the landed class will
always enjoy a position of preeminence within the rural social formation, but that as
long as the state continues to patronize it and thereby reinforce its well established
cultural and political links to the subordinate classes, it will continue to be a major
player. 139
138 However following the 2002 national election, he defected and formed his own faction of the PPP.
139 There are, of course, considerable variations in the power of landlords across different regions.
Indeed, Okara is more modernized and also characterized by less land inequality than Charsadda, both
factors necessarily impacting contemporary political alignments. Cheema et. al (2006) point out the
differences between the more modern canal colony regions of central Punjab and comparatively more
Formal integration
The Zia regime was keen both on creating new pliant political elites and winning over
old ones. For eight years after deposing Bhutto, the Zia junta was able to repeatedly
put off the holding of elections and restoration of even a nominal democratic process.
During this period the landed class maintained its power in close alliance with the
local bureaucracy thereby garnering - directly or indirectly - a share of the resources
that were distributed by the centre to local governments. 140 When the regime
eventually held non-party elections in 1985, the landed class once again emerged as
the dominant electoral force. This underlined not only that the Zia regime did not
undermine landed power but in fact that the form of politics that was favoured by the
military junta required the support of the landed class in facilitating new entrants into
the political sphere while continuing to be the main conduits between the state and the
subordinate classes. On the whole, both the Majlis-e-Shura that Zia created, as well as
the parliament that came into being after the 1985 non-party elections were dominated
by landlords, both old and new.
'Localisation' of politics has remained pronounced in the two decades following the
end of the Zia dictatorship. It became abundantly clear during the 1985 elections that
the Zia regime had successfully eliminated larger issues of policy and ideology from
the political mainstream and restored politics to a competition over local resources,
both economic and political. As is clear from the cases of Okara and Charsadda, with
the expanded opportunities afforded to the low bureaucracy and intermediate class
groups associated with the 'informal' economy to engage in accumulation, the landed
class has learned to deal with new social forces in rural areas and adjoining mandi
towns. Nonetheless, landed notables remain crucial to the state's overall functioning
and the hegemonic politics of common sense, because of their mediation role in
insular villages. Similarly, as one commentator points out in rather dramatic fashion, 'Sindh is 100
years' (Duncan, 1989: 123) in the sense that the power of the landed class remains very deeply
entrenched even compared to Punjab.
140 This was an inference that could be made on the basis of fieldwork in Okara. Political players such
as Rao Sikander Iqbal remained close to the local administration in the 1980s; this was clear from the
long-standing ties that he and members of his political faction enjoy with the police and administrative
high-ups that have been active in the district for almost 3 decades.
141 In the non-party elections of 1985, landlords won 157 out of a total of 238 seats (66%) while in the
1988 elections, landlords won 156 of a total of 207 seats (76%). See Shafqat (2003).
disputes, their continued control over land, and their experience in making and
breaking factions operative both during electoral contests and otherwise.
A look at the various national assemblies in the post Zia period reflects the continuing
influence of the landed class:
1990 1993 1997
Landlordsffribal Leaders 106 129 126
B usinessmen/Industrialists 38 37 39
Urban Professionals 46 26 32
Religious Leaders 11 8 3
Retired Military Officers 3 5 2
Others 3 3 2
TOTAL 207 207 207
Source: Shafqat (2003)
It was pointed out earlier that landlords have not been the beneficiaries of
unambiguous policy favours in the post-colonial period. However, the policy and
political discourse remains skewed heavily in their favour, particularly when one
considers that land reform has almost totally disappeared from the mainstream
political debate (cf Gazdar, 2003). Furthermore, in spite of much rhetoric emphasizing
the need for an effective agricultural income tax, no initiative has been taken in this
regard either. This has meant that many landlords deriving income from non-
agricultural sources have been able to avoid taxation by declaring such income to be
derived from agriculture. In a country where direct tax constitutes such a small
proportion of the overall tax revenue, agricultural income tax would contribute greatly
to the state's coffers: estimates suggest that agricultural income tax collected by the
province would be Rs. 3.7 billion, or 11 % of provincial public sector expenditure
(Khan, 1999: 135-40).
It is important to consider here the intensifying pressures on small and landless
farmers in the agricultural sector largely due to the deepening of capitalism. The
systematic corporatisation of agriculture has meant the slashing of state subsidies,
most notably the elimination of food support prices. The longer-term structural
change has been in tenure relations away from share cropping towards wage labour. 142
142 Tenant farms represented 41. 7% of all farms in 1960 and only 18.6% of the total in 1990 (Zaidi,
2005a: 42). It is virtually impossible however to quantify the extent of wage labour but '[i]t is unlikely
that many of the tenants are in a position to become owners, so most of them will probably have been
Thus landlords and the intermediate classes associated with the agrarian economy are
increasing their relative power in a rapidly urbanizing rural social formation. 143 This
trend has been accentuated by the fragmentation of landholdings due to
intergenerational inheritance, which, while having affected large landlords as well,
has indubitably been more debilitating for small landholders.
Is Pakistan Feudal?144
Arif Hasan (2002b) has argued that the 'feudal system of power' in Pakistan has
collapsed and that it is entirely inaccurate to suggest that even the intermediary role of
the landed class remains intact. He agrees however that the new intermediate class
that is the major competitor to landed power has not necessarily challenged the landed
class for power in terms of representation in the national and provincial assemblies.
Hasan's argument is inconsistent with the analysis presented here inasmuch as he
insists that the landed class has been effectively displaced by the mandi merchant as
the primary intermediary between the state and the subordinate classes.
Indeed, Hasan's himself admits that 'until the demise of feudalism is institutionalised'
the landed class cannot be said to have relinquished power even though it has
acquiesced to sharing power at the local level with new political players (Hasan,
2002b: 170). Fieldwork indicates that insofar as there is a hierarchy of power at the
local level, it is quite variable with either landed incumbents or newer political players
associated with the mandi economy in the role of arbiter in each different locale.
However, given that the patronage chain leads vertically to the state, and that it is
landed politicians that have access to the most patronage vis a vis their provincial and
national level connections, more often than not it is the newer political players
associated with the mandi economy that are compelled to approach establish landed
political players to join the latter's faction.
changed into agricultural or rural wage labourers or have migrated to urban areas and towns' (Zaidi,
2005a: 50).
143 Qadeer (2000) calls the Peshawar Valley - of which Charsadda is a part - and the densely populated
central Punjab plains - of which Okara is a part - ruralolpolises, or, in other words, social formations
a,Eparently rural but exhibiting many features typically associated with urban areas.
1 Taken from Zaidi's (2005a) insightful and exhaustive discussion on the nature of agrarian change in
Landed notables continue to have an extremely fluid association with major political
parties, particularly in Okara where prominent landed notables are willing to desert
opposition parties in favour of those in government. 145 It was observed during
fieldwork that intermediate classes tend to desert 'losing' parties alongwith their
landed patrons. As the example of the PPP during Zia' s rule illustrated, politicians
associated with the opposition do not benefit from the largesse of the state. Only those
politicians in power are in positions to distribute patronage, typically in the form of
discretionary funds but also by virtue of having the power to hire and fire, issue
licenses, and perform other favours.
Thus rather than postulating that the persistence of landed power indicates the
robustness of 'feudalism' , it is far more fruitful to recognise that tenure relations in
agriculture have been subject to constant change beginning with the onset of British
colonialism and ever since (cf Alavi et. aI, 1982; Zaidi 2005a). In particular the legal
property rights regime that is associated in the first instance with the Permanent
Settlement of 1793 made land into a saleable commodity, and marked the beginning
of production for the market on a large scale. The persistence of a personalised and
oppressive political culture with the landed class as the lynchpin, is not explained by
suggesting that the social formation remains feudal, but in fact by showing, as this
chapter has attempted to do, that despite the deepening of capitalism in agrarian
society, landed power remains relatively entrenched on account of state patronage.
The landed class or the political class?
Given the fact that landed notables continue to be the mainstays of most of the
mainstream political parties in Pakistan, it is important to consider why or why not
they do not challenge the state oligarchy for power. It has been reiterated on many
occasions already in this thesis that, in the aftermath of partition, the West Pakistani
landed class and a Punjabi and Urdu-speaking dominated state oligarchy shared a
common interest in preventing the outright establishment of a democratic political
process. This alliance also had an historical legacy in the structures of power created
under the colonial regime. However lalal (1994: 157) makes the important assertion
145 See the reports in Herald November 2002 about the 'horse-trading' after the October 2002 general
election. In Okara Rao Sikander Iqbal deserted the PPP after the 2002 election and created a breakaway
faction alongwith other renegades that joined hands with the military. This secured for Rao Sikander
Iqbal the defence portfolio in the federal cabinet.
that it is more accurate to consider this historic alliance a product of a 'politics of
compromise', suggesting that under certain conditions, the needs of the state and the
landed class could be congruent, but that this was not necessarily true for all time.
This provides a partial insight into why political parties have come into conflict with
the state oligarchy about the nature of the power sharing arrangement at various
junctures, even if the former have not challenged the oligarchy for outright power per
se. It also provides yet more evidence that the landed class - in accordance with the
political economy of both the colonial and post-colonial periods - has tended to act in
a fragmented way in that landed notables are in perennial competition to win favour
with the state and evidently are far less committed to the autonomous corporate
interests of their class.
For example, it has been noted that for most of Pakistan's history the agricultural
sector has transferred resources to the industrial sector (cf Khan, 2003). The majority
of the surplus extracted from the sector has come from the small and landless farmer,
while green revolution technologies and mechanization more generally were clearly
biased in favour of the large landlord (cf Alavi, 1983b). Nevertheless, during
fieldwork large landlords cribbed incessantly about the 'anti-agriculture' changes that
have taken place over time, and how they too have been at the receiving end of
unfavourable policies.
Yet there has never been a coherent response on the part of
the landed class to the urban industrial bias that has characterised successive
government's planning paradigms. 147
As a general rule, the landed class has been relatively unconcerned with modernizing
agriculture, doing so only when state policy has demanded it. In contrast it has been
far more concerned with the maintenance of its political privilege in terms of access to
the state. Thus one can argue that land counts for more as a political resource than an
economic one in the sense that it is the political power that is derived from being a big
landlord that the landed class values rather than the tangible economic benefits
146 In Okara larger landlords sarcastically said that every ruling regime says that zaraat reerh ki haddi
ke baraabar hai (literally: agriculture is the backbone of the economy) but that this is never reflected in
actual policy.
147 As pointed out above, land reforms and the institution of an agricultural income tax have been
thwarted but this is not equivalent to saying that the long-term policy focus of the state has been pro-
garnered from the land per se.
This helps explain why landlords tend toward
factionalism and consistently attempt to undermine one another, whether in the
electoral realm or in terms of influence within a particular locality more generally.
The landed class, insofar as it is a class-in-itself, does not necessarily act like a class-
for-itself in the sense of expressing its interests in coherent class terms. 149 This is best
reflected in the fact that the evasions of land reforms that followed all three major
land reforms were not a product of a coherent strategy on the part of the landed class,
as a class-for-itself, but depended on the relationship that individual landlords or
families enjoyed with the state. ISO
Thus, intriguingly, it can be argued that it has been the state oligarchy's commitment
to a patronage politics based on a deliberately reinforced cultural logic that has
actually ensured the continuing survival of the landed class, both as an economic
power, and more importantly as the state's major conduit with the subordinate classes.
In many ways, the story of the landed class, particularly in post-Bhutto Pakistan,
mirrors that of the landed class in colonial India towards the end of the 19
century in
that in both cases the state ensured the survival of this class in spite of otherwise
adverse objective conditions. Following the green revolution of the 1960s, the landed
class recognized the need to adjust itself to changed economic realities, and was
facilitated in this effort by the state itself, regardless of the latter's polemic
proclaiming the establishment of a new social order.
Ever since, the state has
disposed of the rhetoric in favour of land reform altogether, and - particularly in the
case of the military - state institutions themselves have become part of the landed
class in their own right. Thus the landed class remains as crucial a component of the
historical bloc as ever. It may not have formulated a coherent strategy as a class-for-
148 The point that land should be considered a political as opposed to an economic resource has been
eloquently and forcefully argued by Neale (1969) who suggests that colonial administrators remained
impervious to the meaning of land in India, which he encapsulates in the notion of 'land-to-rule', which
can be opposed to the notion of 'land-to-own'.
149 There are few organizations that represent the interest of big landlords in Pakistan; the most
prominent of is the Farmers Association of Pakistan, which is currently headed by Shah Mahmood
Qureshi, an important pirllandlord from Multan who has variously been a member of the Pakistan
Muslim League and the PPP.
150 Having said this, it is also true that landed notables clearly exercise enough clout as a class to have
banished agendas such as land reform from the mainstream discourse.
151 This was broadly true during both Ayub's and Bhutto's tenure.
itself, and is clearly comfortable with the role of junior partner to the state oligarchy
as the 'politics of compromise' continues to hold forth.
152 Nevertheless, as will be discussed in the concluding chapter, landed politicians are increasingly
aware of the growing dissatisfaction within the subordinate classes with the obsolete military-
dominated political system and some have even started to chime in a with a loud and growing chorus
calling for substantive changes in the structures of power.
Chapter 5
The Indigenous Bourgeoisie: Building new roots
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.
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.
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.
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.
From one robber baron to the next
The initial expansion of business interests in Pakistan was a function of the windfall
profits accruing to the Gujrati trading families due to a number of related factors. In
the first instance, the new government pegged the Pakistani rupee to the American
dollar, which resulted in a sharp appreciation of the rupee vis a vis the pound sterling
and an attendant decrease in the price of imports. There was also the tremendous
boom caused by the Korean war which in the first instance created a major market for
exports, and accordingly an increase in imports (cf Zaidi, 2005a: 92-3). Finally, there
was the setting up of the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation in 1950 which
facilitated the entry of private capital into industries that were otherwise neglected
154 This commitment to oligarchic rule has become even more pronounced since the onset of neo-
liberal policies in the late 1980s which, while emphasizing the rollback of the state from the economic
sphere, have also expanded the state's coercive functions in accordance with the need to facilitate the
interests of private capital (cfPanitch, 1994). In any case, the personalized nature of business in
Pakistan has ensured that the state remains an important actor in the neo-liberal project because
processes such as the privatization of state enterprises are heavily coloured by personal contacts.
(Papanek, 1968; 92).155 All of these developments set the stage for the transformation
of the mercantile bourgeoisie into an industrial one.
It is important to bear in mind that while the state played a major role in propelling
the industrial sector, often at the cost of agriculture, the share of the public sector in
industry remained limited, reaching only 11.4% of total in 1969-70 (Kemal, 1999:
159). This corresponds with the widespread evidence that private capital had hoarded
the vast majority of productive and financial assets by the late 1960s, as encapsulated
in the rhetoric of the 22 families. G M Adarnjee reflected this in saying that for the
business community, the first two decades of Pakistan 'was like the Gold Rush of the
United States' .156 Meanwhile major under-the-table benefits accrued to the higher
bureaucracy for its patronage of certain business families. The most infamous
example of a state functionary using his position to expand personal business interests
was Ayub Khan himself, who was accused of providing his son Gohar Ayub and the
latter's father-in-law unlimited state patronage in facilitating the setting up of
Gandhara Industries. 157
It would appear logical that the incipient bourgeoisie would defer to the high
bureaucracy in the early years following the state's inception. After all, only the
state's patronage can explain the emergence of the migrant business community as an
economically dominant class within a decade and a half of its creation, a remarkably
short period of time. 158 The Ayubian regime extended the logic of the first decade
further by eulogizing the 'social utility of greed' and the role of 'robber barons' in the
country's economic development (Papanek, 1968). This explains the quite incredible
concentration of financial and non-financial assets in the hands of the refugee migrant
155 After providing the initial start-up capital and ensuring the smooth operation of a particularly
enterprise for a short period, the PIDC would transfer ownership to private hands at highly subsidized
rates. Aside form the PIDC, the Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC) and
Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan (IDBP) played a crucial role in financing industrial initiatives.
156 See the interview in DAWN, 23 September 1995, quoted in Rehman (1998: 11).
157 Many members of the bureaucracy and the military 'soon turned out to be owners of some of the
largest business enterprises in the country' on account of their overarching control over the economic
levers of the country (Alavi, I983a: 49).
158 Shafqat (1997: 126) compares this accelerated creation and consolidation of an industrialist class
which engaged in conspicuous consumption with its counterpart in India where similar class formation
took at least 30 years.
communities that has been exhaustively documented (cf White, 1974; Amjad,
Be that as it may, it can be argued that after the burgeoning industrialist class had
acquired a great deal of economic power, it should have asserted its independence vis
a vis the state oligarchy. On the one hand the migrant bourgeoisie was constrained by
its own internal contradictions insofar as it was itself entirely dependent on state
largesse to succeed. Moreover the business community in India has historically been
considered socially inferior to the professional classes and the landed gentry, and it
would appear that to some extent this perception was internalized by both the Gujrati
and Chinioti business communities in post-partition Pakistan (cfPapanek, 1967: 40-
6).160 As inward-looking communities that clearly believed themselves to be
vulnerable to the whims of the bureaucracy and politicians hailing primarily from the
landed class, the emphasis was on the solidarity and insularity of the group rather than
a developed sense of wider class interests. In other words, one finds the same dynamic
within the indigenous bourgeoisie as was discussed in the case of the landed class,
namely that it did not act as a class-for-itself, and instead favoured the development of
personal ties with the bureaucracy with a view towards maximizing one's own
business opportunities vis a vis a competitor.
The most striking evidence of this is the proliferation of business associations that
were constituted almost without fail by insular communities, and most often groups of
families related by blood or marriage. The associations' primary purpose was to
systematically represent their parochial interests vis a vis the state, and as such, it can
be posited that the dramatic emergence of these associations was a 'testimony to the
highly individualistic, personalised and fragmented character of the Pakistani business
community' (Kochanek, 1983: 119). These associations tended to adopt more and
more regionalist identities through the 1960s as Punjabis started to encroach into an
159 While there are differences in the estimates of these two major studies, there would appear to be
consensus on the fact that well over half of industrial assets and more than 80% of banks and insurance
companies were controlled by a maximum of 44 families. It is important to note however that in both
of these seminal studies, only companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) have been
accounted for, whereas a large majority of businesses were, and are still not, publicly listed (Rehman,
160 Even today many Gujarati business families in Karachi are extremely insular, living in virtually
exclusive neighbourhoods, only marrying within their community and remaining distinct in almost all
spheres of social life, including dress and religious observance.
industrial sector previously dominated by the Karachi-based refugee families. As the
number of competitors within business circles increased, and smaller and medium
sized entrepreneurs entered the market, the more established families withdrew from
leadership positions, ostensibly because they considered themselves above the petty
politics of elections (Kochanek, 1983: 153-61).
The disinclination of the clannish refugee business families to assert themselves
politically - a function both of their traditional aloofness from the political sphere and
the intimidating posture of the oligarchy - was one of the main causes of their gradual
eclipse by a new indigenous industrial element in Punjab that rose to prominence in
large part due to the major modernization that took place in that province through the
1960s. On the one hand the shifting of the federal capital from Karachi to Islamabad
in 1960 had a direct bearing on the access of the incumbent business families to state
patronage. The Ayub regime was also keen to expand its network of patronage into
the Punjab, and the new 'middle class' to which modernization policies were catered
(cf Zaidi, 2005a: 501). There were of course Chinioti business families already part of
the industrialist class that gained in prominence through the Ayubian decade.
However it was the tumult of Bhutto' s nationalization that provided the primary
impetus for a change in the constitution and politics of the indigenous bourgeoisie.
The perils of aloofness
Prior to the nationalization of industries carried out by the Bhutto regime, the
industrialist class had already suffered a major setback due to the secession of the
eastern wing. The highly skewed nature of united Pakistan's economy had mandated
that many of the big business families housed their industrial infrastructure in the
eastern wing of the country, primarily because they were involved in the export of
jute, the country's major cash crop that was grown almost exclusively in east Pakistan.
When Bangladesh was created, the Adamjees for example lost the 'biggest jute mill in
Asia' (Rehman, 1998: 12). It can be argued that in many cases, the loss of the eastern
wing constituted a bigger economic shock to the bourgeoisie than Bhutto's
nationalizations. The primary impact of the nationalization policy was not economic
but political inasmuch as it exposed the complete vulnerability of the business
community to the caprice of a populist government.
This factor in addition to
structural changes in the economy, explain the nature and politics of the industrial
bourgeoisie after the Bhutto interregnum.
The first nationalization in 1972 targeted a number of heavy industries in which the
22 families were dominant. While the initial nationalizations had been expected, it
was the series of nationalizations starting with the vegetable ghee industry in 1973,
then the banks and culminating in the agro-processing industries in 1976 that
constituted the most significant political blows to the industrialist class. Most of the
assets of big business were concentrated in the sugar and textile industries that
remained largely unscathed. The industries nationalized comprised 18% of total large-
scale manufacturing and their contribution to exports was 8.3% (Shafqat, 1997: 133).
Those who were stripped of their assets were compensated quite generously.
Politically however, the nationalizations completely demoralized big business and
there was a 'dimunition in official respect for leading industrial families' (Noman,
] 988: 77-8).
As it turned out, the post-1974 nationalisations - and particularly the nationalization
of agro-industries - were highly arbitrary and not a function of the PPP government's
commitment to anti-capitalist ideology. In fact, by 1974, Bhutto had fired many of the
socialist ideologues in the party and had started to woo the bourgeoisie. Working class
movements were ruthlessly targeted and special incentives provided to big business in
the budgets of 1975 and 1976 (Ahmad, 2000: 227-8). By this time it had become clear
that the PPP government did not have a consistent policy vis a vis the industrialist
class. This was evidenced by the fact that some business families remained close to
and were patronized quite actively by the regime (LaPorte, 1975: 111-2; Noman, 1988:
77). As with the other seemingly radical redistributive policies of the period, the
emphasis seemed to be on asserting the power of the government rather than
necessarily carrying through the promise of radical change to its culmination.
161 To a large extent the nationalizations undertaken by the PPP regime prior to 1974 were informed by
a genuine ideological conviction. It was the fact that the state oligarchy was almost completely
overwhelmed which allowed Bhutto to systematically attack the industrial bourgeoisie.
162 Interviews with rank-and-file PPP activists (Asghar Gujjar, 8 September 2007; Zahid Anjum, 19
August, 2007) as well as federal ministers such as Mubashir Hasan (4 April 2007) revealed that there
was considerable disenchantment within the party at the manner in which both policies and internal
composition of the PPP were changing while in power. However, the tragedy of those who believed in
Nonetheless, the confidence of the industrial bourgeoisie was permanently shaken and
the organic link between financial and industrial capital shattered. As a result, a
significant number of the big business families moved their capital abroad, with
another attendant effect being the fragmentation of many of the major business
empires. During fieldwork interviews it also became clear that many families
involved in industries such as steel rolling completely withdrew from industrial
production and moved to trade which was perceived to be less vulnerable to the
government's whims.
This seems consistent with my observations regarding the
emergence of small-scale traders and mandi merchants in Okara and Charsadda at the
same time. In other words, private trade as a whole was more lucrative and less
tenuous than private industry.164
Among other things, given that the primary targets of nationalization were the migrant
business families, the door was opened for the Chinoitis of Punjab to ascend to the
dominant position within the big bourgeoisie (Rehman, 1998: 79). Having been
completely exposed to the whims of government, younger generations of the
incumbent Karachi-based families admitted that' [we] deserved what we got' due to
aloofness from the political process. They accordingly recognized the need to
integrate themselves into the social mainstream to a much greater extent so as to
establish a more robust political presence (Kochanek, 1983: 187). In other words it
became clear that if and when they attempted to revive their economic fortunes, they
would have to reduce their dependence on the state and be able to pursue their
business interests not solely on the basis of patronage by the sitting regime.
It is important at this juncture to point out some structural features of the Pakistani
economy as it has evolved over the past three decades. First, the growth of the so-
called informal economy has far exceeded that of the formal economy in terms of
the socialist foundations of the party was that by the mid-1970s they perceived themsel ves to have no
other option but to remain within the party as all other mainstream political forces had started to ally
against the government alongwith industrialists and other dominant groups that felt victimized by the
fc0puIist wave.
63 Interview with Rarnzan Ibrahim, 16 May 2007, 22 June 2007.
164 Small-scale industry was not targeted by the government which is why it also boomed in the 1970s
and afterwards.
employment generation, value-added and growth in capital stock.
This implies that
the relative importance of the 'big' bourgeoisie has declined in importance, or at the
very least that it is crucial not to conceive of industry in the post-Bhutto period as
being the exclusive preserve of large-scale enterprise. Moreover there is a need to
recognize that the structural evolution of the industrial bourgeoisie is innately linked
to the rise of the urban intermediate class. A related point is that the primary
structural change in Pakistan's economy over the past three decades has been the
dramatic emergence of the service sector, which now accounts for 50% of total output
(GoP, 2007). Thus there has surfaced a service sector bourgeoisie also based primarily
in the informal sector.
The Bhutto period marked the emergence of the small and medium sized entrepreneur
as a genuine social force, a substantive discussion of which will be undertaken in
Chapter 8. For the purposes of this chapter however, it is important to recognize that
the emerging intermediate trading and capitalist classes in the rapidly urbanizing areas
of the country - mostly in the Punjab - were developing organic links with the state
and graduated into the ranks of the big bourgeoisie based in Punjab. Indeed, the
success of Punjabi industry during and after the Bhutto period can be explained by the
'small firms' proximity to large enterprises' (Zaidi, 2005a: 138). As opposed to the
Karachi-based families, Punjabi industry is far more sociologically integrated with the
local social formation, imbibing and influencing its culture, and therefore able both to
understand and progress in local politics (Weiss, 1991: 11).
The new bourgeois and the political sphere
It may be inferred from the preceding discussion that the indigenous bourgeoisie in
the first two and a half decades of Pakistan's existence was totally aloof from the
formal political sphere. In actual fact, a handful of Karachi-based families did play
significant political roles in the new state including Yusuf Haroon, the first chief
minister of Sindh, Ahmad Dawood and A. K. Sumar.
It has been in the aftermath of
the Bhutto period however, that 'a bumper crop of businessmen ... entered politics
165 Nadvi (1990), quoted in Zaidi (2005a). Importantly these figures reflect the situation only until the
mid 1980s and fresh figures are said not to be available. However, Zaidi suggests that the trends can be
expected to have intensified.
16<l And to a certain extent have continued to do so. Mahmood Haroon was a member of Zia's cabinet
and Razzak Dawood was commerce minister in Musharraf's first cabinet.
[and] made fortunes in business ... without qualms of conscience' (Rehman, 1998:
118). While some prominent Karachi-based families did adapt their methods in the
aftermath of the Bhutto period, both in terms of investing outside of Pakistan and also
by attempting to establish a certain degree of political clout, they have not been able
to match their Punjabi counterparts. In other words the Karachi-based families, while
still an economic force, have clearly been relegated to a secondary position within the
industrial hierarchy of the country. 167 After 1982, for the first time, the annual
incorporation of companies in Punjab exceeded that of Karachi (Rehman, 1998: 69).
The Punjabi industrialist has also emphatically emerged as a new contender for power,
and thus changed the face and politics of the indigenous bourgeoisie. 168
Intuitively it would seem logical for the Zia regime to undo the nationalization policy
as it was concerned not only with establishing a stable economy, but more importantly
with acquiring the support of the industrialist class for its rule. Similar to the high
bureaucracy, the incumbent industrial bourgeoisie was glad to be rid of the Bhutto
regime and thereby offered cautious support to the Zia government.
The new
military regime, however, did not undertake a major denationalization, preferring to
keep most industries, and particularly the banks, within the fold of the state, aware of
the major avenues to distribute patronage that these enterprises offered (Zaidi, 2005a:
Both because of the government's wavering policy on denationalization and because
of political uncertainty private investment did not increase substantially. In fact,
private investment in large and medium-scale industry was higher in 1972 than in
1981 (Noman, 1988: 172-5). However, it is important to contextualize these formal
figures. The lack of an appreciable increase in private industrial investment may
reflect the reluctance of the pre-1971 industrial bourgeoisie to return in a big way to
an economy and polity that had, in its own eyes, treated it poorly. More importantly
however, as pointed out above, these figures do not account for expansion in the
167 This is at least partially explained by the refusal of many old Karachi-based families to make
substantive investments in the post-Bhutto period; the trend has been to 'milk the existing units'
(Rehman, 1998: 68).
168 See Kochanek's (1996) discussion of the polities of the federal and Karachi chambers of commerce
in the 1980s and 1990s, and the gradual ascendance of Punjabis within these formal associations.
169 The urban intermediate class was, of course, the main force in the PNA movement that provided a
pretext for the military take over in July 1977.
informal economy, which is where most new productive activity has taken place over
the past 30 years.
As will be discussed at length in Chapter 8, the intermediate classes had emerged as
important economic players by the 1970s and their economic power grew steadily
through the Zia period as remittance incomes from the Middle East flowed in and
added vitality to an already dynamic informal capitalist economy. Given the crucial
role that the trading and merchant classes had played in the agitations against the PPP
regime, it was natural that the military regime would attempt to patronize them. This
inclination was accentuated by the fact that the intermediate classes accumulated
primarily by developing links to the low bureaucracy and thus a symbiotic link
between the state and this new emergent contender for power already existed.
Thus, at least partially on account of the disappointing response of big business to the
considerable incentives offered by the government 170, but more as a function of the
greater need to undermine the politics of class and radical ethno-nationalism that still
threatened the historical bloc, the government very willfully extended political access
to small and medium scale entrepreneurs through local body elections. Given the
importance of access to the state to further accumulation, the intermediate classes
were keen to move from the local level upward into the ranks of an emergent
industrial class, capture Chambers of Commerce at the provincial and national level
and then subsequently make inroads into mainstream political parties through which
they contested provincial and national level elections (Cheema, 2003). This was all
made possible by the suspension of the formal political process at the national and
provincial levels by the Zia regime for eight years. It was in this intervening period
that the new industrialist politician gained a foothold in the political mainstream and
emerged as an autonomous force in the 1985 elections with the assistance of the
Importantly the transformation of segments of the small and medium scale
entrepreneur into a genuine industrial class was an outcome of the state's perceived
170 These included tax holidays, duty-free capital imports and low-interest credit (Noman, 1988: 175).
17l It helped matters that the PPP boycotted the 1985 elections and that the elections were contested on
a non-party basis.
need for self-preservation and not a function of a clear and coherent economic policy.
In other words the state's political engineering allowed a class of small and medium
entrepreneurs to acquire political power far in excess of that which it would otherwise
have had, which then precipitated the transformation of this class into the new
bourgeoisie. The Zia regime was hardly responsible for its economic fortunes in the
sense that the Gulf migrations had started under the PPP regime while economic
modernization in agriculture had started even earlier. Thus it did not necessarily
conceive of its political accommodations with the intermediate classes as a means of
providing impetus to industry. In fact, in the Zia period 'the only change in the
government attitude [was] the acknowledgement of the existence of the small-scale
sector, though with no tangible policy thrust' (Sayeed, 1995: 143). As Addleton (1992)
argues, during the 1980s the economy had become increasingly decentralized and it
was the capitalist dynamic that, articulated with the political access offered by the
military regime, precipitated the emergence of the new bourgeoisie.
Weiss (1991) documents the nature of this new industrialist class in three separate
industries, namely steel rolling, pharmaceuticals and sporting goods which represent
three distinct kinds of industries - import substitution, basic manufacturing and export
oriented manufacturing respectively. She asserts that there is a dynamism associated
with the Punjabi industrialist as well as a cultural grounding in the social formation
which has permitted these industries to grow, often in spite of quite formidable
structural constraints. Perhaps most importantly she makes it clear that the role of the
state in facilitating the industrialization process remains central. The implication is
that with the acquisition of political power, this class has augmented its economic
power as well, which once again illustrates the 'intrinsic connection between politics
and economics' and the fact that 'each reinforce[s] the other' (Zaidi, 2005a: 503).
An example of the new bourgeoisie is the Sharif family which rose to prominence
during the 1980s due to its patronage by the Zia regime. Subsequently it took over the
central leadership role in the Pakistan Muslim League and ran the central government
twice through the course of the 1990s. The Sharifs are an industrialist family that
suffered nationalization of their Ittefaq Steel Industries in 1972. As it turned out, the
Sharifs were able to transfer a significant amount of capital out of the country,
primarily to the Gulf states, and thereby avoid economic ruin. However, the political
scar of the nationalizations seemed to spur the Sharifs into active politics. I72
Ittefaq Foundries was one of the handful of industries that was denationalized in the
period immediately following the Zia putsch. The Sharifs were not a major
industrialist force prior to nationalization, but on the basis of their anti-Bhutto
credentials emerged as a major political player in the aftermath of the Zia coup, and
soon grew into one of the biggest industrial conglomerates in the country.173 N awaz
Sharif was handpicked as the Punjab Finance Minister in 1981, and elevated to the
position of Chief Minister in 1985. The Sharifs proceeded to build a robust network of
political clients, primarily amongst the urban intermediate class that was also
acquiring power at the local level. Thus in a different yet similar way to the Karachi-
based families in the pre-Bhutto period, the new Punjabi industrialist class ascended
to the pinnacle of political power at the behest of the state.
The rise of the challenger?
The sacking of Nawaz Sharif in the 1999 coup could be interpreted to mean that the
new industrial class reached a fundamental point of conflict with the state oligarchy,
and the military in particular. In actual fact, the Musharraf regime has been the most
pro-business - both in terms of formal policy frameworks and the doling out of
patronage - in recent memory. It was asserted earlier in the chapter that the Karachi-
based industrial class was never able to articulate its politics as a class-for-itself,
tending towards factionalism and the winning of favour with the oligarchy. The short
summary above detailing the rise of the new industrial bourgeoisie in the Punjab
indicates a similar dynamic. However, there are some substantive and important
172 It is a matter of conjecture what the impetus for this interest in politics was - possibly a desire to
avenge its losses or a more detached interest in augmenting its existing stock of wealth?
173 Estimates of the total worth of the assets of the Sharif family vary from Rs. 10 billion to Rs. 21
billion (Rehman, 1988: 136).
174 More generally figures detailing the professional/class background of members of the national
assembly (MNA) from 1985 onwards clearly indicate the dramatic emergence of the businessman as
politician. In 1985,54 MNAs hailed from a business background, and this figure actually decreased in
subsequent elections (Shafqat, 2003: 225).
First as mentioned earlier, this new bourgeoisie has a far more organic link with the
local social formation, and in fact, as a political force, is itself a product of the
localized patronage politics that the Zia regime championed. So, for example, urban-
based politicians in Okara affiliated with Mian Zaman - twice elected as MNA from
the PML - have based their politics almost completely on the creation of a network of
clients in the city cobbled together over the various terms that Mian Zaman has been
in power and able to dole out patronage. While this means that the business network is
dependent on access to the state to secure political support, its politics is completely
different than that of the pre-Bhutto bourgeoisie which had no such link to the popular
The second and already mentioned point is that the Punjabi industrialist class has an
organic link to the intermediate class of traders, merchants and middlemen. In fact, in
most cases, those who have graduated into the ranks of big industrialist families have
almost all emerged from the urban intermediate class operating in the so-called
informal sector. This explains the support that N awaz Sharif has garnered from the
trading and small business community, as he is widely seen to be a moderately
successful businessman that struck gold and therefore understands the psyche and
needs of urban business interests (Wilder, 1998: 143-4).
Third, the industrialist class has managed to establish a presence within the decision-
making structure of the state by way of individuals and families that have emerged
through the mainstream electoral sphere. In particular, it was noted during fieldwork
that in Okara, the PML has clearly distinguished itself as the party of the urban
entrepreneur, and this seems to be true throughout Punjab. Given that the new
bourgeoisie ostensibly can now represent itself through the political party, it is not
totally reliant on the civil bureaucracy - or the military as the case may be - to gain
access to the state.
Having said this, it is important to point out that the politics of the urban intermediate
classes is not entirely congruous with those who graduate into the class of big
industrialists, in spite of the organic link between them, a point that will be revisited
in Chapter 8. At a certain level of accumulation the interests of the big industrialist
tend to diverge with that of the small entrepreneur, and only in the cases where an
industrialist needs to garner support to acquire state power do their interests coincide.
More specifically, it appears that if and when elements of the industrialist class
actually acquire the reins of government, they mayor may not directly protect the
interests of the intermediate classes. According to many intermediate class actors in
Okara, the PML-N government from 1997 to 1999 reneged on many of the promises
it made to its most vocal constituency which is why the intermediate classes engaged
in agitation against it. This also explains the fluid nature of political engagements -
some arhtis that had cultivated long associations with the PML-N sheepishly
explained that they had changed their loyalties because the PML-N in power was a
different PML-N from that out of power.
Thus the industrialist class and the landed class tend to compete to win the favour of
intermediate class factions that are politically influential at the local level but not
beyond. The latter seek out patronage of provincial and national level political actors
associated with mainstream parties that have a chance of acquiring state power. This
illustrates the popular perception that the state remains the repository of power and
that any class, party, or faction is only powerful insofar as it has access to the state
and can distribute patronage on the basis of this access. This indicates that, for all of
the considerable differences in the nature of the bourgeoisie prior to and after Bhutto,
the basic impulse behind its engagement in the political realm remains the same.
It also raises the important point about the practical meaning of politics. There is very
little pretense in politics of this nature about ideas, principles or loyalties. It is clearly
a cynical game in which access to state power is the determining factor in alignments.
Big industrialists are a part of this game not because of any lasting political
commitments but because they believe that political access is a pre-requisite for the
expansion of their economic interests.
There is definitely an element of power for
power's sake but this seems to be a sentiment that follows entry into the game rather
than an explanation for entering the game in the first place.
175 Obviously there are arguably exceptions to this general pattern. For example, Nawaz Sharif's return
to Pakistan in late 2007 and his vocal stance against dictatorship may be construed as principled
politics, although this can only be proved conclusively in retrospect.
Reinforcing oligarchic rule
The logic employed by the industrialist class while in power at the centre is no
different than when it acquired power at lower levels of the state. For example the
privatization process was initiated with fervour by the Nawaz Sharif government
largely because it seemingly represented the interests of many business groups 176. As
this thesis has argued from the outset, access to the state implies the ability to
distribute patronage, particularly to important constituencies. Thus privatization
seemed to be a reward to the Sharifs' closest business affiliates; numerous state-
owned enterprises were sold to a handful of Punjabi business families at questionable
prices through a highly questionable process (Rehman, 1998; Zaidi, 2005a).
As suggested throughout this chapter, business families act as families rather than
horizontally aggregating their interests as a class. Arguably it is precisely this
dynamic - or at the very least the perception that this dynamic is predominant in
Pakistan's political economy - that explains the continuation of personalised
privatisation even after the coming to power of regimes not necessarily associated
with the business community in the way that the Sharif family is. So for example
Benazir Bhutto's regime also patronized a handful of industrialist families while
shunning those in favour under Nawaz Sharif, some even forced out of the major
capital accumulation stakes altogether (Rehman, 1998: 51-55). The military regime
that acquired power in October 1999 - notably by deposing the 'pro-business' PML-N
- has also clearly privileged its own handpicked set of industrialist families. 177
Ostensibly, the various business conglomerates - built up through 'traditional'
practices such as inter-marriage as much as impersonal economic mergers and
alliances - are content to curry favour with factions that enjoy immediate access to the
state, even though the industrialist class as a whole has much more political clout than
it did in the pre-Bhutto period and could, in principle, adopt a much more long-term
strategy. This may partially be explained by the fact that the mainstream political
parties - excepting the religious parties - are still dominated by the landed class, and
176 There was also pressure from the citadels of international capitalism, namely the international
financial institutions (IFls).
177 One of the most high-profile incidents was the selling of Pakistan Steel Mills to the Arib Habib
group that was widely rumoured to be close to the Prime Minister. The sale was later rescinded by the
Supreme Court because of numerous irregularities.
thus there is a feeling that if these parties were to represent any class interest
unambiguously, it would be that of the rural notables.
While this is not to deny the changes that have taken place in the rural social
formation - as was illustrated in the preceding chapter - the factional nature of
politics typically associated with the rural social formation is still dominant.
In any
case, the fragmented nature of both major propertied classes helps explain the non-
negligible differences in the policy frameworks of governments throughout the 1990s,
as each party coming into government was guided primarily by the cynical logic of
gaining access to the state and distributing patronage rather than catering to the
specific class interests of the party leaderships.179
This points to the fact that the model of patronage politics hoisted on the social
formation by the Zia regime has not only persisted but has become the modus
operandi. As asserted in earlier chapters, the initial push factor was a consensus
within the historical bloc about the dangers of allowing the unfettered development of
the more expansive ideological politics of the preceding period. However, the parallel
outcome of the suppression of political ideas and expression has been the
consolidation of an oligarchic system in which the military is the ultimate arbiter of
power, the leadership of political parties is simply an agglomeration of propertied
classes that acquiesces to the vertical pattern of patronage, and the electoral process 180
- to the extent that it is allowed to exist - becomes simply a reflection of this cynical
system. As will be asserted in Section 2, this is a successful hegemonic project based
on the consensus within the historical bloc that crucially requires the consent of the
subordinate classes.
178 It was pointed out earlier that while this appears to be a pattern of 'rural' politics, urban politics has
also been subject to similar dynamics since the British period, in large part because of the state's
attempts to make this mode of politics dominant.
179 This must be qualified with a restatement of Alavi's original contention about the nature of the
accommodation between the relatively autonomous state oligarchy and the propertied classes. While
any individual propertied class may not be acting as a class-for-itself at any particular point in time, the
very fact that it is willing to acquiesce to a role of junior partner to the oligarchy reflects that ultimately
it remains committed to the existing power-sharing arrangement that privileges the interests of all the
members of the historical bloc in comparison to the subordinate classes. This thesis has argued that all
members of the historical bloc were united over the need to suppress the challenge to the existing
socio-political order that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
180 Zaidi (2005b) makes the crucial point that the existence of electoral contests does not imply
democratic politics.
Importantly, in spite of the fact that there has been considerable transformation in the
social formation since the 1960s on account of the deepening of capitalism, this has
not led to a change in the dynamic between the administrative and political
institutions of the state. It is often postulated by liberal theorists that liberal
democracy is coeval with the rise of capitalism and the urban middle classes.
However in many post-colonial states the correlation between these two apparently
related phenomena is weak, whereas in Pakistan it may even be argued that the
converse is true. As this chapter has suggested, the emergence of a new industrialist
class during and after the Bhutto period has not led to a deepening of democratic
norms and practices, instead reinforcing a patronage politics that may be based on
what has been called the 'democratisation of the state', but what has in practice led to
the consolidation of oligarchic rule.
181 See Johnson (1985) for a vociferous rebuttal of this point of view and an assertion that in fact
dictatorship is the most suitable political system for capitalism. See also Kaviraj (2005b) for a
sophisticated discussion of the unsuitability of theories of modernity based on western experience in
non-western contexts.
Chapter 6
The Metropolitan Bourgeoisie: External Crutch
In Alavi's formulation, the metropolitan bourgeoisie was undoubtedly the most
powerful of all three propertied classes. Alavi emphasized two points, namely that the
metropolitan bourgeoisie should not be considered external to the Pakistani social
formation and that it should not be assumed that it is able to dictate terms to the
Pakistani state and accordingly dominate the social formation (cf Alavi, 1983a).
While the intuitive point made by Alavi is an important one, there is substantial
ambiguity in his formulation which needs to be demystified if one is to truly
understand the nature and extent of influence of metropolitan forces on the Pakistani
state. Namely, Alavi tends to analytically conflate the role of metropolitan capital,
with the political impulse of metropolitan states, implying that the operational
dynamics of these two qualitatively different manifestations of metropolitan power in
the Pakistani social formation are indistinguishable.
As asserted in the introductory chapter, any viable attempt to understand the dynamics
of the post-colonial state demands recognition of the dialectical relationship between
the accumulation of capital and the accumulation of power. In considering the
dynamics of metropolitan states within the context of an international capitalist
division of labour, the same dialectic applies (cf Arrighi, 2005: 30). For the purposes
of this thesis, this theoretical assertion is crucial because it permits an understanding
of the power-capital dialectic that defined the colonial state and, following from this,
analysis of the continuities and discontinuities in the operation of metropolitan power
in the post-colonial period.
The framework of reference to be employed here is that proffered by Harvey (2003)
which emphasizes two competing logics of power in the operation of modern day
imperialism, or as he calls it, 'imperialism of the capitalist sort'. On the one hand
there is a 'territorial logic' of power which is expanded by taking control of territories
and the resources within them. On the other hand there is the 'capitalistic logic' of
power which is expanded as control over economic capital increases. Importantly,
182 In his empirical analysis however, Alavi's focus is on the manner in which the geo-strategic
interests of imperialist states, and particularly the US, have been a major cause of the rnilitarisation of
the Pakistani state (cf Alavi, 1991 b).
these two forms of power cannot simply be equated to each other, although they are
often closely related.
As concerns the exercise of metropolitan power in the Pakistani social formation
and/or on the state, this is an essential distinction for two related reasons. First, as this
thesis has argued from the outset, the conception of structure propounded by Alavi is
static and therefore unable to account for the evolving nature of the metropole's
in the state and social formation. Accordingly, the Alavian nexus of power-
within which the metropolitan bourgeoisie is said to be the most powerful propertied
class - is not a necessary outcome of a particular set of structural forces in the manner
that Alavi has postulated and its persistence must be explained dynamically. Second,
in attempting to outline a dynamic conception of structural forces, the political
machinations of the state - both post-colonial and metropolitan - must be accorded
explanatory power in their own right.
It is the argument of this chapter that the role of the 'metropolitan bourgeoisie' has
been guided not by the potentialities for capitalist development within the Pakistani
social formation, but by the 'territorial' imperative of increasing western, and more
specifically, American imperialism's sphere of influence.
While the engagement of
the metropolitan bourgeoisie with Pakistan has been somewhat erratic, the net effect
of metropolitan states' strategically motivated exchanges with the Pakistani state has
been to reinforce the Alavian nexus of power, and most importantly, the military. In
particular, the unequivocal support offered to the Zia regime during the 1980s was a
crucial factor in not only suppressing the politics of resistance but institutionalizing
the politics of common sense. The long-term impacts of regional geo-politics have
included the strengthening of religious - including sectarian - political forces and the
dramatic expansion of an underground/informal economy, both of which have
undermined the politics of resistance and given impetus to the politics of common
183 Or either of the two other propertied classes. Indeed, as will be argued in Section 2, the balance of
structural forces can only be understood if 'non-dominant' classes and groups are also considered.
184 Until 1991 the major 'competitor' to the western world was communism; Pakistan was one of a
number of countries in the region that were perceived as constituting a major anti-communist alliance
in west Asia and that signed the so-called Baghdad Pact (CENTO). Other members included Turkey,
Iran and Iraq.
185 Both of these distinct yet related phenomena will be discussed at length in Section 2.
Competing logics inherited from colonialism
In describing the unique history of British colonialism in India while situating it
within the context of a burgeoning international capitalist system, Harvey (2003: 139-
40) argues that there was a dialectical contradiction between the 'capitalistic' and
'territorial' logics insofar as the objective of British colonialism was not, in fact, to
encourage the unfettered proliferation of the capitalistic logic in India, but rather
represented a desire to achieve the inherently political objective of establishing and
maintaining a territorial empire that spanned the globe. India occupied a position of
great significance in this grand design as it not only possessed valuable human and
material resources but more importantly was strategically located such that control
over India greatly enhanced the British capacity to conquer swathes of territory across
the vast Asian landmass. Insofar as there was potential for capitalism to organically
develop within India, the British were keen to suppress this impulse in favour of the
territorial logic of imperialist power.
As mentioned in Chapter 2, this was reflected in the role that the British Indian army
played in conquering and then protecting British colonial possessions across the world.
The notorious Great Game pitched British interests in Central and West Asia
primarily against Russian influence from the North, and it was thus that the northwest
frontier region of British India came to acquire crucial significance for the larger
imperial project. In the changed geo-political stakes emerging after the end of British
rule, there were many British colonial officers who argued for the continuing
centrality of Pakistan as a potential buffer state that could represent the interests of
western capitalism or at least stem the spread of the new threat from the north,
Bolshevism (cf Caroe, 1951 quoted in Hashmi, 1983).187 Excepting the ambiguous -
some would even call it non-aligned - foreign policy of the Pakistani state in the first
five years after independence, Pakistan indubitably played the role of 'client garrison
186 Harvey proves this assertion by noting that the actual amount of capital invested in India by the
British was miniscule in comparison to what was invested in other regions, including the United States
and other capitalist contenders.
187 For the American perspective on the 'new great game', see Kux (2001; p. 62). See also lalal (1990)
for an exhaustive discussion of the negotiations and intrigue that characterized the new state's
relationship with both the British and the Americans.
state' to the US and its western allies in the struggle against communism (Alavi,
1991 b ).188
LaPorte (1975: 143-7) breaks up the operation of US power in Pakistan in the first
two decades after the state's inception into three separate components, namely 'U.S.
government operations (the activities of U.S. state department officials, USAID
economic and technical advisers, U.S. military advisers and supply officers, and other
U.S. officials); private foundation operations (economic and technical advisers
provided by such organizations as the Ford Foundation); and U.S. business and
private sector operations (U.S. businessmen with direct investment in banking,
industrial, insurance, and other operations)'. He shows that private sector operations
are the least significant in terms of investment by American firms, and if anything, the
influence of private American capital was limited to the parroting of the American
firms by their Pakistani counterparts. White (1974: 53-8) confirms this analysis in his
exhaustive analysis of companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange by showing
that foreign firms control only 9.2% of total assets in the Pakistani economy. 189
Thus, aside from the existing stock of British capital that remained in Pakistan after
the departure of the British themselves, the evidence suggests that there was little
substantive activity on the part of metropolitan capita1.
This was not surprising
given the greater attraction of India - both politically and economically - and the fact
that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, at partition industry in Pakistan was
conspicuous by its absence. However politically motivated aid was much easier to
come by. Following the signing of the first mutual defence agreement between the US
and Pakistan in 1954, aid started flowing in freely to Pakistan, primarily to modernize
the Pakistani military as a fighting force and to provide it with new hardware supplies
in accordance with the American conviction that Pakistan needed to be stable and
188 It is another matter that the Pakistani state oligarchy cultivated this perception even though its
primary foreign policy concern was India, and it viewed its ability to achieve a limited form of parity
with India as being contingent on the material impetus provided by the American alliance.
189 The analysis is based on numerous statistical estimates, and the figure of 9.2% is, according to
White, probably an over-estimation
190 Alavi (l983a: 54) points out that metropolitan capital did penetrate the Pakistani economy by way
of tied credits through public financial institutions such as PICIC and IDBP and also through
investment in state-led development projects. However, there is no suggestion that the magnitude of
this penetration is substantive, at least in comparison to the interventions of metropolitan states, and
particularly the US.
secure as one of the key members of its anti-communist network of states in the
'During the period 1954 to 1965, the US provided military grants assistance
valued at $650 million, defence and support assistance valued at $619 million and
cash or commercial-based purchases of $55 million' (Lohalekar, 1991: 47). This was
a substantial sum, and could be compared to military assistance given to other
countries in the region such as India; 77.8% of all US military aid to Pakistan, India,
Saudi Arabia and Nepal between 1947 and 1962 was allocated to Saudi Arabia and
Pakistan. Between 1950 and 1960,90% of aid to the 'Near East and South Asia' went
to Iran, Turkey, Greece and Pakistan (Hashmi, 1983: 106-7).192
Pakistan received economic aid as well, which was, and continues to be, a major pillar
of the economy; total foreign aid received by 1968 was $US 4.7 billion, which
constituted 5.8% ofGDP.
The significance of aid is reflected in the fact that it was
equivalent to 50% of total imports and 34% of total development expenditure.
However, the importance of this aid must be put into context. Of the figure of US$ 4.7
billion quoted above, only US% 1.3 billion was in the form of grants, while the rest
was offered as loans (Brecher and Abbas, 1972; p. 24). In historical terms, the
majority of the grants were offered in the 1950-1955 period, whereas loans started to
constitute a bigger share of total aid in the 1955-1960 window. By 1960-1965, 'large
loans with high interest rates and increasingly harsh conditions completely mortgaged
the country' (Rashid, 1983: 126). A British economist made the salient observation
that the nature of lending by the western countries to Pakistan evolved coevally with
perceived geo-political requirements of western governments, a pattern manifest first
in the shift from grants to loans, and then culminating in the termination of US and
other bi and multi lateral aid entirely following the start of the 1965 war (Griffin,
1965 quoted in Rashid, 1983).
This is an important point, because, as will be asserted presently, there is a distinct
191 There was considerable negotiation and posturing that preceded the decision of the Eisenhower
administration to accede to Pakistan'S requests for military assistance. It was American secretary of
state John Foster Dulles who became convinced that Pakistan could playa vital role in securing
American geo-strategic interests in west Asia and encouraged the alliance. See Hashmi (1983), Kux
192 Importantly Hashmi makes the point that these are only officially quoted figures whereas actual
disbursements are most likely far in excess of the official disbursements.
193 This figure was as high as 7.5% in 1964.
pattern that prevails throughout the history of the evolving relationship between
Pakistan and its western allies, namely that military and economic aid levels are
clearly contingent on the geo-political considerations of the western powers (cf
Akhtar, 2006a). In other words, aid has been substantial when Pakistan has been
deemed a 'frontline state', and has been considerably reduced at other times. For my
purposes, a related point upon which considerable stress needs to be laid is that,
inasmuch as aid - whether military or economic - has been used as a tool to achieve
clearly delineated political objectives of the aid-giver, it matters little what form the
aid takes. In other words, in line with the theoretical framework outlined above,
economic - as much as military - aid to Pakistan has reflected imperialism's
'territorial logic of power', the direct result of which has been consolidation of
oligarchic domination within Pakistan. This territorial logic has prevailed regardless
of the impact it may have had on the capitalistic logic of power. 194
This is borne out in practice by considering the impact of this aid on the polity. It is
important to bear in mind that beyond technological gains from US military aid, the
large amounts of economic aid that were doled out to the oligarchy by the US and
other western allies had other crucial effects. Retired military officers interviewed
during fieldwork suggested that the military grew in confidence vis a vis other
members of the historical bloc, while at a more general level, it developed a
commitment to modernizing the polity while according to itself the role of
spearheading this process of modernization. 195 As an internal Department of Defence
document published in 1967 testified: "From a political viewpoint, US military aid
has strengthened Pakistan's armed services, the greatest stabilizing force in the
country' (quoted in Alavi, 1991b). Thus there was a close linkage between the
pretensions of the military to take direct control of government and the material and
moral encouragement provided in this regard by the US. Indeed, US ambassador
194 In any case, aid given to Pakistan was subject to a startling dynamic which meant that Pakistan was
actually paying for the military 'aid' it received; this was at least partially because the US insisted on
differentiating Mutual Assistance Program (MAP) forces, or in other words those forces supplied by
the US, and non-MAP forces which Pakistan funded itself (Alavi, 1991b).
195 Interview with General (Retd.) Talat Masood. As Cohen (1998) has noted, the generation of military
officers that was exposed to American ideas and training in the 1950s and 1960s ensured that the
secular - and elitist - traditions of the military inherited from the British remained intact. Importantly
they also imbibed the bias within parts of the American foreign policy establishment - itself inspired
greatly by academic exponents of the idea such as Huntington - that the military was potentially the
preeminent political force in third world countries.
James Langley was one of the few individuals both within and without Pakistan who
seemed to have advance notice of the October 1958 coup (Rizvi, 2000: 83).
By the time of the 1965 war when aid was suspended to Pakistan, the military had
already established itself as the dominant force within the historical bloc, and
acquired the expertise and wherewithal to remain powerful despite the deterioration in
bilateral ties with the US. However, there was another very important lesson to be
learned from the breakdown in the US-Pakistan relationship. By the mid 1960s,
Pakistan's economy had become reliant on aid; this was underlined by the fact that
foreign sources accounted for 3.24% of total capital receipts in 1955-60 and 52.57%
by 1966-7 (Waseem, 1994: 197). Aid in large part explained the impressive
macroeconomic performance through most of Ayub's tenure. But the fact that aid
would subsequently dry up also illustrated the dangers of aid-dependence, and
provides the most cogent illustration of the nature of the peripheral capitalist system:
By the mid-l 960s, Pakistan was perceived to a model of third world development
only to suffer a dramatic collapse shortly thereafter due to serious internal
contradictions and the fallouts of regional geo-politics.
The emerging politics of jihad
The contradictions of the Ayub regime's modernization policies coupled with the
trauma of the 1971 dismemberment of the country explain the rise of Bhutto's
populism. In spite of the generally held perception that this was a period in which the
relations between the metropole and Pakistan were at an all-time low, there was
negligible conflict between the Bhutto regime and the western capitalist countries.
Bureaucrats in the foreign office interviewed during fieldwork testify that Bhutto's
anti-imperialist tirades tended to be for domestic consumption while in practice his
government's relations with the US and its allies were quite cordia1.
In particular
Bhutto's government was the major go-between the Americans and the Chinese,
while he took pride in the fact that it was under his leadership that the arms embargo
imposed by Washington since 1965 was lifted (Shafqat, 1997: 184).
196 Interview with Retired Deputy Secretary, Foreign Office, Salim Nawaz Gandapur, 26 October 2006.
Regardless of whether the US was perturbed about the Fabian socialism being
introduced into Pakistan by Bhutto
, there was little censure of the regime, except in
the aftermath of Bhutto's announcement of Pakistan's nuclear program. But again this
was a reflection of the 'territorial logic of power' insofar as a nuclear Pakistan was a
geo-strategic liability for the western world. On the other hand, the Americans and the
western world at large seemed to be far less concerned with the nature of the internal
convulsions that were perpetrated by the Bhutto regime, although this could be
because it was clear, particularly towards the end of the PPP's time in power, that the
regime had not made a rupture with national and international economic and political
structures. 198
In the aftermath of the coming to power of Zia ul Haq, with the start of the Afghan
War, Pakistan was once again raised to the status of 'frontline state', and its military
once again elevated to the position of central actor in the geo-political calculus of the
metropole. The Afghan War hence constituted a fortuitous development for the
military regime insofar as it insulated it from external pressures to revert to even a
nominal democratic process, and indeed, provided a pretext for the brutalization of
Pakistani society. 199 Indeed, secretary of state Haig apparently reassured Zia's vice
chief of army staff K.M. Arif saying, 'General, your internal situation is your
problem' (Kux, 2001: 257). Thus the military garnered the support of all three of
Alavi's propertied 'classes' for its rule and, in the case of the metropolitan
bourgeoisie, was offered invaluable material support for this purpose.
Between the fiscal years 1977-78 and 1981-82, the Pakistani defence budget increased
from Rs. 155 crore to Rs. 429 crore, whereas between 1984 and 1989, Pakistan was
197 The international financial institutions, and the World Bank in particular, were far from satisfied
with the PPP government's adopted policy framework. While aid did not dry up as a result, lending
terms became much harsher (Noman, 1988: 90-3).
198 Jalal (1994: 169-70) points out that the astoundingly well-funded PNA movement was widely
reputed to have received at least some support from the US, and that this might be considered the
Americans' method of punishment for Bhutto's insistence on carrying on with the nuclear program.
The popular perception that the Americans directly supported the July 1977 coup was based in part on
Bhutto's own claims to this effect during the two years between the coup and his hanging. Even if the
US did have a part in the ousting of Bhutto, the fact that the Zia regime was not censured for
continuing the nuclear program - ostensibly because of the changed geo-political needs of the US in
the region after the start of the Afghan War - indicates the clearly functional nature of the American
p,0licy towards Pakistan.
99 Rather perversely, 'Zia admirers proudly presented his formulation of Afghan policy as the most
significant contribution of his era' (Shafqat, 1997: 206).
allocated a large number of defence grants as well as loans specifically catered to
arms sales to the tune ofUS$1500 million (Lohalekar, 1991: 65-76). All told
American aid during the Zia tenure totaled US$4.2 billion
and needless to say
tremendously augmented the ability of the Zia regime to overcome its lack of popular
legitimacy, and offset the potential instability that would have arisen from economic
woes?Ol Importantly, net aid flows decreased because of the increasing debt
repayment burden, which indicates the cumulative effect of an aid-dependent
economy (Noman, 1988: 164). The inherent weakness of the economy were exposed
following the drying up of aid in the period following the signing of the Geneva
accords, and it was the various governments in the 1990s that had to contend with
another thaw in the relations between Pakistan and the 'metropolitan bourgeoisie'.
The coming to power of the Zia regime also coincided with neo-liberal reaction in the
western world, spearheaded by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. In most post-
colonial states, the most significant manifestation of this reaction has been the
imposition of structural adjustment programs. This effectively signaled a shift in the
basis of the global capitalist economy from production to finance, and an attendant
'disciplining' of post-colonial states that suffered from serious indebtedness by either
metropolitan states and/or international financial institutions. Under the guise of what
Harvey calls 'accumulation by dispossession' a new wave of metropolitan capital has
invaded the post-colonial world in an attempt to offset a serious crisis of
overaccumulation of capital within the metropole itself (Harvey, 2003).
Intriguingly, Zaidi (2005a: 348) insists that when compared to other third world states,
Pakistan's economic position did not mandate the rigorous fiscal stabilization,
liberalization and privatization measures that characterize structural adjustment
programs, and that the decision to continually adopt neo-liberal policies has been a
political one rather than an economic one. Moreover all but one of the various
agreements signed with the IFls since the first one in 1988 have been concluded by
unelected governments, thereby suggesting that the IFIs and by extension western
200 The breakdown was US$2.5 billion in economic and US$1.7 billion in military aid. The initial aid
package agreed totaled US$3.2 billion and lasted from 1979 till 1986, whereas a five year aid package
from 1986-1991 worth US$4.02 billion was incomplete when the military regime gave way to the PPP
fc0vemment (Haqqani, 2005: 152).
01 As will be discussed at length in Section 2, aside from foreign aid, remittances during the late 1970s
and 1980s were a major cause of economic stability.
governments - regardless of their continued resort to the rhetoric of 'good
governance' - have been directly complicit in the subversion of democratic norms
within Pakistan (Gadi et. aI, 2001). Meanwhile, the capitalistic logic of power within
Pakistan remained relatively weak throughout the 1980s and 1990s as reflected in low
investment rates; growth rates in total investment actually plummeted to as low as
-3.6% in 1998-99, while investment as a percentage of GDP steadily declined through
the 1990s and was at l3% by the tum of the century (Zaidi, 2005a; p. 359).
Frontline state yet again
Pakistan once again emerged as a 'frontline state' in the aftermath of the September
11, 2001 attacks. This follows on the heels of a decade in which Pakistan not only fell
out of favour with the US and its western allies, but at one time was even categorized
a 'rogue state' ?02 Aid levels had fallen precipitously through the 1990s, at least
partially because of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which fundamentally
reduced Pakistan's importance to the western world as the everpresent threat of
communism had disappeared. Debt grew to alarming proportions suggesting that the
'structural reforms' undertaken under the rubric of adjustment had neither done away
with what the IFIs termed 'distortions' in the economy nor addressed the aid-
dependent nature of the economy?03 Once again a military ruler was in power,
initially unpopular with the metropolitan bourgeoisie, but overnight transformed into
the most precious ally of the 'free world'.
And yet again the most obvious indicator of this remarkable turnaround in Pakistan's
fortunes was the aid that was pumped into the economy. Between 2002 and 2007,
annual aid inflows only from the US averaged US$1.75 billion of which the majority,
or approximately US$1.14 billion has been military assistance (Husain, 2007).204 This
is a startling amount of aid, and the US willingness to provide assistance has
necessarily induced the IFIs to also oblige Pakistan. The IMF for example provided
37 countries with loans under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)
202 Towards the end of the 1990s, the Clinton administration started using this term extensively to
describe states that had connections with international 'terrorist' networks.
203 Outstanding debt as a percentage of GDP reached 51.7% in 1998-99 (Zaidi, 2005a; p. 364).
204 Husain breaks down the military assistance head into direct military aid, which totals US$180
million annually, and logistic services provided to US troops in Afghanistan which totals US$80
million per month. Meanwhile the other major bilateral source is the UK which has recently doubled its
annual grant from US$480 million to US$960 million.
over the past five years, with a total disbursement of US$6.88 billion of which
Pakistan received by far the biggest loan totaling more than 22% of this amount (Zaidi,
2005a: 318). Aid from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank has exceeded
US$8 billion.
Needless to say the aid provided has corne with the now standard set of prescriptions,
which the Musharraf government was generally willing to comply with. Indeed, in
comparison to the governments of the 1990s, the military regime was far less
concerned with the negative fallouts of the neo-liberal policy framework it adopted;
the only meaningful difference between the military and preceding governments was
the intensity with which virtually the same policies have been implemented. In any
case, the politics of aid has become exceedingly clear since September 11, 2001, and
as in every previous period of overt US-Pakistan alliance, the most significant
political impact has been the consolidation of oligarchic rule. During fieldwork it
became clear that there is widespread popular resentment against the role of the
United States in the sovereign affairs of Pakistan, and the Pakistani military for
agreeing to serve the American geo-strategic agenda. This means that in the present
conjuncture, metropolitan support to the military is actually undermining state
The dichotomy between the territorial logic and the capitalistic logic is clear even in
this particular period, in spite of the fact that metropolitan capital is clearly increasing
its presence within the Pakistani social formation.
On the one hand the privatization
of state-owned enterprises - which Harvey considers to be the most significant
mechanism through which accumulation by dispossession is enforced - has only
garnered limited interest from metropolitan capital. The total share of foreign capital
in privatized companies between 1990 and 2000 was a miniscule 2.5%. Since 2000
foreign capital's share in the privatized companies has increased markedly to 51.2%,
but this only totals Rs. 234.6 billion, or approximately 3% of GDP (Kizilbash, 2007).
205 See www.worldbank.orglpakistan and www.adb.orglprm
206 However this presence is rather limited to the service sector as is most obviously manifest in the
proliferation of international mobile phone companies.
Meanwhile foreign direct investment increased by 238.7% from 2005-06 to 2006-07,
totaling 2.7% of GDP?07
Interestingly, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the major sources of foreign investment,
their shares having increased dramatically over the past year by 221 % and 1408%
respectively. Arab capital constitutes almost 52% of total foreign investment, with the
US contributing 14% (GoP, 2007). This is perhaps the most interesting of all the
figures presented here as this marks the first time in Pakistan's history that American
capital has been eclipsed as the single largest component of metropolitan capital
investment in the economy. However, this should be put into context because the
amount of official aid provided by the US to Pakistan far exceeds private Arab capital
investment. 208
While these figures do suggest that there has been a non-negligible increase in the
capitalistic logic of power in the present period, there is little doubt that this is directly
linked to the larger political situation. It is unlikely that the change in the overall
economic climate would have taken place but for the dramatic geo-strategic shifts that
followed September 11, 2001. Indeed, this is borne out by the fact that the biggest
impetus for macroeconomic revival has been the increase in remittances from
overseas in the same time period. Over the past four years, the economy has benefited
from an annual inflow of US$4 billion (GoP, 2007). This dramatic increase in
remittances is largely explained by the feeling of uncertainty gripping much of the
diaspora in western countries in the post-911 period, which has induced a spurt of
investment back home?09
207 Total investment as a proportion of GDP has risen to slightly less than 20%.
208 What seems more important to highlight is the role that both American and Arab states have played
in reinforcing the politics of common sense.
209 Remittances have been forthcoming mostly from richer Pakistanis abroad, and the vast majority of
investment has taken place in high-return, non-productive sectors such as real estate and the stock
market. Thus remittances in the present period are likely not to have the poverty-reducing impact of the
1980s when remittances were directed mostly towards rural households who had sent a migrant abroad.
On the whole, the nature of the current economic 'revival', based both on increased levels of aid and
remittances is inherently unstable, particularly because the government has imposed virtually no capital
controls thus leaving open the possibility of massive capital flight.
The Pakistani state: post-colonial or neo-colonial?
In recent times, the cozy relationship that the Musharraf regime has enjoyed with its
superpower patron has been subject to considerable strain. While there is no
immediate indication that there will be a freeze in US-Pakistan relations, this chapter
has shown that this relationship has been inherently unstable and subject to the geo-
political whims of the US. In other words, there is a clear correlation between the geo-
political requirements of the US and the nature and extent of the metropolitan
bourgeoisie's intervention within the social formation. This relationship has resulted
in a consolidation of Pakistan's dependent capitalist economy, or what Alavi calls
'peripheral capitalism', while at the same time greatly augmenting the political power
of the military and the Alavian nexus of power more generally.
Nayak (1992: 27) summarises this history succinctly:
.... these military alliances with the imperialist bloc have meant grave disasters to
Pakistan. They have not only helped in building a political nexus between the state
civil personnel and those in the military wing (over the years, the former yielding
place to the latter) but what is worse, it tended to dictate terms of building and
alignment of upper strata of the propertied classes in Pakistan ....
This pattern has persisted in the aftermath of the structural shift in the global economy
in the 1970s, and, in fact, it can be argued that the territorial logic of imperialist power
has become more pronounced in the Pakistani case during this period. In the context
of the overall argument of this thesis, the role of the metropolitan bourgeoisie has
largely been a political one in the sense that it has been dictated by the interests of
metropolitan states, and particularly the US, as opposed to the universalistic logic of
capital per se. This has reinforced the parallel impulse of the Pakistani military to
accumulate power (and on this basis accumulating capital). It should be clear that this
logic is quite distinct from the static understanding of the metropolitan bourgeoisie's
role suggested by Alavi which tends to marginalize the distinctly political impulse
that has been highlighted here.
Importantly, the emphasis laid out here permits recognition of the additional impacts
of metropolitan power on the social formation such as the increase in the influence of
Islamist political formations and the widening of the scope of the black guns and
drugs economy. This ensures a dynamic understanding of social structure, and most
importantly for this thesis, facilitates recognition of the larger context within which
the politics of common sense has been institutionalized, and the attendant
undermining of the politics of resistance. Another important point relates to the
growing power of the military as a corporate entity, as discussed in detail in Chapter 2.
This phenomenon too can be indirectly linked to the nature of the metropolitan
interventions over the past thirty years.
Chapter 7
Islamic hegemony: The power of'sanction
The role of Islam in any Muslim-majority country is considerable; in Pakistan it is
even more so. According to the ideologues of the state, the difference between
Pakistan - the only Muslim majority country to actually premise its existence upon
religious affiliation - and other Muslim-majority countries in which ethno-linguistic
ties are the basis of national identity is best summed up by the following:
Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out Judaism from Israel
and it will collapse like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and
make it a secular state; it would collapse. 210
By this logic then, Pakistani nationalism is constructed on scarcely more than a shared
religious identity.2l1 The myth of a monolithic Pakistani nation united by the bonds of
Islam was totally exposed by the successful secession of more than half the
population of the country in 1971. Yet instead of acknowledging the glaring holes in
the official nationbuilding project, the state oligarchy reasserted Pakistan's Islamic
. I 212
essence ever more vIgorous y.
This confirms what has already been stated at various points in this thesis - that the
instrumentalisation of Islam has been crucial to the emergence and continuing
survival of oligarchic rule. On the one hand then, Islam has been little more than an
ideological tool that has been invoked as the mandate for what J alaI (1990; 1995) has
poignantly called the state's 'political economy of defence'. However, thinking about
Islam in purely functional terms obscures the very real significance of religion in the
lives of the popular classes. In other words, while it is true that the oligarchic system
of power that has been outlined here relies greatly on the ideological pull of Islam to
legitimize its very existence, an overly state-centric analysis obfuscates more than it
illuminates. It is therefore important to acknowledge the dynamic 'from below' in
trying to understand the complex role that religion plays in the social formation and,
more specifically, how it is a constitutive part of the politics of common sense.
210 General Zia-ul-Haq, The Economist, 12 December 1981, quoted in Ali (1983: 133).
2ll More generally, the culture of Mughal India, particularly the Urdu language, was also a major
constitutive part of the state's idealized notion of Pakistaniat (cf Khory, 1997).
212 It was in the late 1970s that the deliberate doctoring of textbooks began through which history was
re-written to project the Islamic basis of Pakistan's creation (Hoodbhoy and Nayyar, 1985).
As such Alavi's formulation made no attempt to include a discussion oflslam, or
social groups that derive their very raison d' etre from a religious-political discourse,
namely, the ulema?13 I pointed out in the introductory chapter that the 'defence of
Islam' became the raison d' etre of the state. Given the not insignificant and growing
influence of the various religious political groupings on the mainstream political
sphere, there is a need to augment the Alavian thesis with a discussion of the scope
and dynamics of religio-political movements.
This will facilitate an understanding
of the role that such movements have played in helping suppress the politics of
Perhaps more importantly, there is a need to consider how and why, since the 1970s,
Islam itself has - at least to some extent - become associated with a politics of
resistance in lieu of the secular forms of politics that were more influential through
the Bhutto period. This idiom of Islam as the language of the oppressed is particularly
intriguing given that over the past three decades, Islamist politics has not been
associated with any meaningful attempt to challenge oligarchic rule. It is the
contention of this chapter that Islamist politics has in fact been a crucial element of
the politics of cornmon sense and that while the intention of the Zia regime in
undertaking 'Islamisation' is easily understood, the fact that this state-led process
gained at least superficial acceptance 'from below' suggests the hegemonic power of
Islam amongst the popular classes.
Islamic or secular state?
It is worth bearing in mind that throughout most of the period of British rule the great
seminaries of the United Provinces (UP) were not necessarily anti-imperialist, but
rather adopted a stance of 'a-political quietism' (Metcalf, 2001). Nonetheless the
ulema were not necessarily amongst those segments of the Indian elite that were
comfortably coopted by the colonial state. After the first world war the pro-Congress
213 Alavi did undertake analyses of the ulema and religious politics more generally but separate from
his theorizing on the post-colonial state Ccf Alavi, 1987).
214 The Jamaa't-e-Islami is not strictly an ulema party, but for the purposes of the present discussion, all
religious political entities will be considered together. My intention is not to gloss over the
considerable differences between ulema parties and organisations such as the n. However what I am
asserting is that all religio-political forces have played a crucial role in reinforcing the politics of
common sense.
Jamia't-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) adopted a more explicitly anti-imperialist posture. It
was a breakaway faction of the JUH that formed the pro-Pakistan Jamia't-e-Ulema-
Islam (JUI) in 1945 and served the expressly functional purpose of endowing the
Pakistan demand with a religious mandate (Pirzada, 2000: 2-13). Subsequently, ulema
parties remained outside the ambit of formal politics till two decades or so after the
new state's inception. If there was a religious political force in Pakistan in its defining
years, it was the Jamaa't-e-Islami, which was perceived by its founder Maulana
Maudoodi to be an ideological entity rather than a mainstream political party per se
(Nasr, 1994).
Maudoodi's somewhat contradictory utterings actually illuminate the nature of the
dialectic of Islam and state that has defined the post-colonial period. On the one hand
Maudoodi was opposed to the idea of a Pakistani state on purely theological grounds
because it was inimical to the universalism of the Islamic ummah. On the other hand
however, Maudoodi was clear that an explicitly Islamic organization such as the 11
would flourish in a state created on the basis of one's allegiance to Islam. He made no
secret of his contempt for the 'anglicised style and the secular beliefs of Jinnah', and
generally believed that ultimately it was the 11 and not the Muslim League that
embodied the Islamic sensibilities of what would become the Pakistani people (Nasr,
1994: 20).
Indeed, by appealing to Islamic symbols, particularly in the chaotic period
immediately prior to partition, manifest most obviously in the slogan 'Pakistan ka
matlah kya? La illaha illallah,215 , the nationalist leadership, regardless of its secular
roots or its ideological pretensions, opened up a space for religious polemic in the
new state.
In fact, in the aftermath of Jinnah's death, starting with the Objectives
Resolution in 1949, the juridical structures of the state were given at least a partially
Islamic colour, and the controversy over the character of the Pakistani state
(theocratic or secular) was thereby permanently etched into its politics. In practice this
did not mean that the secularity of the state structure or its managers was
215 Literally: What is the meaning of Pakistan? That there is no God but Allah. During fieldwork,
almost all informants uncritically supported this slogan, both those from generations that experienced
the country's creation as well as those that did not.
216 For a materialist analysis of the Pakistan movement that debunks the myth that it was based on
millenarian grounds, see Alavi (1987).
compromised per se, but simply that the Islamic idiom was instrumentalised by the
oligarchy and its allies.
Indeed, modem Islamist politics 'defies the facile religion
versus secularism concept', and it is much more apt, particularly in the Pakistani case,
to view Islam not as a challenge to the post-colonial statebuilding project, but rather
as an ideational hinge of this very project (Nasr, 2001: 14; Ahmed, 2003).
In the immediate post-partition period, Islam and the Urdu language became the
symbols that the new state employed to assert the unity of the new nation. And in this
effort, the migrant community played a crucial role. Scholars have documented the
immensely influential role of migrants in the new state and have pointed out that their
political weight and economic power was disproportionate to their actual size in the
population (cf Waseem, 2004). For the purposes of the present discussion the crucial
point is that the primarily urban migrant population infused the political discourse
with an Islamic idiom, particularly by emphasizing the Indian threat, which reflected
the deep psychological impacts of partition violence that the migrants had witnessed
first hand (cf Wright Jr, 1974)?18
Importantly, the religio-political movements established a constituency in the
primarily urban Muhajir community, replete with a commitment to the Urdu language
that was the mother tongue of the migrant population. The religious parties'
'depiction of the plight of the Muhajirs as comparable to those of the original
Muhajirs, the companions of the Prophet who migrated with him from Mecca to
Medina' ensured that a symbiotic relationship developed between the religio-political
movements and the migrant community with both privileging a militant and strict
interpretation of Islam whilst also being the most vocal supporters of the unitary state
project and opponents of the ethno-nationalist challenges to this project (Nasr, 1994:
217 For a discussion of the historical mutual accommodation between the 'modernist' state elite and the
'traditionalist' religious forces, see Akhtar et. al (2006).
218 Waseem (2002: 267) points out: 'In spatial term, those regions which were not fully represented in
the mainstream politics of the Pakistan movement, or failed to move to centre stage in the emerging
State system, did not necessarily share what is otherwise billed as national consensus', implying that
the anti-India sentiment was concentrated amongst Punjabis and Muhajirs, and by extension in urban
areas of Sindh and Punjab.
219 See also Verkaaik (2004: 22) on this topic who asserts that within the Muhajirs there was a liberal
element that was represented by the westernized state managers and a religious element represented by
Importantly then a disjunct developed between the urban and militant Islam
championed by the migrant community, ulema (and non-ulema groups such as the JI),
and to a certain extent the incumbent leadership of the new state
; and the rural, folk
traditions of the majority of the Pakistan areas. It has been the urban interpretation of
Islam and the politics that it has engendered that has tended to impose itself on the
wider society notwithstanding sporadic attempts by various regimes to patronize folk
Islam as well. During and after the Zia regime, a militant state-sponsored version of
Islam has engulfed large parts of the rural social formation as well, particularly in the
Pakhtun areas near the Afghan border.
In the early years following partition, urban protest in the name of Islam was
commonplace. Examples include the 1953 Ahmadi riots, and the uproar over the Suez
Canal in 1956. The suggestion being made here is not that the sensibilities of the rural,
non-migrant populations were not Islamic per se, but that there was a definitive
difference between what 'Islam' meant in principle and practice to different segments
of the popular classes. In any case the state has effectively manipulated the discourse
over religion so as to associate Islam with the 'defence' of the nation and, as such,
make it both seditious (in terms of the state) and heretical (in terms of the religion) to
dispute this discourse. Specifically, during the Zia regime Islam was used effectively
as a symbol of fear in the sense that state repression was justified under the guise that
dissidents were 'un-Islamic'. In this way, Islam has formed an integral constitutive
part of the politics of common sense.221
The state-led project has not always been without its fallouts. Throughout the Ayub
and Bhutto periods, the ideational force of Islam came into increasing contradiction
with the clearly secular multiple accumulation projects of the oligarchy and its junior
the Deoband ulema: 'Whether liberal of "fundamentalist", Mohajirs were believed to be modem and
educated city dwellers compare to, for instance, the Sindhis or the Pakhtun'.
220 Of course the high bureaucracy and the military top brass simply instrumentalised religion in
whatever guise it stood to benefit them. For the most part the state managers were not particularly
observant of religious practices and their lifestyles could be characterised as quite ·westernised'.
221 I wish to make clear here that the Zia regime marked a departure from previous governments in
terms of the nature of and extent to which the state's instrumentalisation of Islam informed its larger
political engineering.
partners in the historical bloc.
The Ayubian regime managed to largely coopt
religious forces, at least partially because they were yet to emerge - with the
exception of the 11 - as overtly political entities. Thus the regime did not face any
major challenge from religious forces, except as part of the larger mass movement
that eventually overthrew it.
Bhutto, on the other hand, while successfully
manipulating the dominant nationalist discourse to come into power (cf Jones, 2003),
eventually suffered the consequences of his own jingoism.
During the tenure of the PPP, Pakistan reconfigured its foreign policy towards the
Middle East, while domestically the government conceded more and more ground to
religious forces, including but not limited to the declaration of Ahmadis as non-
Muslims, the restoration of Friday as the weekly holiday, and the banning of alcohol
and 'un-Islamic' entertainment. This was also the period in which the religio-political
movements became a major oppositional force with the emergence of the two major
ulema parties in the 1970 elections, and more generally because of the reaffirmation
of the Islamic roots of the people following the secession of the eastern wing?24
It was however, under the Zia regime that substantive changes took place in the state
and wider society vis a vis Islam.
Pasha (1997: 196) has called the larger
phenomenon that characterized the Zia period 'nativisation', and has suggested that
'Zia's greatest legacy to Pakistan is the institutionalization of vernacular political
interests in the state'. Indeed, after the toppling of the Bhutto regime by the PNA
movement that was calling for the imposition of the 'Nizam-e-Mustafa,226, the Zia
222 As mentioned above, there is a ruralist, folk tradition of Islam that exists in a large part of Pakistan,
and the dominant symbol of this particular interpretation of Islam has typically been the landed pir. As
a general rule hereditary pirs have been associated with the mainstream political parties, the Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). Their politics is therefore entirely
distinct from that of the ulema, and while they accede to the instrumentalist use of Islam within
Pakistani politics, they have not been its major instigators.
223 The religious lobby did protest vociferously against the regime's enactment of the Model Family
Laws Ordinance in 1961 but I maintain that at no point was the prevailing structure of power the cause
of conflict between the two sides.
224 Nasr (2001: 97) rightfully stresses the irony in this: 'The inability of Islam to keep the two halves of
the country united had not diminished the appeal of religion either to politicians or to the people. Oddly
enough, it had increased it. The precariousness of Pakistan's unity led Pakistanis to reaffirm their
Islamic roots'. It is important however to recognize that it was the PPP regime's insistence on
forcefully reasserting the Islamic essence of the nation, replete with slogans such as Massawat-e-
Muhmmadi, that encouraged this renaissance from below.
225 During fieldwork I observed a common lament amongst the westernized, urban classes that society
before Zia was a world apart from what it has become since.
226 Literally: 'System of the prophet'
regime established a mandate for itself to rule by suggesting that 'Pakistan, which was
created in the name of Islam, will continue to survive only if it sticks to Islam'
(Pakistan Times, 1977, quoted in Richter, 1978: 421). Accordingly the martial law
regime started initiating Islamists into government, and embarked on a more insidious
project designed to change the very character of the state structure through deliberate
. d· f 1·· . 227
In uctlOns 0 re IglOuS conservatIves.
In the very first cabinet that was put together under the Zia regime, four ministers
hailed from the JI. Hence under the guise of 'Islamisation', there was a new claimant
to state power and the attendant opportunities for patronage that such power afforded.
On the one hand this implies a new religious sensibility within the state structure that
would compete with the hitherto secular character of most state functionaries, and
importantly the high bureaucracy and the military officer COrpS?28 Arguably more
important however was the expansion of the state's functions itself as 'Islamisation'
meant a mandate for the state to encroach into the previously private domain of
personal conduct (Nasr, 2001: 136-7).
Hence as the Zia regime created new state institutions such as the Federal Shariat
Court, Council of Islamic Ideology, and the like, it provided a direct opportunity for
religious political forces to enter the echelons of power.
During fieldwork it
became apparent just how pervasive the staffing of state institutions with individuals
sympathetic to 'Islamisation' was?30 Crucially, beyond a certain point, the regime
was keen to ensure that it did not privilege anyone Islamic party or constituency over
any other; 'Islamisation would thus legitimise military rule and help restore state
227 It should be pointed out that even when Bhutto was still in power, General Zia had started to change
the ethos of the Pakistani military following his promotion to Chief of Army Staff in 1976. This
generation of military men is what Stephen Cohen (1998) has called the 'Pakistani generation'.
228 The growing affinity within the military's ranks towards religion was accompanied by the erosion of
the insular and secular nature of the higher bureaucracy following Bhutto's civil service reforms of
1973. Importantly the impact at the level of the low bureaucracy was limited, at least in terms of direct
penetration by activists or sympathizers of the religious parties. It was primarily urban professionals, or
in other words the upper salariat - the main constituency of the JI - that entered the officer corps of
both the military and the civil bureaucracy. For an example of great prescience, see Ahmad (1974).
229 See also Ahmed (1997: 106) who points out that 126,000 mosque functionaries were coopted into
the state structure during the Zia years, while 3000 village ulema were hired as part-time school
230 For example, during work at the National Archives of Pakistan in Islamabad, I came across many
officers who were simply unwilling to share officially declassified information that implicated the Zia
regime in cynically using Islam for the purposes of curtailing dissent. This disinclination was not
necessarily a function of official policy but reflected the personal biases of the concerned officers.
dominance without empowering anyone Islamic party so that it could pose a threat to
the state' (Nasr, 2001: 138). The longer-run impact of this expansion of state
patronage to include numerous religious formations has been considerable. Perhaps
the most obvious of such impacts has been the proliferation of sectarian conflict and
an attendant fragmentation within the state - particularly the military and its
intelligence agencies - as different elements have favoured different tendencies in
sectarian conflicts (Ahmed, 1997; Hussain, 2007).231
It is important to understand that the role of religious political formations was
permanently altered during the Zia years. Even after the ulema parties and the JI
started to distance themselves from the regime after 1981, they continued to be
supportive of the larger 'Islamisation' agenda. Perhaps more crucially, even though
the oligarchy's inherently secular project of reproducing its own power guided the
Islamisation logic, the 'nativisation' of the state would not be reversed. In other words,
the religious parties, as well as the rapidly increasingly number of religious groups
that operated outside the formal political sphere, had become major players in the
power-sharing arrangement whilst also acquiring much more power within the social
formation as they were empowered to reward and punish working people as the
arbiters of personal morality.
This may seem difficult to reconcile with the fact that the religious parties remained
conspicuously unsuccessful at the polls. Starting with the party-less elections of 1985,
an analysis of all elections uptil and including the elections of 1997 would seem to
suggest that the religious organizations remained marginal, winning a maximum of 15
and a minimum of 3 seats out of a national legislature comprising 207 seats (Shafqat,
2003).232 Indeed, such figures are often quoted to suggest that the religious parties do
not enjoy public support. However, in considering such electoral outcomes it is
crucial to understand the broader context.
231 It is widely believed that the military establishment was divided over the post-September 11
decision to sever ties with its erstwhile jihadi proteges. Many insiders are convinced that the spate of
violence that has paralysed the country in recent times can be attributed at least in part to disgruntled
elements within the establishment that maintain close links to jihadi groups.
232 The religious parties' best-ever showing at the ballot box was in October 2002 when anti-American
emotions amongst the popular classes were running high on account of the invasion of Afghanistan.
However even in this case the evidence suggests that the actual vote bank of the religious right did not
increase substantially (Haqqani, 2005: 304).
First, in the post-Zia period, religious parties have had a major role in making and
breaking coalition governments. In particular, the religious parties were part of the
Islami larnhoori Ittehad (111) electoral coalition which represented the anti-PPP vote
in 1988 and 1990.
Pasha (1992: 117) puts it like this: 'A crucial actor in the
opposition, the religious right, despite the narrowness of its political constituency,
remained an effective spoiler in the political process.' Perhaps more importantly, the
religious idiom which had become so prominent in the last years of Bhutto' s rule and
then under the Zia regime had become a permanent feature of the mainstream political
sphere, and therefore the ability of the religious political formations to influence the
larger discourse was considerable.
In attempting to understand exactly what has changed it is important to recall the lead-
up to the 1970 general election when there was a clear ideological divide between the
radical socialist and nationalist programmes of the A wami League and the PPP, and
the so-called 'Islam-pasand' programmes of the Islamic and other conservative parties.
The former were not unduly disadvantaged by espousing political ideas that were not
explicitly 'Islamic' and won the elections handsomely, in spite of the relatively clear
support given to the 'Islam-pasand' parties by the establishment (Haqqani, 2005: 57-
Indeed, as late as 1975, prime minister Bhutto responded to a public slight on him by
Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) chief Maulana Mufti Mahmud on the subject of his
being a fond drinker by proclaiming at a huge public rally, 'Mai sharap zuroor pita
hoon likin awam ka khoon nahin choosta' .234 By the 1990s, following Zia's
'Islamisation', the Islamic idiom had been internalized by all political actors and had
become a much more central component of political discourse. No political party risks
alienating itself by taking a confrontational stance in the manner of the PPP and
Awami League in 1970.
233 The IJI is known to have been given explicit support by intelligence agencies so as to keep the PPP
from winning the 1990 election. A former DG lSI admitted as much in a signed affidavit presented to
the Supreme Court (Haqqani, 2005: 219).
234 Literally: 'I drink alcohol but at least I do not drink the people's blood'.
As I have already made clear, the religio-political movements have been the primary
beneficiaries of the 'Islamisation' of politics and discourse more generally. Starting
from the late 1970s, these parties' involvement with the covert operations of the state
in Kashmir and Afghanistan meant that they often were far more privy to crucial
matters of policy than even elected governments (Haqqani, 2005: 292-3). The
inductions of members of religious organizations - or others who shared such
sensibilities - into the state during the Zia period also ensured continued personal
links of the religious parties to various fragments of the state. Such links may have
become more tenuous under the Musharraf regime, and particularly since the geo-
political shifts in the aftermath of September 11,2001, but they have by no means
been severed (Hussain, 2007).235
I asserted in the previous chapter that the geo-strategic whims of American
imperialism have been a significant factor in the growing influence of religious
politics in Pakistan. In particular the fact that the Afghan war raged throughout the
Zia decade greatly enhanced the profile of the religious right. In contrast to the current
conjuncture, during the 1980s the Pakistani state and religio-political movements
were overt allies because the Afghan war was widely depicted as a straight fight
between the Islamic Ummah and 'godless' communism. As such therefore there was
limited opposition to the state's pro-imperialist policy amongst the general pUblic.
This deep state-society consensus not only provided the Zia regime with much needed
legitimacy but was another major factor in permanently altering the idiom of politics
in Pakistan because of the almost permanent social space created for the religious
right (cfNoman, 1988: 120-1: Nasr, 1994: 195).
On the whole then, Pasha's observation would appear to be corroborated. It is
important, however, to make clear that the Zia period did not mark a fundamental
235 In recent times the persistence of the so-called 'mullah-military alliance' has been borne out most
obviously in the case of the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa stand-off in the heart of the federal capital. Even
though the state eventually used substantial force to clear out the occupied compound, the episode
indicated the deep links between religio-political movements and elements within the state. See
236 During fieldwork however, in informal conversations with informants, it became clear in retrospect
that there is an awareness of the functional nature of the state's engagement in Afghanistan, and that
this has considerably dampened the public enthusiasm for jihad. Having said this, the difference
between the sensibilities of informants in Charsadda as compared to other fieldwork sites was
overhaul of the historical bloc, and in fact was a period of consolidation for the
oligarchy and the propertied classes that had assumed power after the inception of the
new state.
The above analysis suggests only that there was a substantive addition to
the historical bloc in the sense that religious forces, or what Pasha has called
'vernacular interests' were inducted into the corridors of power. To the extent that this
substantive addition in the bloc was part of the Zia regime's entirely functional
project of preventing a resurgence of organic, popular organisation, it was based on
the ability of religious forces to, at one and the same time, coopt the politics of
resistance and propagate the politics of common sense.
Islamic or secular society?
As suggested above, migrants and the ulema had great influence over the manner in
which Islam was projected in the public sphere. While this influence ensured the
emergence and consolidation of a national security paradigm which was couched in
the language of Islam, it did not overwhelm the distinct cultural foundations of rural
society. It was only in the Bhutto period that the religious political formations started
to make major inroads into the social formation at large, although the focus was still
on urban areas. For example, the Islami lam'iat-e-Tulabah (UT), nominally the JI's
student wing, presented a major challenge to the regime, winning numerous elections
on university campuses against leftist incumbents (Nasr, 2001: 93_6).239 Islam quickly
became the ideological lightning-rod to which anti-Bhutto activists were drawn and
students were at the forefront of the growing opposition (Nasr, 1994: 170-87).
Following the collapse of the Bhutto regime, the UT became a major recipient of state
patronage on account of the fact that it shared mutual interests with the regime insofar
as it was committed to breaking the power of left-oriented student unions that
remained a major threat to the military junta. The UT was empowered to use force to
intimidate and harass opponents, and over time, has been the major contributing factor
to the dramatic change in the culture of university campuses (Shafqat, 1997: 196-
237 As has already been outlined in earlier chapters considerable changes had taken place in the
constitution of each member of the historical bloc, their relationships with one another, and the overall
balance of social forces.
238 Rashid (1985: 90) articulates this best: '[The Zia regime's] use ofIslam seek[ed] not to mobilize but
disarm the greatest number' .
239 As such radicalization of students started under Ayub but until the 1970s, as will be discussed at
length in Chapter 9, the more influential student unions were controlled by the left.
8).240 Student involvement in politics was formally banned by the regime in 1984, and
this ban remains intact. During fieldwork, I visited the three major university
campuses in Pakistan, namely, Karachi University, Punjab University (Lahore) and
Quaid-e-Azam University (Islamabad). The IJT's power on the Punjab University
campus remains unparalleled, and is thus the only possible outlet for student activism.
Meanwhile on the other two campuses, the longer-term impacts of the Zia period
remain palpable.
Even where the IJT is not obviously active, parochial sentiments - both religious and
ethnic - guide student activities. For the majority of students, politics is off-limits as it
is generally considered an undesirable activity.242 Similarly during the Zia regime
there was a purge of dissenting intelligentsia, particularly those based in public sector
universities, mostly under the guise of Martial Law Regulation 51. The 1981
university ordinance allowed the government a direct say in appointments, and was
used to induct a whole new slate of 'Islam-pasand' educators (Noman, 1988: 133).
Another major bastion of populism was the trade union movement, and here too
religious forces started to make major inroads under the Zia regime. Once again the
strategy was based as much on challenging the historical dominance of the left within
the industrial working class as it was on actually propagating Islam as ideology. As a
general rule, economic equality or redistribution has never been a major concern of
the religious parties, and the JI for example has undergone a serious internal debate
and struggle which has seen it move from being a restricted and insular ideological
organization to a more populist one in tune with the demands of working people (Nasr,
However during fieldwork it was obvious that trade unions associated with the
religious parties, even where they emphasise the 'class question' propagate an
'Islamic solution' which indicates both the cynical instrumentalisation of religion and
the lack of commitment to genuine class struggle. As such, alongside the banning of
240 Younger lamaat-e-Islami cadres that participated in the Afghan jihad inducted guns and violence
onto university campuses (lCG, 2002: 12).
241 At the beginning of each academic year, IJT activists set up a stall on each of the campuses,
distributing literature and information about their activities, whilst also helping new students around
the campus. No other student organization can boast of such activities.
242 The roots of this popular perception will be discussed at greater length in Chapter 9.
many trade unions, the Zia regime created space for the right to assume influence and
thereby undermine the unity of the industrial working class that existed even into the
first two years of military rule. Accordingly, in all the major public sector
organizations, trade unions affiliated with the JI emerged in the 1980s.
discourse on worker's rights and freedoms has taken on an explicitly Islamic idiom
even where Islamic groups and parties are not active.
The penetration of student and trade unions reflected the regime's - and the right's-
strategy of weakening the bases of independent power exercised by counter-
hegemonic forces, and particularly those that had been at the forefront of the politics
of resistance throughout the decade preceding the 1977 coup. This strategy has no
doubt been entirely successful as there has been no regeneration of these organic
bases of politics in the two decades following the end of Zia' s martial law . 244
However, the impact of the Zia period insofar as it represents a substantive departure
from the past extends far beyond the 'Islamisation' of student and trade union
activities. In my estimation the political and cultural repression that took place under
the guise of Islamisation had far-ranging impacts.
Most obvious was the dramatic shrinking of space for cultural expression. Music, for
example, was said to be un-Islamic, while places where popular culture previously
flourished, such as cinemas, open-air theatres, parks and the like, were eliminated
slowly but surely. Undoubtedly the most acute impact was felt by women, whose
bodies were made the focus of the state-sponsored transformation of public culture (cf
Weiss, 1994). Religious minorities too no doubt felt the burden of being non-Muslims
in a state that was hell-bent on infusing Islam into every nook and cranny of social life.
It is crucial to bear in mind that the entire project of lslamisation was premised on the
inculcation of fear within the popular classes, and particularly fear of being branded
'un-Islamic'. On the one hand this fear was inculcated through the enactment of
legislation such as the Hudood Ordinances, but can be traced back to the process that
243 Examples include the PREM Union in Pakistan Railways and the Staff Employees Union in
244 Meanwhile religio-political movements have been beneficiaries of positive discrimination at least in
part because '[t]he authorities in Pakistan are hard-pressed to contend with organisations that operate in
the name of Islam and claim to be defending its interests: police action against [them] is seen as
harassment of the true servants of the faith' (Nasr, 2005: 96).
began towards the end of the Bhutto period, during which, as mentioned above, the
state arrogated to itself the mandate to interfere in the personal domain.
Crucial to understanding this phenomenon of Islamisation is the complicity of the
urban elite.
Hasan (2002a) has illustrated the manner in which cultural space was
steadily decreased during the Zia regime, the result of which has been a deepening
alienation of the elite from the larger society. This is manifest primarily in the lack of
shared cultural spaces and the creation of elite 'ghettoes' in posh residential zones in
big cities. The fact that this highly secular elite acquiesced to Zia' s Islamisation
reflected its desire to be rid of the populist politics that had characterized the Bhutto
period and an attendant willingness to accept the warped cultural reconfiguration of
society in the interests of eliminating the politics of resistance. Ultimately of course
the elite lifestyle has remained unchanged, although limited to the 'ghettoes' in which
the elite reside.
This should not be taken to mean that the popular classes' were any more inclined to
accept the transformation of public culture by the Zia regime. In fact the
transformation of the very concept of public space through the 1980s did not at all
reflect the needs or aspirations of the popular classes. Many so-called 'un-Islamic'
practices - at least insofar as this labeling has become commonplace since 1977 -
continue unabated in the wider society and particularly amongst the popular classes.
However, because of the supposed norms of behaviour that characterize 'Islamic'
society, the predominant trend in public is to adhere to the Ziaist model of religious
observance?47 This duality in private and public life is widespread; for example
restrictions on women in the public sphere are widely accepted to be necessary yet
245 The term elite is problematic - in this case it refers simply to the relatively educated and secular
minded elements that typically hail from one class/group or the other within the historical bloc.
246 Ironically, in the post-Zia era this same elite has become the most vocal opponent of 'religious
fundamentalism', but this change in posture is motivated by the same logic of self-interest. In other
words as an obscurantist Islam has steadily encroached on public life, and the threat of populism has
diminished, the focus has reverted to a cultural critique of Islamism.
247 It would be facile to suggest that the increase in religious orthodoxy is entirely a response to the
perceived need to adhere to state-imposed sanctions. To a certain extent it is legitimate here to invoke
the Weberian notion that Puritanism is coeval with the deepening of capitalism; as will be discussed at
length in the next chapter, the intermediate classes have been amongst the most devoted followers of
the religious parties which reflects the close relationship between capitalist modernization (within a
specific cultural milieu) and the rise of religious orthodoxy.
watching explicitly sexual representations of women on TV is not considered an
This inference was corroborated at virtually all of the urban fieldwork sites although
less so in rural areas. In particular, almost all members of the subordinate classes
invoked the lack of Islam as the major explanation for social ills and problems. When
probed further about the specific problems that they faced in their own lives/homes,
respondents inevitably mentioned unemployment, inflation and the lack of basic
amenities such as health and education. They remained convinced that these problems
would be solved through the imposition of Sharia 't, because Islam is perceived to be
mukammal zabta hayat.
When informants were asked exactly how 'Shariatisation'
constituted a meaningful response to their everyday problems, they admitted that there
may not be a link at all. They further acknowledged that the religio-political
movements - or their particular brand of politics - did not necessarily offer a coherent
alternative to the unsatisfactory state of affairs at present, but that they also saw no
other option.
The inference that can be drawn from this anecdotal example is that the distinctive
feature of the Zia period was the elimination of a meaningful politics of class and its
replacement by a religious political idiom which literally boxed working people into
accepting a worldview whereby the only solutions to social injustice were religious
ones. Naturally then religio-political movements acquired more and more influence
whereas secular political organisations that demanded class solutions to class
problems were subjected to intense state repression.
248 Nelson (2008) has also touched upon this duality by showing that rural Punjabis are keen to be seen
as committed to the Islamic law of inheritance. yet in their engagements with politicians regularly
attempt to bypass the same law. For a more general account of this dynamic, see Pasha (1992: 124):
'[The] basic paradoxes between the dictates of accumulation and the compulsions of establishing a
moral order may well produce a bizarre mixture of self-righteousness and hypocrisy.'
249 Literally: a complete code for how to live one's life. The JI's literature presents an ethical system
(ikhlaqi); a political system (syasi); a societal system (maashrati); an economic system (iqtasadi); and
a spiritual system (rohani) as the various dimensions of the Islamic code.
250 There was a considerable difference across region and locale. For example, there was much more
inclination towards the sharia't as a guide to political life in Charsadda, almost none in Badin, and only
rhetorically in rural Okara. In most urban areas including amongst female students on university
campuses and housewives, the imperative of sharia'tisation was most pressing.
In trying to understand the various dimensions of this phenomenon, it is important
again to reiterate the differences between rural and urban areas. Naturally the impact
of Islamisation was much more acute in urban areas, particularly because it was the
burgeoning mass political culture based in the cities and small towns that the military
junta wanted to arrest. While Kurin (1985) suggests that the impact of Islamisation on
rural areas of Punjab has been limited, there is little question that in the two decades
since the end of the Zia dictatorship, with the increasing exposure of rural areas to
urban influences, both through Gulf migrants and popular culture more generally,
puritan versions of Islam are increasingly more common in the rural social formation.
Insofar as particularly intolerant notions of religious orthodoxy have made inroads
into the wider society, there is a great deal of variation across different regions. The
north and central regions of Punjab as well as many parts of the NWFP have been
sending migrants to the Arab Middle East for three decades, one of the more
conspicuous results of which has been a tendency towards orthodoxy along the lines
of Wahabbi Islam. Small-town Punjab, large parts of the NWFP and Pakhtun-
speaking areas of Balochistan are also the major recruiting grounds for jihad in
Afghanistan and Kashmir, which suggests that while there has been an impetus
generated by migrations and other societal forces, the state's role in promoting
orthodoxy remains centra1.
If there is one group which has a deeper historical link
to religious orthodoxy and militancy it is the Pakhtuns, particularly those of the tribal
areas (cf Ahmed, 1986).252 Amongst the ethnic Baloch, 'the most salient collective
function of the faith seems to be as a mortar, temporarily applied to chinks in the
political edifice during crisis situations' (Pastner, 1996; p. 177).
On the whole, 'Islamisation' was a crucial component of the politics of common sense
because any form of genuine resistance was typically suppressed under the pretext
that it was un-Islamic. So for example the land reform agenda that remained very
251 It was in these regions that madrassahhs sprung up in dramatic fashion following the end of the
Bhutto period. During the Zia regime the government provided unprecedented support to seminaries,
giving them zakat funds, employment opportunities after their education, and other such measures
(Nasr, 2001: 142-3). While it would be erroneous to attribute the proliferation ofjihadi tendencies
solely to madrassahhs, there is no doubt a close correlation between the rise in militancy and parochial
madrassahh education. For more on this topic see Hussain (2007).
252 For a discussion of the process though which secular Pakhtun nationalism has come to be
challenged by political Islam as the dominant political idiom in Pakhtun areas, see laffrelot (2002).
prominent through the end of the Bhutto period was almost completely banished from
the public realm in 1981 when the Zia-created Federal Shariat Court ruled that land
reform was un-Islamic. The religio-political movements then proceeded to popularise
this ruling, preaching that those demanding redistribution of land were actually
defying divine injunction. The fact that land reforms are 'un-Islamic' remains the
biggest impediment to reviving a political movement for redistribution of land.
As mentioned in earlier chapters, the politics of common sense is a combination of
coercion and consent; once it became untenable for the subordinate classes to
challenge the state and propertied classes for fear of being deemed 'un-Islamic', their
resort to patronage politics was almost inevitable. Having said this, it is important not
to understate the cynical duality in public and private life in the name of Islam - as
subsequent chapters show, the subordinate classes remain agents capable of
transcending the fear and cynicism associated with the politics of common sense.
However, as discussed below, not only has Islam functioned as a de-mobilisational
tool, religio-political movements have also coopted the populist mantle from secular
The maulvp53 and the culture of politics
In trying to understand the nature and forms of religious orthodoxy that exist across
the social formation, and more specifically the politics to which this orthodox
tendency has given rise, the role of the maulvi must be discussed at some length.
Importantly, in the prototypical village unit that has been associated with the Muslim
regions of the colonial and post-colonial subcontinent, the maulvi was considered a
kammi, or member of a non-agricultural caste with little claim to the productive
output of the community, and for all intents and purposes, a political non-entity (cf
Ahmad, 1977; Ahmed, 1986).254 The maulvi was respected as an important part of the
village community and was looked after accordingly, but did not occupy anything
near the kind of political influence or clout that has become associated with the ulema
253 Here maulvi refers to any of the functionaries of religious institutions, although primarily, the khatib (prayer leader) and qari of . .
. Indeed dunng fIeldwork amongst patwarzs and tehstldars 1ll Okara It was found that the typIcal
girdawri (revenue record) lists down the maulvi as a kammi.
parties in post-partition Pakistan.
In contrast, the pir of the area was the symbol of
spiritual and political authority (cf Lyon, 2002: 205-219).
As suggested above, religious orthodoxy has become more pronounced in parts of the
rural social formation over the past three decades, primarily on account of the
increased penetration of the state into the hitherto private sphere. However, this has
not necessarily increased the power of the maulvi in the prototypical village, at least
in villages that I studied, and particularly in Okara and Badin.
During periods when
a genuine politics of resistance comes to the fore, the maulvi is particularly
conspicuous by his anonymity and on occasion will openly denounce those who
appear to dissent against the ideology of the state. The pir - on account of his power
as intermediary between the popular classes and the state rather than anything else -
remains the primary symbol of spiritual authority. Religious sanction remains
important, but this sanction is not exercised by the maulvi. As a general rule politics is
still largely faction-based and guided by the logic of patronage, although political
forms and practices have evolved in accordance with the emergence of new
contenders for power. To the extent that the maulvi participates in politics, he is
guided by the established logic of seeking out patrons, or in a very few cases, himself
acting as a patron for weaker members of the village community.
The sociological differences between the prototypical village and the small town are
considerable. The small town is a product of the enormous social changes that have
taken place in the modernizing belts of the country. It has emerged for the most part
in and around major agricultural regions, as a centre for the secondary and tertiary
production activities associated with the agrarian economy. This phenomenon will be
255 The oral narratives regarding maulvis in Badin and Okara are testament to the popular consensus
over the maulvi's social and political position. Among the many latifas (popular tales) that are
commonplace in and around the village environment, a surprisingly large number revolve around the
maulvi's morality. In particular, the recurring theme is the maulvi's inherent moral fallibility; ordinary
members of society are not considered any less morally upright than the maulvi. The state's
sponsorship of religiosity since the late 1970s has actually challenged this popular perception by
according to the maulvi an elevated moral position in the social formation and the attendant right to
strike fear into people's hearts by questioning their morality.
256 It is true however that in Charsadda, the local maulvi's political power has increased considerably,
on account of direct state sponsorship of jihad and the attendant material and institutional support
provided to religious groups patronized. Yet Charsadda is still not a major stronghold of the religio-
political movements, and remains the political heartland of secular Pakhtun nationalism. In other parts
of NWFP and to a lesser extent in Pakhtun-dominated parts of Balochistan, the religious impact has
been much more acute.
discussed at greater length in the following chapter, however, for the purposes of the
present discussion it suffices to say that the small town lends itself to a very different
role for the maulvi, and therefore for religious politics, than in the prototypical village.
The economic, political and cultural institutions that exist in Okara and Charsadda
cities are somewhat representative of the broader trend?57 In particular, the maulvi
typically has autonomous sources of income and direct links to politically influential
national or regional political groupings and is therefore able to articulate an
independent, and often militant, political voice. For example it was observed that the
majority of mosques and madrassahhs in both Okara and Charsadda cities were
affiliated - often informally - to bigger political parties such as the Jamia't-e-Ulama-
e-Islam and the Jamaa't-e-Islami. In Okara the militant Sipaha Sahaba also supports a
handful of mosques. In addition, the maulvi often enjoys the direct patronage of the
emergent intermediate classes - the most regular source of volunteer donations for
virtually all mosques and madrassahhs in both cities are local shopkeepers and
The role of the maulvi in the big cities is also fundamentally dissimilar to that of the
maulvi in the prototypical village. As in the case of the small town maulvi, the big city
maulvi enjoys autonomous sources of material and political support whether through
affiliation with one of the mainstream religious political parties or through well
developed networks of patronage that extend well beyond the country's borders. 259
Importantly these networks have expanded dramatically over the past thirty years and
have given rise to a culture of politics that is based on strict discipline and the
inculcation of fear amongst the subordinate classes. Crucially, these networks are
dependent on state patronage.
