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.”

Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Conflict/Violence

Today in class we discussed ethnic identity and various types of inter-ethnic violence. We saw that a large literature in political science (and related disciplines) sees the very fact of cultural (and especially ethnic) heterogeneity is being the source of much that goes wrong within states and societies. In a previous post, I mentioned Robert Putnam’s recent findings that trust is lower in more heterogeneous societies; there is a burgeoning literature on the deleterious economic impact of ethnic (and other forms of) identity (public goods provision, for example, is lower in more heterogeneous societies).

If the very fact of heterogeneity is the cause of conflict and violence, then wouldn’t a reasonable solution to inter-ethnic conflict/violence be to create new more ethnically homogeneous states out of a single ethnically diverse one? Some argue that this may be a legitimate solution to the extant difficulties in Iraq. Chaim Kaufmann has argued in favor of just this approach. Here (pdf) is an article written by Nicholas Sambanis setting out, then critiquing Chaim Kaufmann’s hypotheses regarding the usefulness of partition to resolve endemic inter-ethnic violence.

You can view a fascinating BBC documentary on the partition of India in 1947 here. Here’s an important quote from the documentary:

“…as a British barrister draws a line on a map…”

Much of the violence that occurred during the partition was the result of Muslims and Hindus (of course, the Sikh/Punjab problem adds another layer of complexity altogether) trying to be on (or being forced to move to) the right side of that barrister’s line. Millions were killed.

CNN’s Startling use of its “Arab Affairs Editor”

A couple of students in my PLSC250 class have posted a clip of part of CNN’s reaction to news of the death of Al Qaeda’s Number 3 in command. (I thought that I’d never see the day when there was a more dangerous gig than being Spinal Tap’s drummer, but being Al Qaeda’s number 3 must be it.)*

Anyway, the anchor relays the news to viewers and turns to get expert advice from CNN’s “Senior Arab Affairs Editor.” What!?! An Arab affairs editor to give us insight into the area of the Pakistani/Afghan border where there are large numbers of Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Hazara, but no Arabs?

Go and watch the clip for yourself.

*I never thought that I’d be able to fit Al Qaeda and Spinal Tap into the same post.

A bio of Spinal Tap’s first drummer:

pepys.jpgPepys, John “Stumpy” (1943-1969): David and Nigel met the tall, blond geek in 1964 while touring as members of the Johnny Goodshow Revue. At a Southampton pub then known as the Bucket (now the Bucket and Pail), the boys jammed with the bespectacled drummer, nicknamed “the peeper” and then a member of the Leslie Cheswick Soul Explosion (now Les and Mary Cheswick). The three men would go on to form the Thamesmen and later, with Ronnie Pudding and Denny Upham, Spinal Tap, which played its first gig in December 1966. Pepys would die in a bizarre gardening accident shortly after the release of the band’s third album, “Silent But Deadly.” (IST) Nigel: “It was really one of those things the authorities said, ‘Well, best leave it unsolved.’ “

US Intelligence Director Assesses Al Qaeda Threat

A new article in the New York Times analyzes Mike McConell’s Tuesday testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.  How successful has the war on terror been in destroying th threat capability of that terrorist network?  According to McConell’s testimony, not too successful, unfortunately:

Al Qaeda is gaining in strength from its refuge in Pakistan and is steadily improving its ability to recruit, train and position operatives capable of carrying out attacks inside the United States, the director of national intelligence told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

The director, Mike McConnell, told lawmakers that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, remained in control of the terrorist group and had promoted a new generation of lieutenants. He said Al Qaeda was also improving what he called “the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.” — producing militants, including new Western recruits, capable of blending into American society and attacking domestic targets.

A senior intelligence official said Tuesday evening that the testimony was based in part on new evidence that Qaeda operatives in Pakistan were training Westerners, most likely including American citizens, to carry out attacks. The official said there was no indication as yet that Al Qaeda had succeeded in getting operatives into the United States.

One point merits comment: The ability of a non-territorially-based network to threaten powerful states like the US is severely diminished without protection from states, like Pakistan.  Why Pakistan is an ideal refuge for Al Qaeda is a complicated story, but it goes back to the initial founding of the state in the 1940s, and the fact that the Pakistani state has never truly controlled–ie., asserted the monopoly of political violence in the parts of Pakistan in which members of Al Qaeda are currently taking refuge.  A more forceful response from the Pakistani government could have truly powerful destabilizing effects on Pakistan, and on the region as a whole.

See this slide show at the following link, for a fascinating look at Peshawar, a Pakistani city right at the heart of the battle: