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Pakistan State, Agrarian Reform and Islamization

Pakistan State, Agrarian Reform and Islamization

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Published by Usman Ahmad
The manner in which state interests are articulated and pursued has
not thus far been examined as a causal factor in the entrenchment of Islamic
tendencies in the politics of Muslim countries. Yet, there is evidence that
the exercise of power by the state, as determined by the nature of its relations
with key social forces that bolster its authority or serve as resistance
to it, is consequential in anchoring social and political institutions and the
national political discourse in an Islamic normative and conceptual order--
Islamization in short. How this occurs is perhaps most dearly reflected in
the case of Pakistan, where the structure of agrarian relations and its bearing
on state power has, over time, encouraged the state to dabble in religious
politics and to eventually become a notable agent of Islamization.
The manner in which state interests are articulated and pursued has
not thus far been examined as a causal factor in the entrenchment of Islamic
tendencies in the politics of Muslim countries. Yet, there is evidence that
the exercise of power by the state, as determined by the nature of its relations
with key social forces that bolster its authority or serve as resistance
to it, is consequential in anchoring social and political institutions and the
national political discourse in an Islamic normative and conceptual order--
Islamization in short. How this occurs is perhaps most dearly reflected in
the case of Pakistan, where the structure of agrarian relations and its bearing
on state power has, over time, encouraged the state to dabble in religious
politics and to eventually become a notable agent of Islamization.

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International Journal o f Politics, Culture and Society, Vol 10, No.

2, 1996
Paki stan: State, Agrarian Reform and
Isl ami zat i on
S. V. R. Nasr
The manner in which state interests are articulated and pursued has
not thus far been examined as a causal factor in the ent renchment of Islamic
tendencies in the politics of Muslim countries. Yet, there is evidence that
t he exercise of power by the state, as det ermi ned by the nature of its rela-
tions with key social forces that bolster its authority or serve as resistance
to it, is consequential in anchoring social and political institutions and t he
national political discourse in an Islamic normative and conceptual or der - -
Islamization in short. How this occurs is perhaps most dearl y reflected in
t he case of Pakistan, where the structure of agrarian relations and its bearing
on state power has, over time, encouraged t he state to dabble in religious
politics and to eventually become a notable agent of Islamization.
The alliance with, and intermittent struggles between t he state and t he
l anded elite in Pakistan has i mpeded t he state' s efforts to effectively con-
t end with inequities in distribution of resources through state institutions,
forcing t he state to look for alternate channels for alleviating poverty, and
to even cont empl at e a different structure of authority through which to
expand its capacity to rule. The result has been that state has t urned to
Islam and its social institutions to achieve bot h ends) Islamization is there-
fore a product of t he attempts by a state that is held captive by the l anded
elite to augment its power and aut onomy of action. How and why state
choices in this context have led to Islamization will be elucidated in t he
following sections.
Pakistan inherited t he landed elite from colonial India. As t he British
began to harness India' s agricultural wealth and convert tribesmen and ru-
© 1996 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
250 Nasr
ral populations into peasant farmers, they increasingly relied on feudal-
i s m- o l d l anded families, tribal grandees, traditional religious leaders, or
merchants who were granted land hol di ngs--t o ensure political order in
rural areas. In provinces that woul d constitute Pakistan, feudalism had
evolved into a powerful social organization under colonial patronage.
The political power of the landed elite did not diminish with the crea-
tion of Pakistan. To begin with, the Pakistan movement was not influenced
by populism or socialism as was the case with Indian nationalism, and there-
fore was not inherently opposed to the landed elite. In fact, the Pakistan
movement had early on become the refuge of Muslims of privileged classes
who distrusted the economic policies of the Congress party and the socialist
rhetoric of some of its leaders like Nehru. In addition, once Pakistan was
creat ed the state needed the landed elite in much the same fashion as had
the British, namely, to establish order in rural areas.
The Muslim League, the party that led the Pakistan movement had
little following in the provinces that later formed the new state. 2 The sup-
port of the landed elite, especially in elections in the decade preceding
i ndependence had been crucial to the Muslim League) The landed elite
in Punjab, Bengal, and Sind support ed the Pakistan movement, and in so
doing guarant eed their influence on the future state. 4
Moreover, the Pakistan state was from inception a weak one. Its roots
in the provinces it had inherited were tenuous. These provinces had little
in common save for the fact that the majority of their populations were
Muslim. Their economi es were not linked, and were instead tied to the
central grid of Indian economy from which they were now cut. The new
state had only a puerile machinery of government, confront ed a massive
refugee problem, was in a state of war with India, and faced economi c ruin
and severe f ood shortages. To exert social cont rol and to establish its
authority, the state very quickly t urned to the landed elite. 5 The feudal
lords hel ped establish state authority, but in return secured their own social
and economic position. The landed elite served as intermediaries in estab-
lishing political order in rural areas. 6 The state gave t hem great discretion
in local affairs with the effect of confirming and strengthening their author-
ity. As the local role of the landed elite became integrated into t he organ-
izational design of the new state the seeds of future weakness of the state
were sown. The state had, for the immediate fut ure at least, closed itself
out of the rural areas, hel ped bolster the authority of a powerful sociopoli-
tical force, and creat ed a relationship of dependence bet ween the state and
the l anded elite. Throughout the 1950s the state would prove unable to
extract agricultural surplus for economi c gr owt h- - ei t her in the form of
taxation or controlling the price of agricultural goodsT--or to even guar-
ant ee the supply of food to the population. The landed elite were able to
Paki stan 251
increase t hei r profits (which t he state was unable to tap into) by keeping
t he supply of grain limited. The resultant food shortages creat ed political
instability and led to urban riots in t he 1952-54 period. 8 They were even-
tually resolved by Ameri can food aid--which was decisive in initiating Paki-
stan' s close ties to the West.
The l anded elite, meanwhile, were able to use their local power to
also influence politics at the provincial and national levels. By t he middle
of t he 1950s they had effectively taken over t he ruling party, t he Muslim
League, were broadly represent ed in t he national and provincial cabinets,
as well as in the Constituent Assembly. The position of power at t he h e l l
ensured t hem of access to state resources and patronage, which was used
to furt her strengthen their power at t he local level. Thus t he landed elite
were able to use state resources to furt her weaken the state. Interestingly,
this pat t ern of relations continues to this day. For instance, bet ween 1985
and 1988 General Zi a provided members of t he National Assembly, that
was domi nat ed by the landed elite, with considerable sums of money to
"invest in development projects in their districts as they saw fit. ''9
The ar r angement bet ween t he l anded elite and t he state has also
helped unite t he landowning class and to form alliances with small farmers
and rural strongrnen. Ideology, party affiliation, or alliances with various
el ement s of t he state has not divided them, at least not over what can be
broadly t ermed as their "class interests." Obversely, the landed elite has
forced great er change on political parties and the state than they have ex-
peri enced in t he process. They have deeply influenced t he transformative
agenda of t he state on numerous occasions, never as openly and decisively
as when t hey t amed Ayub Khan' s modernizing zeal and stopped Zulfiqar
Ali Bhutto' s populism in its tracks. Ayub Khan, who began his rule with
t he objective of establishing the primacy of the industrial sector and mod-
ernizing society, now stands accused of allowing the fusion of feudal inter-
ests and state apparatuses, best reflected in having opened t he military to
feudalism by granting land to officers, thus turning t hem into land owners.
Similarly, Bhutto is criticized for shying away from effective land reform,
especially in his home province of Sind and his own rural district of
The consequence has been that Pakistan is yet to experience mean-
ingful land reform, the state is yet to penet rat e t he rural areas, and the
agricultural sector, t he largest component of t he GNP (53.3% in 1949-50
and 23.8% in 1987-88) 1° has been largely exempt from taxation, and t he
l anded elite control the flow of national and provincial politics. All this
suggests that institution-building--usually viewed as the most important de-
t ermi nant of t he nat ure and relative success of state format i on--i s perhaps
not as important as t he impact of those social organizations and institutions
~ 2 Nasr
of power that predat e t he creation of t he state and can in fact influence
t he design of new state institutions. The state' s search for legitimacy and
its ability to extract surplus from society, and to redistribute t he fruits of
growth, are all det ermi ned by t he nat ure of interactions bet ween t he state
and those social organizations that predat ed its formation and now constrict
its power.
One may also conclude from t he foregoing that t he nat ure and ext ent
of "urban bias," which in Pakistan, as in most of t he Third World, accounts
for differences in rural and urban development can be explained, at least
in part, by t he political factors and modes of social organization t hat in-
fluence politics, n In Pakistan t he weakness of t he state before rural political
actors, their ability to act collectively, 12 and to assert their demands at t he
local, provincial and national levels, 13 suggests that urban bias is t he prod-
uct of intricate political interactions rat her t han simply a consequence of
industrialization as earlier studies of this phenomenon have indicated. 14
The circumstances in which Pakistan gained its i ndependence did not
bode well for economi c development. The new country faced a massive
refugee problem and food shortages, lacked a machinery of government or
a national market for that matter. The first decade of t he country' s exist-
enee was mar ked by intense political struggles bet ween t he provinces and
t he cent er and various political forces that vied for power. The state was
unable to extract surplus from t he society, and especially from t he agricul-
tural sector which was, at this time, by far t he largest sector of t he economy.
Levels of investment in industry t herefore remai ned low. It was not until
a decade l at er in 1958, when General Ayub Khan (1958-69) and t he Paki-
stan military assumed t he reigns of power, that Pakistan embarked on veri-
table economi c development. The Ayub Khan regime was able to bring
or der to Pakistan, and to secure international assi st ance--and thus by-
passed t he limitations that t he economy faced as a result of t he l anded
elite' s resistance to extraction of agricultural surpl us--i n starting Pakistan
on t he pat h to industrialization. 15
From this point forward t he problem of supporting economi c growth
would be by and large alleviated by increase in external sources of income,
most notably, international aid and investment, and t he infusion of funds
into t he economy by labor remittances. As a result, t he state (to varying
degrees, but nevertheless convincingly) displayed power in stimulating eco-
nomi c growth and industrialization, and in pushing through reform meas-
Paki stan 253
ur es i n ur ba n areas. Th e st at e, however, was unabl e t o i mpl e me nt effect i ve
a n d s us t ai ned pol i ci es t o br i ng t he fi' uits of t ha t gr owt h t o r ur al masses
( who i n 1990 still cons t i t ut ed 75% of Paki st an' s popul a t i on a nd 51% of its
l abor forces), 16 or t o resol ve t he pr obl ems t ha t gr owt h ha d br ought a bout
f or t hem. Re f or m i n r ur al ar eas f aced oppos i t i on f r om t he l a nde d el i t e a nd
t hei r net wor k of s t r ongmen, who r esi st ed t he st at e' s pe ne t r a t i on of r ur al
ar eas a nd its a t t e mpt s at meani ngf ul l and r ef or m, t7
Un d e r Ayub Kha n Paki st an' s e c onomy grew rapidly. Paki st an acqui r ed
new i ndust r i es, an i ndust r i al l abor force, and t he pr obl ems associ at ed wi t h
gr owt h t h r o u g h wha t one obser ver cal l ed t he " f unct i onal ut i l i t y of gr eed. ''18
Ra pi d gr owt h caus ed i ncome i nequal i t y be t we e n var i ous social gr oups, re-
gi ons, and sect or s of t he economy, and pr oduc e d gr af t and cor r upt i on. Ac-
cor di ng t o Ma h b u b ul - Haq, Ayub Kha n' s chi ef economi s t , "by 1968 22
fami l i es cont r ol l ed 2/3 of Paki st an' s i ndust ri al assets; 80% of banki ng; 70%
of i nsur ance. ''19 Si nce 1968 t he concent r at i on of weal t h has be e n less star-
t l i ng b u t it is still very mu c h pr esent . As a resul t , mos t i ndi ces of soci al
d e v e l o p me n t have consi st ent l y pl aced Paki st an a mong l ow- i ncome coun-
tries; mos t not abl e i ssues of concer n bei ng i nf ant mort al i t y, literacy, fertility,
life expect ancy, a nd i ncome i nequal i t y.
I n addi t i on, i nt er nat i onal assi st ance r e s t or e d s ome power t o t he st at e
so t ha t e c onomi c de ve l opme nt was s pe a r - he a de d by ~tatisme, a pol i cy whi ch
s ubs e que nt gove r nme nt s i n t he 1970s and t he 1980s c ont i nue d a l t hough
wi t h varyi ng degr ees of i nt ensi t y. Si nce 1958 t he st at e' s d o mi n a n t r ol e i n
e c onomi c d e v e l o p me n t - - s t e e r i n g it i n t he di r ect i on of r api d i ndust ri al i za-
t i on t hr ough f avor abl e l i censi ng pract i ces, subsidies, and fi ve-year p l a n s - -
has r e ma i n e d unc ha l l e nge d. Si nce t he st at e d e p e n d e d less a nd l ess o n
sur pl us ext r act ed f r om agr i cul t ur e- - whi ch has not be e n subj ect t o effect i ve
t a xa t i on- - f or its capi t al accumul at i on, little i nves t ment has be e n ma d e i n
agr i cul t ur e. 2° As a resul t , t he s har e of agr i cul t ur e i n t he GNP fel l f r om
53. 5% i n 1950 t o 23. 8% i n 1988 and t he shar e of manuf act ur i ng r ose f r om
7. 8% t o 19.4% dur i ng t he s ame per i od. 21 Th e cons equences of t hi s pr ocess
of change was t o e nt r e nc h t he pr obl e m of " ur ba n bi as" t ha t i ndust ri al i za-
t i on ha d e nge nde r e d, and t o cr eat e de e p- s e a t e d social pr obl ems and t o
e n t r e n c h povert y. Th e pace of ur bani zat i on i ncr eased, ur ban- r ur al i nc ome
i nequal i t y rose, and i mbal ances bet ween t he vari ous e c onomi c sect or s a nd
pr ovi nces of t he count r y gr ew markedl y. Th e gove r nme nt was fully awar e
of t he cons equences , i n fact, it was t he gover nment ' s avowed a i m t o achi eve
gr owt h r a t he r t h a n gr eat er soci al equal i t y. 22 Ec onomi c gr owt h di d l i t t l e t o
he l p t he poor , and i n s ome i nst ances l eft t h e m wor se off. For i nst ance,
whi l e agr i cul t ur al pr oduct i vi t y was r ai sed f r om 1. 3% i n t he 1950s t o 4. 5%
i n t he 1960s t hanks t o t he Gr e e n Revol ut i on, t he n u mb e r of l andl ess l abor
r e ma i n e d qui t e hi gh at 45% of t he f ar m popul at i on. 23 Th e c ons e que nc e
254 Nasr
was numerous political crises that seriously t hreat ened t he state: civil war
in 1971 led to t he di smemberment of the country, urban-rural dichotomy
produced strife in t he province of Sind which continues to destabilize na-
tional politics. While Z. A. Bhutto' s populism and a sharp rise in t he inflow
of rent bet ween 1975 and 1991 owing to an increase in labor r emi t t ances- -
which was directly injected into the economy by migrant l abor er - - and in-
ternational aid following the Afghan war enabled t he state to cont end with
some of t he social problems, the general picture did not change markedly.
Still, t he decline of agriculture did not mean t he weakening of t he
landed elite. To t he contrary t he l anded elite were able to successfully pene-
t rat e t he development regimes of Ayub Khan and his successors with t he
result of confounding the aim of industrialization and tapping into addi-
tional resources to ent rench their position. In "weak states," aut onomy of
state institutions cannot be preserved, and as a result, industrial policy-
making and relations bet ween public and private sectors become directly
reducible to pursuit of private interests. 24 As Pet er Evans has observed of
Brazil, t he fusion of traditional oligarchic power with moder n state appa-
ratuses can have deleterious effects on devel opment as it creates stumbling
blocks to successful cooperation between t he state and t he industrial elite
by giving the traditional oligarchy, "now encapsulated in the state," new
means to pursue its own agenda through t he development projects. 25
To ease t he mounting social pressure caused by rapid growth some
form of reform was imperative. However, while dtatiste economi c develop-
ment may have suggested a modi cum of state power, t he at t empt to bring
t he fruits of growth to larger numbers would underscore the fundament al
weakness of the state before social forces.
Redistribution here refers to those policies of t he state that seek to
alter t he direction of flow of resources and wealth in society with t he aim
of promoting social justice and more equitable economic relations bet ween
social classes. The question of redistribution naturally arises in societies in
which t he flow of wealth and resources benefit the domi nant classes in a
lop-sided manner, and where t he state views itself in a position of authority
to reshape economi c relations. Beyond wishing to do good t he state is also
compelled to engage in redistributive practices in order to cont end with
t he economi c and social consequences of its economic positions to date.
Over reliance on industrialization and t he deepeni ng of rural poverty have
led to rapid urbanization, aggravated income disparities, and hence have
creat ed social pressures on t he state. 26 Down turns in t he flow of state
Paki stan 2S5
income and its inability to establish an effective taxation system have only
accent uat ed the pressure on the state just as they have limited the state' s
ability to launch new distributive programs. Regime alliances with key social
forces and political groups have been used to relieve the pressure on t he
state, but cannot satisfactorily contain the growing demands for reform.
The state has thus felt compelled to adopt redistributive policies, foster
mor e equitable economic relations, and generally deal head on with pov-
erty. Otherwise, redistributive policies can be ai med at alleviating limita-
tions bef or e industrialization. More equitable distribution of economi c
resources in society can increase the sire of the domestic market which is
essential for sustainable industrialization. In Pakistan, for instance, this has
been a strong argument in favor of land reform.
Finally, one could interpret the state' s emphasis on redistribution (es-
pecially using Islamic institutions) as reflective of its desire to gain public
acquiescence to its domination in t he same fashion as it has been ext ended
to t he landed elite. Writing on t he nat ure of domination, James Scott and
Pierre Bourdieu have argued that effective domination in pre-capitalist so-
cieties extended beyond use of force. Domination largely occurred in the
public sphere, wherein acts of generosity and distribution of resources were
reci procat ed by loyalty. 27 In effect, a normative order existed in which
domination possessed an implicit quality, and involved more t han physical
compulsion. As this order weakened owing to changes in social structure,
or as the state sought to replace the traditional elite, the state was com-
pelled to cont empl at e a similar normative order, but one in which state
institutions would extend generosity and receive loyalty.
As a state implements redistributive policies its capacity grows, and by
implication, its penet rat i on of society deepens. 2s The growing capacity of
t he state alters the balance of relations between the state and those social
forces that it will touch, and hence, in itself, becomes a bone of political
contention. The result is that the state will face opposition to its policies
and a decline in its legitimacy. Policies that were adopt ed to stave off the
political crises that economic development brings about can in fact augment
t hem. In Pakistan t he state has sought to deal with this issue by appealing
to Islamic symbols, not only to shore up state legitimacy but to give a fa-
vorable identity to its redistributive policies, and to creat e an acceptable
patrimonial order and/or welfare system. The state' s sponsorship of Islami-
zation is directly tied to its management of redistribution of resources and
growth of state capacity.
This has encouraged the political opposition to also mobilize along
religious lines. Islamic activism here directly reflects tensions born of con-
tending with constraints facing state policies, and more specifically, t he
state' s redistributive efforts. It is not necessarily a product of opposition to
256 Na s r
state ideology, although in time it has adopted such a posture. The case
of Pakistan will show that t he weakness of t he state and t he ability of so-
ciopolitical forces to influence the state's redistributive policies reinforces
the sacralization of politics. Social resistance has limited t he scope and ef-
fectiveness of the state's redistributive efforts, and by so doing has forced
the state to look to other avenues for implementing its reformist policies,
which has in turn led to Islamizing patterns of sociopolitical change.
In Pakistan t he most obvious target of redistributive policies has been
land reform. Although there are other issues of concern such as urban pov-
erty, backwardness of small provinces, and disparities in t he wealth of dif-
ferent regions and ethnic groups, none are as important, grave, or effect
as many Pakistanis directly as the deepening of rural poverty. 29 Moreover,
during t he Bhutto period (1971-77) urban poverty received t he attention
of state leaders and has ceased to be as fundamental a problem as rural
Amelioration of rural poverty inevitably involves t he issue of land re-
form. Given the state's dependence on the landed elite land reform has
not been i mpl ement ed in t he country in a meaningful fashion. By 1959 t he
state had become dependant on the landed elite and their networks of
authority to maintain order in rural areas; so much so that they had been
integrated into state organization. The state was therefore hard-pressed to
push through meaningful land reform. Ayub Khan and Bhutto would in-
troduce only modest land reforms, General Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) would
not even entertain the idea. To compensate for this shortcoming the state
has sought to promot e equity through other channels, including taking over
religious lands and endowments, and the distribution of religious taxes. By
the end of the 1980s the distribution of religious taxes approximated t he
level of all government subsidies, 3° which shows how central Islamization
measures have become to the state' s redistribution policies.
"Islamization" of redistribution--creation of an Islamic patrimonial
and/or welfare system--has by itself saeralized national politics to t he ad-
vantage of Islamic groups. Still, the state's encroachment into the territory
of the religious establishment has provoked an Islamic opposition to t he
state. Islamic parties have openly challenged t he state' s intrusion into their
domain, and have also used the situation to augment their power by de-
manding concessions. The tensions born of this process have played them-
selves out in the political arena with the result of placing I sl am- - and t he
struggle for controlling its interpretation and application31--at the center-
stage of national politics. In the political arena t he Islamic opposition has
received support from the middle and lower middle classes, as well as t he
country' s industrial leaders and entrepreneurs, all of whom pay t he lion' s
Pakistan 257
share of taxes and are unhappy with t he current redistributive measur es- -
even t hough t hey have benefitted from t he pro-industry policies of t he state.
To underst and t he scope of t he predi cament before t he state and how
it has produced Islamization we shall consider t he reasons for the failure
of land reform in Pakistan, and also t he pat t ern of state' s use of religion
to float alternate reform measures.
L a n d Re f o r ms a n d T h e i r Af t e r ma t h s
The demand for land reform was raised in Pakistan soon after t he
country' s creation. The Muhajir (lit. migrant) community, which served as
t he ruling Muslim League' s base of power, and many of whose ranks had
arrived in Pakistan destitute, raised the issue as early as 1947. 32 Thei r de-
mand was met with t he strong resistance of t he landed elite, especially in
Sind where t he Muhajirs predominated. The manner in which t he l anded
elite responded to this demand proved to be consequential for Pakistan.
They react ed by appealing to Sindhi nat i onal i sm--st andi ng uni t ed with
their peasants in defending Sind and t he rights of sons of soil against t he
onslaught of migrants--using politics of identity to preserve their economic
i nt erest s and prevent poor Muhajirs from making common cause with
Sindhi peasants. 33
It was not until severe food shortages in Punjab in 1952-54 that t he
attention of policy makers t urned to land reform. The food shortages which
were t he result of t he land lords' hoarding practices made t he country de-
pendent on food aid. Not surprisingly t he state cont empl at ed restricting
t he powers of t he landed elite just as it looked for ways of raising agricul-
tural productivity. Since small farms had higher yield ratios, land reform
would increase t he number of small farmers who were mor e likely to invest
in increasing their yields. 34 It was for this reason that in Egypt following
Nasser' s land reform agricultural out put and productivity increased sub-
stantially. 35 Land reform was demanded by t he need for food subsistence,
but given t he weaknesses of t he new state the landed elite resisted all at-
tempts at land reform, most notably by appealing to Islamic parties to un-
derscore t he sanctity of property in Islam.