257 As Harriss-White (2003) asserts very clearly in the case of small-town India, and as will be
corroborated in the Pakistani case in the next chapter, this does not mean that institutions such as caste,
biraderi and the like are not operative, but just that they are articulated in a very different manner than
they are in the prototypical insular village unit.
258 However this does not mean that these donations comprise the largest source of funding to the
mosques and madrassahhs - institutionalized funding is common although very rarely wiII any masjid
khatib or madrassahh caretaker disclose their sources. In the couple of cases where any information
was disclosed, informants indicated that they received considerable funds from Saudi Arabia (in both
cases the mosque was affiliated with the Ahl-e-Hadith school).
259 Nasr (2002) painstakingly shows how the Iranian revolution triggered a series of reactions that saw
both the central government and then Saudi Arabia funding Sunni militancy to offset the Iranian
support to Shi'a movements in Pakistan.
Importantly, even though the maulvi in urban areas has different sources of patronage,
the fact remains that the faction-based model of politics remains unchanged. It should
be clear that the position of the maulvi within the vertical patronage chain is very
different across urban and rural locales; the maulvi in urban areas simply uses the
networks to which he has access to gain greater proximity to state power, all the while
spewing out rhetoric about the need to challenge the state.
The networks in small towns and the larger cities revolve around the physical
institution of the mosque, and the parallel institution of the madrassahh. As suggested
earlier, an incredible amount of cultural and political space was afforded to these
institutions during the Zia period, coupled with the state's repression of cultural and
political voices considered to be a threat to the historical bloc. Perhaps the most
obvious symbol of the growing power of religious political formations is the
loudspeaker through which sermons are heard well beyond the boundaries of the
mosque, and through which working people are incited to political action or cowered
into silence.
As mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the religious political
formations were historically concentrated in the Muhajir cities, and relied heavily on
mass protests to increase their profile. Since the late 1970s, they have not only
expanded their social base well beyond the Muhajir cities, but have also greatly
enhanced their mobilisational infrastructure.
The religious parties' have replaced the radical populism of the 1960s and 1970s at
least partially by relying on similar organizing methods, at least in terms of their
cadre's shared sociological roots with the popular classes in communities within
which they have established their core support.
This is a crucial factor which was
invoked as central to the maulvi's growing political stature in Okara and Charsadda,
and to a limited extent in Badin also. Specifically, regardless of the attitudes that may
260 The Musharraf government announced that it would be clamping down on the use of loudspeakers
in mosques, but little has actually been done in this regard.
261 Ironically, parties such as the 11 have actually lost much of their political clout in their traditional
stronghold of Karachi. However, they have expanded into small towns in Punjab and the Pakhtun areas
of NWFP and Balochistan bordering Afghanistan (Nasr, 1994: 90-4).
262 Ahmed (1986: 79) makes the interesting point that the populist 'mullah' 'watched and learned' from
Bhutto during the 1970s and emerged as a political force only during and after this period.
prevail within the popular classes about maulvi's, there is a clear recognition that
many of the activists of religious parties with which people come into contact are
themselves from amongst the subordinate classes. This accords to the maulvi a certain
legitimacy as he polemicises about the need to challenge the incumbent dominant
As will be pointed out in subsequent chapters, the cadre of political activists that were
the engine for the politics of resistance in the late 1960s and 1970s emerged from
within the popular classes, themselves politicized by the immense social change that
took place during the Ayub period. As student unions in particular have been
immobilized, secular political organisations have not been able to rehabilitate the
organic relation between the political activist and the subordinate classes. On the
other hand, the religio-political movements maintain a comprehensive infrastructure
within students, young professionals and the intermediate classes that ensures that the
organic link between their politics and the people is very much intact.
It is important to assert again here however that this shared sociological background
and the slogan of an 'anti-elite' politics does not translate into a meaningful politics of
class. Instead the major pillar of the religio-political movements political discourse is
a devastating cultural lambasting of western society and its 'Ladeeniat,263 which
represents an effort to identify with the lifestyle of the subordinate classes whilst
condemning the 'secular, westernised' elite that is depicted as the bane of Pakistan's
social ills (cf Rouse, 1992). In effect, this is a continuation of the 'nativisation' logic
alluded to earlier in the sense that it takes advantage of the fact that secular radicalism
- including its intellectual resources - is now an alien concept to much of the social
formation. The radical intelligentsia on the political left, to the extent that one exists,
is socially alienated from the subordinate classes. Meanwhile the liberal intelligentsia
has arguably always been elitist in its lifestyle, and, as Hasan pointed out, definitely
since the late 1970s. As a result therefore, the only intellectual and political influences
to which the subordinate classes are exposed come primarily from the religio-political
movements. The cultural critique of 'secular westernism' is a clever ploy to maintain
263 This literally translates into irreligiosity and is typically equated with secularism.
the intellectual and political monopoly of the right while leaving the socio-economic
structure intact.
The white collar lower-middle class forms the major support of the religious parties in
small towns and larger cities and is essentially conservative both culturally and
politically.264 Then there is the prototypical madrassahh student that typically hails
from a rural background and is drawn to the madrassahh in some cases because of
need and in others because this appears to parents to be the most viable option for
education. More generally, as Nasr (2001: 15) points out, the religious parties
cultivate the allegiance of 'the intellectual "counter-elite", shopkeepers and small
merchants tied to the petite bourgeoisie; and the unemployed youth and the poor'. The
idiom of religious politics has become increasingly appealing to these disparate
constituencies at an ideological level. Moreover the religious organizations are easily
accessible and represent a means of social mobility - both politically and otherwise -
because they are closely linked to the state and/or international networks, and
therefore to their resources.
Importantly however, there appears to be a difference in the extent to which the idiom
of the religio-political movements is taken seriously by the three major social groups
that constitute their core support. The intermediate classes tend to be much more
'street smart' in the sense that they, like the religious parties themselves, employ
populist rhetoric with no intention of challenging the incumbent power structure,
hoping simply to acquire greater access to the state themselves. On the other hand, the
'counter-elite' and the very poor tend to be far more committed to the vision of an
alternative Islamic order. While the 'counter-elite' do not necessarily suffer for this
commitment, it is the very poor that can be seen as the major losers of the cynical use
of religion as a means of addressing what is fundamentally a question of class.
264 Here the lower-middle class may include elements from the intermediate classes that will be
discussed in the next chapter. However fieldwork indicated that this class overlaps to a large degree
with Alavi's lower salariat, typically suffers from a sense of rootlessness, and is attracted to the
moralistic discourse of the maulvi. Zaman (1998: 709) makes the compelling argument that 'the
emergence of sectarian organizations has responded to the search of many people - including, but not
only, returning labour migrants from abroad, for an urban religious identity, which would accompany,
and perhaps facilitate, their quest for a middle-class status'.
265 For a more general perspective on the cadres and constituents of religio-politicaI movements, see
Ahmad (2006: 189).
So, for instance, while issues such as poverty and illiteracy are part of the religio-
political movements' rhetorical repertoire, the focus of their politics - both in and out
of power - remains explicitly 'Islamic' causes. The very poor are easily mobilised
because of their acute socio-economic need, but very rarely is it the case that the
religio-political movements undertake sustained campaigns to actually address class
On the whole the religious culture of politics is also promoted by self-described 'non-
political' religious organizations such as the Tablihghi Jamaa't (TJ). The TJ has
developed a huge network of followers, not only in Pakistan but around the world,
and has a disproportionately high number of relatively well-to-do professionals in its
network of devotees. It has indubitably contributed to the politicization of religion in
Pakistan alongwith the more overt efforts of the religious parties (Metcalf, 2001;
Mamdani, 2005: 134-5). While its lack of a formal structure precludes any attempt to
quantify its impact, it can be surmised that TJ devotees also contribute money to
'Islamic' causes.
Importantly, 'the mullah in a Muslim society has no proselytizing function' (Ahmed,
1986: 86). In other words, the very concept of a religio-political movement in which
the maulvi effectively plays the role of political organizer does not have a formal
Islamic mandate. The maulvi in principle is supposed to simply fulfil functions such
as the teaching of the quran, managing the masjid and calling and leading prayers.
The maulvi as political actor is an exclusive product of the past two decades. As such
it is a phenomenon that can be explained by the machinations of dominant social
forces inasmuch as the state, imperialism, and the forces of the religious right were
able to come together at a particular conjuncture in Pakistan's history and literally
create a brand of politics that suited their needs.
The peculiar dialectic of socio-
266 Madrassahhs receive a startling amount of money through private donations from individuals and
more institutionalized sources as well. ICG (2002: 14) claims that this amount approximates US$1.5
billion a year whereas Hussain (2007: 86) suggests that 94% of all charitable donations made by
Pakistanis go to religious institutions.
267 That having been said, over the past three decades scores of militant religio-political movements
have exploded into the political mainstream across the Muslim world. All of them claim to draw their
inspiration from scriptural sources. They are, however, very modem in their logic and practice and
mold their ideology to the political conditions within which they operate. Many of them, particularly in
Egypt, Algeria and Pakistan were supported by their respective states and US imperialism at least
partially to undermine secular nationalist forces (Ahmad, 2006; Mamdani, 2005).
economic change and cultural specificities ensured that this brand of politics forged
new social spaces in which to proliferate.
The politics of resistance or the politics of common sense?
All told, the religious right has tried to project itself as a populist political force since
the 1970s, and has to a significant degree succeeded in expanding the bases of its
support, although not without considerable support from the state and external forces.
Given the already considerable centrality of religion to social life, it is perhaps
unsurprising that an explicit political project based on the hegemonic power of
religion has had such wide-ranging cultural and political impacts. In this regard, not
only has the religious right adopted the populist organizing methods of leftist and
nationalist forces, it has widely coopted their slogans as well.
It was pointed out at the beginning of the chapter that the UP ulema under the Raj
demonstrated - to some extent and at varying times - a commitment to anti-
imperialist struggle. To some extent this trend was revived by the lUI when it
emerged as a mainstream political force towards the end of the 1960s. Indeed the lUI
formed coalition governments with the secular, nationalist anti-imperialist National
Awami Party (NAP) after the 1970 elections and for a long time ridiculed the 11 as an
agent of American imperialism (cf Pirzada, 2000). However, all religio-political
groups came together under the guise of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) and
consolidated their alliance with the state and imperialism during the Afghanjihad.
By the end of the Zia period, with the politics of resistance largely crushed, and the
PPP having reneged on its populist ideology, the religious forces projected themselves
as the genuine representatives of the people, replete with the exclusively cultural
critique of western modernity that is the defining feature of political Islamism (even
though the latter is itself an entirely modem political construct). Anti-imperialism
became the bedrock of religious politics, and resonated with the Pakhtun population
in particular, disillusioned with the functional nature of American engagement in the
region. Importantly the end of the Afghan war marked a distinct change in the rhetoric
of the religio-political movements away from anti-communism to anti-imperialism,
although conveniently both were identified with western secularism. Over time the
right's claim to be the bastion of resistance to imperialism, and to a lesser extent,
domestic tyrants, has intensified, helped by the total lack of an alternative political
force to challenge it. Indeed, respondents at all fieldwork sites, even if they did not
support the religious parties themselves, greatly resented the role of the United States,
and begrudgingly acknowledged that only the religious parties effectively articulated
this sentiment. 268
A cursory look at the literature of religio-political movements indicates a rather
superficial shift in focus towards the 'anti-imperialist' dimension. As already
suggested, the emphasis of the religio-political movements has always been on the
personal realm, implying the need for an Islamic state to regulate personal activity.269
In the 1980s, there was the added focus on sectarian issues, a plethora of religio-
political movements competing with one another to prove their anti-Shi'a or anti-
Sunni credentials as the case may be. There was, intriguingly, only a limited emphasis
on the anti-communist dimension of religio-political action (cf Ahmed, 1997). While
the emphasis on 'Zionist conspiracy' has always been pronounced, especially
amongst Sunni sectarian organizations polemicising against Iran, it has only been in
the very recent past that the popular sentiment has targeted 'Amriki Samraj'.270
The lamaa't-e-Islami in particular has attempted to depict itself as the vanguard of
anti-imperialist resistance perhaps to contest the image of it pandering to imperialist
interests and the military throughout the 1980s. Since the late 1990s, its monthly
newsletter AI-Dawa't and a series of pamphlets very articulately posit the 'imperialist
conspiracy' to destroy Islam, emphasizing as ever, a cultural critique of the 'secular
western' elements within Pakistan itself.
As suggested above, the lamaa't has
268 Importantly however, a large number of respondents at all research sites, including in Charsadda,
expressed serious skepticism about the extent to which the religious parties were posturing as opposed
to seriously challenging the US and its allies in Pakistan. This again points to the fact that the religio-
political movements continue to be relatively successful because of the vacuum created during the Zia
~ e a r s .
69 Ahmed (1997: 105) writes: 'Among the articles and write-ups on current affairs in the seven
publications sponsored by the Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI, JUP, and JUAH during October 1984-November
1987, 33 percent of them were on issues pertaining to personal morality and only 3 percent on
problems of socio-economic injustices in Pakistani society.'
270 Literally: American imperialism.
271 For example in Millat ko zilat ka samna kyoun? (Why is the Islamic nation facing humiliation?),
American imperialism is identified as the root cause of Muslim suffering, and this imperialist
domination is depicted as primarily cultural insofar as 'Muslim' values are being eroded by American
immorality. The only difference between the present literature and that prior to the 1990s is that the
secular west is now equated to American imperialism whereas in the past it was either a blanket term or
implied 'godless' communism.
attempted to adopt a more populist political posture by identifying with subordinate
class issues, but for the most part, the anti-imperialist propaganda tends to focus more
on cultural and moral aspects.
Meanwhile the lamia't-e-Ulema-e-Islam' s major newsletter, AI-Haqq, remains
focused on its anti-Shi'a rhetoric alongside condemnation of the American
occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. This can be compared to a few years ago when
there was almost an exclusive focus on the anti-Shi'a dimension. In any case, the lUI
clearly favours a less intellectualized discourse than the JI, and is focused on courting
Pakhtuns along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The lUI has cultivated long-term
links with the Taliban (it is widely believed that much of the Taliban's top leadership,
including Mullah Omar, has received training at the lamia Haqqania in Akora Khattak,
the lUI's most prominent madrassahh). The lUI's more pervasive support in the
Pakhtun border areas was reflected in the 2002 election in which it won more national
assembly seats than the JI, mostly in constituencies bordering Afghanistan.
As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, a pattern has existed since the early
years of the country's existence whereby the religious right spearheaded the often
frenzied public dissent in cities in the name of defending Islam. This state of affairs
has intensified over the past three decades and the 'defence of Islam' motif is the
dominant expression of 'street power,?72 In many cases, issues are quite trivial. In
recent times for example there have been protests organized against the removal of
the religion column from the passport and the alleged manipulation of the educational
curriculum by Aga Khanis. Media projection and the urban-centric nature of the
mainstream political discourse at large ensures that such protests stand out within the
social formation, largely because no other political force explicitly espouses such
That having been said, it is important to consider just how much popular support the
religious parties actually do enjoy and whether in fact their 'Islamist politics of
resistance' is not actually more accurately described as a constitutive part of the
politics of common sense. On the one hand the religious parties have seen an increase
272 The emergence of a massive street movement led by lawyers in March 2007 which espoused secular
concerns marks a significant break with the prevailing trend.
in their profile in recent times because of the global discourse of 'anti-terrorism',
which has apparently made Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' into a self-fulfilling
prophecy. To be sure, Muslims around the world believe that their community is
being targeted and this has, in the absence of other clearly anti-imperialist politics, has
allowed the religious right in countries like Pakistan greater political and social space
than at any other time in the recent past (cf Akhtar, 2006a).
At the same time however, this chapter has outlined how the increased social and
political space for the right is a product of the machinations of the state and
imperialism since the 1970s. In practical terms, beyond the epic invocations of
Muslim unity, the religious right has not challenged the system of power that prevails
in Pakistan, and has, in fact, reinforced it in some very basic ways. Particularly in the
small towns of Punjab, the right has been a full participant in factional and patronage-
based politics, relying on the use of parochial identities and the promise of access to
the state. 273
As mentioned earlier, in Okara there is a close link between the intermediate classes
and active religio-political movements, both tending to represent themselves as
'oppositional' forces while all the time attempting only to gain access to the state.
Their engagements with the subordinate classes are little more than attempts to
expand their network of clients by providing preferential access to the thana, katcheri
and so on. In Charsadda there is more of an emphasis amongst the religio-political
movements on the fact that they represent the common man in opposition to the khans
(landed notables) of the area. This is borne out in practice by the fact that the other
two major political formations, the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan
People's Party - Sherpao (PPP-S) tend to be representative of incumbent landed
families. However, in the final analysis, the religio-political movements essentially
offer to the subordinate classes an alternative means to access the state rather than a
programme for challenging the politics of common sense.
273 The most widely quoted example of the rise of the religio-political movements in small-town Punjab
is that of the Sipaha Sahaba in Jhang which has garnered support amongst the Sunni intermediate
classes in opposition to Shi'a landed notables (cfNasr, 2002; Zaman 1998).
More generally, even though religious forces in the NWFP enjoy a comparative
advantage because of the more deeply rooted traditions of religio-political movements,
links to the state have been crucial in establishing a political constituency. The
example of the six-party religious alliance that was in government between 2002 and
2007, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is important in this regard. State power was
used to reward stalwarts of the alliance, as well as the constituencies that the MMA
viewed as being central to its electoral victory.274 Among the favours issued by the
government to its constituents were the widespread induction of individuals into state
employment, issuing of road and other construction contracts and even the import of
duty free vehicles. The MMA government, regardless of its pretensions, made no
meaningful attempt to restructure political and economic institutions in the province,
and the implementation of an 'Islamic' social order was limited to the banning of
music in public transport vehicles and the removal of billboards depicting women.275
Indeed, the experience of the religio-political movements in government has eroded
their own claim to being morally and culturally superior to the 'ladeeni elite' that is
the target of their polemic. In the past, their image of being from within the people
and opposed to the 'decadent lifestyles' of dominant social groups was preserved by
the very fact that they remained largely distant from state power. Even during the Zia
regime, the 11 was formally part of government for a relatively short period of time.
During the MMA' s time in power, the image of the state as the repository of power
and an 'amoral' distributor of patronage was reinforced and the religious parties
became associated with the 'dirty' politics from which, as will be shown in the next
two chapters, the subordinate classes have become deeply alienated.
Yet the idiom of Islam remains at the forefront of Pakistani politics, and indeed is
invoked by all and sundry as the ultimate fountainhead of good government. As has
been suggested here, Islam has always been central to political discourse. However,
with the emergence of the religious parties as the default vanguard of Islam since the
late 1970s and the state's attendant formal and informal delegation of power to the
274 Since Charsadda remains one of the bastions of Pakhtun nationalist as opposed to religious parties,
there has been less 'rewarding' oflocal constituents by MNAs, MPAs and the like.
275 There was an attempt to introduce the so-called 'Hasba Act' in 2006 which proposed a
comprehensive program of 'Shariatisation' but the act was never passed and public debate over the Bill
eventually dissipated. See http://www.dawn.coml2007/01/23/nat3.htm
maulvi (which has given the latter the right to dictate morality in the public and
private spheres), the religio-political movements have acquired great power to shape
the public discourse. As part of an expanded historical bloc, the religio-political
movements have reinforced the notion that the state's official ideology is nothing less
than the defence of Islam.
Ultimately this state of affairs is a reflection of the hegemonic impulse that the
religion card continues to have in Pakistan. As suggested earlier, within the wider
social formation, the fear of appearing un-Islamic, or at least not suitably Islamic, is
widespread and has been a major factor in institutionalizing the politics of common
sense. If on the one hand the Zia regime increased 'vernacular interests' access to the
state, on the other it also demobilized the very politicized subordinate classes by using
the hegemonic power of religion and backing this up with the coercive force of the
state apparatus. The' Arabisation' of many migrant villages, the effects of jihad in
Afghanistan and Kashmir, and an emergent cash economy in peri-urban and rural
areas dominated by intermediate classes with a commitment to Islamist politics have
been the parallel societal impulses to the state-led project.
At this point it is worth bearing in mind that this strategy has not effectively
eliminated the politics of resistance (as will be discussed in Chapter 9), even if it has
given rise to a parallel claimant to a people-centred politics that features defiance of
'imperialism' and 'tyranny'. If and when the subordinate classes have challenged state,
corporate or propertied class power, there has been a direct attempt to coopt any
potential radicalism, more often than not under the guise of adopting a more righteous,
'Islamic' approach. On the one hand this has meant attempting to mobilize and recruit
for jihad. On the other hand however, as discussed above, there has been a penetration
of the student and trade union movements. The fact that the parties of the religious
right are now the most 'popUlist' political option available to the popular classes
ensures that they are at the forefront of every major political mobilization, although in
almost no case has the right attempted to truly challenge status quo.
In the final analysis, the important theoretical conclusion to emerge from the
discussion in this chapter has to do with the state's penetration into the social
formation at an intensely personal level and importantly in a sphere that was
previously unregulated. In the Ziaist project, the religio-political movements played a
crucial role because they became the newest intermediary between the popular classes
and the state, sometimes displacing traditional intermediaries but more often than not,
taking over the limited but growing political space occupied by counter-hegemonic
forces. Notwithstanding the ongoing and potential fallouts of the post-Bhutto project,
the oligarchy and other members of the historical bloc have successfully employed
Islam to undermine the politics of resistance while at the same time featuring as a
crucial component of the politics of common sense.
Chapter 8
The Intermediate Classes: Deepening of capitalism
Alavi's major blindspot was in limiting his analysis to dominant social forces and the
state oligarchy. On the one hand the obvious response to this oversight is to analyze
the politics of the subordinate classes which is the subject of the next chapter.
However, on account of the tremendous changes that have taken place across the
social formation in the past 40 years, a new social force, namely the 'intermediate
classes', has emerged and demands separate attention.
In his later writings, Alavi acknowledges the role of what he calls 'mandi merchants'
in the anti-Bhutto PNA movement, and also expounds on their links with the landed
class (Alavi, 1990). However his exposition is very limited; in particular he does not
consider what in my understanding is the defining role of the intermediate classes,
namely their emergence as arguably the most crucial cog of the politics of common
sense. Intensely ruthless and upwardly mobile, the intermediate classes have
succeeded in coopting large segments of the subordinate classes into vertical
patronage chains that culminate in the state.
For the most part this thesis has been argued that the state, and more broadly, the
historical bloc - as a set of institutional and class interests - still remains the
repository of power in a society which is characterized by pervasive relationships of
patronage. Hasan argues that 'the manner in which the Pakistan state is structured and
governed, the manner in which its fiscal system operates, and developed in conceived,
managed and implemented, does not reflect the changed demographic, social, cultural
and economic realities (Hasan, 2002b: 7).
In Chapter 3 I engaged with Cheema's claim that the state changed qualitatively in the
1980s and became 'weaker' in comparison to the 1960s (Cheema, 2003). Addleton
(1992) argues in a similar vein that the gulf migrations of the 1970s and 1980s
seriously undermined the state's ability to centralize economic decision-making.
Cheema and Addleton improve upon Hasan's insights insofar as they acknowledge
that the state's cohesiveness and administrative authority has been compromised by
the deepening of capitalism within the social formation, and more specifically by the
rapid emergence of an unorganizedlinformal economy that is decentralized and
operates largely outside the ambit of the formal state structure. On the face of it, this
would seem to be a fairly robust argument. Indeed, in many parts of the post-colonial
world, capitalist expansion has been of an entirely different order than in the industrial
societies of the west and has been coeval with a breakdown of the formal state.
However, this thesis argues that, though the empirics of capital accumulation in the
unorganized sector as posited by Cheema, Hasan and Addleton are largely
indisputable, the politics of the process has been such that the state has not been
weakened, but has in fact negotiated change in such a manner as to consolidate its
power. In other words, given that my concern is with the actual exercise of power,
what Cheema and Addleton refer to as the fragmentation and weakening of the state
has featured the institutionalization of a patronage-heavy politics that has insulated
the oligarchy and dominant classes from counter-hegemonic challenges.
This chapter seeks to take this point of view further by discussing at length the rise of
the intermediate classes, whom, as will be seen, are based primarily in the
unorganized/informal economy, and who have been a major force in all substantive
political realignments since the late 1960s. The intermediate classes are internally
differentiated across urban and rural; organized and unorganized; and wage labour
and self-employed categories. My use of the term draws on the empirical work of
Harriss-White (2002) in India, but there would appear to be a parallel between the
intermediate classes and what Zaidi (2005a), Hasan (2002b) and others have very
vaguely described as the middle classes that have gradually acquired political and
economic power from the period starting with the Green Revolution of the 1960. This
chapter will flesh out the argument proposed previously in Chapter 5 that the
intermediate classes have been a major constitutive force in fashioning the politics of
common sense under the Zia regime and subsequently.277
At this juncture it is important to make a distinction between 'popular' and
'subordinate' classes. Throughout the thesis I have implied a fairly subtle difference
between these two ideal-types; the popular classes comprise both the intermediate
276 For a discussion on such processes in Africa see Bayart et. al (1999) on crirninalization of the state.
277 However it is important to bear in mind that because of the variegated nature of the intermediate
classes, it would be inaccurate to suggest that all fractions have been equally coopted by the state, the
argument that Zaidi (2005b) forwards.
classes as well as the subordinate classes. My argument is that while the popular
classes were at the forefront of the politics of resistance through the Bhutto period, an
increasingly complex - and international - division of labour created new
opportunities for social mobility and thus precipitated the emergence and
consolidation of the intermediate classes. Towards the end of the Bhutto period, the
political alignments of the intermediate classes had changed substantively and their
interests had become qualitatively different from that of the subordinate classes.
Crucially, because the market relationship between the millions that have graduated
into the ranks of the intermediate classes and the subordinate classes was articulated
in a heavily personalized manner, the former became a crucial component of the
vertical patronage politics that reemerged with renewed force during the Zia period.
Typologies and histories
The variously defined intermediate classes are a popular ideal-type in radical
theorizing about the post-colonial state. As mentioned in the introductory chapter, the
majority of theoretical treatises in the 1970s and 1980s viewed the post-colonial state
as the preserve of the petty or bureaucratic bourgeoisie. This was the class that, as a
rule, was not involved in the processes of production and from which emerged the
functionaries of the state, professionals and managers (cf Johnson, 1985). As already
pointed out in Chapter 3, Harnza Alavi attempted to account for one segment of this
class which he considered an auxillary class and named the salariat.
The shortcomings of the seminal neo-Marxist approaches to understanding the state
have already been outlined here. In this chapter, while acknowledging the existence
and continued importance of the segments of the intermediate classes that have
historically played a significant role as post-colonial state managers, the emphasis is
on the new elements within the intermediate classes, which are a product of the
changing structure of the social formation due to the invasion of capital. Primarily
these distinct sociological groups have emerged with the progressive mechanization
of agriculture and development of agro-processing industries in the urbanizing areas
around the agriculture plains of the Punjab (and to a considerably lesser extent Sindh).
There is also the massive impact of the Gulf migrations that started in the early 1970s
(cf Addleton, 1992). These developments have had considerable multiplier effects that
will be discussed here, many of which are represented by the commensurate
expansion of the trader and small entrepreneur class in urban centres.
As mentioned briefly in Chapter 5, there has also been a major structural shift in the
economy towards the service sector. In terms of official figures, the sector accounts
for more than half of GDP, and is where approximately 40% of the total labour force
is based (GoP, 2007). However, arguably the most crucial feature of the new
intermediate classes is their structural position outside formal accounting mechanisms,
and ostensibly beyond the reach of the formal state. The figures on the extent of
economic activity that takes place outside the formal economy are variable though at
least 50% of output appears to be generated by the 'underground' economy (Kemal,
2003).278 In any case, in neighbouring India - which provides a reasonably good
indicator of the state of affairs in Pakistan - upwards of 80% of economic activity is
based in the unaccounted sector of the economy (Harriss-White, 2003: 4).
The prevailing narrative about the 'new' intermediate classes starts with the Green
Revolutions of the 1960s. However, it is worth taking seriously the point made by
Addleton (1992) about the mobility of labour in the northwest of India even during
the colonial period, a phenomenon explained largely by the social engineering
experiments conducted by the Raj, particularly canal colonization in Punjab. At
partition and immediately afterwards, migrations of unprecedented magnitude once
again altered the face of the social formation, and it can be argued that the
'aggressively upwardly mobile migrant culture' had a major bearing on the emergent
forms of politics and broader social norms (Hasan, 2002b: 8)?79 Thus while the Green
Revolution may have accelerated socio-economic change and more specifically
heralded the emergence of the intermediate classes as a major political and economic
force within the social formation, it is important to recognize that this was to a large
extent a cumulative process.
278 The information on the informal economy is generally sparse; most of the information is qualitative
rather than quantitative.
279 See also Burki (1980) who claims that the modem, urban proclivities of migrants have had a
tremendous impact on state and society.
280 As pointed out earlier, there is a need to distinguish between intermediate classes involved in
different sectors of the economy; the more prominent of the pre-partition and immediate post-partition
migrants may have been part of the salariat, however a fair number took over traditional business,
moneylending and tertiary agrarian occupations from departing Hindu and Sikh migrants.
As has been documented by many scholars (cf Zaidi, 2005a; Sayeed, 1995), through
the 1950s and 1960s, both socio-economic change from below and the manipulations
of the state encouraged the rise of a middle class, based in and around the agrarian
economy, that competed with the traditional propertied classes - and particularly the
landed class - for economic and political clout. Toward the end of the 1960s period
this middle class, particularly in the small towns of Punjab, emerged to playa major
role in the popular movement that ended the Ayubian dictatorship.
As such it was the popular classes that swept the PPP to power, but it can easily be
argued that it was the emergent intermediate classes that were the most vocal element
of the broad cross-section of forces that together constituted the vast popUlist wave
(Akhtar and Mohmand, 2007)?81 The regime's downfall reflected the inherent
contradictions that were produced by its own modernization policies and the fact that
the prevailing 'political settlement' dominated by traditional matrices of patronage
could not accommodate the popular classes that were clamouring for a greater share
of the economic and political pie (Sayeed, 1995: 86_90).282
However, as has been hinted at in earlier chapters, upon assuming the reins of
government, the PPP tended to reinforce the state-centric model of political
accommodation rather than making a rupture that would build upon the politics of
resistance and thus give rise to a fundamentally new socio-economic structure in
which the principles of patronage and bureaucratic paternalism were no longer
dominant. Thus the focus was on using state patronage to meet the fierce demands of
the intermediate classes, whether through induction into state enterprises,
nationalization or other similar means that reestablished the hegemony of state power
rather than undercut it (cfNoman, 1988: 80; Sayeed, 1995: 94-5).
It is important to distinguish between the politics of patronage that existed in the pre-
Bhutto period with that which emerged under the PPP regime. The former can be
281 Burki and Baxter (1975) used election data to prove that the PPP vote in 1970 was the highest in the
more urbanized parts of Punjab which had become the base of the new intermediate classes that were
searching out new forms of politics to represent their aspirations for upward social mobility.
282 In this regard, Jones (2003: 205) writes: 'Bhutto's genius lay first in perceiving that the people's
aspirations were nationalist, participatory, and economic, not revolutionary, and secondly in
understanding the implications of their massive voting power'.
considered 'traditional' insofar as it reflected the social hierarchies of a predominantly
rural social formation. In other words, patronage was distributed by the state via
landed incumbents to economic dependents on the basis of ascriptive ties - the
colonial model. With the rapid changes in the Indus Plains through the 1960s, a
distinctly new dynamic of patronage emerged as relatively independent intermediate
classes emerged to demand direct access to the state. It was this class that was at the
forefront of the populist upsurge against Ayubian martial law and continued to press
its demands under the PPP government.
Crucially however, the PPP regime was able to coopt only the salariat segment within
the intermediate classes
, while traders, merchants and those associated with
secondary and tertiary production in the agricultural sector were never fully integrated
into the 'overdeveloping' state machinery, a task that the Zia regime would make into
a priority. 284 It was thus that this increasingly alienated element within the
intermediate classes became the major lightning rod of anti-PPP sentiment, aligning
itself with the PNA movement, providing it with funds, and also galvanizing other
disparate groups in the social formation into the anti-Bhutto movement.
The brave new world
As has been asserted at various points in this thesis already, the Zia regime was
confronted with the need to reconstruct a viable alliance of forces that were
committed to oligarchic rule, and would both back state coercion and participate fully
in establishing the hegemonic politics of common sense. Chapter 5 outlined the
vertical patronage relationships that developed between the intermediate classes in the
emergent informal (both manufacturing and service) economy and the state, manifest
most obviously in the phenomenon of local body elections, but also progressively
through provincial and national assembly elections as the intermediate classes
graduated into the ranks of big industrialists.
283 Even this group was not coopted entirely, public school and college teachers in particular aligning
themselves with the anti-Bhutto movement.
284 This was in spite of the relative bias shown by the PPP regime towards small-scale industry, and
therefore, by extension, the trading and merchant classes (Zaidi, 2005a: 150).
285 Of course the intermediate classes also offered those below them in the patronage chain access to
the 'everyday state' regardless of whether the former was directly inducted into government through
Crucially for the purposes of this chapter, this patronage relation was one that started
at the level of the subordinate classes and culminated in the state (through the
individuals and factions that were able to access it through elections or otherwise). It
was the intermediate classes that played the indispensable role of giving the oligarchy
and propertied classes a link to the subordinate classes,. and a means of imposing the
politics of common sense on top of and eventually displacing, the politics of
resistance that had vied for hegemony in the preceding period.
The intermediate
classes were able to play this role because they emerged from within the subordinate
classes, and because the informal economy - which is where most of the subordinate
classes are located - is characterized by highly personalized links. In a majority of
cases encountered during fieldwork, those who became traders, merchants,
contractors and the like were sons of tenants, industrial workers and self-employed
street vendors.
Arguably the qualitatively most crucial dimension of this process was the Gulf
migration which started during the Bhutto period, the impacts of which became clear
during the Zia period. There is a clear consensus among writers on the subject that
remittances from migrants have had a major bearing on the economy at large and
considerably improved migrant families' economic and social status.
The basic
explanation is a simple one: the earnings of migrants in the Gulf - at least in the initial
years of the 1970s - was eight to ten times higher than at home and thus pushed
migrant families into an higher income bracket, allowing them to break out of
dependent economic relationships and acquire a new found economic and social
freedom (Addleton, 1992: 23).
286 In some ways, the new intermediate classes were adopting the role played exclusively by the landed
class in the predominantly rural social formation over which the British, and in the early years
following the creation of Pakistan, the historical bloc ruled. Given the immense socio-economic
changes that had given rise to new social forces and to a far more urbanized society more generally, it
was inevitable that new intermediaries would emerge to complement and in some cases, to displace the
old ones.
287 This is less true of the arhti in the agrarian economy.
288 It is impossible to get a sense of the actual magnitude of remittances because a large number of
migrants use the so-called hundi system to send money home. Official remittances exceeded US$2
billion per annum for the first three years of the 1980s which was more than official aid receipts
(Tsakok, 1986). In the ten years between 1977 and 1987 more than US$20 billion was remitted through
official channels (Zaidi, 2005a: 503).
Naturally this economic and social freedom had significant impacts on political
alignments. For example, the traditional kammi in a prototypical village unit that had
acquired an income source outside the village was no longer confined to subordinate
status to the zamindar, and could therefore seek out new political intermediaries to
access the state?89 As pointed out in Chapters 4 and 5, what was termed the new rural
middle class itself developed links with the state to compete with old landed
intermediaries. To better understand the politics of this new middle class it is essential
to identify the multiplier effects of remittance incomes.
Addleton (1992), Zaidi (2005a) and Lefebvre (1999) among others point out that
beneficiaries of remittances tend towards consumption rather than savings, although a
large majority of them do make some basic investment in house construction. As a
result, the construction industry boomed throughout the 1980s alongwith transport
and communications. Meanwhile the majority of migrants sought to set up small
businesses or invest further in already existing family enterprises, and while not all
were able to do so, considerable impetus was provided to small-scale industry as a
result. At least part of this impetus was demand-driven and export-oriented as light
consumer durables had a market amongst migrants in the Middle East.
