Ganguly on Structural Sources of Authoritarianism in Pakistan

In Intro to Comparative Politics, we devote a considerable amount of time to understanding regime types–what factors contribute to differences amongst authoritarian regimes, why democracies find it difficult to build deep roots in some places, what are the sources of authoritarianism and democracy.

Sumit Ganguly, an expert on nationalism, and south Asian nationalism in particular, recently gave a talk at a round table organized by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (which is based in New Delhi) on the sources of authoritarianism in Pakistan.  The recent decision by embattled Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to step down draws further attention to the nature of the political regime in Pakistan.

Ganguly evaluates, then dismisses, three standard arguments about the structural sources of authoritarianism, then proceeds to offer an alternative, which he believes more successfully accounts for the persistence of authoritarianism in Pakistan.  Ganguly argues that the most compelling structural explanation can be found in an analysis of three main components of the national movement in Pakistan–its structure, ideology and organization,

“The Pakistan movement stood in sharp contrast to its Indian counterpart which, under the towering influence of Gandhi and Nehru, had been democratized and came to represent a cross section of the populace. The Congress had also cultivated ideas of democracy through debate and compromise which were not alien to its leadership at the time of independence. On the other hand, the Pakistan movement under the tutelage of the Muslim League suffered from an extremely limited base confined geographically to what broadly constitutes the modern day state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The socio-economic profile of its leadership was confined to the ranks of UP notables who largely hailed from feudal backgrounds. Against such a setting, M.A Jinnah successfully built up the Muslim League centered on his personality and the idea that the Congress would not guarantee the rights of Muslims.”

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