The Gr een Revolution in t he 1960s did away with t he initial argument
for land reform by increasing t he yield of large farms substantially. Still,
industrialization in Pakistan continued to make land reform a central con-
cern. Industrial growth could only be sustained if t he size of t he domestic
market grew which would require t he economic enfranchi sement of t he
rural masses. 36 It was with this aim in mind, and with t he brief aut onomy
258 Nas r
and power that t he use of military force and international assistance af-
forded t he state that, Ayub Khan introduced a land reform bill in 1959.
Ayub' s reforms were modest in their achievements. They merel y fixed
t he ceiling on private ownership of land at 500 acres of irrigated and 1000
acres of unirrigated Iand. 37 Moreover, t he ceilings were calculated on t he
basis of individual rat her t han family holdings which allowed land lords to
continue to hold large tracts of land by distributing ownership titles among
family members. The land reform plan also provided for circumstances,
based on t he yield of the land, in which t he ceilings could be exceeded.
As a result, the land reform made little dent in economi c and social posi-
tion of t he landed elite. According to one source, after the land reform
t he average land holding per land lord in Pakistan was 7,208 acres, and in
Punjab it was 11,810 acres; 38 the government took over only 35% of t he
land that exceeded the ceilings. One observer has suggested that, in fact,
during t he Ayub Khan period, t he effects of land reform withstanding, ow-
ing to the Gr een Revolution the socioeconomic position of t he l anded elite
was strengthened. 39 To the extent to which t he land reform was effective
it benefitted the middle f ar mer s- - who had t he means to buy land from
large land owners to increase their average holdings by 33.6% bet ween 1959
and 1969--rat her than t he peasants. 4° The middle farmers, meanwhile, had
already been coopted by the landed elite and were a component of their
power structure. Land reform, therefore, did not effect t he structure of
authority in rural areas.
The land reform of 1959 occurred under a military regime that had
succeeded a decaying political or der and hence enj oyed a modi cum of
popularity. The regime had t he ability and willingness to use aut hori t ari an
measures to enforce its redistributive policies as would t he Shah in Iran in
1963. Al t hough such a measure was in t une with its economi c vision for
Pakistan t he regime failed to carry out meaningful land reform. Int erna-
tional assistance may have dampened t he state' s resolve to mor e aggres-
sively pursue its penet rat i on of rural areas, still, t he shape of t he land
reform owed to t he power of t he landed elite and t hei r ability to resist
state policy. Thei r resistance was sufficiently important to blunt the efforts
of Ayub Khan' s modernizing military regime at t he height of its power and
autonomy. 41
The military regime of Ayub Khan lacked a popular mandat e. More-
over, its secularism, and overtly pro-Punjabi bias had made it vulnerable
to religious, ethnic, and provincial opposition. It was, t herefore, reluctant
to challenge too aggressively t he economic interests of t he l anded elite, on
whom it was relying to govern t he country. The ruling regime did not view
itself as strong enough to rule without t he feudal structure of authority.
The state' s vulnerability showed itself not only in t he feeble nat ure of t he
Pa ki s t a n 2 5 9
land reform bill, but also in the state' s unwillingness to implement it ef-
In 1962 Ayub Khan would attempt to substitute t he landed elite with
a centrally-controlled power structure that would extend all t he way from
Islamabad into t he villages. Basic Democracies, as this project was called,
at t empt ed to organize the masses through councils that would link local
politics to t he national one. In time, had this project been successful, per-
haps t he state would have been freed of its dependence on t he landed elite
and would have been able to push through meaningful land reform. How-
ever, it soon became apparent that without land reform it was not possible
to challenge t he existing rural power structure. For, t he rural masses con-
tinued to follow t he lead of the strongmen and t he land owners on whom
they depended for their livelihoods. In t he end, Basic Democracies were
not able to give t he state anything mor e t han a symbolic presence in t he
rural areas.
In t he early 1970s t he debate over land reform was rekindled. This
time it was a populist regime that hoped to distribute economi c resources
to t he rural poor. In contrast with t he Ayub Khan period, Z. A. Bhutto
and t he Pakistan People' s Party (PPP) sought to mobilize mass support to
realize their aim. Bhutto rose to power at t he helm of a ground swell of
public demand for social justice. This fact combined with t he moment ar y
weakness of the Pakistan military, owing to its defeat in t he war of 1971,
gave Bhutto great r oom to maneuver, and to assert t he state' s power and
prerogative. The PPP government articulated an effective populist program
which appeal ed to those whom Ayub Khan' s rapid industrialization policy
had disenfranchised or left behind. Bhutto' s rhetoric called for a mor e equi-
table distribution of economic resources. Aft er he took office in 1971 he
lost no time in nationalizing banks, large industries, numerous private con-
cerns, and promulgating pro-labor legislations and redistributive policies,
all of which were important in ameliorating poverty in urban areas. It was
inevitable that his program would have to address economic disparities in
t he rural areas as well.
In 1972 t he Bhutto government introduced a new land reform bill.
The bill followed Bhutto' s severe criticism of feudalism and t he promise
that large land lords would meet t he same fate as t he maj or industrialists. 42
This land reform too amount ed to reducing the size of land-holdings rat her
t han radically changing the structure of land ownership. The ceilings on
land holding were reduced to 150 acres for irrigated and 300 for unirrigated
land. The 1972 bill also allowed for exceptions to these ceilings based on
productivity and yield, and use of tractors and tubewells. As a concession
to land lords t he benchmark figures used for assessing t he productivity and
yield of farms were those of 1940. 43 This meant that, given general ira-
2 6 0 Na s r
provements in yield owing to t he Gr een Revolution, large proportions of
cultivated land would clear t he 1940 figures, and as a result holdings above
and beyond t he ceilings were common. According to one estimate t he av-
erage land holding after t he 1972 bill stood at 466 acres in Punjab and 566
acres in Si nd--Bhut t o' s native province. The Bhuttos, who are large land
owners in Sind, meanwhile, were alleged to have cont i nued to hold 2,200
acres. 44 This bill too allowed land lords to use family members to hold on
to land beyond that which was allowed by t he law. 45
The state had once again wavered in carrying out meaningful reform.
Bhutto proved reluctant to risk instability in rural areas, mainly because
his part y was not prepared to fill in t he power vacuum t hat dismantling
t he rural power structure would entail, nor was Bhutto willing to allow t he
military to keep order in rural areas. Bhutto was suspicious of t he military,
and did not believe that he could rely on it to push through t he land reform
without at some point challenging his regime. His views in this regard owed
in par t to t he civil war in t he province of Baluchistan, which followed
Bhutto' s at t empt to challenge t he economic status of t he land-holding tribal
leaders. Thei r strong resistance pitted t he military against local tribal forces
in a bitter guerilla war that continued for much of the 1970s. The Baluchis-
t an experience served as a warning to Bhutto about t he scope of resistance
t hat land reform would provoke, and t he inevitability of t he military' s
great er role in polities were t he government to pursue it. In t he end, Bhutto
preferred to rely on t he landed elite to do what t hey had been doing since
t he creation of Pakistan rat her than put the military in charge of social
change and in t he process hand over control of the rural areas to them.
Therefore, land reform fell victim to t he struggle of domination bet ween
Bhutto and t he military.
Meanwhile, t he l anded elite were able to mobilize an array of social
and political forces to chal l enge Bhut t o- - not abl y Islamic f or ces - - and
moreover, themselves began to join t he PPP. The opening of t he party to
t he l anded elite after 1973 moved it to t he right, and eventually scuttled
land reform completely. 46 Arbitrary i nt erference by the l anded elite, and
exemptions accorded by t he government out of political consideration re-
duced t he impact of land reform considerably. 47 Hence, of t he l and de-
clared above t he ceilings, including t he extent allowed by exceptions only
42% was t aken over by t he government in Punjab and 59% in Sind; t he
acreage t aken over by t he government in 1972 was in fact less t han in 1959
(0.6 million in 1972 and 1.9 million in 1959) even as t he ceilings on land
ownership had been reduced. In sum t he area resumed by t he government
amount ed to only 0.01% of t he total farm area of t he country. 4s
The land reform was to be compl i ment ed with incentives to increase
agricultural productivity. The currency devaluation of 1972 was to even t he
Paki stan 261
playing field for agriculture, which had until then suffered as a result of
the overvalued rupee that had favored the industrial sector. In addition,
tax breaks were envisioned for purchase of agricultural machinery. The net
effect was to make farming more profitable for land owners.