On the one hand this relative and decentralized prosperity amongst a large number of
families from the subordinate classes was a major cause of political stability under the
Zia regime because the upward mobility following from the Gulf migrations ensured
that there was little reason for beneficiaries to participate in agitation (cf Sayeed, 1995:
103).290 However there were more deep-seated consequences of the new sources of
wealth. Consumerism and a penchant for showing off wealth increased markedly,
especially insofar as the possession of expensive new goods was a means of
289 Lefebvre's (1999: 166-8) study of migration impacts in two villages of northern Punjab highlights
that this new-found 'freedom' can also be a double-edged sword insofar as zamindars jealous of their
hitherto unchallenged superiority react against kammis seen to be rebelling against the traditional social
order. Amongst kammis that have not prospered in any meaningful way change invokes melancholic
feelings for the traditional social order which is perceived to have guaranteed mutual security for
zamindar and kammi alike.
290 Importantly, the geographical spread of the migrants had a heavy bearing on the nature of
opposition during the Zia period. Most tellingly, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD),
the most potent resistance movement during the Zia period remained confined to rural Sindh, which
was not a beneficiary of the Gulf migrations. On the other hand, the NWFP and Punjab supplied the
vast majority of migrants and accordingly only scattered expressions of resistance emerged in these
regions. The Punjab example is particularly interesting as it was the same urbanizing regions of Punjab
that constituted the heartland of populism in the preceding decade.
increasing 'izzat', or what could be called symbolic capital. At the same time the
influx of money played a part in breaking down traditional family structures as it was
not necessarily the case that a brother earning money from abroad (or another
exogenous source) would share this equally with his other brothers (Lefebvre, 1999:
The process of atomization at the level of the family took place at a much more
extensive level too. As indicated already, there was a fiercely aggressive and
individualistic class of traders and merchants in the secondary and tertiary sectors of
the agrarian economy that had made its presence felt in the PNA movement. The
major expansion of the economy associated with the Gulf migrations added to the
ranks of this class or at least precipitated linkages between the merchants and traders
in small towns and bigger cities and the upwardly mobile small entrepreneur in a
variety of sectors.
The economic ambitions of this qualitatively new sociological
group were at least partially determined by its political access insofar as the success of
the small enterprise required concessions from the state in terms of exemption from
taxation and free or heavily subsidized use of utilities (Sayeed, 1995: 144). Ultimately
these highly variegated emergent intermediate classes were, and continue to be almost
exclusively concerned with developing patronage links at all levels - with the state,
other groups within the patronage chain, etc. - so as to secure their interests. This
highly ruthless and personalized politics is in keeping with the historical bloc's
project in the post-Bhutto period.
This is a process of 'nativisation' akin to that described in the previous chapter.
Indeed, the intermediate classes share considerable interests with religious forces,
both groups pushing themselves into an expanded historical bloc in a period when the
state's preferred ideology and politics had to be reasserted firmly. It was far from a
coincidence that the Zia regime patronized both the intermediate classes - as
beneficiaries of the process of change that is associated with the Green Revolution,
but dissatisfied with what the PPP regime offered - and the religious forces who
291 In my fieldwork in Okara and Charsadda villages, and even in the urban centres of
Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi, it was clear that migration continues to intensify material
differences within the community and thereby contribute to the fragmentation of community ties.
292 Sayeed (1995: 139) writes: 'The important qualitative change that. .. the Bhutto interregnum brought
about was to move small scale manufacturing out of exclusively agriculture servicing activities to the
terrain of broader manufacturing in the larger urban agglomerations'.
remained the major opposition to the Bhutto government throughout. Alongside
religious parties, it is the intermediate classes, particularly traders, who are the most
militant defenders of Islam.
In the context of this thesis it is most crucial to grasp the subordinate class role in the
political economy of informalisation. While the more important elements of
subordinate class action will be discussed in the next chapter, a few important points
can be made here. During fieldwork in numerous villages in Okara and Charsadda, I
noted that in any given family in the village, there is at least one male member - and
often more - that has migrated and acquired a reasonable amount of autonomous
Whether on account of competition or cooperation with this family member,
others are also coopted into the vertical patronage logic within which the one migrant
member is enmeshed.
At a broader level, as upwardly mobile individuals or
families establish themselves in a small town or city, relatives, or members of the
larger kinship group seek out the more affluent familylbiraderi members when in
search of a job, financial help or access to the state.
Invoking a previous distinction made between the politics of patronage in the pre-
Bhutto era and during the 1970s helps in reiterating the defining feature of the politics
of common sense as established since the Zia period. If during the pre-Bhutto period
the political alignments of the subordinate classes were determined largely by their
access to traditional intermediaries such as the landed class, in the Bhutto period there
emerged the promise of direct capture of the state, albeit coupled with the
contradictory denial of this access if and when the regime felt it necessary. Thus in
this period the politics of resistance and politics of patronage were, in a manner of
speaking, in competition. The post-Bhutto period has reinforced the draconian image
293 Of the recent issues around which both traders and religious parties have mobilized extensively, the
controversy surrounding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie stands out. This is because the
mobilization was coeval with and in many eyes of detriment to the lawyer-led movement against the
deposal of the Chief Justice which constituted a serious challenge to the military regime.
294 Migration was far less common in the case of the fishing communities in Badin.
295 This could be manifest in a variety of ways; for example other members could also want to migrate
thereby seeking out means and contacts to do so; the migrant brother's successful enterprise could
stimulate the desire to earn money to do likewise.
296 Okara. Charsadda, and Badin villagers looked up most to those from their village who had secured
government employment in cities, or those who had set up a successful business as in both cases, these
relatives could be - and often have been - a source of assistance. See also Lyon's (2002) discussion on
'Gujjarism' .
of the state and while there has been no reversion to the patronage logic of the pre-
Bhutto period, a distinct politics of patronage - what I have called the politics of
common sense - has emerged, almost completely eliminating the politics of resistance
that competed for hegemony until 1977.
The protagonists
It has already been pointed out that the structure of the economy has changed
dramatically over the past three decades, one of the results of which has been a shift
in employment patterns so that the subordinate classes - for the most part - now live
and work in the informal economy. For the most part, many of those involved in the
provision of services do so outside the ambit of the formal economy, while a large and
growing number of those still involved in agriculture are now landless wage labourers
with little formal protection under the law. Similarly in the manufacturing sector, over
80% of workers are employed in small-scale enterprises, the majority of which are
also in the informal economy (Sayeed, 1995: 139)?97 The government officially
estimates that over 60% of workers are based in urban areas whereas close to 70% in
rural areas are based in the informal economy (GoP, 2001: 21).298 What emerges from
such figures, as well as the more specific accounts about the state of workers in the
informal economy, is that the unique personalized market relationship between the
subordinate and intermediate classes is highly exploitative and insofar as this is a
patronage relation, the patron in this case is in may ways far more ruthless than, say,
the traditional landlord. 299
It is worth reiterating here that all of the intermediate class actors to be discussed
presently are 'new' actors insofar as they have emerged as major political and
economic players in the post-Ayub period. For the purposes of this chapter what
stands out about these actors is that they have helped insulate the historical bloc from
counter-hegemonic challenges by dangling in front of the subordinate class actors
297 The working hours per week of workers in the informal sector are an indicator of the exploitative
conditions: the selt'-employed work for 59 hours; family helpers for 61 hours, full time workers for 57
hours, casual workers for 64 hours and shagirds for 55 hours (Kemal and Mahmood, 1993: xi),
298 Khan et. al (2005) consider this an understatement as the government's accounting of the informal
sector often ignores home-based workers,
299 Sayeed (1995: 142-3) makes the point that this new form of dependency extends even to
consumption in that 'segmented' markets exist. In other words the subordinate classes purchase goods
and services provided by the small-scale informal sector as they can not afford formal sector prices,
personalised means to access employment and public services. In other words it is
through these intermediate class actors that the historical bloc 'touches' and
effectively maintains its control over the subordinate classes. Crucially in each case it
is clear that the intermediate classes derive their political influence from their access
to the state, while their economic power owes itself to the deepening of capitalism. As
I have asserted repeatedly, the dynamics of capital and the agency of the state are
mutually interlinked.
In the most comprehensive survey of urban informal enterprises (in the rather limited
literature on the subject), Kemal and Mahmood (1998) demarcate four major
economic sectors within which they undertake an investigation of 1500 units. The
manufacturing sector is the largest, home to 50% of all informal enterprises, followed
by the services sector with 20%, and the trade and transport sectors with 15% each.3oo
The following section will discuss the sociological background and politics of a
selected number of intermediate class actors both in urban and rural areas. I will start
off with the arhti, arguably the central player in the politics of the rural cash economy.
The arhti is the lynchpin of the small town agrarian sector, the biggest undocumented
component of the national economy. Hasan (2002b) argues that the arhti has acquired
great economic, political and more generally, social power in the Punjab and thereby
spearheaded the 'unplanned revolution'. The arhti is effectively the middleman that
dominates the process through which agricultural harvests reach agro-processing
industries (that then produce the refined and often packaged product for domestic
consumption or export overseas) as well as retailers. Arhtis therefore have a link to all
staging grounds of the agrarian economy including the village, the wholesale market,
the retail market, the transporters, mill owners and exporters.
It is important to state at the outset that the arhti has been part of the rural market
economy since the British period, and arguably even before this. Until partition
however, the primary role of 'middleman' was played by the predominantly Hindu
300 The survey was conducted exclusively in big cities in all four provinces, and therefore cannot be
considered representative of all urban locales. However, the typology used by Kemal and Mahmood
can be usefully employed for the majority of urban contexts.
bania caste/class, which provided both moneylending and trading functions.
! This
dual role garnered great resentment for the bania amongst the peasantry and provided
great impetus to the politicization of religious identities in the tumultuous last years of
the Raj (cf Ansari, 2005). Importantly however, despite the bania's steadily increasing
economic power, the peculiar social order that the British fashioned in the Indus
Plains ensured for rural notables and state administrators a 'degree of entrenchment,
of a continuum in the access of power, that those involved with trade, commerce and
non-agricultural production were not able to contest' (Ali, 2001: 97).
With the migration of the majority of Hindu business castes from the Pakistan areas
within a few years of partition, the role of moneylender and trader was taken over by
migrants, and to a lesser extent, by indigenous landed families (Alavi, 1990). Until the
green revolution, the dynamics of power in the rural social formation remained
largely intact, with the arhti emerging as an important but still dependent figure.
Following the processes of modernization outlined above, the arhti has emerged as a
major economic and political force, due to a combination of state patronage and
economic modernization.
In fieldwork in both Okara and Charsadda, it was established that the arhti is typically
a small-time entrepreneur from the surrounding area and has become a middleman on
the basis of his enterprise and political contacts. As small towns of Punjab became
bigger centres of the wider agrarian economy in the period after the Green Revolution,
local arhtis started to replace those from bigger markets in cities who had otherwise
controlled trade and transport.
This was part of a larger emergent and highly
complex network of middlemen which started at the level of the village, extended to
the local mandi and onto the big city mandi. In Okara, it was clear that arhtis from
Lahore had 'devolved' responsibility for the Okara mandi to local men. While it is
true that the arhti more often than not hails from a non-agricultural caste, there are
numerous arhtis that are associated with agricultural castes; in other words, caste
background is becoming less relevant in determining one's occupation. A substantial
301 For the most authoritative study of the character of the Mughal and British rural political economy,
and particularly the role of usury, see Habib (1995).
302 This process seems to be repeating itself in smaller urban settlements within Charsadda district, as
local markets expand and become important centres of economic and political exchange in their own
number of the bigger arhtis in Okara hail from migrant families that took over vacant
business occupations from departing Hindus and Sikhs whereas in Charsadda where
there was far less in-migration, the more established arhtis hail from local landed
There are literally hundreds of arhtis in both the main Okara and Charsadda
wholesale markets, most of them small-time dealers, with a handful clearly exercising
extensive economic and political clout. It is these bigger arhtis that compete for
control over the market and often have links to major politicians in the area, the
majority of whom are either from old landed classes or have acquired land over
The relative power of different arhtis is determined by how long they have
been active in the market, their links with the low bureaucracy (which is only vaguely
dependent on castelbiraderi affiliations), and the size of their clientele.
The first contact that the arhti has with the small farmer is as a moneylender. The
process through which moneylending takes place indicates the growing complexity in
market relations along personalized lines. In Okara, the small farmer often does not
come into direct contact with the arhti, and in fact, interacts with yet another
middleman who hails from the village. This middleman is typically a budding
entrepreneur who has earned some money from external sources and is attempting to
expand his capita1.
He is essentially the arhti by proxy in that he purchases the
farmer's standing crop at a fixed rate (typically well below the open market rate) so
that the farmer is able to make arrangements for his next sowing. Upon harvesting the
303 The situation in agrarian towns in Sindh is distinct in that the arhti is typically not a local, at least in
the sense that he is not Sindi. In many cases, Punjabi or Muhajir arhtis may have been settled in the
town for decades, but are outsiders insofar as they share little culturally with the local population. In
this case the relationship between arhti and farmer is based to a much greater extent on impersonal
economic coercion rather than historically evolved and personalised ties.
304 For example in Okara the minister of defence, Rao Sikander Iqbal, and his major political
competitor, Mian Zaman, have both cultivated links with the more influential arhtis, and at election
times, it is said that the wholesale market often resembles a huge polling booth. However, the evidence
seems to suggest that arhtis on the losing side often end up switching their loyalties. In Charsadda, the
two big political factions are those of Asfyandar Wali Khan and the current minister of interior, Aftab
Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Here however it appears as if arhtis stay true to their political commitments and
do not engage in as much 'floor-crossing' as in Okara. However in both cases, in the event of
dissatisfaction with a government policy or even a trivial conflict with the local administration, arhtis
are at the forefront of agitation.
305 During fieldwork it was observed that this village middleman may hail from a non-agricultural or
agricultural caste; in any case, as Hasan (2002b: 142-8) also manages to capture, the popular feeling is
that the higher status of the agriculturalist in times past does not compensate for the fact that 'drivers,
loom-operators, mechanics, shopkeepers .... earn more than agriculturalists and work less'.
village middleman then takes the crop to the mandi where he sells the produce onto
the arhti at a rate again below the market price (but obviously at enough of a margin
for both parties to benefit). In Charsadda, the nexus is less complex, which probably
reflects the fact that the Peshawar Valley (of which Charsadda is a part) is on the
whole less modernized than the fertile and highly-populated belt of central Punjab of
which Okara is a part.
This difference is also reflected in the attitude of the arhtilmiddleman to landless
labourers. In Okara landless labourers are simply not given loans, ostensibly because
they have no productive assets. In Charsadda however, where market ethics are
tempered more by the logic of reciprocity, the labourer can eke out a loan through the
intermediation of a slightly better off individual in the village, who more often than
not is a part of the labourer's larger kinship group. A long and drawn out process of
negotiation often ensues in which the middleman is often seen to be 'doing a favour'
for the 'poor' loanee. This process was a constant at all research sites and is crucial to
the politics of common sense as it contributes to the sense within the subordinate
classes that association with the middleman is an advantage he enjoys over his
contemporaries. This is despite the fact that the conditions of the loan are often highly
exploitative - up to 25% interest per year and heavy penalties if the loan is not paid
back in full within the stipulated period.
In both cases, the addition of another middleman to the already complex process
through which agricultural surplus is marketed is evidence of the ever intensifying
monetization of the agrarian economy, the continuing graduation of members of the
subordinate classes into the intermediate class, and the fact that the articulation of
personalised links with the market does not add value to the production process or
offer social protection but instead adds to the exploitation of the subordinate classes.
Furthermore in the majority of cases the arhti does not come into contact with the
small or landless farmer. The arhti in fact deliberately avoids participating in this
whole exchange because first, his network of clients expands on the basis of such an
arrangement; and second, he can intervene on behalf of the very weak when required
so as to confirm his paternalistic role.
The arhti's most crucial function however is as regulator of the market, which, in
large part, is where he derives his social power from. This is primarily because his
ability to secure control over a particular area of the wholesale market is taken to be a
good proxy of his links with the local police and administration. In other words, there
is a direct link between the arhti's power and his links with the state - indeed, in
many cases, it is this link which makes the subordinate classes want to establish their
own ties with him. This power is manifest in the fact that subordinate classes wishing
to access the market can do so only through any particular arhti to whom they are
already affiliated, or as just suggested, the village middleman who himself is a client
of the arhti - there is no chance of simply entering the market and selling their
produce at an open market rate. If even the village middleman attempts to bypass the
existing hierarchy and access the mandi directly, he is subject to the wrath of the
police and other local officials.
Importantly in Okara there is an official license system that dictates which arhti is
allocated which space within the market, presumably based on an impersonal logic
that does not favour anyone particular arhti over the other. However, it is clear that,
in practice, the allocation of space reflects the relative power of the arhtis. For
example, licenses are issued to smaller arhtis by the local administration usually after
one of the dominant arhtis has actually issued his 'approval'. In Charsadda the formal
system does not appear to be as well-established, and therefore the operation of power
in the market is more easily apparent.
It is this spatial power of the arhti that actually shores up the dependency relationship
with the subordinate classes in that there is a clear demarcation between the forces
that are privy to the state and those that are not. The relationship between the artisanal
castes and middlemen through which the former access the market is similarly
personalised and exploitative but is less regulated spatially. This is because the
traditional artisans such as carpenters, cobblers, and welders no longer operate within
the confines of an insulated village unit and have long since moved into urban spaces
to ply their trade (or in many cases, taken on a completely different occupation).
However, access to the market, whether in terms of them being able to sell their
306 In Charsadda and Okara however, this very rarely happened.
labour, or products that have been commissioned to them, is still mediated by
In conclusion, there is a highly interesting distinction between the popular perception
of the arhti amongst small and landless farmers in Okara as opposed to in Charsadda.
In Okara farmers seem to harbour far more ill-will towards the arhti than in
Charsadda. In the latter case, some farmers insisted that the arhti was doing them a
favour by issuing them seeds, fertilizer or even hard cash before actually receiving
anything himself. Thus in the particular case of the rural cash economy there would
appear to be a spectrum along which one can analyse the perception of the
relationship between the subordinate and intermediate classes in the eyes of the
former; on the one hand there is the recognition of exploitation and the resulting
indignation that comes with it, while on the other hand there is the feeling of gratitude
and reciprocity that seems more in line with the prototypical patron-client relationship.
These ideal-types broadly reflect the coercion vs. consent dialectic that characterizes
the politics of common sense.
Fishing contractorslbayparis
The situation in the fisheries sector is very similar to that in the small-town agrarian
economy. In this case however, there is only one major market based in Karachi
which is where fish from a large part of the Sindhi coastal belt is transported. Access
to this market therefore in large part determines the exercise of power between
different agents within the sector. Contractors in the sector have been commonplace
since the British period, but their influence has increased markedly since the 1960s on
account of the increasing marketisation of the sector as well as the fact that there has
been a quite monumental shift in the occupational status of many agriculturalists.
As pointed out earlier, the Green Revolution led to the displacement of a large
number of small and landless farmers from the traditional agrarian economy.
Additionally, due to the increasing number of mega water projects upstream of the
Indus River, agriculture downstream and particularly in the coastal regions has been
seriously undermined. In fact sea intrusion has become a serious problem which has
destroyed agriCUlture in delta and other areas in and around the coast (Hasan, 2002b:
130-2). The cumulative effect of this state of affairs has been a dramatic increase in
subsistence fishing in an increasingly commercialized environment. 307
During fieldwork in the fishing villages collectively named 'Zero Goth' on the tip of
the Badin coast, I observed that a significant majority of the families that are now
involved in fishing to meet their basic livelihoods are not Mallahs, the traditional
fishing caste. Most of them have adopted this occupation over the past 2-3 decades on
account of the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraph. In most cases, the
contractor through whom these families access the market has emerged from within
the community, and as in the case of the middleman in the agrarian economy,
distinguishes himself on account of his enterprise, or in other words because he has
comprehended the politics of common sense and understands how to carve out a
space for himself within the vast patronage network.
The fishing contractor usually establishes links with a baypari (trader/middleman) in
the main Karachi fish market, and proceeds to supply him with fish from the coastal
villages to which he has established links. As in the agrarian economy, the contractor
purchases catch from the villagers at a fraction of the market rate, transports it to
Karachi either on his own account, or as is the case during the high-season, through
transport arranged by the baypari, and the catch is sold at a profit for both the
contractor and the baypari. However in this case the state is formally involved at a
much more intricate level, which gives the system a quasi-legitimacy that is the major
reason for its resilience.
As mentioned above, the contract system has existed since the British period in
limited form. Within a decade and a half of the inception of the new state, the system
was formalized through the fisheries department which started auctioning rights to the
various water bodies throughout the province, both inland and coastal. Importantly,
the contract to a particular water body can only be issued to a bonafide fisherman who
can prove his occupational history. A typical contract is auctioned for tens of lakhs of
rupees which means that only an extremely wealthy 'fisherman' can possibly claim a
contract. In short, the system privileges accumulation of capital rather than meeting
307 Hasan (2002b: 132) suggests that corporatisation of the sector has been championed by the Fisheries
Department which was set up in the 1960s.
the subsistence rights of the fishing community. Contractors and bayparis typically
acquire contracting rights through a local fisherman who is effectively coopted into
'selling' them his name. In practice, and quite predictably, the decision on who gets
contracts and how is determined not through an 'open' process but on account of the
contractors' links to the low bureaucracy, and the price of the contract is a gross
underestimation of the actual profits to be made from the acquisition of rights to a
particular body, which often run into tens of crores.
In Badin, over the past few years, paramilitary border forces - the Rangers - have
become involved in contract fishing in a big way. Because the Badin coast is part of
the country's border, Rangers forces are stationed in and around villages such as Zero
Goth and have abused their official power to become the lynchpins of the system. By
putting to use the immense coercive power they wield over the local population,
Rangers officials have established exclusive decision-making power over which
contractors are allowed to access any particular water body, and coerce local
fishermen into selling their catch at an even lower rate than was previously the norm.
Intriguingly, the intrusion of an outside party such as Rangers has actually induced
resistance on the part of the local fishing community, which will be discussed at
length in the next chapter.
For the purposes of this chapter, the Rangers example confirms that the politics of
cornmon sense is a function of heavily personalised links between various agents.
This personalization permits the exploitative contract system to persist as long as
there is a belief within the subordinate classes that they will gamer a minimum benefit
from it. In this case the personalised links are not 'ascriptive' insofar as the entire
community - including the many families that do not originally hail from the Mallah
caste - is undifferentiated, all engaged in the same occupation, almost completely
isolated from other communities. More important is the familiarity between the
fisherfolk and contractors which ensures continuity. The introduction of foreign
elements can endanger the logic of cornmon sense politics.
The situation in Karachi is different yet similar to that in coastal areas such as Badin.
Within the fishing community itself there is great differentiation based on ownership
of boats, and extent of indebtedness to the baypari.
The vast majority of fishermen
in the biggest fishing village in Karachi, Ibrahim Hyderi, are khalasis, or in other
words, hired hands that strike up an arrangement with the owner of the vessel that
they take out to sea to share inputs and outputs. Thus their livelihoods are directly
mediated by boat owners, many of whom are related to their khalasis and have
graduated into the ranks of boat owners over time.
The small-boat owners are also
structurally tied into a relationship of dependency with the baypari through debt. In
much the same way as the small farmer seeks the patronage of the rniddlemanlarhti to
secure agricultural inputs, the small boat-owner typically requires loans to maintain
his vessel, acquire feed, and hire labour.
Indebtedness compels the small boat-
owner to sell his catch to the baypari at a rate below market price. This cycle then
repeats itself season after season until and unless the small boat-owner is able to
secure external income and free himself from the accumulated debt.
Urban thekedar
The thekedaar (sub contractor) is yet another counterpart of the arhti based in the
urban economy. He is not involved in any productive activity, but simply benefits
from the flexibilisation of labour and fragmentation of productive processes that are
the defining features of the urban informal economy. The present analysis is based on
participant-observation of thekedaars doing house construction in Islamabad,
thekedaars involved in the manufacturing of surgical instruments in Sialkot, and
thekedaars involved in the powerlooms industry in Faisalabad. The Islamabad
thekedaar is a newly emerging entrepreneur; Islamabad is currently in the midst of a
housing and construction boom due to the rapid expansion of the city as well as the
dramatic increase in land prices in and around the city.311 The thekedaar in the
308 The three basic ideal-types I found in Ibrahim Hyderi, namely, khalasis, small and indebted boat-
owners, and bigger boat-owners correspond to those identified by Hasan (2002b). Importantly however,
there is always the possibility of overlap in the case of any fishermen/family.
309 As in the case of the agrarian economy of Charsadda or Okara, while the extended family does exist
as a coherent unit, differentiation between members of the same family is commonplace, and it is often
the case that the economically and politically better connected family member is a patron to his less
well connected sibling.
310 In most cases however, the small boat-owner employs family labour.
311 Many of the thekedaars with whom I came into contact are also closely associated with real estate;
they are either agents themselves or work closely with real estate agents. In other words, there is a
symbiotic relationship between purchase/sale/renting of land and construction on this land.
relatively well established surgical instruments and powerlooms industries has more
deep-rooted links with his clientele as well as the industry more generally.312
In all cases, the thekedaar's background can almost inevitably be traced back to the
subordinate classes; as with all other segments of the intermediate classes that I have
encountered, the urban thekedaar distinguishes himself through his enterprise, his
understanding of the personalised 'logic' of the market, and his desire and ability to
cultivate relationships with state functionaries and patrons in the industry in which he
works. While it was pointed out in the cases of the arhti and baypari that there is a
fairly large spectrum ranging from smalllless influential to big/more influential, there
is far more differentiation in the case of the urban thekedaar. Most thekedaars once
they have become wealthy or politically influential enough will expand into business
and/or other industries/services ostensibly because the scale of the industries in
question is small and scope for expansion limited.
In other words, the urban
thekedaar operates within a much more dense network of competitors and potential
clients, and is himself always in danger of being pushed 'back down' into the
subordinate class position from which he emerged. This is particularly true of services
as opposed to manufacturing, the latter sector being far more stable. So, for example,
if the housing and construction bubble in Islamabad were to burst, many relatively
recent graduates into the class of thekedaars might return to daily wage labour or
search out formal employment if such an option exists.
It is important to state at the outset that sub-contracting is commonplace in the urban
economy, in sectors as diverse as incense stick-making (agarbatti), prawn shelling,
carpet weaving and bori (sack) stitching (Khan et. aI, 2005)?15 Sub contractors
operate essentially by developing networks of labourers and artisans that they employ
312 I observed that the thekedaar often started off as a shagird (apprentice) associated with an ustad
(teacher) in the trade in question, and eventually built up his own network of shagirds whilst also
cultivating links with patrons above him.
313 This was discussed in the chapter on the indigenous bourgeoisie where it was pointed out the 'new'
Punjabi bourgeoisie emerged from the small-scale sector and graduated into large scale
314 In the case of some thekedaars who are barely making a profit, supplementing their income through
daily wage labour or even a government job is not unusual. On the other hand some of the more
affluent thekedaars are those who are government employees operating as contractors on the side.
Their links within the state are crucial to their success as thekedaars.
315 The study referred to here deals specifically with the phenomenon of home-based labour which is
arguably the most vulnerable prey for sub-contractors.
on a task-wise basis depending on the job. Sub-contractors are usually given an 'in'
into the industry by other sub-contractors and very rarely operate as part of a
partnership, preferring to maintain their autonomy from every other individual or
group with which they come into contact. This makes their position quite tenuous and
tends to make them quite ruthless in their dealing with potential competitors as well as
the workers/artisans that constitute their network of clients.
In the housing and construction industry, the sub contractor comes into contact with a
variety of wholesalers and artisans.
In some cases those hiring the sub contractor
give him responsibility for everything involved in the construction/renovation, while
in other cases, home owners or tenants that are undertaking renovations effectively act
as sub contractors themselves by seeking out workers/materials for each separate
In any case, the industry itself is completely personalised, and is dominated by
sub-contracting. This means that artisans and unskilled labourers are extremely
vulnerable as they are almost all hired on daily wage rates by individuals rather than
by legal entities under a written contract. In effect the only 'security' that they acquire
is by becoming part of the clientele of their respective sub contractor, which
guarantees work on a regular enough basis for them to survive. Similar to the cases of
the arhti and the landless agricultural wage labourer, here too the 'workers view the
provision of work as a favour extended to them by the subcontractors' (Khan et. al.,
2005: 56)?18
Importantly, in this sector there is considerably less interaction with state
functionaries than in other sectors that I have encountered. The most common
contacts with the state are established to get around housing construction regulations.
For example, zoning laws in Islamabad are such that residential units cannot be
constructed in certain zones. However, there are numerous violations of these zoning
laws which can be put down to the concerned state functionaries turning a blind eye.
316 For example, a typical housing contractor comes into contact with masons, plumbers, electricians,
carpenters, menial labourers, marble cutters, painters, polishers and transporters.
317 Who is building the house!conducting the renovations is of crucial importance in determining the
nature of the sub contracting arrangement. In the case of affluent propertied classes, there is typically
one contractor that is hired to complete the whole job. In the case of the subordinate classes, this option
is usually less affordable.
318 Of course there are plenty of labourers who fall out with their respective sub contractors due to non-
payment of wages, poor working conditions, etc. etc. But these workers are then compelled to become
a client of another sub contractor as this is the modus operandi of the sector.
In virtually all cases, the doing of a 'favour' for the concerned state official was a well
accepted phenomenon, and considered part of the total cost of any construction job. In
the instances where the thekedaar is also involved in the sale/rent of real estate, the
state becomes much more prominent.
This is because the sale/purchase/rent of land
involves the local patwari. In Islamabad in recent times, patwaris have literally
become millionaires overnight on account of the extraordinary activity in the land
market. In many cases, totally fraudulent transactions take place through the patwari,
which means that those thekedaars/real estate agents with close links to the patwari
are extremely powerful, and this is reflected in the size of their network of clients. On
the other hand, the subordinate classes that are subject to this quite arbitrary power
have almost no protection against it.
The case of the thekedaar in the manufacturing industries of surgical instruments and
powerlooms is characterized by far more stability in the sense that these industries
have been operative for many decades and there is less dynamism in this market as
compared to Islamabad's housing and construction market. Both of these industries
are export-oriented and therefore the thekedaar's immediate patron is the exporter, the
majority of whom have made their way up through this patronage chain?20 Crucially
these industries have been subject to immense fragmentation over the past few
decades, and particularly after the Bhutto period. For example, powerlooms were
previously located within a larger textile factory in which many other value-added
processes were combined. However, partially to break the power of organized labour
and partially because of the structural changes within the textile industry itself,
powerlooms are now housed separately from spinning, threading, packaging and other
phases of production.
Both industries are housed in small workshops set up in semi-residentiallsemi-
industrial areas of the city. These small workshops accommodate hardware and house
319 Intriguingly a large number of such thekedaarslreal estate agents are rank and file activists of
political parties who have developed large client networks as political activists. For example a PPP
activist active in Katchi abadis (squatter settlements) in RawalpindilIslamabad for many years actually
benefited when a number of Katchi abadis were bulldozed by the municipal authorities after which he
effectively became the evictees' real estate agent as they attempted to find new accommodation.
320 See Nadvi (2003: 148) on the firms in the surgical instruments industry: 'Key production
relationships for local firms include vertical ties with subcontractors and external buyers and loose
horizontal links with other producers, particularly through the trade association.'
10 or less workers.
The working conditions are absolutely putrid, with children and
adolescents comprising an extremely high proportion of the workforce.
A huge
surplus pool of labour is available to those who run each individual workshop.
Importantly, the thekedaar supplies labour to more than one workshop, and has
established links with the owners of each workshop as well as the police and local
administration. In the two industries that I studied, a thekedaar actually functioned as
the collective bargaining agent (CBA) of the workers. In other words, the thekedaar
was also acting in a parallel capacity as a trade unionist, ostensibly struggling for the
rights of the workers.
The evolution of trade unionism will be discussed in the next chapter, however, for
the purposes of this chapter, I wish to assert that the workers are subject to immense
abuse by the thekedaar based on the fact that the latter is not only responsible for
providing his workers with employment, but is also the formal negotiator between the
workers and the state. I observed distinct hesitation on the part of the workers to speak
negatively of the thekedaar, ostensibly because they feared for their jobs, and because
they saw no other means of protecting their meager rights but through their
thekedaar?23 The thekedaar is however the crucial cog in the exploitation of labour
that culminates in the wholesale export industrialist, and in which state functionaries
playa crucial role.
In the first instance, the thekedaar often rejects many of the finished implements,
particularly in the case of surgical instruments. Since workers are paid on piece-meal
rates, this translates into additional labour for the same wage. Second, in the case of
accidents in which workers are injured while operating the looms or cutting a
implement, which are actually quite common, the thekedaar takes care of their
medical needs but then quite arbitrarily deducts a sum from their wage in lieu of the
treatment. The thekedaar often does not pay the workers on time. As such, in the
321 The figure of 10 is crucial because registration of a trade union with the Labour Department is
possible only if the enterprise employs at least 10 workers. Most workshops are not formally registered
as manufacturing enterprises.
322 By my estimates the figure was around 60%.
323 When asked about what the thekedaar provided them, a long list was offered which included
protection from police, access to the Labour Department which (selectively) allocates social security
cards and the like, loans in the case of emergencies, and facilities for washing and cleaning their
personal belongings.
event of any such abuse, the workers have no recourse, and it is a cruel irony that the
thekedaar himself is supposed to be protecting workers rights.
In principle the two CBA's that I came across have secured certain rights for the
workers through registration with the Labour Department and the making of social
security cards. However in practice many workers remain at the whim of the
thekedaar and the Labour Department; thus many workers pay a 'fee' when claiming
social security payments, some often have to pay a 'fee' simply to get a social security
card made. In many cases I discovered that under pressure from the workshop owner,
a particular worker's registration was cancelled, and that this often happened with the
complicity of the thekedaar.
Ultimately, it is in the thekedaar's, state functionaries' and workshop owner's interest
to keep both industries functioning informally because this not only allows them to
maintain their arbitrary power to extract surplus, but also prevents organization of
workers. Importantly the large number of children and adolescents working in these
industries is a contravention of child labour laws, and only by continuing to operate
informally can the nexus of owner-thekedaar-state functionary survive. The surgical
instruments and powerlooms industries simply mimic the vast majority of small-scale
industry in Punjab and non-Punjabi industrial centres such as Karachi.
Importantly, as was the case with the arhti, the subordinate classes' perception of the
urban thekedaar too should be viewed as highly variable. For the most part, the
relationship of the worker to the thekedaar in the informal manufacturing industries is
far more impersonal than that of the farmer/landless labourer to the middleman/arhti
in the rural cash economy, with the thekedaar in housing and construction somewhere
in between. Nevertheless, ascriptive ties playa part in many exchanges, and
particularly in the hiring patterns of the thekedaars (cf Nadvi, 2003).324 It is important
to qualify this observation by pointing out that the invocation of shared histories along
ethnic, caste or other lines is not enduring in the sense that a Pakhtun thekedaar hiring
a Pakhtun worker does not necessarily imply special treatment nor does it act as a
324 For example, in Islamabad's informal marble industry, a large number of Pakhtun migrants are hired
by Pakhtun owners, an arrangement which reflects the owners' preference for members of their own
ethnic group who tend to be 'grateful' for the opportunity they have been provided.
guarantee of retention. Hiring patterns seem to represent the thekedaar's preference
for workers from tried and tested backgrounds that also share a sense of community -
however limited - with other workers. More generally, the thekedaar clearly acts as a
patron for many workers. Ultimately of course, the subordinate classes can reject the
patronage of the thekedaar only if they reject the politics of common sense in favour
of a politics of resistance. In other words, so long as the worker perceives
employment to be a function of his ability to remain part of the thekedaar's network
rather than a right to which he is entitled and for which he must engage in struggle
with other workers, the politics of common sense prevails.
The transporter is in some ways the most mysterious of all the intermediate class
categories that are being discussed here in the sense that his politics tends to the most
'hidden'. My fieldwork on transporters was conducted mostly in Karachi which is
well known as the hub of the 'transport mafia', although it will be argued here that
use of the term mafia needs to be understood not necessarily in terms of transporters'
practices within the industry as much as the link that transporters seem to have to
other illicit business.
Transporters operate as distributors of patronage to those who sell their labour power
in the industry and attempt to secure the patronage of state functionaries in much the
same way as any of the other intermediate class groups discussed here. On this
account then it is inaccurate to depict transporters as part of a mafia. In any case, most
transporters represent their interests through established associations, even if the
actual exchanges in which they are engaged are carried on outside the formal, legal
My focus here is specifically on dumper truck transporters that are affiliated with the
All-Pakistan Federation of Transporters. Dumper trucks in Karachi are primarily
involved in transporting construction materials such as cement and almost everyone
associated with the dumper trucks, including owners, drivers, conductors and menial
labourers are Pakhtun?25 More specifically the industry tends to be dominated by
migrants from Waziristan.