Therefore, while Ayub Khan had recourse to the use of military force
t o push through land reform he did not have the popul ar mandat e t o t ake
on t he l anded elite. Bhut t o who had the necessary power base did not have
t he support of t he mi l i t ary--or he did not sufficiently trust t he military.
Aft er t he two land reforms of 1959 and 1972 still 30% of Pakistan' s
farm lands were owned by 0.5% of t he land owners. Over the years t he
Gr een Revolution and high yielding technologies encouraged t hem t o re-
sume more and more of the land that would otherwise be rent ed to tenants.
The resumption of land from tenants was followed by greater mechaniza-
tion of agriculture which meant that the previous tenants along with part
of t he farm l aborer were replaced by tractors. Bet ween 1961 and 1973
794,042 peasants became wage laborers, leading to a "proletarization of
the poor peasantry. ''49 The rise in surplus labor in the rural areas in turn
led t o pauperization of the rural masses just as the profit margins of the
land owners was increasing. The consequence was that after two land re-
forms economi c disparities and rural poverty increased. In fact, the two
land reforms appear to have benefitted only 130,000 families. 5°
Since 1972 Pakistani governments have resorted t o an array of stop-gap
measures t o address t he problems. In 1975 Bhut t o announced that small
land owners (those whose land holdings would not exceed 12 acres of ir-
rigated or 25 acres of unirrigated land) would be exempt from land reve-
nue, and that the government woul d invest in housing for t he rural poor,
artisans, farm laborer, and tenants without houses. 51 In 1976 the govern-
ment again reduced the ceiling on irrigated land, resuming an additional
1.8 million acres. 52 Such measures, however, were a poor substitute for ef-
fective land reform. By the end of the 1970s Ayub Khan and Bhutto' s meas-
ures had benefi t ed only 272,000 out of the total 10 million eligible rural
population, and only 4.5 million acres of cultivated land (less than 10% of
t he total) were redistributed. 53 The state, even at t he heights of its power,
proved incapable of reigning in the landed elite. The two land reforms at
best clipped their wings, but they remained t he most powerful force in rural
Pakistan. s4
It was not until 1993 that t he issue of t he landed elite' s economi c status
was again addressed. In that year, t he provisional prime minister, Moeen
Qureishi, who was appoi nt ed to his position t o oversee fresh elections, en-
joying the aut onomy of his t emporary position and the backing of the mili-
tary, i nt roduced a progressive agricultural tax as a part of his economic
reform plan. The tax was to reduce the state' s growing public defi ci t --whi ch
262 Nasr
had reached critical levels following the fall in aid and labor remittances
from 1988 onwar ds- - and to fund social programs. Although t he tax would
at best apply to only 1.5% of landowners, given its symbolism, it met with
t he strong opposition of t he landed elite in t he parliament and as result,
has not been properly i mpl ement ed by the government of Benazir Bhutto
that followed Qureishi in office despite agreements made with t he IMF by
t he Pakistan government. 55 Under pressure from I MF t he government pro-
vided for new agricultural income taxes in t he budget of 1994-95 but was
unable to push t hem through the parliament owing to resistance from t he
landed elite. 56 The fate of the tax suggests that mor e serious challenges to
t he socioeconomic position of the landed elite is likely to face even great er
opposition. As a result, in 1996 t he government budget envisioned $1.2
billion in new taxes, but avoided agricultural taxes altogether. 57
Benazir' s reluctance to implement t he agricultural tax underscores t he
vexing problem before the Pakistan state. The need for land reform has
become more acute as the greater pauperization of t he rural masses, who
continue to account for t he majority of the population, has creat ed serious
limitations to t he continued industrialization. Meanwhile, t he problems be-
fore t he economy necessitate reform measures that must include t he agri-
cultural sector.
Land Reform and the Islamic Forces
The debat e over land reform and the political tussle that it unl eashed
have perhaps been more consequential politically rat her than economically.
The state' s attempt to contend with the l anded elite set in mot i on forces
that led to great er sacralization of politics. At t he heart of land reform was
t he at t empt by the state to subdue a powerful social organization that pre-
dat ed t he state. To do so t he state has been compelled to look to Islam
for legitimacy and authority, and to support its vision of an alternate pat-
rimonial and/or welfare system. The landed elite too, resort ed to Islam to
creat e a strong resistance to state policy. As a result, fundament al sociopoli-
tical struggles occurred in t andem with great er sacralization of politics.
Throughout t he 1950s t he l anded elite resisted attempts at land r ef or m
by mobilizing religious support for their position. The fundamentalist party,
t he Islamic Part y (JamaCat-I Islami), hel ped galvanize support for t he
l anded elite by underscoring t he sanctity of private propert y in Islam. The
alliance was able to undo t he government' s plans. 5s Obversely, t he problems
of rural poverty and t he socioeconomic position of t he l anded elite t oo
elicited a response from Islamic groups. In 1952-53 following food shortages
in Punjab which were creat ed by the land lords who sought to increase t he
Paki stan 263
price of grain led to wide-scale protests that were orchestrated by t he Islam
League and t he Society of Free Muslims (Anjuman-I Ahrar-I Islam). The
agitations culminated in sectarian riots, which in t urn led to Pakistan' s first
martial law in 1954. State policy too has contributed to this t rend as it has
sought to force through structural changes under t he guise of Islamization,
most notably during t he Zi a period.
Soon after t he 1959 land reform bill the state began to nationalize
religious endowments and distributive institutions. This policy was formu-
lated by t he avowedly secularist Ayub Khan regime. It may t herefore have
had t he intent of weakening the religious forces, especially as the state
sought to appropriate the right to interpret Islam and proceeded to present
Islam as "progressive" force and to free it from t he clutches of t he "anach-
ronistic" institution of t he ulama. 59 But at a mor e fundament al level it was
a consequence of t he state' s failure to subdue t he landed elite, and its de-
sire to instead create an Islamic patrimonial system, which would allow the
state to receive loyalty in ret urn for its provision of goods and resources,
all within t he framework of t he cultural and ideological language of the
masses, and ultimately as a substitute to the system of control exert ed
through t he l anded elite and their structure of authority. Although t he state
has thus far failed to free itself of its dependance on the landed elite, its
attempts in this regard through exerting control over Islamic institutions
and Islamizing t he political discourse has been both significant and conse-
quential. From this point on, as it will become evident below, t he two aims
of finding means of promoting greater redistribution of resources and an-
choring t he state in an Islamically based structure of authority become cen-
tral to all state policies concerning Islam.
To begin with, a part of t he religious endowments and propert y that
was t aken over by t he government in 1959 belonged to l anded families or
was managed by them. Therefore, under t he guise of promoting secularism
t he state i mpl ement ed a selective redistribution of land. Secondly, t he ap-
propriation of religious property, especially those associated with venerat ed
shrines was designed to incorporate religious institutions into a state-led
patrimonial order. The control of distributive services at t ached to t he na-
tionalized religious institutions would furt hermore increase state capacity
and reach in place of that of segments of t he landed elite, compensating
for t he shortcomings of the land reform measures. In fact, t he state began
to actively redefi ne the social function of religious shrines, as locations for
disbursement of social services rat her than loci of religious chari sma--un-
264 Nasr
derscoring the fact that expanding distribution was a central aim of state
Finally, the state hoped to exert greater control over the religious es-
tablishment and t hereby to circumvent any resistance to its policies, and
obversely, to receive the consent of the population to its domination. This
control was later also necessitated by the state' s hope to use Islam mor e
effectively to count er the growing chorus of leftist opposition to Pakistan' s
social reality. Failure to carry out meaningful land reform along with the
social cost of the rapid industrialization policy had made Ayub Khan vul-
nerable to the challenge of the Left.
In 1959 the government issued the West Pakistan Waqf (lit. endow-
ments) Properties Ordinance. The ordinance gave t he state the authority
to take-over the management of shrines, mosques, and all propert i es asso-
ciated with religious endowments, many of which had a distributive func-
tion. The government creat ed the Endowment s Depart ment to oversee t he
new acquisitions of the state. A second law in 1961 increased the power
of the new depart ment and the scope of the state' s control over religious
The gover nment ' s pol i cy ef f ect ed t he her edi t ar y keeper s of Sufi
shrines, the sajjadah-nishins, who were oft en also large land lords, most
directly. 6° Still, the ulama and Islamic parties viewed the government' s in-
trusion into the religious domain with alarm. The state had t aken over the
distributive networks that were managed by the landed sajjadah-nishins,
hoping to consolidate its power over distribution of resources to the poor.
It had sought to use the tensions bet ween the ort hodox ulama and Islamic
activists, and the sajjadah-nishins who are tied to mystical and folk Islam
over doctrinal matters, to gain support for its actions. However, the ul ama
and Islamic activists viewed the extension of state' s reach into the religious
domai n as a graver danger than the "het erodox" practices of the sajjadah-
nishins. Hence, the increase in the state' s capacity, and its intrusion into
the religious sphere, and not the original aim of its pol i cy- - t o streamline
redistributive mechani sms--became the central focus of the opposition ac-
tivities. Although the state sought to use local religious leaders to pr omot e
its rural devel opment projects, and actively encouraged t he participation
of t he religious establishment in rural development, 61 it failed to convince
t hem of the wisdom of either its distributive and devel opment al policies in
t he rural areas or its take over of religious endowments. The state' s failure
to carry out more meaningful land reform, and more generally its secularist
posture, no doubt went a long way in raising the ire of the ul ama and
Islamic activists.
The consequence was to creat e great er opposition t o t he state. The
intrusion of the state into the religious domai n galvanized a resistance. The
Paki s t an 265
issue her e was not t he reformist aims of t he government but t he increase
in its capacity at t he expense of t he religious establishment. The resistance
was organized by autonomous Islamic associations and parties. The oppo-
sition soon ext ended beyond t he issue of state' s nationalization of religious
institutions to include t he gamut of government policies. The result was
that national politics became sacralized, and Islamic parties became an im-
port ant component of t he opposition to Ayub Khan' s rule. State-society
relations soon became focused on questions of secularism and Islamization.
The Ayub Khan government eventually fell from power before populist
forces that fed on economic grievances. Still, t he Islamic forces played a
promi nent role in opposition to his nile, and their role in national politics
was confirmed. The confrontation between Islamic forces and t he state,
although at times of far less consequence t han ethnic and populist issues,
from this point on occupies cent er stage in Pakistani politics.
During t he Bhutto er a wide scale nationalizations increased state ca-
pacity even further. This too provoked an Islamic response although Bhutto
had not directly infringed on t he power and position of t he religious es-
tablishment. In alliance with those whom nationalization had ef f ect ed- - t he
industrialist and l anded elite, but also t he middle and lower class and t he
small land owners--Isl ami c parties opposed the expansion of state capacity
and the shape that it had taken, and sought to prevent it from progressing
any further. The problems that faced Pakistan's economy in t he wake of
Bhutto' s nationalizations no doubt made t he expansion of state capacity
unpopular. 62 Moreover, Bhutto' s inability to increase extraction of surplus
to support redistribution forced him to rely on inflow of funds from Persian
Gul f states. This also forced him to play down leftist politics and to become
amenabl e to sacralizing t he national political discourse. This was a step
that clearly benefi t ed t he Islamic opposition.
The Bhutto regime fell to a military coup which established its author-
ity by closely allying itself with t he Islamic opposition to Bhutto. General
Zi a became t he patron Islamization in Pakistan and for t he first time in
t he country' s history opened t he bureaucracy, t he military, and various state
institutions to Islamic parties. The close alliance bet ween the military and
t he Islamic parties, however, did not alter t he structure of state-society re-
lations. The l anded elite continued to wield power, and t he state di t hered
in undert aki ng fundament al reforms. The problem of social resistance to
redistribution, however, continued to confound the state and push it toward
Zi a was under pressure from those who had brought down t he PPP
government to undo Bhutto' s populist policies. Zi a was not keen on such
a move, lest it lead to social upheaval. During his rule only a t oken number
of industries would be handed over to t he private sector. 63 To cont end with
266 Nasr
t he powerful anti-Bhutto alliance he instead adopt ed their demands for
Islamization--accepting their ideological position while dragging his feet
on carrying out their socioeconomic demands. Islamization was t herefore
the means of contending with t he anti-populist agitations while establishing
his rule through t he very political forces that spear-headed it. Zi a also
found it prudent t o introduce new redistributive policies under t he guise
of Isl ami zat i on--t o use the ideology of the anti-Bhutto alliance t o get their
consent for new reform measures. In t he least, this policy ai med t o draw
a wedge bet ween the landed elite and the Islamic forces, and thus to give
t he regime r oom to maneuver. In fact, during the first years of his rule
(1977-84) Zi a coopt ed Islamic forces to balance the power of the l anded
As part of the Islamization package, however, Zi a sought to introduce
a number of distributive programs. These were designed to bot h aid the
poor, and also to consolidate the state' s control over Islamic i nst i t ut i ons--a
continuation of the policy first introduced by Ayub Khan in 1959. This con-
trol woul d extend the state' s presence t o the private sphere, where from
it had been largely excluded, and wherein, as Scott and Bourdi eu have sug-
gested, resistance t o domination takes form.
The most not abl e measure in this regard was the state' s compulsory
collection of religious taxes, zakat and ushr. Zakat is one of t he five pillars
of Islam; every Muslim is obligated to pay 2.5% of his savings or accumu-
lated wealth annually to the poor. Ushr is an agricultural tax levied on pro-
duce of a land. The manner in which the contribution is made is entirely
up to the individual Muslim, although Muslims generally view the collection
of these taxes to be the duty of an "Islamic gover nment "- - when and if
such a government comes into existence. Zi a ent rust ed the state to collect
and distribute zakat and ushr funds, and made t hem compulsory. By taking
over the collection and distribution of religious taxes he also bol st ered the
claim of his regime to be truly Islamic. 64 The general saw the taxes as the
cornerst one of an Islamic welfare system. 65 Moreover, in t he case of ushr
t he state had finally introduced an agricultural tax, but after disguising it
as an Islamic tax. Islamization t herefore provided t he state with some lev-
erage, if not a convenient cover, in carrying out some of t he measures t hat
had been effectively resisted before.
The st at e' s t ake-over of t he collection and distribution of religious
taxes was ai med at improving social welfare, but also to help the govern-
ment ' s budget deficits. 66 In fact, since 1988 zakat and ushr funds have been
officially integrated into the government revenue accounts. 67 The contribu-
tion of these taxes to state revenue is modest, but they represent an in-
crease in tax revenues, filling in for taxes that ought to be collected directly
and are not. Al t hough direct tax rates are quite hi gh--60% for individuals
Paki s t an 267
in the highest bracket and 65% for compani es--t ax revenue recovery re-
mains quite modest. Evasions of income and corporat e tax are common,
and the agricultural sector has been exempt from income tax. In recent
years direct taxes have made up only 13-18% of the tax revenues. 68
The government' s take-over of religious tax funds was politically prob-
lematic. Even those Muslims who accept the right of an Islamic government
to collect religious taxes were not reconciled to the military regime' s col-
lection of those taxes. Zia' s policies were seen as a direct assault against
the social and economic position of the religious establishment, which in
turn found an incentive to question the Islamicity of his regime with view
t o denying it the right to collect religious taxes. Mufti Mahmud, a promi-
nent religious l eader and advocate of IslamiTation, went so far as to order
his followers not t o receive government subsidies that came from zakat
funds, lest they compromise the autonomy of his seminaries. 69 The Islamic
state thus produced an Islamic opposition. Given the fact that Zia' s initia-
tive closely followed the rhetoric of the Islamic activists they were hard-
pressed to challenge him directly on the issue of religious taxes. As a result,
t hey questioned state authority by opposing government policy on a host
of ot her issues. The consequence was that the scope of Islamic activism
and t he extent of its opposition t o the state increased.