It is a well known fact within Karachi that access to dumper trucks is restricted by the
Waziristanis to their own people. Potential investors are discouraged, primarily by
state functionaries that have links to the truck owners, if need be through the use of
coercive force. This indicates the widespread influence that is wielded by truck
owners. Waziristanis coming to Karachi flock to this particular industry as a means of
finding employment, which reinforces insularity. There is also a network of
Waziristani roadside hotels which are patronised by the dumper trucks.
The politics of common sense is very obvious in this case because of the very insular
nature of the industry. So, for example, when the staff of a dumper truck is involved
in a traffic accident leading to loss of life or severe injuries, he is whisked away to
Waziristan to avoid criminal proceedings and is allowed to come back only when
enough time has elapsed and it is considered safe to resume driving in the city. This
contributes to a sense of gratitude amongst drivers, loaders and conductors who
consider their employers to be well-meaning patrons even though the hours and
conditions of work are very taxing.
Importantly there is some evidence that this industry also acts as a front for
considerable amounts of black money circulating through the smuggling of drugs and
guns. Given the fact that the industry is dominated by Waziristanis
, that it is very
insular, and that it enjoys considerable protection from state functionaries, it should
not be surprising that transport is used as a means to convert black money into white.
This seems to be a relatively common feature of the transport industry more generally,
and it is in this sense that it seems valid to use the term 'mafia' to describe its
325 The extent of ethnic insularity in this particular case exceeds that of most other segments of the
326 This is a feature of all transporters throughout the country, including passenger transport on cross-
country routes.
327 The smuggling of drugs and guns began in systematic fashion during the Afghan War of the 1980s
in which Waziristan and its adjacent regions were a major staging ground of the Mujahideen.
The interests of the dumper truck industry are also represented by the Pakhtun Loya
Jirga in Karachi, in which the Pakhtun-dominated Awami National Party (ANP) is a
major player. The Loya Jirga is essentially the common front of Pakhtun (economic
and political) interests in the city and is considered a highly influential political
body?28 So, for example, after political violence in May 2007 in which a number of
ANP activists lost their lives, the Loya Jirga issued an ultimatum to the provincial
government of Sindh to compensate the victims and to hand over killers or face a
spate of revenge killings. The ultimatum was apparently not met, however it was
found out during fieldwork that other 'in-kind' compensation was made.
In particular, it was established that the transporters - including the dumper trucks
transporters - acquired concessions from the government with regard to a handful of
routes that had recently been made inaccessible. Moreover the government apparently
handed out compensation to a number of transporters that have suffered losses due to
strikes and political violence in years past. Intriguingly the Pakhtun transporters were
not the only beneficiaries of these concessions, even though they did constitute the
This leads to the next point which is that transporters as a general rule tend to be as
functional in their political alignments as any of the other intermediate class groups
discussed here. Even in the case of the dumper trucks transporters, their ethnic
insularity does not preclude their aligning with parties or state functionaries that are
not typically associated with Pakhtun interests if a particular situation demands it.
As such this seems to be the one major segment of the intermediate classes which
does not lend itself to upward mobility through the ranks of the subordinate classes in
the sense that one can only become an owner if one has enough capital to do so, and
simply acquiring one bus or truck is simply not sufficient to become a player in the
328 Jirgas by definition are only constituted in times of crisis or events of similar magnitude. It is not a
body that convenes regularly.
Urban shopkeeper/trader
This particular group does not cultivate explicitly political links with the subordinate
classes as do the others mentioned here, if only because the economic and political
fortunes of the shopkeeper/trader depend less on establishing a network of clients, and
more on upward linkages with the state. The state has often thought of this segment of
the intermediate classes as an important ally, at least in the aftermath of
modernization in the 1960s. Indeed, it is the shopkeeper/trader that tends to be the
most politically vocal segment of the intermediate classes, and has often been at the
forefront of popular agitation from the late 1960s onwards. A discussion of the
shopkeeper/trader also suits my purposes because, more than any of the other
intermediate class occupations that have been analysed here, shopkeeping is the most
common means of upward mobility for the subordinate classes. In other words, it is in
trade that the greatest opportunities for upward mobility exist. 329
My fieldwork in the electronics and yam markets in Karachi, amongst shopkeepers on
Shalimar Link Road in Lahore and the textile merchants in Moti Bazaar in
Rawalpindi indicated that there are three different levels of trade, starting at the
highest tier with the wholesale traders who are also often exporters; followed by the
retail traders (big shopkeepers) and then the small shopkeepers. I contend that the
small shopkeepers are not in the intermediate class category. Yet the links between
these three types of traders are significant. Similar to the genesis of all the
intermediate classes, big shopkeepers and wholesale traders often emerge from the
ranks of the small shopkeeper.
In almost all cases traders rely only on family labour and are matched in terms of their
ruthless commitment to profiteering only by the thekedaar. Therefore while kinship
matters in terms of access to patrons and even customership, it has become less and
less salient a factor over time. For example in the Karachi yam market which is an old
and established centre of trade, traders tend to be drawn from three distinct
ethnic/linguistic groups, namely the Gujarati-speaking Memons and Khojas, Chinoitis
and Urdu-speaking Dehli-walas. The yam market operates largely on credit and there
329 As discussed above, the opportunities for upward mobility are also stark in highly dynamic sectors
such as housing and construction, however, a member of the subordinate classes that comes into some
money is most likely to invest in a small shop which brings him into contact with bigger retailers,
wholesalers, importers/exporters, etc. etc.
is now a distinct disinclination to offer credit to members of the same kinship group
because this implies greater difficulty in recovering loans. Thus while the patronage
logic remains deeply entrenched, it is far less mediated by ascriptive ties than in the
Crucially traders and shopkeepers are not taxed, and attempts to tax them have often
met with severe resistance.
They rely on this implicit recognition by the state, and
this explains their willingness to support whoever is in power, regardless of their
previous loyalties. The only situation in which traders tum against the state is when
unfavourable policies or initiatives are taken against them. One such example is the
Lahore Qaumi Tajir Ittehad which is a broad-based front of traders and shopkeepers
that resisted attempts by the Musharraf government to register and tax their businesses,
and widely perceived the government to favour big business as opposed to 'small
businessmen', under which category they themselves fit.
Tellingly however, a member of the Qaumi Tajir Ittehad, Zahid Ali suggested that
there are only two factors that influence the politics of traders, namely khauf (fear)
and lalach (cynical interest/greed). This explains their highly functional political
alignments in the sense that their opposition to government policies does not extend to
any long-term hostility to the state per se. This is reflected in the fact that they
ultimately rely on the informal patronage of state functionaries to prosper.
Vendors and small shopkeepers complain that they actually end up paying more
through the informal system than they might if they were formally registered and paid
tax and utility bills. However, the majority of them are convinced of the futility of
resisting the system or demanding formal legal cover because they believe that this
would go against the interests of the larger retailers and wholesalers to whom they are
linked through the supply chain, and who would then victimize the smaller
shopkeepers together with state functionaries. This is a perfect example of the politics
of common sense.
330 See http://www.dawn.comJ2003/02/0S/ed.htm#1
There is one final point to note about traders hinted at briefly earlier, namely their
mobilisational capacity. Traders and shopkeepers often playa crucial role in political
mobilizations in urban areas, and particularly mobilizations around Islam. This can be
traced back to the PNA movement that overthrew Bhutto in which traders played a
huge role. In that movement, traders were mobilizing against the government because
of policies felt to be harmful to their interests, particularly the nationalization of agro-
processing industries. However the mobilization was given a religious character and
said to be organized to usher in the Nizam-e-Mustapha in the country. Ever since this
time, traders have been at the forefront of all mobilizations that have been organized
in the 'defence of Islam', alongside the religio-political movements. This has been
true regardless of whether the economic interests of traders have mandated such
mobilizations. It is therefore important to understand why traders are implicated in
such reactionary movements.
I have already shown that the intermediate classes have a symbiotic relationship with
the religio-political movements given that it was these two constituencies that were
heavily patronized by the Zia regime. As pointed out earlier, many of those who set
up businesses and became part of the intermediate classes had been migrants to the
Gulf, heavily influenced by the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
They therefore internalized much of the 'Islamisation' discourse of the Zia regime
willingly and became major defenders of Islamic causes. Over time traders have not
maintained loyalty to religio-political movements per se, and do not seem to have a
commitment to any partisan ideology, typically towing the line of the sitting
government. Nevertheless, their commitment to heroic campaigns to defend Islam has
become part of their identity and is, in no uncertain terms, a resounding endorsement
of state ideology.
Arguably more important is the fact that traders are the face of an increasingly
commercialized social formation, yet are still able to reconcile this commitment to
capitalism with (apparently) deep religious beliefs. In fact religious beliefs do not
seem to be an impediment to the highly cynical social exchanges that take place at all
levels of the social formation, and traders are the best example of this. On the one
hand this can be viewed as another manifestation of the 'dualism' mentioned in the
previous chapter whereby outward allegiance to Islam is simply considered socially
expedient. Alternatively it could be argued in a somewhat Weberian fashion that a
certain religious virtue can be associated with the individualist work ethic of
capitalism. In any case, while the subordinate classes and even more affluent
members of society that come into contact with traders do not necessarily harbour
very positive sentiments towards them, there does not seem to be much protest over
the cynical nature of their political engagements. After all, it is not only traders that
seem to have internalized the politics of common sense.
The face of change
The intermediate classes are the face of a rapidly urbanizing social formation in which
the market and its unique ethics are gradually acquiring dominance. However, instead
of changing in a manner that moves society towards the impersonal, rational-legal
Weberian ideal-type, capitalism in Pakistan, as in many parts of the post-colonial
world, is heavily personalised, infused by a rationale that is anything but impersonal
and legal in the formal sense. The state has been able to recognize the nature of
Pakistani capitalism and maintain its centrality precisely because it continues to
instrumentalise the personalised nature of social exchange.
The cumulative effect of this personalization of the capitalist logic is the appearance
to the subordinate classes that upward social mobility is genuinely achievable if one
accedes to the patronage logic that is the defining feature of Pakistan's political
economy?31 In actual fact, for everyone member of the subordinate classes that
actually graduates into the ranks of the intermediate classes, there are many, many
more that do not, and in most cases, are subject to more brutal forms of exploitation
than in the recent past. Thus while my narrative about the politics of common sense
has focused on the reassertion of the state's coercive power under Zia and a
concurrent institutionalization of patronage, the most crucial element of this politics
thirty years after the fall of Bhutto is the cynicism that is imparted to young people
almost as virtue on the Gramscian terrain of civil society, starting in the home, in
school, the mosque and finally the workplace. The emphasis is on individual mobility
with an attendant disregard for collective concerns. Indeed, those who do defy the
norm are ridiculed for wasting their time on 'noble' pursuits. Crucially this entire
331 Arguably just as many subordinate class members seek out the patronage of the intermediate classes
because they simply have no other means of acquiring work.
worldview is morally mandated so long as one overtly displays a commitment to
Insofar as historically rooted collective identities such as caste, biraderi and language
remain important across the social formation, they are increasingly articulated in
accordance with the imperatives of capital and the political manipulations of the
historical bloc. It is under the backdrop of this thirty-year project in the making that
expansive horizontal solidarities along class or other lines upon which the politics of
resistance is founded have to come to the fore.
Chapter 9
The Subordinate Classes: Beyond common sense?
If the intermediate classes are greatly variegated then the subordinate classes are even
more so. As was demonstrated in the previous chapter, it is from within the
subordinate classes that the intermediate classes have emerged, and this speaks to the
highly dynamic and often ruthless political and economic contexts within which the
subordinate classes live and work. It has been repeated many times already in this
thesis that British colonialism marked the beginning of a dramatic transformation in
the contours of social life in India, and more specifically in the Pakistan areas. This
transformative project was spearheaded by the colonial state, and in the post-colonial
period, the state has continued to playa central role. While Alavi's model of this state
has offered much insight into the legacy of colonialism and the state forms it left
behind, arguably the most gaping hole in his theoretical treatise is the lack of attention
paid to the politics of the subordinate classes, or in other words, the working people
upon whose exploitation the entire system of power rests.
As discussed in the introductory chapter, neo-Marxists as well as post-structuralists of
various denominations have attempted to augment the seminal analyses of the post-
colonial condition by considering the political action of the subordinate classes. At
some level all such efforts boil down to the crucial question of whether and to what
extent the subordinate classes - or any other class - act as a class-for-itself. It has
already been established that even the dominant classes in Pakistan often map their
fundamental interests as a function of their access to the state which mayor may not
correspond to the understanding of basic class interests in a traditional materialist
schema. The previous two chapters have also concluded that a similar logic guides the
political action of the religio-political movements and the intermediate classes.
Thus it is perhaps not surprising that the subordinate classes too have become
enmeshed in what has been referred to here as the politics of common sense, or in
other words a politics of patronage culminating in the state. However, the politics of
common sense cannot be considered a simple continuity of historical modes of
332 However in the case of the latter the dictates of the market - regardless of the extent of political
factors that determine access to it - are a far bigger factor than they are for any other class or institution
that I have studied.
political engagement in the wider social formation that persisted through British rule
and into the post-colonial period. Instead the politics of common sense must be seen
as a direct result of the Alavian nexus of power reasserting itself and its attendant
incorporation of new contenders for power into an expanded historical bloc in the
post-Bhutto period. This entailed the articulation of historically rooted cultures of
political engagement with evolving logics of the market, instrumentalisation of
'democratic' practices such as elections, and the forging of ideational innovations
congruent with regional and global geo-politics.
Under this backdrop, the present chapter is concerned with two related aspects of
subordinate class action. First there is a need to understand the context within which
the politics of common sense emerged which includes an analysis of what I have
called the politics of resistance that heavily coloured Pakistan's political discourse
from the mid-l 960s until the military coup that overthrew Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In this
regard, I will consider the changes that took place in the understanding of politics and
actual political engagements of the subordinate classes or what Jones (2003: 424) has
called the shift from 'interior' to 'exterior' political associations.
Second I wish to consider exactly how the politics of common sense has become
exactly that; namely how and why has the practice of politics that was foisted onto the
social formation by the state and its allies in the aftermath of the Bhutto period
become the dominant form of politics. It was pointed out in Chapter 7 that one of the
consequences of the politics of common sense has been that religio-political
movements have become exclusively associated with a functional politics of
resistance that does not actually challenge oligarchic rule. I am concerned with
whether or not the subordinate classes have in fact been able to reconstitute a veritable
politics of resistance that can compete with the politics of common sense.
A note on 'clientelism'
There is a minor point to address with regard to the use of the terms 'patronage' and
'clientelism' in the literature. Patronage implies that the patron clearly exercises
unchallenged power over his dependents. Conversely the term clientelism suggests
that the dependent is able to negotiate with the patron and secure greater benefits.
Importantly, theorists of South Asian political economy such as Sayeed (1995) and
Khan (1998; 2000) have emphasized the relative power of 'clientelist coalitions' vis a
vis the state and dominant classes. In particular Sayeed' s discussion of the evolving
role of the intermediate classes and their ability to secure a greater share of the
economic and political pie vis a vis popular mobilizations from the Ayub period
onwards has been mentioned in the previous chapter.
However, suggesting that the predominant logic of politics is a 'clientelist' one has
serious implications which do not seem consistent with the narrative presented in this
thesis. Insofar as clientelism implies that the intermediate classes are improving their
bargaining position vis a vis classes and institutions higher up in the patronage chain,
it seems to be relatively consistent with my analysis; in the previous chapter it was
even argued that the intermediate classes have pushed themselves up into an expanded
historical bloc or what has metaphorically been called the 'overdeveloping' state.
Nevertheless there is no question that the politics of common sense that prevails
across the social formation is patronage-based in that it is a politics that has been
clearly molded by the state through institutions such as local body elections and in
which the state remains the repository of power within the wider social formation.
More specifically, even if one is to argue - as to some extent has been argued in the
previous chapter - that the intermediate classes constituted a major force in the
populist upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s, and that over time the intermediate classes
have successfully made greater claims on political and economic resources, the fact
remains that the state and its propertied class partners recognized this evolving role of
the intermediate classes, and successfully coopted them into the politics of common
sense, thereby undermining the politics of resistance and effectively eliminating what
appeared to be an emergent challenge to the oligarchic system of power itself. It has
already been argued in this thesis that the apparent loss of coherence in the
bureaucratic structure of the state has actually been instrumentalised so as to
consolidate the power of the state. In much the same way, the mobilization of the
333 Sayeed (1995: 38) does recognize that a 'clientelist' coalition can include classes other than the
intermediate class and that in Pakistan's recent history, such coalitions have included the subordinate
classes only to be hijacked in favour of the dominant partner in the coalition. Nonetheless, he still
employs the term clientelist to describe politics more generally.
intermediate classes has been harnessed by the Alavian nexus of power to
institutionalize the politics of common sense.
The politics of resistance and reaction
Having said that, one of the major premises of the argument presented here is that
politics is inherently dynamic, and that even a hegemonic system of power, such as
that which prevails in Pakistan today, is always vulnerable to counter-hegemonic
challenges. Given a certain set of objective conditions, subjective factors have to
conspire so as to facilitate the emergence of counter-hegemony. Nevertheless, this
thesis rejects the notion that hegemony is foolproof, and that the subordinate classes
fall prey to 'false consciousness'. Instead history indicates that the subordinate classes
are willing and able to clearly distinguish between the politics of common sense and
the politics of resistance, and will make commitments to either, or even both,
depending on the circumstances within which they find themselves.
The politics of resistance erupted in the 1960s and continued on throughout the
following decade. However from the time of the Zia dictatorship the politics of
resistance, as it was articulated until the Bhutto period, has been quite effectively
stamped out by the state. This reaction came about because of the danger that
ideologies of class and ethno-nationalism, upon which the politics of resistance was
constructed, posed to the historical bloc. In effect, the 1960s marked the emergence of
class as a major identity in Pakistani politics. Sayeed (1980: 151) writes, '[D]uring the
Ayub period the industrialisation of cities like Karachi, Lahore and Lyallpur had
generated new urban forces. Cities were attracting peasants, landless labourers, and
tenants from the surrounding countryside and the new industrial and urban climate
had created new issues and aroused new expectations'. While industrial labour and
increasingly militant student unions were the obvious carriers of the idiom of class
334 The manner in which Clapham (1982: 18) understands clientelism is much more consistent with my
view: 'The importance of clientelism to the exercise of state power lies in the fact that, to a substantial
degree, the structure of the state reproduces the conditions ........ inherently conducive to the
development of c1ientelism.'
335 This understanding of the dynamic nature of subaltern consciousness and political action owes itself
first and foremost to Gramsci (1971: 323-327): 'Philosophy in general does not in fact exist. Various
philosophies of the world exist, and one always makes a choice between them'. The conceptions of E.P.
Thompson (1978, 2005) and the more contextually relevant ideas presented by Mushtaq Khan (1998,
2000) also contribute to my understanding.
politics,336 there were stirrings in rural areas too as demands for land reform and other
radical slogans mobilized tenants and small farmers along horizontal lines marking a
break from hitherto vertical alignments around landlord-led factions (Herring, ] 983:
As I have already pointed out at various points, the other major force in the popular
upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s were the intermediate classes associated
with secondary and tertiary processes of production in the agrarian economy. The
industrial working class, student radicals, the urban and rural poor, and the
intermediate classes were all brought together by the PPP and Bhutto that became the
symbol of the popular idiom of politics that prevailed at the time.
As such Pakistani populism in the late 1960s and early 1970s can be cast in the
classical mold of third world nationalism. The primary demand of the newly
mobilised segments of a rapidly changing social formation was for a greater share of
the economic pie for small capital and labour vis a vis big capital, but this was
accompanied by a fierce anti-imperialism, and just as crucially a rejection of Indian
hegemony in the South Asia region.
I mentioned in the previous chapter that the upwardly mobile intermediate classes
interests soon diverged with the industrial working class and urban and rural poor
largely because the intermediate classes were coopted as junior partners into the
historical bloc. Students were weaned away from ideological politics while the
industrial working class, and the urban and rural poor were coerced into acquiescing
to the politics of common sense. However, the politics of common sense was not
simply a return to a politics of patronage that had hitherto been the dominant mode of
politics in Pakistan. In fact it marked a fundamental departure from the past.
336 The personal papers of Fatima Jinnah indicate the rapid emergence of student unions in the later
1950s and early 1960s: dozens of such unions wrote to Ms. Jinnah asking her to inaugurate their
organizations. These included the National union of Students of Pakistan (formed 18 February 1958),
Bantva Memon Students Union (formed 17 June 1958), Government Girls College Union Hyderabad
(formed 7 October 1958), Dow Medical College Students Union, Jinnah College Students Union
(formed November 1960), Government College of Commerce and Economics (formed November 1960)
and Dawood College of Engineering and Technology (formed January 1964). See Fatima Jinnah papers
FJ EM 345; FJ EM 347; FJ EM 355; FJ EM 359; FJ EM 361; FJ EM 363; FJ EM 37l.
m The anti-India pillar of populism was of course its least progressive aspect.
Jones (2003) insists on using the 'modem' vs. 'parochial' binary to characterize the
tension between the divergent forms of politics that existed before and after Ayubian
modernization. This is helpful insofar as it indicates that the 1960s marked a shift
away from what he calls the 'static universe of political absolutes' towards a more
dynamic political order in which political engagements are made not on the basis of
subservience to a traditionally dominant group but on the basis of an understanding
that the material world can and ought to be changed. Thus given the idiom of change
that was sweeping across large parts of the social formation, the popular classes
aligned themselves with those parties and ideologies that promised them the benefits
of change.
However it is crucial that one avoids taking Jones' argument to its logical conclusion,
which would be that the reemergence of a politics that appears to be based on the
same ascriptive ties that characterized the 'parochial' necessarily means that there has
been a reversion to the static universe of political absolutes that was said to have been
left behind. Instead, it is my contention that the state had to acknowledge the
emergence of a new, dynamic political universe in the 1960s and successfully
attempted to institutionalize a logic of patronage within this new universe. This
strategy was based on a recognition that the demands for inclusion from classes
previously excluded from the accumulation of power and capital had to be
accommodated rather than allow further radicalization of the politics of resistance and
thereby risk a rupture of the entire oligarchic system.
Jones (2003: 205) is correct in recognizing that the popular movements of the late
1960s, while influenced greatly by revolutionary slogans, were ultimately 'nationalist,
participatory, and economic' .339 In other words, neither was there a complete
replacement of parochial politics nor was the mere emergence of class-based
mobilization sufficient to precipitate structural overhaul. 'So while [the popular
mobilization] made a dent in the old structures of the agrarian Punjab, breaking down
338 It has already been pointed out in Section 1 that the state relied on coercion as much as it did on
cooption; the initial thrust of the Ziast strategy was on using force to suppress existing pockets of
radicalism. The creation of a consensual political system followed from this reassertion of the state's
coercive power.
339 It should be recalled that the anti-Ayub mobilizations started following the Tashkent declaration
which was widely decried as a 'sell-out'. Bhutto rode this hyper-nationalist anti-Indian sentiment into
power and throughout his time in government.
the biraderi (clan), caste, or tribal affiliation .... the dominance of rural notables was
by no means at an end. Indeed, in Sind the PPP relied on the very biraderi and tribal
ties that it was trying to rupture in many districts of the Punjab' (1 alaI, 1994: 162)?40
Be that as it may, the potential for a deepening of a culture of popular and democratic
politics which might have been further radicalized did exist. However the Bhutto
regime gradually moved away from its radical bases of support and became more and
more reliant on the propertied classes as well as the coercive institutions of the state to
combat radicalism within the social formation (cf Ahmad, 2000)?41 As pointed out in
the previous chapter, it was during Bhutto's tenure that the distinction between the
subordinate and intermediate classes started to come into focus, the state keen to
coopt the latter which it viewed as being politically influential, and ready and willing
to use force against the former which could only be placated by structural change?42
The emergence of class and the radicalization of ethno-nationalism meant that there
also emerged new mass-based political cadres that spearheaded mobilizations (cf
Sayeed, 1980). Importantly however the popUlist nature of the wave of politicization
meant that the 'hundreds of people . .influenced by the mass movement ... had vague
ideas of socialism' (Laghari, 1979: 158). Thus the cadres were mobilized and militant
but were not sufficiently autonomous enough of the PPP government to withstand
state repression by the 'people's government'. Indeed upon coming to power,
militancy amongst industrial labour, particularly in Karachi, was ruthlessly crushed
(cf Shaheed, 1983: 226-230).
Arguably student unions were more ideologically committed to a revolutionary
alternative, in particular the National Student Federation (NSF). During the mass
340 This also brings into view that no such process of politicization was taking place in large parts of the
NWFP and Balochistan which had not experienced the upheaval associated with the green revolution
and intensive capitalist modernization more generally.
341 It would appear that one of the major reasons for this clamping down on the organic and
autonomous bases of people's power was that the 'left' both within the PPP and outside of it continued
to exercise great influence at the grassroots level and upon assuming power, the PPP hierarchy tended
towards consolidation rather than further radicalization as advocated by the left (cf Laghari, 1979).
342 This is not surprising as the level of mobilization of the subordinate classes increased manifold
during the 1970s, primarily in urban areas and amongst the industrial working class. However, rural
areas were similarly mobilized: '[T]he Bhutto regime became quite concerned about the implications of
the hornets' nest it had stirred up by promising security and justice to the sharecroppers' (Herring, 1983:
movement in the late 1960s, the PPP 'actually considered NSF its student wing'
(Laghari, 1979: 169). However, relations soured as the NSF continued to articulate a
radical position, insisting that elections in themselves would not undermine the
structure of power that prevailed in the country. The NSF also vehemently
condemned Bhutto's chauvinistic stance on east Pakistan and ethno-nationalism more
generally. Over time the NSF was weakened by the growing power of the liT on
student campuses (discussed in Chapter 7), as well as the formation of the People's
Student Federation (PSF) which effectively functioned as the mouthpiece of the
government, thereby marking the trend in student unionism away from autonomy and
towards cooption by the state.
A similar process of cooption took place within the other major bastion of the politics
of resistance, the trade union movement. Once militancy was curbed by the unbridled
use of state repression, the government created the National Industrial Relations
Commission (NIRC) and called Tripartite Conferences, building upon the institutional
framework outlined in the Industrial Relations Ordinance passed by the Yahya Khan
interim government in 1969. The institutional framework sought to undermine labour
militancy by making strikes and lock-downs 'illegal', created the institution of the
collective bargaining agent (CBA) as the sole representative of workers within an
enterprise, and generally coopted labour leaders into administrative and legal
entanglements (Shaheed, 1983). Essentially, this was the beginning of the relationship
between the state and a labour aristocracy that has become no less of a middleman
than the arhti and thekedaar.
During the Zia period, the last remaining vestiges of labour militancy were
permanently eliminated, and in the subsequent period, the trade union movement has
virtually ceased to exist as an autonomous political force.
In fact, the vast majority
of trade unions are now almost ideal vehicles of the politics of common sense. The
example of thekedaar' s acting as CBAs in the manufacturing sectors of surgical
instruments and powerlooms was discussed in the previous chapter. More generally,
interactions with rank and file political activists and trade union leaders during
343 Indeed, in the private sector, largely because of the process of informalisation and fragmentation
discussed in the previous chapter, trade unions have ceased to exist altogether. On the whole it is
estimated that only 3% of the workforce is unionized.
fieldwork illuminated the unfortunate reality that a labour leader is now distinguished
for his connections to influential political factions, his ability to secure individual
for workers as opposed to work for collective betterment of the working
class, and, quite paradoxically, for a lifestyle more consistent with an upwardly
mobile member of the intermediate classes.
The legacy
Regardless of the chequered nature of the PPP interregnum, there is little doubt about
the enormous impact that this period of politicization had on the polity. Innumerable
individuals that were encountered during fieldwork, both in rural as well as urban
areas, attribute their politicization to this period and particularly to Zulfikar Ali
There is still an overwhelming sense amongst large segments of the
subordinate classes, particularly in Badin but also amongst the small and landless
peasantry in Okara, that there has only ever been one pro-people leader in Pakistan.
Only in a handful of instances is this popular memory based on actual material
benefits accruing to the subordinate classes. For the most part, the Bhutto period is
remembered fondly precisely because, as Jones suggests, a permanent transformation
took place in the engagement of the subordinate classes within the wider political
sphere, a transformation based primarily on the development of a consciousness of
class and other horizontal solidarities that were opposed to the vertical alignments that
had previously been the primary determinant of political engagement.
This is corroborated by a cursory look at the popular media of the time. Compared
with the tone and tenor of major newspapers from 1979 onwards, from around late
1967 until two years or so after the Zia coup, the focus of the print press in terms of
the stories that were highlighted, the nature of the reporting, and the implicit or
explicit politics represented was noticeably more substantive in terms of ideas, and
344 For example, a common task of a trade union leader is to get a relative of a worker hired by the
345 Upon further probing, it is inevitably found out that a large number of people were politicized
during the late Ayub and Bhutto periods, but nevertheless their own oral histories revolve around the
inspiration of Bhutto's person.
346 This speaks to the particular affection that Sindh harbours for Bhutto; many Sindhis still see Bhutto
as the martyred Sindhi hero (shaheed). In practical terms it was during Bhutto's period that Sindhis
were patronized by the state, particularly in terms of employment within the administrative apparatus
and through the setting up of public industrial enterprises in rural parts of the province (cf Ahmed,
1998: 61-88).
reflected a mood of change.
An exhaustive look at the newspaper archives of
DAWN, Pakistan Times, Nawa-i-Waqt and Jang during fieldwork illuminated many
interesting differences. For example, the 1967-1977 period was one in which there
was a global upsurge of populism/radicalism, and developments around the world
found a lot of space in the print press. Reporting on third world movements and
particularly regions where resistance was the norm - Indo-China, the occupied
Palestinian territories, and Central America - was commonplace. In the post 1979
period, with the exception of the Palestinian cause - which is identified as an
'Islamic' one - such reporting is conspicuous by its absence?48
Reporting on labour and student activism was commonplace in the 67-77 period, and
was distinctive because it emphasized the class power of workers and students,
implying that change was a desirable societal goal. In contrast, not only has reporting
on labour and students decreased markedly in the post-79 period, the limited reporting
tends to depict labour and students as clients of powerful benefactors (whether the
incumbents or those who are challenging for power). By the 1980s, the association of
Islam with the concerns of labour had become explicit; a report on May Day rallies in
a major English daily suggested that 'tributes were paid to Chicago workers and rights
and privileges given to the wage earners by Islam were highlighted' .349
More generally there has been a quite remarkable, albeit gradual, shift in reporting
patterns, particularly in the Urdu press, away from national level debates and concerns
to localized ones. In particular, post -1979 reporting has focused more and more on the
delivery of services by individuals, parties, or the state, again reflecting an emphasis
on the restored patronage relation as the defining feature of the polity.35o The
comparison with the 1967-77 period is acute; not only was the reporting in this period
347 Ostensibly it took at least a couple of years after the coup for the popular discourse to change as the
of common sense. not taken in the early of the .
. One may argue that thIS IS at least partIally because thIrd world radIcahsm has gradually subSIded.
However, it is clear that the 1967-77 period was one in which the popular media reflected a political
sentiment that pervaded the social formation.
349 The Pakistan Times, May 2, 1984.
350 Indeed the plethora of news items dedicated to statements or activities of individuals is striking. The
vast majority of these individuals perhaps represent political organizations, yet their identification is
less with their party and more with their person.
far less localized, there was also substantive commentary on competing political
ideologies, in particular, socialism.
Following from this it is possible to start outlining some of the crucial distinctions
between the politics of resistance and the politics of common sense. First the politics
of resistance is associated with ideologies of change such as the system that the PPP
packaged as 'Islamic socialism' .352 More specifically, the politics of resistance is
based on mobilization along class and ethno-nationallines to challenge oligarchic rule
and demand change in the composition and nature of the state. On the other hand the
politics of common sense is based on the acceptance of oligarchic rule and an attempt
to secure political and economic resources through direct or indirect access to the
state. In short the politics of common sense means to acquiesce to the patronage-based
rules of the game whereas the politics of resistance means a rejection of these
patronage-based rules and the privileging of more expansive, horizontal solidarities.
Wilder (1998) and later Waseem (2006) have documented how this shift from
expansive, ideological politics to localized and functional politics has taken place
since the 1970s. The process which both refer to as 'localisation', institutionalized in
the first instance through local body elections, actually marks a shift in the thrust of
popular politics away from confrontation with power towards implicit consent of the
power structure. Importantly 'a voter or voting group ... may vote for a local tribal or
biraderi leaders, giving the appearance that kinship ties are determining their
behaviour. The actual reason, however, is likely to be that the candidate, as a local
influential, is linked into the existing patronage network and is therefore able to
deliver patronage to supporters' (Wilder, 1998: 194).
As was discussed in Chapter 3, the centrality of the low bureaucracy to this process of
'localisation' cannot be understated. The fact that the subordinate classes have
acceded to 'common sense' in that they accept the prevailing rules of social exchange
351 There were even full-page write-ups on Latin American revolutionaries such as Che Guevara (lang,
July, 20, 1968). This is unthinkable in the present-day climate.
352 As discussed in previous chapters, the Islamist politics of resistance has propagated transformative
concepts such as the Nizam-e-Mustapha, or in more recent times, global jihad. However, this thesis
does not consider these variants to be genuinely committed to structural overhaul. For that matter, the
PPP's Islamic socialism morphed into a form of statism that ultimately that did not dismantle the
oligarchic power structure.
has much to do with the manner of their interactions with the low bureaucracy. If on
the one hand this interaction is personalised, on the other it can very quickly spiral
and become coercive and highly oppressive. In either case, it is fundamentally
unequal and its persistence reflects only that the subordinate classes remain at the
behest of the 'sarkar', and dominant social groups that the latter privileges.
The politics of common sense and the politics of resistance can therefore be seen as
two ends of a broad spectrum in the post-1960s political sphere and the political
action of the subordinate classes as dynamic and mutually interdependent on the
alignments of the dominant classes, oligarchy, and intermediate classes. At some level
this spectrum can be thought about as representing two contrasting visions of politics.
The first vision is far more idealist and epic, reflected in the popular memory of the
period which is associated with a sense of political 'awakening'. This vision
privileges collective interests and emphasises change in the social structure to secure
these interests. The second vision is highly pragmatic, even cynical, as it means
resigning oneself to the existing reality and maneuvering within it. Importantly one of
the overt features of this second vision is the 'vigorous popular condemnation of
politics as such' (Verkaaik, 2004: 8).
It is worth dwelling on this last point; this thesis has argued that the Ziaist project can
be considered a successful one insofar as the politics of common sense became the
dominant mode of political engagement across the social formation. There can be no
better indicator of this success than the fact that a large number of people across the
social formation - in my estimation the vast majority - consider politics to be a
cynical game in which they want no part. One might be tempted to argue that two
hundred years after the British attempted to create a 'non-political' model of
administration in India, the post-Bhutto historical bloc is succeeding like its
predecessors were unable to do.
Of course, the success of the Ziaist project is in the very fact that the general public
views itself as being outside the ambit of 'politics' and considers politics to be only
353 See Roy's (2004) very revealing discussion of the popular term sarkar in India, distinguishing sarkar
(government) from the public, implying not only the omnipotence of the state, but at the same time
emphasizing its paternalistic nature (mai baap).
the occasional realignments within the (continually expanding) historical bloc, as
opposed to a means through which the prevailing system of power itself may be
While it is true that the imagery of a people's politics has been badly
eroded, it is not at all true that society has been 'de-politicised' .355 In actual fact, the
politics of common sense has engulfed the entire social formation and characterizes
almost every relationship of social exchange. To this extent the system as it has been
described is hegemonic, especially since Islamic injunction has largely become a
tokenism invoked by all but having little to do with everyday social exchange. Yet as
will be shown presently, the subordinate classes still retain the ability to engage in a
politics that allows them to dissent within the confines of the oligarchic system while
retaining the option of rejecting it entirely.