To minimize opposition to the state' s actions Zi a included Islamic par-
ties in t he drafting of new zakat and ushr laws and sought t o assuage t hem
by opening various state resources to them. Still, the religious taxes proved
to be a thorny issue in ot her ways as well. First, the government convert ed
zakat from a charitable alms to a formal state tax, and thus discouraged
savings which woul d be taxable through zakat. The new zakat laws stipu-
lated that all Muslim citizens who had at least Rs.2,000 of certain kinds of
assets would have to pay zakat. 70 The individual was no longer involved in
the calculation of the taxes as was t he case previously, nor woul d he/she
have a say in how the revenues would be spent. Such decisions were now
made by the bureaucracy that General Zi a set up t o oversee t he collection
and distribution of the religious taxes. Second, the bur den of t he tax by
and large fell on the middle and lower middle classes where as t he rich
did not, and do not, contribute their fair share to the system. When the
government' s proposed budget in June of 1996 envisioned new sales and
income taxes but introduced no agricultural taxes, it confronted demon-
strations in several urban areas, one of which resulted in the deat h of four.
Third, the government met stiff resistance from t he Shi'i community
of Pakistan, which numbers bet ween 15-25% of the population. The Shi'i
refused t o pay their zakat t o a Sunni government instead of Shi'i ulama.
Their agitations forced the government to capitulate and exempt t hem from
compulsory zakat donations, but only after t he Shi'i community was poli-
2 6 8 Na s r
ticized and t he general' s allies among the Sunni Islamic activists had de-
vel oped an anti-Shi'i posture. The fact that the government capitulated to
the demands of the Shi'is and exempt ed t hem from zakat collection led
mor e and more Pakistanis to declare themselves as Shi'is. This had t he
effect of hardening anti-Shi'i attitudes among Sunni Islamic activists. State
policy t herefore intensified sectarian conflict, which has since 1988 become
one of the most visible religiopolitical axis of conflict in the country.
Nor were t he poor terribly enamored with t he general' s scheme. Com-
pulsory collection of religious taxes reduced the levels of voluntary contri-
butions to the poor, who now had to deal with the bureaucracy to receive
support. 71 The bureaucracy which oversees the collection and distribution
of religious taxes has strict criteria for disbursing its funds. These criteria
at face value appear to have streamlined the circulation of religious taxes
and have the trappings of an efficient welfare system. At closer examination
the bureaucratization of the circulation of religious taxes clearly disfavors
t hose it intends to serve. In some instances the zakat commi t t ees requi re
written applications from the recipients, most if not all of whom are illit-
erate. 72 In addition, less and less of the tax funds have been going t o t he
poor, and more and more t o state coffers. A large proport i on of the tax
funds have in fact been used to subsidize pilgrimage t o Mecca. 73 The sti-
pends handed out by the zakat committees are generally bel ow what a fam-
ily requires to subsist, Rs.50-100 a mont h per individual ($2.30-4.80) and
Rs.100-150 ($4.80-7.10) a mont h for head of a family. 74 The state in effect
expects t he recipients to suppl ement their income, although it will not allow
t hem to beg and has no provision to help those who are unempl oyed or
unabl e to work. Although the tax funds, which in 1988-89 was approxi-
mately $500 million, 75 could benefit 65% of eligible families only 10% of
t hose bel ow the poverty line in fact receive disbursements. 76 Currently t he
disbursements account for less than 0.5% of the GDP, 77 which shows how
meager the state welfare programs are.
The zakat and ushr laws may have hel ped t he state' s revenues and t o
a modest extent cont ri but ed to its provision of social welfare, but only after
exacting a st eep political cost in terms of entrenching Islamization in state
policy and the national politics, fanning the flames of sectarian conflict,
and expanding state capacity.
Eventually the increase in t he capacity of the state through Islamiza-
tion woul d also bring about tensions in the relations bet ween the state and
its Islamic allies. The Islamic parties were increasingly unhappy with t he
increase in t he state' s control of Islamic institutions. The Islamic parties
also want ed mor e from the regime for their support than t he general was
willing to countenance. The state which still needed to do mor e for the
poor and had now antagonized the Islamic forces, was once again com-
Paki stan 269
pelled to rely on t he landed elite to exert social control. From 1985 on-
wards, with t he rise to power of t he land lord domi nat ed Muslim League
and t he appointment of the Sindhi land lord, Muhammad Khan Junejo, to
prime ministership, the landed elite became Zia' s most important instru-
ment of social control. The upshot was that, between 1977 and 1985, t he
state increased its capacity somewhat and penet rat ed new social arenas un-
der t he guise of Islamization, but it proved unable to achieve its principal
goal of freeing itself from dependence on t he landed elite and pushing
through meaningful reform. In the process, however, t he state did succeed
in ent renchi ng Islamization in Pakistan.
I would like to t hank Ahmad Ashraf, John L. Esposito, Ti mur Kuran,
Ian Lustick, Joel Migdal, Myron Weiner and Art hur Vidich for their com-
ments on earlier drafts of this paper. The research for this paper was made
possible by grants from the Social Science Research Council, t he Ameri can
Institute of Pakistan Studies, and t he Faculty Research Grant fund of the
University of San Diego.
1. For a fuller discussion of the impact of resistance by social forces on state policy see the
various essays in Joel S. Migdal, Atul Kohli, and Vivienne Shue, eds., State Power and
Social Forces (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
2. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, "Pakistan: Islamic State, Ethnic Polity," The Fletcher Forum of
World Affairs, 16:2 (Summer 1992), pp. 81-90.
3. David Gilmartin, Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1988).
4. For interesting parallels with pre-revolutionary France, China, and Russia see, Theda
Skocpoi, States and Social Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
Also see in this regard Timothy Mitchell's interesting discussion of the state's use of
non-state institutions to establish its authority in "The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist
Approaches and their Critics," American Political Science Review, 35:1 (March 1991), pp.
5. For an examination of the relation between feudalism to state power see Michael Mann,
"The Autonomous Power of the State: Its Origins, Mechanisms, and Results" Archives
Europ~ennes de Sociologie, 25:2 (1984), pp. 189-90.
6. Catherine Boone has written about similar relations between the state and rural
strongmen in Senegal; "States and Ruling Classes in Postcolonial Africa: the Enduring
Contradictions of Power," in Migdal et al., State Power and Social Forces, pp. 108-40.
7. On the patterns of extraction or transfer of surplus from agriculture to industry see
Ashutosh Varshney, "Urban Bias in Perspective," The Journal of Development Studies,
29:4 (July 1993), pp. 3-22.
8. Ayesha Jalal, The State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan's Political Economy of
Defence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 144-51.
270 Nasr
9. Idem, "The State and Political Privilege in Pakistan," in Myron Weiner and Ali Banuazizi,
eds., The Politics of Social Transformation in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan (Syracuse:
Syracuse University Press, 1994), p. 180.
10. Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Economic Survey, 1991-1992 (Islamabad: Ministry of
Finance, 1992), Statistical Appendix.
11. For a discussion of the relation of political factors to urban bias see various essays in
The Journal of Development Studies, 29:4 (July 1993).
12. In much of the theoretical literature the inability of the rural forces to act collectively
has served as an explanation for the domination of urban and industrial groups; see for
instance, Robert Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Afn'ca (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1981).
13. Varshney argues that democracies are more open to lobbying by rural groups and may
therefore provide for more equi t abl e relations between urban and rural areas; see
Ashutosh Varshney, Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles
in India (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
I4. Mi chael Li pt on, Why Poor People Stay Poor: Urban Bias in World Development
(Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1977).