An unspectacular politics of resistance
Scott's famous 'weapons of the weak' was a metaphor that underlined exactly how
clients engage in everyday acts of resistance to seek greater benefits from the
personalised relationship within which they find themselves. This idea has been
extended by Michel de Certeau' s (1988) understanding of what he calls 'tactics' -
those actions that allow the subordinate classes to secure small victories over their
oppressors without challenging the larger system of power within which they are
ensconced?57 It is important to consider this 'unspectacular politics ofresistance' for
two related reasons. First, it is crucial to underline that the subordinate classes always
have and will continue to engage in acts of resistance, even if such acts do not involve
threatening the prevailing structure of power per se. It is indubitably true that the
politics of resistance that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s - in the sense of a politics
that threatened the survival of the oligarchic system - was suppressed by the state and
354 It is not uncommon to hear the phrase' Meray sath syasat na karo' which effectively means to say
'Do not try and con me'. The actual translation ofthe Urdu phrase is 'Don't do politics with me'.
355 This is a common lament of the Pakistani intelligentsia. Zaidi (2005b) has a more sophisticated
understanding of the trajectory of politics in Pakistan in arguing that there is a very active tradition of
politics but this does not necessarily mean a democratic politics per se. This was borne out during
fieldwork - Pakistanis of all creeds tend to be very well updated on the latest political developments
and are constantly engaged in chatter about various aspects of politics whether at home, in the
workplace, or at a khoka (roadside tea stall). Yet the refrain that politics is the preserve of dominant
social forces remains intact.
356 The use of the term unspectacular owes itself to an unpublished manuscript of a lecture delivered by
SUdipta Kaviraj to the American Association of South Asian Studies in 2004.
357 More specifically, de Certeau suggests that the 'strategic' setting within which the subordinate
classes adopt 'tactics' of resistance is in fact the wider economic and political context which is
determined by dominant groups.
its allies. However, this does not mean that unspectacular acts of resistance were also
Second, there is a need to recognize that unspectacular act of resistance mayor may
not conform to the logic of patronage which has been outlined in this thesis as being
the founding stone of the politics of common sense. In other words, it is possible that
unspectacular acts of resistance are simply instances - in the sense that was suggested
earlier - of a client improving his or her bargaining position vis a vis the patron.
However, and more crucially for my purposes, it is always possible that unspectacular
acts of resistance - even if they do not necessarily represent major affronts to the
status quo in and of themselves - challenge the logic of patronage upon which the
politics of common sense is founded. In particular, the more significant acts of
unspectacular resistance are those that privilege some form of expansive collective
action as opposed to action towards individual gain?58 Insofar as this reinvigorates
within the subordinate classes a belief that there does exist a politics that represents
their interests and aspirations, this is a potentially invaluable component of counter-
Having said this, the everyday act of resistance should not and cannot be considered
akin to the politics of resistance to which the historical bloc reacted following the Zia
COUp?59 In particular, it is crucial to avoid the 'fetishising' of resistance that - as
mentioned in the introductory chapter - is the hallmark of post-structuralist analyses.
Everyday acts of resistance in and of themselves are little more than reflections of the
fact that the subordinate classes are on the wrong end of the oppressed-oppressor
relationship, although they do illustrate the fact that the oppressed are conscious of
their position. As already pointed out above, it is important to consider the political
action of the subordinate classes as dynamic and along a spectrum in which the
politics of resistance and the politics of common sense represent the two ends. This
allows the possibility of unspectacular acts of resistance continuing to persist even
when the politics of common sense is dominant.
358 In this case, expansive collective action does not mean any form of majoritarianism on the basis of
any parochial identity (such as caste, creed, religion, etc.).
359 Thus there are three separate categories of resistance that have been explored in this thesis, namely
the (bonafide) politics of resistance, the Islamist (pseudo) politics of resistance, and the unspectacular
politics of resistance.
Small and landless jarmers
It is reported that one of every two rural households in the country is now landless.
However, if one adds to the category of landless those that own upto 2.5 acres - or in
other words those who survive at barely subsistence levels - one accounts for more
than 70% of Pakistan's rural households (Gazdar, 2003). Moreover, there has been a
steady transformation of the agrarian structure in Pakistan such that traditional
sharetenancy relationships have been almost completely replaced by wage labour.
Additionally, very small landholders often have to supplement their income by
working as labour on other farms (cf Zaidi, 2005a). Very small and landless farmers
are therefore arguably the largest single component of the subordinate classes,
notwithstanding the vague estimates of those employed as workers in the highly
variegated urban informal sector.
My fieldwork on what Gazdar calls the 'land-poor' was focused in Okara and
Charsadda, both relatively rich, irrigated plain districts. In Okara, small landholders
are the norm, the vast majority of whom are descendants of the original canal
colonists that were given 25 acres of land in the second decade of the 20
In Charsadda, large landholdings are more common, but there has been a steady
process of fragmentation that has reduced land inequality to a limited extent. In both
Okara and Charsadda, popular movements of small and landless farmers have raged at
different times over the past 35 years.
The Okara villages I studied are broadly reflective of the ideal-type in the central
irrigated plains of Punjab in that the primary social distinction is between agricultural
and non-agricultural castes (zamindars and kammis). As discussed in the introductory
chapter and then again in Chapter 4, the British undertook a major social engineering
experiment in western Punjab on the basis of their perceptions about what constituted
360 Within the category of landless there are both wage labourers and sharecropping tenants. Both are
distinct from the increasingly large number of the rural landless who are involved in non-agricultural
361 Okara was part of the Lower Bari Doab colony. All of the canal colonists were originally given
short-term tenancies, but following riots in 1907 the policy of successive British, and following
partition in 1947, Pakistani regimes, was to eventually give occupancy tenants proprietary rights to the
land (cf Ali, 1988).
a stable social order, which, of course, was consistent with imperial objectives. While
it has been conclusively shown in preceding chapters that this social order has
changed qualitatively, fieldwork indicated that the divide between zamindars and
kammis remains an important one?62 Having said this, some non-agriculturalists have
been able to improve their social status by earning income from off-farm sources, but
nonetheless, distinction between caste groups remains intact, and is preserved
primarily by the practice of endogamy.
On the face of it then, political action of small and landless farmers tends to be
determined greatly by vertical identities, and primarily that of caste in the sense that
factions led presumably by powerful members of one caste or the other - Arains and
Rajputs are particularly conspicuous in Okara - are constituted largely of less affluent
members of the same caste?63 However, this apparent equilibrium cannot be
generalized in any meaningful way. In the first instance, during time spent in Okara
villages it became clear that electoral alignments are not necessarily a microcosm of
political alignments more generally. In other words, while it is common that caste
affiliation becomes more prominent at election time - both local body and
nationallprovincial- it is quite often the case that weaker caste members, particularly
smallholding and landless households, cannot rely on the same patron for every
problem they encounter.
In any case, Wilder's (1998) observation seems to be borne out in Okara, namely that
what appears to be alignment only on the basis of caste - or for that matter other such
ascriptive ties - is actually alignment with a patron that is able to effectively mediate
between the client and the state in matters of service provision, dispute resolution and
employment. This is proven by the fact that, for example, under the three-tiered local
362 In much the same way as is suggested by Gazdar (2003) in his study of villages in three Punjabi
districts, namely Attock, Hafizabad and Faisalabad, I found that 'significant cases of mobility have
occurred among the poorer segments of the traditional cultivators, while the traditional "non-
cultivators" continue to face social and economic disadvantage'. In those cases, like ours, the Arain
caste stands out as the primary example.
363 This corresponds to the factional model prevalent in Punjab villages outlined by Alavi (1971; 1972;
364 Indeed in many cases it was observed that small and landless farmers faced victimization -
particularly in terms of capture of land and/or other resources such as cattle - by more powerful
members of their own caste. In this case, the victimized party mayor may not tum to other members of
the caste to mediate or intervene on their behalf. In this case, recourse to patrons outside the village
with substantive political links of their own, including the arhti, traders, and transporters, remains a
little utilized option which suggests the resilience of well established politico-cultural institutions.
government system currently in place, the elected councilors at the union council (i.e.
the lowest) level, even where they are largely dependent on caste to secure support,
ally themselves with individuals and factions not only on the basis of their caste
affiliation but on the basis of their caste identities and their ability to distribute
In any case, there is no hard and fast rule vis a vis caste necessarily
dictating political alignments, even though it can playa significant role.
For the most part, the political choices of small and landless farmers reflect their
understanding of the existing patronage-based system, in the sense that they tend to be
risk-averse and affiliate themselves with patrons in a manner broadly consistent with
the framework delineated by Khan (2000). This may mean, as was suggested in the
previous chapter, aligning with patrons that are considered to be exploitative. 366
Importantly however, it is common for small and landless farmers to embroil
themselves in matters of the thana and katcheri - or what the colonial administrator
Darling called 'addiction to litigation' (Chaudhary, 1999: 26). For example, disputes
over land between biraderi members - and even brothers - are widespread, often over
a trivially small piece of land. Such disputes almost inevitably result in the two (or
more) parties engaging the state.
Without resorting to cultural essentialism to explain this 'addiction' it is clear that
there does exist a long tradition within the Punjab of the subordinate classes invoking
the legal and policing institutions of the state, often a counter-productive exercise in
the sense that the litigant and the defendant both incur huge costs and are often
subject to major time lags in the processing of the case.
However, as
anthropological studies point out, the desire to protect izzat - which is often
considered synonymous with reducing the enemy's izzat - explains many such actions
that might otherwise be avoided (cf Chaudhary, 1999; Lyon, 2002; Nelson, 2008). In
effect, the addiction to litigation is a crucial component of the politics of common
365 So for example, the district nazim of Okara is a Syed, but his faction of tehsil and union council
level supporters includes Arains, Rajputs, Jats and other caste leaders. It is in the electoral realm that
the intermediate classes also become much more prominent actors in the political universe of the small
and landless farmer.
366 This refers specifically to possible intermediaries aside from traditional landed and caste notables
including arhtis and other members of the intermediate classes.
367 Importantly, both in Okara and Charsadda, lawyers hired in such cases admit to the fact their role is
rather like that of a parasitic middleman and reflects the fact that the formal legal code remains
cumbersome and in the worst case, illegible to the subordinate classes.
sense insofar as those who are often victims of state excess themselves invoke the
state, thereby granting its legal and policing functions legitimacy.
As such, those in the Okara villages that remember the heady politicization of the late
1960s and 1970s point out that the 'addiction to litigation' was considerably lessened
as mobilization along class lines overrode pre-existing vertical political alignments.
More recently, during a mobilization of 19 villages of state-owned land in Okara
against the imposition of new tenure system, not only was there considerable unity
forged across zamindar and kammi castes against the military administration that was
considered a common oppressor but there was also a dramatic decline in litigation by
farmers against one another.
Importantly, once the mobilization successfully
warded off what the residents of the villages perceived to be an attempt to evict them,
not only did traditional caste divisions re-emerge, there was also a gradual increase in
land-related and other disputes which meant a resumption of the subordinate classes'
engagement with the state as dependent clients.
Crucially, the political action of small and landless farmers in Okara from the
mobilizations of the 1960s and 1970s to those that took place between 2000 and 2004
can be explained systematically. The first mobilizations reflected the dramatic change
in the political universe that Jones talks about due to which small and landless farmers
recognized the possibility of actually pressing for a fundamental reconfiguration of
the relationship between themselves, the historic intermediaries and the state. This
politicization ensured that even after the end of the populist period, small and landless
farmers would align politically with the faction most likely to provide benefits of
some kind rather than simply pledge allegiance to caste, biraderi or any other
ascriptive relation.
Thus the politics of common sense may have been established, and was hegemonic
insofar as the alternatives for small and landless farmers to mobilize on horizontal and
expansive lines were limited.
However, not only was there regular recourse to
368 For a detailed analysis of this mobilization, its genesis and its outcome see Akhtar (2006b).
369 This is a crucial point - as pointed out on numerous occasions already, the politics of common sense
is based as much on repression of oppositional politics as it is on institutionalizing a culture of
unspectacular acts of resistance
, the prospect of class-based action remained
intact. 371 The fact that there was no major example of the politics of resistance in the
intervening period speaks to the success of the state and dominant classes in
preventing the reemergence of class-based organizations within small and landless
farmers and the attendant inculcation within them of the 'justifiable perception that
class action to change society is unlikely to succeed unless a very significant degree
of class unity was to emerge' (Khan, 2000: 578). As time passed then, the politics of
common sense became more and more entrenched.
Nevertheless, largely in response to the threat of eviction, a collective consciousness
that transcended the fragmentary nature of the politics of common sense did not take
long to crystallize. This politics of resistance was expansive, bridging the divide
across caste and religion
, emphasizing ideas of freedom and self-determination as
opposed to functionally stressing economic gain, and ultimately challenged the
mandate of the state to dictate the 'greater national interest'. That this relatively
prolonged flirtation with the politics of resistance once again gave way to the politics
of common sense after the threat of eviction was dispelled speaks to the fact that the
wider political environment was repressive and indeed to the highly dynamic nature
of subordinate class action.
Importantly, the Islamist politics of resistance was conspicuous by its absence in this
particular case, even though it was one of the most prominent popular movements in
the recent past. In the initial period following the emergence of the movement, the
Kissan Board - a wing of the 11 - engaged with the rebelling farmers, but once it
became clear that the movement was radicalizing rapidly, and in particular that it was
moving towards a head-on collision with the military, the Kissan Board very quickly
departed the scene.
370 Among such acts recounted to the author are collective absconding from rentlharvest payments and
social boycott of local influentials.
371 My interviews with farmers involved in the recent mobilizations suggest that the popular memory of
the period of politicization in the late 1960s and 1970s was a great motivating factor.
372 In Okara, as in much of Punjab, Christians are low-caste menials and remain more alienated than
Muslim Iwmmis. During the mobilization between 2000-4, the Christian-Muslim divide, although latent,
was dramatically bridged.
Charsadda is different from Okara in two fundamental ways. First, landholdings are
distributed much more unevenly, and second, the state is far less deeply entrenched
into everyday social exchange. To begin with, historically rooted social hierarchies in
Pakhtun society, while displaying similarities to those in the Punjab and Sindh, are
also considerably different. The tribal social order was famously described by
Lindholm (1981) as being more akin to Arab patterns of social organization than it
was to that of the Indus or Gangetic plains of the subcontinent. The substantive
differences derive from the code of Pakhtunwali which stresses revenge, refuge and
the offering of hospitality.
However, among the important similiarities is the fact that endogamous Pakhtun
tribes are often occupationally identified. In other words landholding tribes are
distinguished from non-landholding tribes, although importantly it is not always the
case that the same tribe will historically be associated with the same occupational
status in two different locales.
In Charsadda, the main landholding tribe is the
Muhammadzai, and both the larger and smaller landowners hail primarily from it. The
significant landless population which has historically worked as sharecropping tenants
and more recently wage labour on Muhammadzai land is from the Mohmand tribe.
Importantly this social order is also a relatively recent product of colonial rule and the
creation of a hydraulic society. When large-scale irrigation systems were set up in the
Peshawar Valley, tribes such as the Muhammadzai were endowed with proprietary
rights under the new British legal code (Rittenburg, 1988).374 To till the lands, the
British encouraged migration from the adjacent Mohmand tribal agency. The majority
of Mohmand farmers in Charsadda even today maintain homes in the mountain range
that separates the tribal agency from the settled Charsadda district.
373 Importantly, there is also always a distinction between members of the tribe in terms ofland
ownership; some members of landowning tribes may even be landless on account of typical factors
such as fragmentation of holdings over the span of generations. More generally, Pakhtun tribes
distinguish themselves from non-Pakhtuns such as the Gujjars, and this faultline still remains intact in
districts such as Mansehra. However, in Charsadda, differentiation within Pakhtuns started to become
more significant with the commercialization of agriculture under the British.
374 It is important to remember that the NWFP was not accorded the status of a separate administrative
province until 1928. Till this time the settled Peshawar Valley was part of British Punjab which meant
that the infamous Punjab Alienation of Land Act 1901 applied to it. In other words the formal
distinction between agricultural and non-agricultural castes was enforced here as it was in the Punjab.
In Charsadda then the primary contradiction is between landowning Muhammadzais
and the landless Mohmands.
There is a long history of conflict between the landed
and landless classes in the areas. In fact Charsadda is the heartland of the historic
Hashtanagar peasant movement that emerged in 1970.
This movement pitted the
landless (both tenant farmers and labourers) against the large landowners whose farms
the former tilled. In this conflict the small landowners played an ambivalent yet
crucial role, vascillating between support for the landless farmers along horizontal,
class lines and support for the large landowners on vertical, tribal lines.
The Hashtanagar movement was arguably the biggest peasant movement in the
country during the late 1960s and 1970s, and generated substantial support from
radical political groups across the country.377 It was therefore one of the more obvious
symbols of the politics of resistance, not least because some of the landowners who
were targeted in the movement were prominent state functionaries and politicians.
The movement was largely successful in not only ending the system of begar or what
was effectively a system of semi-serfdom but also in allowing tenants to permanently
occupy land and transform the power relations within the valley. For the most part the
land occupation has remained intact in spite of regular attempts by the state and
landlords to retake the land as well as numerous decisions of the superior courts
against the tenants.
Importantly the Hashtanagar movement was spearheaded by the Mazdoor Kissan
Party (Workers and Peasants Party) which attempted, with some success, to extend
the scope of the movement beyond the immediate economistic objective of capturing
land to a broader conception of revolutionizing state and society. Thus there is a
considerable difference in the evolved attitudes and understanding of the state among
375 In addition all agriculturalists, and small and landless farmers in particular, are also coming into
increasing contradiction with the intermediate classes.
376 Hashtanagar refers to an area that spans three districts, namely Mardan, Peshawar and Charsadda.
For more information on the Hashtanagar movement, see Laghari (1979: 213-222).
377 One of the slogans commonly heard at rallies across the country when the Hashtanagar movement
was at its peak went: 'Tera nagar, mera nagar, Hashtanagar, Hashtanagar'. Literally: Your nagar, my
nagar, Hashtanagar, Hashtanagar.
378 Among those whose land was occupied by the tenants were Sartaj Aziz, later to become Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Finance under Nawaz Sharif, as well as the Inspector General of Police under
Bhutto, Shafiullah Khan.
the small and landless farmers in Charsadda as opposed to in Okara, the former
clearly maintaining a more confrontational and principled stance over time.
Nevertheless, in the years following the success of the Hashtanagar movement, the
politics of common sense has made inroads into the local social formation as it has
done across the country. First and foremost, there are the social changes engendered
by commercialization of agriculture which has exposed small and landless farmers to
the rigours of capital (and the intermediate classes), providing some of them
opportunities for upward social mobility while subjecting the vast majority to the
atomistic logic of the market. 379 Furthermore, the historical modes of engagement
within the tribal social order have continued to compete with the collective
consciousness generated by the struggles of the early 1970s.
Tribal affiliation remains central to social life. Thus small farmers from the
Muhammadzai tribe remain ambivalent towards the Mohmands, even though their
class interests clearly converge more than with those of the landed Muhammadzais.
This ambivalence is reflected in the fact that small farmers are sometimes complicit
with the state in attempts to evict Mohmands from occupied lands. Having said that,
there is evidence of conflict and competition within the Mohmands as well, largely
because some Mohmands have secured opportunities for upward social mobility
through outside employment (often with the state).380 This means that tribal affiliation
is just as likely to be eroded as it is to remain central to social exchange.
Be that as it may, it is clear that the symbiotic relationship between tribe and class in
Hashtanagar was a major factor in the emergence of a politics of resistance in the area
and the fact that the politics of common sense has penetrated less deeply than in, say,
Okara. This also brings into focus the historical role of the state in Charsadda. More
generally within the Pakhtun areas the state has been invoked less than in colonial and
379 Migration of working-age males is not uncommon in Charsadda - almost every family with which I
came into contact had at least one male member of the household working either in Rawalpindi,
Peshawar, Karachi or in one of the Gulf states.
380 It was observed that in cases where landless Mohmands have been able to purchase land through
money earned elsewhere, they have distanced themselves somewhat from their kinsmen during periods
of confrontation.
post-colonial Punjab, primarily because of the resilience of Pakhtunwali?81 Thus the
state has been far less a factor in the popular imagination and accordingly it has not
secured as hegemonic a status as it has done in Punjab or Sindh.
Indeed it has been
in the Pakhtun areas of Pakistan that both the colonial and post-colonial states have
historically experienced the most opposition (cf Ahmed, 1986).
That having been said the thana and katcheri culture does exist and the subordinate
classes typically suffer the brunt of this culture. More generally, there has been
increased engagement with the state over time, at least partially because the state
remains the major source of livelihood outside agriculture. Thus many from within
the subordinate classes have become part of the low bureaucracy and alongside
migration and the marketisation of the agrarian economy, this largely explains the
encroachment of the politics of common sense into the local social formation.
Crucially, the politics of resistance comes to the fore during the periodic attempts by
the state and displaced landlords to clear occupied lands. In this way, the logic of
subordinate class action is similar to that of Okara, namely that when the state's
clearly oppressive face is exposed and the more insidious mechanism of garnering
consent is relegated to the background, the subordinate classes' natural instinct is to
resist, which necessarily engenders a challenge to internal social hierarchies as well.
In this case too, there has not been an Islamist politics of resistance of note. While the
religio-political movements have much more of a presence in Charsadda than any of
the other fieldwork sites, they have never been more than marginally involved in the
struggle of Hashtanagar farmers. Their rhetoric is limited to suggestions that peace
and justice will prevail under an 'Islamic' state, while in practice they tend to stay
clear of any major class conflicts such as that of Hashtangar farmers. In any case,
since 2002, the religio-political movements have been in government and therefore
directly opposed to the land-occupying farmers.
381 In any case, it was a deliberate policy of the colonial state - and by extension its post-colonial
successor - to allow the Pakhtuns relative autonomy in their internal affairs so long as they abided by
the larger defence imperatives of the Raj. This policy was more explicit in the non-settled areas but its
overtones nevertheless resonated in the settled districts as well.
382 In Charsadda, the state is thought of in far less imposing terms than in Okara or Badin. Indeed the
term sarkar is not used, most people using the standard Arabic term, hukoomat.
Subsistence fisheifolk
The dramatically magnified political action of subsistence fishing communities over
the past three or four decades has largely been a function of the corporatisation of
fisheries as a whole. As discussed in the previous chapter, although contractors did
exist prior to the 1960s, the subsistence needs of fishing communities were far less
vulnerable to the vagaries of the market, while the number of communities dependent
on small-scale fishing was also relatively small. This effectively meant only limited
contact with the state, particularly on the Badin coast, and relative cultural autonomy
as well. Importantly, there was no 'traditionally' dominant group that lorded over
smaller fisherfolk.
Thus, the historical narrative of political action in the case of the fishing communities
of Sindh has been somewhat different from agrarian communities in Punjab and
NWFP. Having said this, the politicization of the 1970s on the fishing communities
was similar to that of small and landless farmers across the country. On the one hand
this can be explained by the affection felt by Sindhi fisherfolk for their Sindhi hero,
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a sentiment that extended across the Sindhi social formation.
More specific to fisherfolk was the announcement made by the PPP government that
it was abolishing the contract system in fisheries and introducing a licensing
mechanism in which priority would be given to those with historically established
rights to Sindh's water bodies. This announcement did not materialize into an
enforced policy, but it nevertheless mobilized coastal fishing communities into the
mainstream political sphere.
Largely because of the rather scattered nature of fishing goths (villages) there was no
meaningful resistance to the increasingly ruthless imperatives of the market until quite
recently. To the extent that a social hierarchy exists within the diverse clan groups
that have corne to constitute fishing communities, this also acted as an impediment to
resistance as it was infact the self-appointed or hereditary heads of clans that often
became middlemen or established direct links with them.
In some ways, the 'shift'
383 It was pointed out in the previous chapter that the traditional fishing caste, the mallahs, no longer
constitutes the majority of subsistence fishing communities. In some ways, those clans who have taken
to fishing have adopted the social organization of the mallahs in the sense that there are no rigid social
hierarchies within a prototypical fishing goth, and the primary distinction is between extended
patrilineal lineage groups, or more commonly, nuclear families.
from interior to exterior political affiliations is more obvious in the case of the
fisherfolk in the sense that prior to the 1960s there was very little political
engagement beyond the goth. As far as the spectrum of political action of fishing
communities is concerned, the current phase of resistance appears to represent a
fundamental break from the politics of common sense which has evolved coevally
with the commercialization of the sector.
Crucially however, the impetus for the politics of resistance between 2003-6 derived
from Karachi where fishing communities are spatially concentrated in large
settlements such as Ibrahim Hyderi and where collective organizing efforts clearly
have a greater political impact. In response to various market-driven threats to the
livelihood of fishing communities, organized resistance in the form of civil
disobedience and other forms of mass mobilization in Karachi encouraged similar
forms of organization in Badin (and for that matter in Thatta, Sanghar and
Hyderabad).384 In essence, the contract system was targeted as it was the single-
biggest cause of both ecological degradation and exploitation of the fishing
Nonetheless it is important to point out that there is a real possibility that organized
resistance would not have taken place but for the presence of Rangers forces within
the contracting process, as discussed in the last chapter. One the one hand the Rangers
are a relatively alien force in a heavily personalised system of extraction and the
direct threat of state coercion necessarily meant greater exploitation and thus,
resentment. Furthermore, the Rangers forces all happen to be non-Sindhi and
primarily Punjabi at that: Sindhis have long protested against what they perceive to be
the systematic resource and power grabbing antics of Punjabis and Urdu-speaking
Muhajirs. Thus an exploitative yet familiar system of resource extraction which had
become part of the local fishing communities' common sense became subject to
384 This mobilization was spearheaded by a locally organized outfit named Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.
Evidently the popularization of various 'rights' discourses by foreign-funded non-governmental
organizations (NOOs) facilitated the emergence of the PFF. However, the leadership of the PFF hails
exclusively from within the fishing community and many within the leadership have been associated
with radical ethno-nationalist political parties such as the Awami Tehrik and National Awami Party.
385 There were, and remain, other major issues around which the fisherfolk have mobilized, induding
but not limited to corporate trawling, the use of destructive nets and the arrests of fisherfolk by Indian
border authorities.
resistance on account of the impersonal and coercive element introduced into it. 386
The external impetus notwithstanding, this is yet another example of the dynamism of
subordinate class action.
Having said this, it is important to contextualize this particular manifestation of
resistance. The ability of the coastal fishing communities to put an end to what was
effectively organized extortion by state functionaries should not be overstated. The
contract system still remains in place, even if in a less exploitative form than when the
Rangers were privy to it. The general trend of commercialization has not been halted
to any meaningful degree and the logic of patronage is still well entrenched.
Nevertheless, as objective conditions become more oppressive, the prospect that
resistance can be fomented is no longer a distant one, as proven by the example of
struggle against the Rangers-dominated contract system.
Katchi abadi dwellers
While there are no authoritative figures on the numbers of katchi abadi dwellers in
Pakistan's urban areas, the approximate figure of 35% of all urban residents is often
floated (cfHasan, 2002b). This amounts, at the very least, to something like 20-25
million people across the country. This enormous segment of the urban population is
actually quite diverse sociologically in the sense that within katchi abadis one will
find white-collar professionals including government employees and members of the
intermediate classes alongwith wage labourers and domestic servants. Nonetheless the
majority of katchi abadi dwellers are those who genuinely have no other arrangement
for shelter and fall within the broad rubric of the subordinate classes.
A short sketch of the nature of katchi abadi formation is crucial as it sheds more light
on the informal processes through which the state retains power within the social
formation. Katchi abadis are effectively the product of an informal housing market in
which state functionaries, middlemen and the subordinate classes are agents. In the
absence of affordable housing in cities for migrants from rural areas, and increasingly
the rapidly growing low-income population within cities, middlemen and state
386 Importantly other social and political groups in the Badin area also supported the fisherfolk
movement against the Rangers.
387 Katchi abadis is loosely translated as informal squatter settlements, the majority of which are
located on government land.
functionaries invite those in need of shelter to set up their homes on unoccupied
public land - obviously not as a matter of formal policy.388 The squatters do not free
ride by any means - they pay for the land as well as unofficial sources of electricity
and other basic amenities that are provided to them by state functionaries. Katchi
abadi dwellers even 'buy' and 'sell' their plots, even though they have no formal title
to the land.
If and when the state requires the land on which katchi abadis are built, summary
evictions take place. Thus katchi abadi dwellers constantly live without security of
tenure which explains their engagements with the state. In particular, katchi abadi
dwellers seek out patrons who provide favourable access to the state, and are often
themselves ensconced in patron-client relationships with members of the low
bureaucracy so as to secure legal recognition through regularization or at the very
least to ward off eviction for the foreseeable future.
Importantly, katchi abadis are
also a favourite of both military rulers and politicians, the former because the
announcement of immediate conferment of proprietary rights to katchi abadi dwellers
helps to generate popular legitimacy and the latter because katchi abadi dwellers tend
to be amongst the most active voting constituencies in urban areas. In both cases, the
form of political engagement is entirely patronage-based.
However, as with all the other examples presented here, the politics of common sense
is largely influenced by the politics of resistance that preceded it, and this is the major
explanation for the sporadic resorts to resistance that continue to take place to this day.
According to one of the founding members of the PPP and minister of finance until
1975, Mubashir Hasan, the mobilization of katchi abadi dwellers from the late 1960s
through the PPP's time in power represented a genuine political movement for change,
388 In the immediate post-partition period, land was available in many parts of the city and thus many
katchi abadis developed in and around city centers. In the current period land has become much more
scarce and katchi abadis are now springing up on natural drains, physically depressed pieces ofland,
and the outskirts of the city.
389 Many municipal and development authorities have katchi abadi cells, including the Capital
Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad. The Punjab government has a department dedicated to
katchi abadis headed by a Director-General, while Sindh boasts the highest level of institutionalization
in the form of the Sindh Katchi abadis Authority (SKAA). It is the members of these departments,
alongwith functionaries of the encroachment cells that generate the most benefits from their
interactions with katchi abadi dwellers.
encapsulated in the slogan 'Roti, Kapra aur Makan,.390 In other words the emphasis
was on a holistic political programme in which the state was endowed with the
responsibility to provide basic needs such as food, clothing and housing to the people.
While the PPP government did honour its pledge to some extent, the state remained
committed to the ideology and practice of national security rather than being
transformed into a social welfare state. Thus, according to Mubashir Hasan, the
tendency of successive governments after that of the PPP to engage in rhetoric of
proprietary rights to katchi abadi dwellers, and the intense patronage-politics that this
perceived 'state largesse' has given rise to, must be understood in the context of the
politicization that took place through the 1970s in the sense that the political universe
of katchi abadi dwellers was forever changed and this compelled the state to coopt the
language of rights and entitlements.
This also helps explain the fact that mobilization of katchi abadi dwellers to demand
their rights rather than engage in the politics of common sense continues to take place
- however sporadically - to this day.391 However, such episodes are typically isolated
and do not reflect any meaningful shift back to a consistent politics of resistance. The
politics of resistance amongst katchi abadi dwellers uptil three decades ago was
founded upon the unity of class interests. However, not only has the composition of
katchi abadis become much more varied - largely because of the uneven patterns of
upward social mobility that have been discussed earlier - but the politics of patronage
has effectively created divisions within katchi abadi dwellers along a host of lines?92
While the sporadic episodes of katchi abadi mobilization are yet another
demonstration of the dynamic nature of the subordinate class action and the fact that
counter-hegemonic ideas remain a threat to the historical bloc, their erratic nature also
indicates that, for the time being, hegemony is not in danger of unraveling.
390 Literally: food, clothing and shelter.
391 Autonomous organizations of katchi abadi dwellers do exist, and it is through this medium that
meaningful mobilizations take place. Examples include the All-Pakistan Alliance for Katchi abadis and
Awami Rehaishi Tanzeem (People's Shelter Organisation). However, the fact that katchi abadi dwellers
themselves tend not to transcend the discourse of 'legality' ultimately translates into a privileging of
common sense politics.
392 Importantly, ascriptive ties appear to be less salient in katchi abadis than at other research sites.
Patronage tends to be distributed not along the lines of any particular social identity but rather reflects
historically developed links between factions within katchi abadis (organized along party and trade
union lines for example) and politicians/state functionaries. There is one major faultline within katchi
abadis however, namely religion. Menial caste Christians who typically take up cleaning jobs in
government departments or elite homes live in katchi abadis in big numbers, and their highly depressed
social status explains their regular search for powerful patrons.
The urban underclass
As explicitly stated in the previous chapter, it is the urban informal workforce that is
the most overtly exploited of all segments of the subordinate classes, and importantly,
the primary explanation for this seems to be that it is within the urban informal sector
that the most unbridled effects of Pakistani capitalism have been manifest. Other
segments of the subordinate classes discussed above still have recourse to historically
evolved networks of security, regardless of how much these networks have also been
eroded by the universalizing tendency of capita1.
Urban informal sector workers
however are effectively a 'new' social category in that flexibilisation and
fragmentation, as the two major elements of the neo-liberal phase of accumulation
that started in the mid-late 1970s, have given rise to entirely new forms of
organization and exploitation (cf Harvey, 1992).
As discussed in the previous chapter, this is reflected in the informal workshops of
Sialkot and Faisalabad as well as the sub-contracting system more generally. Such
working arrangements make organizing at the workplace very difficult. 394 I
encountered one major example of resistance amidst this highly oppressive
environment, namely amongst powerlooms operators in Faisalabad. The Labour
Qaumi Movement was organized not by workers however, but by external actors who
were related to the workers and came together to articulate their concerns. They
engaged in a series of extremely visible protest actions, including sit-ins. This resulted
in direct confrontation with the local administration and the arrests of a handful of the
leadership. These tactics did gamer a response from powerloom owners in the form of
slightly improved wages and registration with the Labour Department, however, the
relationship between the leadership of the organization and the workers appeared very
patronage-based, and there does not appear to be any major progress in either
393 The agricultural wage labourer is arguably just as vulnerable to the dictates of the market as the
urban informal sector worker, but to a large degree the rural social formation is still less atomized than
the city.
394 As discussed in the previous chapter, even registered trade unions in this sector tend to be proxies
for contractors.
expanding the bases of the organization's support or towards a qualitatively different
politics following the initial mobilization.
Importantly, the urban informal workforce does not have recourse to any popular
memory of the politics of resistance as is the case with other segments of the
subordinate classes. On the one hand, the organized trade union movement of the
1960s and 1970s was concentrated within the large public sector enterprises including
Railways and the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). To the extent
that workers of private industries experienced radicalization, the fragmentation of
industry has put paid to any regeneration of such radicalism on the basis of collective
memory and space. This is not to suggest that organization of the urban informal
workforce is impossible, but to point out that both objective changes in the economic
structure, as well as the decline of worker's organizations explain the situation today.
In this sector there appears to be the most acute sense that intermediate class
employers are 'doing a favour' for workers. In other words there is a unique dialectic
in operation; on the one hand there is the impersonalism of the market and the fact
that historically rooted social networks that could provide some security are not
operative, or at least weak; on the other hand the personalised nature of the
relationship between the worker and the thekedaar seems to inhibit resistance against
the exploitative system, whether because the worker perceives the thekedaar to be
'gracing' him with a job or because he feels he cannot afford to antagonize his patron.
This feeling is heightened by the immense surplus pool of labour which makes any
informally hired employee's position highly tenuous. Finally, the fact that there is a
high percentage of adolescents and even children working in the sector also militates
against organization and the politics of resistance.
A note on ethno-nationalism
For the most part this thesis has depicted the politics of resistance of the 1960s and
1960s as one based on an ideology of class. However I have hinted all along that
ethno-nationalism has also been a major faultline of resistance, and has arguably
395 Indeed, many of the LQM leadership contested local body elections in 2005 on the basis of their
support of powerlooms workers. Having created a space for themselves within local politics following
the initial mobilization, the leadership seems to be thriving on thana and katcheri politics.
persisted in some shape of form long after populism was crushed by the Zia regime.
While it is impossible to comment exhaustively on the politics of ethno-nationalism
both as a form of resistance and more generally, it is necessary to make some
observations. In particular, given the prominence of the idiom of ethno-nationalism in
Pakistani politics, it is important to consider exactly why this brand of politics has
been so resilient and to what extent it remains a bastion of resistance.
As has been documented by numerous theorists, the nationalist idiom in Pakistani
politics derives from the peculiarities of state formation, including but not limited to
the fact that power in the new state was wielded primarily by two ethnic groups (cf
Alavi, 1991 a; Ahmed, 1998). By this argument the politics of ethno-nationalism
effectively reflects the interests of the educated salariat and can be coopted if a
significant enough segment of the salariat is inducted into the administrative
apparatus and garners a share in power and resources more generally.396 The
discussion in the Pakistani context is no doubt based on the modernist view of
nationalism insofar as ethno-nationalism is directly correlated with the extent to
which insular groups are considered to be committed to political mobilization to
secure an adequate share in state power and the economy.397 This perspective is
clearly inadequate in part because the immense differentiation that has taken place
over the past few decades has ensured that ethno-national groups are no longer as
distinct a political entity as they may have been in the past. For example, Karachi (as
opposed to Peshawar) is home to the biggest Pakhtun population in Pakistan and, as
was shown in the previous chapter, it is Pakhtuns that virtually control the burgeoning
transport industry. Having said that, the Siraiki, Sindhi and Baloch ethno-national
groups definitively remain excluded from power and resource sharing, which explains
the persistence of their demands for inclusion.
However, these movements are also fundamentally concerned with the question of
demography in that the Baloch, Sindhis and Siraikis have all been reduced to the
status of minorities in the territorial regions that they have historically inhabited. This
396 Indeed this is the argument forwarded by Ahmed (1998) to explain the de-radicalisation of the
Pakhtun ethno-national movement since its anti-centre beginnings at partition.
397 The larger debate on modem ethno-nationalism revolves around two competing explanations for the
phenomenon, namely the modernist and perennial views. See Smith (1998) and Anderson (1996) for
the most incisive summaries of the larger debate.
speaks to their larger concern over rapidly eroding cultural autonomy, including the
displacement of a historically rooted oral culture of poetry and story-telling which
remains a feature of the Indus Plains?98 There is little doubt that Punjabis and Urdu-
speakers are viewed with great mistrust by excluded ethno-national groups - and not
only the salariat - because of both material and cultural domination. Thus the
modernist perspective is insufficient in explaining the continuing salience of ethno-
nationalism on Pakistan's political landscape.
This once again raises the question of the extent to which the ideologies of national
security and official Islam have been successfully inculcated across the social
formation. More specifically, the state initially built its hegemonic project around a
pliant social order in Punjab - following from its colonial predecessor - and has
managed to sustain the configuration of power at least partially because Punjab
continues to be the seat of political and economic power. On the other hand, the
excluded ethno-national groups - which the Muhajirs of urban Sindh since the mid-
1980s have also claimed to be - have quite consistently disputed the state mandate,
and continue to do so even now.
Be that as it may, the politics of ethno-nationalism that was a pillar of resistance in the
late 1960s and 1970s - to a significant extent because of its symbiotic relationship
with the politics of class in Punjab - has suffered a distinct decline over time. On the
one hand, insofar as ethno-national politics is a politics of identity, it has increasingly
been forced to compete with other forms of identity politics, most obviously, Islam. A
related point is that ethno-national forces were victimized under the Zia regime
alongside the other major protagonists of the politics of resistance.
The National
Awami Party (NAP) for example, a broad front of ethno-nationalists and leftists of
various denomination and arguably Pakistan's most popular party before the rise of
the PPP, was subject to fragmentation and in-fighting, at least partially because of
398 Interviews with Ahsan Wagha, Jami Chandio. The intense desire to protect cultural autonomy is
also manifest in the fact that amongst all of Pakistan's ethno-national groups, the Sindhis alone have
also maintained a vibrant press.
399 There was also the parallel process of cooption operative. Intriguingly, Zia pardoned Baloch
nationalist leaders victimized during the Bhutto period, most of them choosing self-exile. On the other
hand Sindhi nationalism underlay the fiercest challenge to the Zia regime under the auspices of the
MRD that peaked in rural Sindh in 1983. This movement was crushed by a typically brutal display of
state power.
state repression.
Whereas the NAP represented virtually all of Pakistan's excluded
ethno-national groups, since the 1980s, Sindhis, Siraikis, Pakhtuns and Baloch have
all constituted separate political parties to articulate their politics.
Like the PPP, most of these smaller ethno-national parties have acceded to the politics
of common sense, as was most evident in Charsadda, the historic stronghold of the
While in their public discourse the ethno-nationalist parties consistently
argue for the need to restructure the unitary state, including the need for a new
constitution, practically they seem to be most concerned with access to the existing
state, which is the principal demand of their constituents.
In any case, it is worth
bearing in mind that the fact that all these parties are regionalist rather than national
also prevents them from being able to articulate a politics that combines the idiom of
class and ethno-nationalism, as was the case with popular parties in the past.
while the idiom of ethno-nationalism remains prominent, as it likely will for the
foreseeable future, it is unlikely to form the basis of an expansive politics of
resistance. On the other hand a rejuvenation of the symbiotic relationship between
class and excluded ethno-national groups is both necessary and sufficient to transcend
the politics of common sense.
Agency VS. structure
In the final analysis, the political action of the subordinate classes must be thought
about with reference to Marx's famous - some might say notorious - Preface to a
Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: 'In the social production of their
life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their
will' (italics added). Without delving into entirely unhelpful debates about economic
400 Importantly the NAP had a presence in both wings whereas the PPP was exclusively based in the
western wing of the country.
401 In the late 1990s, a front of many such parties named the Oppressed Nationalities Movement
(PONM) was formed, but enjoys nothing like the widespread popularity that the NAP once did.
402 The NAP was the successor to the famous Khudai Khidmatgar movement of Khan Abdul Ghaffar
Khan that represented the Pakhtun challenge to Pakistani nationalism in the chaotic last years of the
Raj. Ghaffar Khan's grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan is the current head of the Awami National Party
403 Having said this, the parallel dissenting discourse has never been successfully eliminated or coopted
by the state.
404 In particular their strident anti-Punjab rhetoric precludes their building alliances with progressive
political forces in Punjab. That having been said, ethno-nationalist demands, such as those for
provincial autonomy have typically garnered support from progressive political forces (cf Laghari,
determinism, it must be clearly stated that social beings do not exist in an
indeterminate context, or, for the purposes of this chapter, that the subordinate classes
take political action given the structural forces that that they encounter. Thus there can
be no indictment of the subordinate classes for consciously immersing themselves in
the politics of common sense because they are not, as such, willingly ceding to social
exchanges that are cynical and oppressive. They are instead recognizing the real
constraints that they face, whether the threat of naked coercion, or the possibility of
losing what little security they enjoy.
This conception is consistent with Thompson's assertion that class is not a fixed
objective category that magically appears and plays out its role while history proceeds
as a teleological stage production. Instead class is a lived experience and the
development of consciousness of class, or for that matter any other such expression of
solidarity, must be understood in every separate context in its own right. Thus, even
as the state and dominant classes impose structural violence upon the subordinate
classes, if and when the subjective will to resist or revolt is generated, class becomes
an operative category insofar as it becomes the primary identification for political
action. It has been shown above that this subjective will was generated at a particular
conjuncture, namely in the late 1960s both as a result of structural changes and the
unique social experiences that evolved coevally with such changes. This period
marked a definitive change in the political experience of the subordinate classes, and
even though the specific challenge to oligarchic rule that emerged in the decade or so
between 1967-77 was eliminated, this chapter has attempted to show that the threat of
counter-hegemonic subordinate class action remains intact.
In this regard it is worth bearing in mind the underlying theme that persists through all
of the above-mentioned examples of subordinate class action, namely that class
emerges as a shared experience typically in response to overt attacks by the state and
dominant classes. Thus, in Gramscian terms, the use of coercive force alone actually
undermines the hegemonic system. It is for this reason that the state and its allies have
attempted to institutionalize the politics of common sense by robbing politics of its
potentially revolutionary meaning, whilst also inculcating a certain cynicism within
the wider social formation, Islam acting as the ultimate demobilisational tool.
But this hegemonic project has also been directed by the objective structural changes
that have continued to shape the evolving social order. The deepening of capitalism
and the newer forms of organization and consumerism that it has given rise to have
been crucial factors in facilitating the state-led project of demobilization. As pointed
out in the Chapter 7, it is within this context that religious radicalism has become an
alternative node of popular politics. However, this remains a poor substitute for a
genuine counter-hegemonic politics of resistance, which, as will be shown in the
concluding chapter, will potentially come to the fore both as a function of the
subjective will of the subordinate classes and the deepening contradictions within the
historical bloc.
405 It is crucial to avoid thinking of the state as being able to manipulate all social processes to its own
benefit. The state too, as a political agent, remains subject to the logic of structural forces larger than it.
The rumblings of counter-hegemony
The narrative that has been presented in the preceding chapters has attempted to show
that the dialectic of 'order' and 'change' that explained the impulses of the colonial
state remains intact. Of course the significance of this assertion extends beyond the
Pakistani case. In many other post-colonial contexts the state remains distant and
coercive yet permeable and personalised and its impulses are very similar to that of
the Pakistani state. While the trajectories of what I have called the politics of common
sense and the politics of resistance must be thoroughly contextualised, the conceptual
parallels in the Pakistani and other cases are considerable.
In conclusion, I will first provide a summary of the argument that has been put
forward in the thesis, emphasising the theoretical and empirical additions made to the
literature on the subject. In doing so I hope to highlight how this contribution can
further radical scholarship on the state and social change. Accordingly I will postulate
on the potential for the emergence of a counter-hegemonic challenge to the prevailing
system of power in Pakistan, or in other words, the constitution of a new historical
I would like to reiterate here the importance of the heuristic method adopted
throughout the thesis; it is crucial to understand the structure of power from within as
well as how it is legitimised from below. As argued in the introductory chapter, these
two levels of analysis should not be considered mutually exclusive; indeed structural
change is only possible if and when a counter-hegemonic politics of resistance from
below is coeval with internal contradictions within the historical bloc.
When all is said and done
I have attempted to illustrate that despite the immense changes that have taken place
across the Pakistani formation, particularly from the 1960s onwards, the configuration
of power in Pakistan remains centred around the 'steel frame' that was constructed by
406 In particular I would like to suggest that in the majority of Muslim-majority societies, Islam is a
major pillar of the politics of common sense and the emergence of counter-hegemony is contingent on
overcoming the real and perceived constraints posed by religious identity and institutions.
407 Here I return to Gramsci's conception of the historical bloc as a constellation of social forces at a
particular conjuncture.
the British which has survived by propagating the imperative of order.
Thus it is
not surprising that Alavi's theory of the post-colonial state remains at least
descriptively appealing well over three decades after it was originally formulated.
However this thesis has also claimed that the historical bloc - the dominant coalition
of interests - has in fact changed; not only has the Alavian nexus of power undergone
considerable internal evolution but there are new claimants to state power that Alavi
did not incorporate in his original formulation. In effect it has been what I have called
the overdeveloping quality of the state, or in other words the acceptance of the
Alavian nexus of power - willing or otherwise - of the need to extend access to state
power to new contenders, that has permitted it to remain dominant.
This understanding necessarily implies a dynamic conception of structure, in contrast
with the static conception that was posited by Alavi (and the majority of many neo-
Marxist theorists of the state). In the first instance I have illustrated how the
constitution of each of the members of the historical bloc has changed over time in the
context of wider objective changes in the national and global political economy. The
emphasis has been on understanding the impact of a rapidly changing capitalist
economy, the evolution of cultural forms and an increasingly incoherent and
fragmented state structure.
Consequently I have gone beyond the traditional Marxist stress on the state as an
agglomeration of dominant interest to look at the state's institutional dynamics, and
the manner in which the ordinary Pakistani engages with it. It is here that I have
attempted to add substantively to the seminal neo-Marxist literature on the post-
colonial state inasmuch as I have sought to explain how an apparently ragged state
structure suffering from a crisis of identity and often having to resort to coercion to
sustain the historical bloc has managed to forge what I have called the 'politics of
common sense', or in other words some semblance of passive consent for itself and its
408 Needless to say the post-colonial state has employed different symbols than the colonial state in the
construction of its mandate to order - for my purposes the most important symbol, particularly in the
post-Bhutto period has been that of Islam.
This hegemonic project has been based on the ability of the military-bureaucratic
oligarchy and dominant social classes to institutionalise a heavily personalised
political economy, operationalised most obviously through localised electoral
procedures but more generally by using the state's financial, political and
administrative resources to generate consent (and employ coercive force when
necessary, of course). The intermediate classes and religio-political forces have been
crucial new players in fomenting hegemony insofar as they are the symbols of a new
populism that does not constitute a challenge to the historical bloc, and instead have
successfully coopted the subordinate classes into the sphere of common sense politics.
It is important here to revisit briefly exactly how the two new members of the
expanded historical bloc have played their historic role, in part so that the larger
processes of social and political change that have taken place in Pakistan in recent
decades can be highlighted. The intermediate classes are the symbol of modem
Pakistani capitalism, and indeed have counterparts across the post-colonial world.
They operate in environments outside the realm of formal economic accounting, rely
heavily on personal contacts, and are typically anathema to legal contracts.
Since the 1970s third world industries have fragmented and thee service sector has
expanded dramatically, both phenomena contributing to the consolidation of the
intermediate classes that emerged as a major economic force in the 1960s during the
Green Revolution. The inability of the agricultural sector to meet the livelihood needs
of a rapidly growing population and the decline of industry have further reinforced the
power of the intermediate classes in the lives of the working poor. Crucially, the state,
landed and industrialist classes hae remained major players in this evolving political
economy despite their decreased role in actually charting the direction of the economy.
Thus the original historical bloc and the intermediate classes shared interest in
consolidating the politics of common sense.
Religio-political forces have also emerged as a major force in Pakistan's political
economy from the 1970s onwards. This has had much to do with regional geo-politics,
and particularly with the start of the Afghan jihad. On the one hand religio-political
movements have developed major economic stakes in the 'informal' economy but
more importantly for the purposes of this thesis, the state and dominant social classes
have patronised religio-political movements as a means of countering radical
populism. Specifically the state has provided a mandate for religio-political
movements to intrude into the private sphere and thereby regulate cultural and
political norms in a manner so as to undermine organic bases of politics that might
constitute a challenge to the historical bloc.
To reiterate, it has been necessary to reconstitute the hegemonic project in the post-
Bhutto period in this manner to counter the tremendous politicisation of the
subordinate classes that had taken place through the 1960s and 1 970s. Employing the
anthropological method to the study of the state has permitted an understanding of
how the subordinate classes have acceded to common sense politics yet still can
articulate a politics of resistance if and when objective and subjective conditions
conspire. In closing I will postulate whether or not a counter-hegemonic politics of
resistance is indeed a possibility in the Pakistan of today.
The structural imperative
If one is to take the dialectic of order and change seriously, it remains the case that the
structure of power in Pakistan remains subject to serious contradictory ruptures. It is
true that the historical bloc has, till now, managed to avoid a major structural
upheaval. However, at least a partial overhaul of the post-colonial system of power in
Pakistan can be actualised it the politics of common sense can be transcended a new
counter-hegemonic politics of resistance fomented.
According to Alavi change is possible only 'if there is a revolutionary rupture and a
dissolution of the peripheral capitalist state, along with peripheral capitalism itself'
(Alavi, 1982; p. 306). In other words, the fate of the post-colonial state - and the
Alavian nexus of power - is bound up with that of the capitalist world system within
which the Pakistani social formation is ensconced. As suggested at numerous points
throughout this thesis, this conception is problematic primarily because of its static
nature. It assumes that the structure of peripheral capitalism has to be totally
overhauled for meaningful shifts in the exercise of power to take place. This
conception leads to a reification of the state and the dominant interests that it mediates
between. As pointed out above there have been considerable changes in the balance of
power between members of the historical bloc; on the whole, the state has changed
considerably since 1947, even though the structure of peripheral capitalism - insofar
as this refers to the social formation's positioning within the larger capitalist world
system - has not been overhauled.
Indeed, my contention is that the post-colonial system of power - including the state-
can be overhauled if objective and subjective conditions conspire. This does not mean
that a new conjuncture will be autonomous of the capitalist world system per se but
only that such a conjuncture is possible even without a rupture in the international
system. Specifically, my contention is that the overdeveloping state, while successful
in the post-Bhutto period in insulating the Alavian nexus of power from counter-
hegemonic challenges by coopting the intermediate classes and religio-political
movements, is ultimately incapable of accommodating all such pressures from below,
and particularly demands from the subordinate classes for more comprehensive
To take this idea further, the overdeveloping state is eventually likely to be subject to
more demands than it can successfully absorb - in other words the expansion of the
state's patronage function cannot extend beyond the physically possible. What this
means to say is that fundamentally the politics of common sense is simply a means of
evading the deepening contradiction between a society that is changing rapidly and
accordingly making demands for changes in the structure of power and the state
which, given its unwillingness to permit a comprehensive change in the exercise of
power, has the option either to forcibly suppress demands from below, or to
accommodate them within the existing structure of power.
In the event, the oligarchy and other members of the historical bloc have relied on
both coercion and consent to paper over the growing disjunction between society and
the state. Quite ironically it has been the deepening of capitalism that has precipitated
new challenges to the existing political order, a dynamic which Alavi failed to
identify. Having said this, section 2 of this thesis has illustrated that the deepening
contradiction between an obsolete state structure and a society with different impulses
has yet to result in upheaval because of the absence of a politics of resistance that can
provide a vision of change in lieu of the politics of common sense. Again to clarify:
until the logic of patronage can be transcended, even challenges to political
incumbents are likely to be expressed as attempts to acquire state power and employ it
for the benefit of the immediate occupants of seat of government rather than do away
with the vertical logic of politics in favour of a comprehensive reallocation of political
and economic resources.
In the following pages it will be argued that the emergence of a counter-hegemonic
politics of resistance is likely to centre on the rapidly erosion of the military's status
as guardian of the state which is a function of its overbearing role in all spheres of
As suggested earlier, the military's increasingly direct role in
administration and its burgeoning economic interests have brought it into contact with
the subordinate classes in a manner that has undermined its myth. Importantly, the
military's expanding role is also a potential source of disharmony within the historical
bloc itself, which has negotiated change in the social formation as a largely cohesive
coalition of interests. In the post-Bhutto period the military may have acquired the
role of mediator within the historical bloc but this does not mean that it has license to
encroach on the domainslinterests of other members of the bloc, and to the extent that
it does, it endangers the survival of the bloc itself.
The military as class?
In trying to conceptualise the possibility of change in the prevailing configuration of
power from above and below, it is essential to first consider exactly how much the
military has alienated itself from the wider society. In this regard, I will test the
hypothesis that the military has effectively become a distinct social class. This
investigation serves a distinctly theoretical purpose as well as an empirical one
inasmuch as it facilitates a dialogue between Marxist and Weberian conceptions of
class/status, while reiterating one of the primary theoretical assertions of this thesis,
namely that the state power underlies, and in this case, possibly even produces class
Given the clear evidence that the ideal-type of two polar classes in advanced
industrial societies was an analytical over simplification, and that state personnel
seemed to exercise power autonomously of dominant classes, Marxian theorists in the
409 Having said this, I believe that the consensus over the national security state is still intact, and this is
likely to pennit the military to retain a major say in state affairs.
1950s and onwards attempted to account for the politics of social forces separated
from the process of production, and particularly those in positions of authority. This
led to the emergence of a spate of literature theorising concepts such as
'organisational assets' (Wright, 1985) and 'authority relations' (Dahrendorf, 1959), all
of which represented attempts to move beyond the understanding of class in the
orthodox Marxist tradition based exclusively on the relationship to the means of
It is my contention that these attempts - alongside those mentioned in the introductory
chapter that were made by theorists of the post-colonial state - need to be augmented
by reference to the Weberian conceptions of class and status. In particular what is
relevant for my purposes is that in Weber's understanding of class/status, the focus is
on explicit social differentiation, the fact that two persons hailing from a different
class/status group both internalise this social identity and recognise the other as
hailing from a different group within a very clearly delineated social hierarchy.4ll In
contrast, class in the Marxian tradition can remain an objective position (class-for-
itself) that is not manifest as a subjective agency (class-for-itself).
More specifically for Weber 'status groups are stratified according to the principles of
their consumption of goods as represented by special styles of life' (Joyce, 2000: 39).
Wesolowski (1979) appears to capture the dialectics of class, power and status best by
discussing the symbiosis between 'prestige' and class position in respect to the
relations of production. He allows sufficient space within his theoretical schema for
the role of religion, nationalism, and even party ideology in conditioning the operation
of class to suggest that this is the best attempt to reconcile the Marxist with Weberian
In thinking about the military in Pakistan, particularly its expanding economic role
from the 1980s onwards, Siddiqa (2007: 108) suggests: 'The military is a separate
class that cuts across all other classes. Its members belong to the landed-feudal class
410 Miliband (1977) also recognised the role of state personnel which pennitted him to considerably
improve the 'crude instrumentalist' Marxist theory of the state.
411 Weber very clearly distinguishes between class and status group, a distinction that is not being
glossed over here. However, it is beyond the scope of the present discussion to go into this difference
which is discussed succinctly in relation to the Marxist conception of class in Wright (2002).
and the indigenous and metropolitan bourgeoisie' . At various points throughout this
exposition Siddiqa vacillates between describing the military and the military
fraternity as a class. There seems to be an attempt to outline both the symbiotic
relationship that the military continues to enjoy with other dominant groups and its
alienation from the wider social formation but the formulation is vague and obfuscates
as much as it illuminates.
In employing the schema outlined above, my evaluation of the military draws on three
specific elements. On the one hand, there is the military's exercise of power, or its
control over what have been described above as 'organisational assets'. Then there is
the clear social distinctiveness of the military - in Weberian terms the military is a
separate status group. It has its own housing colonies, schools, hospitals, recreational
facilities, and the like. The most obvious symbol of this social separateness is the
cantonment, which, for the most part are cleaner, better organised and characterised
by a different social dynamic than non-cantonment areas. In addition, as suggested in
the second chapter, both military men and civilians are coming to see the world more
and more in terms of the divide between them.412 Finally, there is the military's
increasing ownership of productive assets as outlined in Chapter 2, which implies its
emergence as an exploitative class in the classical Marxist sense. By virtue of its
dominance in the political, economic and wider social realm, the military stands
defined as a dominant class.
The Alavian nexus of power undermined?
The implications of the short theoretical exercise conducted above are significant. In
Chapter 2 it was argued that the military has acquired relative autonomy in its
mediation of all other dominant interests within the historical bloc. However, the
notion of the military as dominant class would suggest that it is qualitatively more
powerful than a mediator. Indeed, the military top brass' brazenness in confronting
criticism of its exclusionary practices in the political, economic and wider social
realms is reaching unprecedented proportions:
412 This sentiment was captured by the retired judge who stood against General Musharraf in the 2007
presidential election. His polemic suggested that if he won he would subject military men to the
facilities that ordinary civilians had at their disposal - this invoked the ire of military men while
garnering a great deal of support within the wider civilian public.
The defence societies everywhere are the top societies of Pakistan ... now,
why are we jealous of this? Why are we jealous if somebody gets a piece of
land, a kanal of land, cheap when it was initially, and because of the good
work done by the society, the price rises by 100 times and the man then
earns some money. What is the problem? Why are we jealous of this?
There's no problem at all.
The question that arises is whether or not this ever expanding role of the military
threatens its accommodation with other members of the historical bloc, particularly
the Alavian nexus of power.
It was posited in Chapter 3 for example that a not
insignificant number of high bureaucrats are resentful of their marginalisation at the
hands of serving and retired military men in a host of civilian departments. However
as has been argued the high bureaucracy has been progressively weakened within the
bloc and in my estimation the role of the three propertied classes remains more crucial
to the survival of the 'politics of compromise' .415
As asserted towards the end of Chapter 2, the military enjoys the implicit consent of
both the indigenous bourgeoisie and the landed class because the latter rely on access
to the state - as the military does - to engage in accumulation (or in the case of the
landed class, to protect existing assets). Because both of these two classes have
benefited from the politics of common sense - both in terms of being beneficiaries of
the patronage politics that prevails across the social formation and in the repression of
a politics of resistance that might threaten their dominance - it is reasonable to
suggest that they will not resist the military's growing power.
413 General Pervez Musharraf speaking at the launch of a Defence Housing Authority (DHA)
desalination plant in 2004, quoted in Siddiqa (2007: 194). Having said this the military is clearly
sensitive to public censure: The launch of Ayesha Siddiqa's book - which is the first documented
account of the 'military economy' was greeted with a massive public relations exercise by the military
to defame the author and reject her findings as concoctions. In an interview with a private TV channel,
General Musharraf even went so far as to accuse Siddiqa of being involved in anti-state activities at the
behest of India.
414 It can be argued that the newer members of the bloc - insofar as it has been argued here that the
religio-political movements and the intermediate classes have acquired a share of state power - do not
maintain the long-standing social and political ties to the military that the other members of the Alavian
nexus of power do. While these newer entrants into the echelons of power may have other gripes with
the military - for example, the more radical religio-political movements are increasingly at odds with
the military due to the 'war on terror' - the more crucial question is whether the Alavian nexus of
rower is vulnerable to internal discord.
15 To reiterate the bureaucracy remains central to the exercise of power without necessarily being
privy to the perennial struggles over the nature of power sharing.
By the same token, it is not unreasonable to suggest that should the military encroach
into the realms of the landed class and indigenous bourgeoisie, this would induce
resistance by the latter. So, for example, if the military's accumulation takes place at
the expense of an industrialist family, it can be expected that the latter will be express
discontent in some form. However it has been argued earlier that neither the landed
class nor the indigenous bourgeoisie acts as a coherent class-for-itself, and the
preferred approach is to ally with factions with a claim to power. Thus it is unlikely
that the military's growing economic ambitions alienate a significant enough segment
of either of the propertied classes to precipitate a rupture.
More pressing is the possibility that the military's exclusionary political ambitions
lead to the alienation of traditional allies from the landed class and indigenous
bourgeoisie. So for example, during the Musharraf tenure, both of the two major
political parties representing the interests of the landed class and the indigenous
bourgeoisie, the PML-N and the PPP, were effectively eliminated from the power-
sharing arrangement. The PML-N and the PPP remained at the forefront of the
opposition to the Musharraf regime, yet, there was no major rupture of the system
because significant numbers of landed and industrialist politicians were coopted by
the regime 416 as was the coalition of the religio-political parties, the MMA.
However, the military is increasingly subject to serious public censure, a phenomenon
without precedent in Pakistan's history. This censure relates to all spheres of the
military's dominance, including criticism of its economic expansionism, its role in
politics, and its social elitism. There is also considerable resentment against its
support to the geo-strategic objectives of the United States - as was discussed in
Chapter 7, anti-imperialist sentiment remains very potent in Pakistan. As such the PPP
and PML-N alongwith smaller regional and nationalist parties have attempted to
identify with the growing chorus against General Musharraf and the military.417
416 A large number of them defecting from the PML-N. The situation under Musharraf resembles that
under Zia in that the alienation of major political parties did not signal the alienation of dominant
classes per se.
417 The MMA too has projected itself as a vanguard of the anti-Musharraf movement but has clearly
played a dubious role throughout the 8-year period of military rule, embodied most obviously in its
offering of support to the 17
amendment in the constitution in December 2003 which allowed the
regime to apply a veneer of legal legitimacy to what was extra-constitutional rule.
While the merits of their political response can be debated, what the current
conjuncture highlights is in fact that the political choices of the military's traditional
allies may indeed be dictated - at least to some extent - by the tenor of public
discourse. Indeed, as the image of the military as the guardian of the state falters - as
it clearly is for all the reasons described above - it can be expected that landed and
industrialist politicians will have to remake themselves as apparently principled
opponents of oligarchic rule.
It was pointed out in earlier chapters that the Sharif family that heads the PML-N and
religio-political movements such as the 11 are beneficiaries of the patronage of
military regimes and have been traditional allies of the military for the best part of
their political existence. Yet it is these same forces that are now clamouring to prove
that they are committed to 'sending the military back to the barracks' .419 It may be
argued that the military faced a similar crisis in December 1971, however on that
occasion the military high command was primarily maligned for its military defeat,
whereas on this occasion the military as an institution is under scrutiny for its
overarching political role, its economic interests and its social elitism. Perhaps most
importantly there appears to be a growing perception in Punjab that the military is no
longer a 'sacred cow' .420
The posture of the metropolitan bourgeoisie in the current conjuncture - the role of
which, as discussed in Chapter 6 needs to be problematised as two different impulses
- has been considerably less apologetically pro-military, which is more or less
418 This calls attention to the fact that politicians themselves have a very soiled image within the public
for being unprincipled looters of public wealth; however the military's image is now in free-fall for
similar reasons and, quite improbably, many politicians now want to distinguish themselves from the
military because the perception of the latter's pilfering is now garnering much more attention.
419 Javed Hashmi of the PML-N stands out as an example of a politician made by the military who has
now become an anti-military stalwart. Hashmi was an activist with the IJT during the early Zia period
distinguishing himself by his virulent anti-PPP polemic. He made his way up through the local body
elections, made money through business enterprises, and then became a minister following non-party
elections in 1985. Hashmi remained with the PML during the 1988-99, acquiring ministerial positions
in both of the PML governments that ruled through the period. Under the Musharraf regime, Hashmi
was imprisoned for a little under 4 years for 'defaming the armed forces' and has publicly apologised
for his past association with military rule.
420 It has already been stated that the military's image of saviour has persisted primarily in Punjab as
opposed to Sindh and Balochistan. During interviews with Sindhi and Baloch nationalist politicians -
who it can be said do represent the prevalent opinions within their respective regions, the army was
repeatedly described as a 'Punjabi-dominated' force of oppression (Interviews with Akbar Bugti, Rasul
Bakhsh Palejo).
consistent with its posture throughout Pakistan's history. However, notwithstanding
the support that metropolitan states, and particularly the United States, continue to
offer to the military, largely in pursuit of their own geo-political objectives, it is
important to bear in mind that external forces are unlikely to prevent a rupture in the
oligarchic system if political conditions were such as to produce such a rupture.
Indeed, the US is likely to appear committed to 'democratisation' if the pressures for
such a process emerge from below. 421
To reiterate then: what is being postulated here is that the historical bloc may be
subject to discord not because the interests of its various components have necessarily
become incompatible but because the three propertied classes which remain the
bulwark of the oligarchic system perceive that they need to, to use a metaphor, jump
from a sinking ship. This potential state of affairs can be contrasted with the clear
support that the Alavian nexus of power offered to the military in 1977 when
landlords, industrialists and metropolitan states perceived a genuine threat to the
existence of oligarchic rule and resolved to eliminate the politics of resistance under
the unquestioned leadership of the military. In contrast, at the present time the
indigenous propertied classes may believe that they can take advantage of the
widespread criticism of the military to negotiate a greater share of power, without
undermining the oligarchic system itself
A new politics of resistance?
Ultimately then, a rupture in the oligarchic system is only possible if and when a new
politics of resistance comes to the fore. As suggested here, this is intimately tied to the
question of the military's overbearing role within the social formation, but at the same
time will be made possible only if an alternative political force is created that can
represent the subordinate classes' aspirations for change. First, it is important to detail
why the military's image amongst the subordinate classes has plunged as a precursor
to understanding if this will give rise to a new politics of resistance.
Two of the case studies discussed in the previous chapter involved the military in the
role of 'anti-people' usurper of resources. In the case of the Okara movement of
421 There seems to be a correlation between State Department overtures to accelerating the
democratisation process in Pakistan and the street protests that erupted in March 2007.
landless farmers and Sindhi fisherfolk, the emergence of resistance was a direct result
of the military's attempts to establish control over the natural resources upon which
farmers and the fisherfolk rely for their livelihoods. In districts of Sindh such as
Sanghar and Nawabshah, retired military officers - the majority of them Punjabi -
have been systematically allotted land the result of which is a shift in the demography
of the districts and a growing resentment of the 'Punjabi army'. During fieldwork I
also observed that hitherto non-arable land in Jhang, Layyah and Khushab that stands
to be irrigated by mega water projects such as the Greater ThaI Canal and Kacchhi
Canal is being allotted to retired military officers. In Balochistan a low-level
insurgency has erupted since March 2005 in response to the military's plan to build
new cantonments in Sui, Kohlu and Gwadar. Even in the federal capital Islamabad,
the construction of a new General Headquarters has required eviction operations
against villagers that has resulted in widespread bitterness.
Such episodes - and many more like them - have been instrumental in turning the tide
of public opinion against the military. As mentioned earlier, there is a widespread
perception that Pakistan has almost become an apartheid state with one set of laws
and facilities for the military and another for those not associated with it. Another
major factor in the growing public chorus has been the perception that the military is
an American stooge in the 'war on terror', which has spilled over onto Pakistani soil
and is therefore resulting in ever more acute polarisation.
In any case, what is clear is that the military's increased contact with the subordinate
classes is likely to deepen as this is a necessary consequence of its expanding
economic empire. It can be argued that the military's decline in popularity also has
something to do with the 'incumbency factor' of it having directly controlled the reins
of government for many years. By this line of argument, during the next period of
'civilianisation of military rule', criticism of the military will decrease substantially
and politicians will once again become the major object of public scrutiny. In my
estimation such an analysis is valid only to a limited extent. While it is true that the
military receding from the immediate political spotlight is likely to reduce criticism of
it, its continuing encroachments into the economic sphere will necessarily bring it into
422 This can be contrasted to the Zia years when the Pakistani military's complicity with another
American-sponsored war in Afghanistan actually enjoyed considerable popular support.
conflict with the subordinate classes that rely on the very resources that the military
wants to capture.
Returning to the 'incumbency factor', it was noted during fieldwork that a large
number of people across the social formation are thoroughly disillusioned about the
fact that there is no viable alternative amongst the mainstream political parties to
replace the military, or at least no alternative that would offer a meaningfully different
political future to the country. As such this can be taken to suggest that the 'distance'
or 'contempt' that the subordinate classes harbour for politics has deepened. However,
what it also suggests is that the military no longer offers recourse from what is widely
perceived to be a 'corrupt' political system. In other words, where until the recent past
the military was considered to be a saviour that would intervene periodically to clean
the country up, it is now considered no better than the politicians that it has
historically maligned.
As such therefore, a new politics of resistance must be preceded by a regeneration of a
culture of politics itself. Importantly, even the instances of resistance outlined in the
previous chapter were referred to by many of the protagonists themselves as 'non-
political' undertakings. There was an insistence amongst fisherfolk, landless farmers
and slum dwellers alike that the struggle for their 'rights' should not be construed as
an attempt to achieve 'political' objectives. In other words, there is not only a
disassociation of everyday questions of social justice with politics but a disinclination
to be perceived as being involved in 'politics' itself.
As it has been described here, the politics of common sense has been predicated upon
the military spearheading a project whereby the logic of patronage has been
institutionalised, while the idea of politics has been demeaned. Necessarily then the
idea of a politics of change - or as it has been described here, resistance - has been
almost completely eliminated from the collective public consciousness. The dialectic
of Islam and the military has been crucial to this project:
The military-state relation conceptualises a dialectical relationship
between Islam, Pakistan and the military. Without Islam, Pakistan would
not have been able to come into existence; without Pakistan the military
would not be able to exist; and without the military, Islam and Pakistan
would be threatened' (Husain, 1979: 133).
It is true that the veneer of legitimacy provided by Islam to the cynical politics of
common sense remains intact. However, with the military's fall from grace, and the
multiplying contradictions posed by the imbalance between subordinate classes
increasingly desperate for change and a state that cannot accommodate them, the
space for a new politics to emerge is being rapidly enhanced. The existing political
formations are unwilling and/or unable to offer a new politics to the subordinate
classes, largely because they remain committed to the interests of the landed class and
the indigenous bourgeoisie, or alternatively have made their way into the historical
bloc by espousing an ideology of political Islam that was consistent with the geo-
political currents of the post-Bhutto period.
New political formations that bring together the flashes of resistance I have discussed
and the many more that will emerge in the coming years around a coherent politics of
change that breaks with the logic of patronage dominant across the social formation
are the answer to the disillusionment of the subordinate classes. Inevitably, given how
deeply rooted the politics of common sense has become, this will take time. This new
politics will have to compete with the Islamist politics of resistance which also
continues to lay claim to representing a vision of change. If and when this new
politics emerges, the 60 year old project of domination can finally be challenged and a
structural transformation can come to pass.
423 Importantly I contend that the religio-political movements, particularly those involved in formal
politics such as the 11 and lUI are not willing to challenge the existing system even now following the
shift in discourse over 'jihad' after September 11. As discussed in Chapter 7, a distinction can be
drawn between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary religio-political movements; some of the latter
are clearly appear to be in confrontation with the state.
Agricultural castes enfranchised by the British Raj
Non-agricultural castes that undertake menial labour, including
cobblers, barbers, cleaners and agricultural workers
Settlers on previously desert land that was made arable by
perennial irrigation schemes; immigrants from other areas who
were promised ownership rights
Commonly used to refer to occupational caste, although it can
have racial and ethnic connotations as well
Police station
Commonly used to refer to a patrilineal lineage
A variant of qaum and used less regularly
The agricultural wholesaler
Contractor or sub-contractor
Colloquial term used for the state/government
Loosely translated as honour
A system of corvee labour
Local (usual village-level) consensus bodies to dispence justice
Learned men, cleric is not an exact translation
The doing of favours
Money or other favours granted for 'illegal' practice
District collector
The local magistrate
A colonial-period state functionary associated with land
Village head as instituted by the colonial regime; now defunct in
many places
Religious seminary
Religious saint, often big landlord also
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