15. On t he use of ai d or r ent to compensat e for agri cul t ural surpl us i n suppor t i ng
industrialization see Varshney, "Urban Bias," p. 10.
16. Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan: The Continuing Search for Nationhood (Boulder, CO:
Westview, 1991), p. 175.
17. It is interesting to note that those in Pakistan today who demand fundamental changes,
such as General Hamid Gul or Imran Khan, propose a middle-class based revolution of
sorts, that is based on an Islamic political discourse and that would undo the existing
power structure based on the landed elite; see for instance, Herald (Karachi) (May 1996),
p. 30.
18. Khalid B. Sayeed, Politics in Pakistan: The Nature and Direction of Change (New York:
Praeger, 1980), pp. 54-83.
I9. Mahbub ut-Haq, The Poverty Curtain: Choices For the Third World (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1976), pp. 7-8.
20. Shahid Javed Burki, "The State and the Political Economy of Redistribution in Pakistan,"
in Wei ner and Banuazizi, The Politics of Social Transformation, pp. 297-98.
21. /bid, p. 274.
22. /bid, p. 285.
23. Parvez Hasan, "Agricultural Growth and Planning in the 1960s," in Robert Stevens et
a/., ed., Rural Development in Bangladesh and Pakistan (Honolulu: The University of
Hawaii Press, 1976), p. 240.
24. Ziya OnLs, "The Logic of the Developmental State," Comparative Politics, 24:1 (October
1991), p. 114.
25. Pet er Evans, Embedded Autonomy: State and Industrial Transformation (Pri ncet on:
Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 63.
26. Omar Noman, The Political Economy of Pakistan 1947-85 (London: KPI, 1988), pp. 35-43.
27. James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak." Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1985) and Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
28. For an excellent analysis of this theme with special reference to the case of Afghanistan
see Barnett R. Rubin, "Redistribution and the State in Afghanistan: The Red Revolution
Tur ns Gr een, " in Wei ner and Banuazizi, The Politics of Social Transformation, pp.
29. Burki, "The State and Political Economy," pp. 295-96.
30. Mumtaz Abroad, "Islamization and the Structural Crises of the State in Pakistan," Issues
in Islamic Thought, 12 (1993), p. 307.
31. See the discussion in John L. Esposito, "Pakistan: The Quest for Islamic Identity," in
J ohn L. Esposi t o, ed., 1slam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1980), pp. 139-62.
Pakistan 271
32. U.K. High Commission, Karachi, despatch #31, 8/3/1949, DO35/8948; U.K. High
Commission, Karachi, despatch #18, 5/3/1949, DO35/8948; U.K. High Commission,
Karachi, despatch #31, 8/3/1949, DO35/8948, Public Records Office, England.
33. U.IC High Commission, Karaehi, despatch #31, 8/3/1949, DO35/8948; and U.IC High
Commission, Karachi, despatch #18, 5/3/1949, DO35/8948, Public Records Office,
34. Akmal Hussain, "Pakistan: Land Reforms Reconsidered," in Hamza Alavi and John
Harriss, South Asia (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989), p. 59; and Ronald J.
Herring, "The Policy Logic of Land Reforms in Pakistan," in Manzooruddin Ahmed,
ed. , Contemporary Pakistan: Politics, Economy, and Society (Karachi: Royal Book
Company, 1980), p. 246.
35. Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities
in the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 204-05.
36. For a general discussion of this issue see John MeUor, "Towards a Theory of Agricultural
Devel opment , " in Bruce Johnson and Herman Southworth, eds., Agriculture and
Economic Development (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967), pp. 21-65.
37. Hussain, "Pakistan," p. 61.
38. /b/d, p. 62.
39. Hamza Alavi, "The Rural Elite and Agricultural Development in Pakistan," in Stevens,
Rural Development, pp. 317-53.
40, Sayeed, Politics in Pakistan, p. 56.
41. William Bredo, "Land Reform and Development in Pakistan," in Walter Froelich, ed.,
Land Tenure, Industrialization and Social Stability (Milwaukee, WI: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1961), p. 270.
42. Noman, Political Economy, p. 93.
43. Hussain, "Pakistan," p. 62.
44. Sayeed, Polities in Pakistan, pp. 91-92.
45. M. H. Khan, Underdevelopment and Agrarian Structure in Pakistan (Lahore: Vanguard,
46. Feroz Ahmed, "Structure and Contradiction in Pakistan," in Kathleen Gough and Hari
P. Sharma, eds., Imperialism and Revolution in South Asia (New York: Monthly Review
Press, 1973), pp. 174-200.
47. Noman, Political Economy, p. 94.
48. Hussain, "Pakistan," p. 63.
49. /b/d, p. 66.
50. Sayeed, Politics in Pakistan, p. 93.
51. /b/d, p. 92.
52. Burki, "The State and Political Economy," p. 308.
53. /b/d.
54. It is important to note that there is also considerable skepticism as to whether more
compl et e land reform measures are effective in uplifting the rural economy and
strengthening the state; see D.A. Low, The Egalitarian Moment: Asia and Africa 1950-80
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and Ahmad Ashraf, "From the White
Revolution to the Islamic Revolution," in Saeed Rahnema and Sohrab Behdad, eds., Iran
After Revolution: Crisis of an Islamic State (London: I.B. Tauris, 1995), pp. 21-44.
55. Paula Newberg, "Dateline Pakistan," Foreign Policy 95 (Summer 1994), pp. 163 and
56. HeraM (Karachi) (July 1994), p. 73.
57. The Economist, June 29, 1996, p. 34.
58. Masudul Hasan, Sayyid Abul ACala Maududi and His Thought (Lahore: Islamic
Publications, 1984), Vol. 1, p. 373.
59. Mumtaz Ahmad, "Islam and the State: The Case of Pakistan," in Matthew Moen and
L. Gustafson, eds., Religious Challenge to the State (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,
1992), pp. 230-40.
60. Katherine Ewing, "The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan," Journal of
Asian Studies, 42:2 (February 1983), pp. 251-68.
2 7 2 Na s r
61. Ahmad, "Islam and the State," p. 245.
62. On Bhutto's economic policies see Noman, Political Economy, pp. 74-95, and Anwar H.
Syed, The Discourse and Politics of Zulfikar Al i Bhutto (New York: St. Martin's Press,
1992), pp. 120-24.
63. In fact, during the Zia period, the public sector grew at 7% a year on average; see Burki,
"the State and Political Economy," p. 319.
64. Ann Elizabeth Mayer, "Islamization and Taxation in Pakistan," in Anita Weiss, ed.,
Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), p. 60,
65. Grace Clark, "Pakistan's Zakat and 'Ushr as a Welfare System," in Weiss, Islamic
Reassertion in Pakistan, p. 79.
66. Ahmad, "Islamization and Structural Crises," p. 307.
67. Mayer, "Islamization," p. 60.
68. For a discussion of this issue, see Rafiq Ahmad, "Taxation and Agricultural Incomes in
Pakistan," in Richard Stanford, ed., Rural Development in Pakistan (Durham: Carolina
Academic Press, 1980), pp. 40-47.
69. Cited in Jamal Malik, "Dynamics Among Traditional Religious Scholars and their
Institutions in Contemporary South Asia," p. 16; forthcoming in The Muslim WorlcL
70. Mayer, "Islamization," p. 67.
71. Timur Kuran, "Islamic Economics and the Islamic Sub-Economy," Journal of Economic
Perspectives, 9:4 (Fall 1995), p. 164.
72. Clark, "Pakistan's Zakat," p. 88.
73. Kuran, "Islamic Economics," p. 164.
74. Dimitri B. Novossyolov, "The Islamization of Welfare in Pakistan," in Dale F. Eickelman,
ed., Russia's Muslim Frontiers (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), p. 165.
75. /b/d, p. 164.
76. Cited in Kuran, "Islamic Economics," p. 163.
77. The Economist, August 6, 1994, p. 9.

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