Saturday, January 3, 2009

Democracy in Pakistan

By Suhail Hamid

In the Musharraf period, one of the main reasons for the economic growth was a drastic reduction in bureaucratic controls in the economic sector, thereby increasing the participation of the business and service sectors. This in turn led to a rising middle class, increasing consumer spending leading to an economic progress spiral in the classical fashion. Any other country to have put this process in place would have striven to maintain it at all costs. Unfortunately this did not happen, primarily because of the self destructive mindset of some influential segments of our population and the naivete of our leadership.

Let me try to explain this viewpoint from a historical perspective.

Broadly, the global economy can be divided into two stages, a) pre industrial revolution and b) post industrial revolution.

The pre industrial revolution systems are natural resource based or traditional agriculture based. In both these systems the sustenance of human beings is mainly dependent on natural growth of food products.

The post industrial age economy is human resource based, where human sustenance has become dependent on the products of human effort. Essentially this means that manufacturing and services sectors become the primary source for people to get their food and shelter.

The main issue in Pakistan as well as in other third world countries is the transformation of a society from a pre-industrial revolution natural resource and agriculture based, to a post industrial revolution human resource based economy. This transformation becomes necessary when the population of a country increases to a level which exceeds the population support capacity of the traditional economic system. This transformation is generally not achievable through unbridled democracy as it is against the interests of the majority of the population in its earlier stages. Therefore, this change has to be put in place by the ruling establishment, provided they're a) conscious of this fact and b) willing to effect this change smoothly for the betterment of future generations. Once this transformation is achieved, then democracy becomes a sustainable system of governance.

Lets see how this transformation has been achieved in various parts of the world:
1- In the US this was achieved through the civil war of the 1860s. The resistance of the southern states to this transition was so strong that they declared independence and a war was needed to resolve the issue. To end that matter for ever, Gen. Sherman (the commander of the Union forces), totally burnt and destroyed a 50 mile wide strip of land all the way from Atlanta down to the Gulf of Mexico, to prevent the two sides of the Confederacy from ever regrouping. After that democracy has functioned smoothly.
2- In Western Europe, this was achieved over a longer period starting from the French Revolution and lasting till around the mid-19th century. After the French Revolution, the Western European monarchies developed working relationships with the emerging capitalist classes, gradually removing the aristocracy from positions of authority; this policy avoided revolutions elsewhere. As the capitalist economy consolidated, democracy took over as the system of governance.
3- In Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia, this transformation took place with the Russian Revolution in 1918. Although USSR finished off in the 1990s, but the transformation to the post industrial revolution human resource based system was completed. This is the real achievement of the Russian Revolution and the succeeding governments in the USSR. Democracy may now become and sustain as the system of governance in these countries.
4- Far East. All the countries achieved or are achieving this transformation through home grown leadership committed to this change. The most prominent example of course being China. The recent Thai developments indicate a growing awareness that democracy cannot achieve this change and in fact becomes an impediment. Countries like S. Korea and Singapore are past that phase and gradually adopting to democracy.

Now lets see some other examples which confirm the same principle:
1- Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait etc. Since their oil production generates the requisite funds to run the country, there is no imminent need for this transition. So the political system of kingdoms is pretty stable and surviving. Even then the kings are effecting a transformation of their countries to modern manufacturing and service sector based economies, with a view to future betterment.
2- India is trying to achieve this transition through democracy but the progress (if really there is any) is extremely slow and painful. This is not very evident to the world because Indians are very good at presenting a bright picture of themselves, but the fact is that they have a pitiably small industrial base and not being able to expand it to the needs of its populace. Their per capita GNP is much lower than Pakistan, a country with directionless politics and a total lack of awareness.

I think our civil society, media and political leadership should understand that elections is a means, not an end in itself. The end is governance through which the national objectives are achieved. In our case, like all third world countries, this objective is to achieve the transformation from agriculture or natural resource based systems (which cannot sustain the increased population), to a modern human resource based system to have a large enough manufacturing and service sector base to support the increased population. Any government (or form of government) which furthers this change is constructive for the society, and those retarding this change are destructive. Unfortunately our parliamentary form of governance invariable always ends up doing the latter function.

A couple of recent examples demonstrating this awareness in some parts of the world:
1- In China, the industrial base covers only about 30% of the population and is dominating the world economies. The Chinese are trying to expand it ruthlessly without any consideration to the immediate concerns of the rural population. However, this policy will benefit the next generations of the rural populace. Had the Chinese adopted democracy 20 years back, they'd probably still be in a quagmire like other third world nations.
2- In Thailand, the military coup of 2006 was supported by the King, a new constitution was adopted that reduced the power of the parliament, increased the power of bureaucracy (incl judiciary) which is now used by the King (aided by army) to keep the transformation on track even if the elected leaders representing the decadent economic classes try to stall it. As you can see various components of the establishment (the royalty, army, businessmen, professionals, bureaucracy, traders etc) collectively trying to steer the country towards its objective. Whether they succeed or fail is another issue that time will tell, but they're at least trying to do that. So I think the Thai case is a very practical demonstration of the limitations of democracy in a developing country.
In our country, except for the royalty, other sections are there similarly but fighting each other for the sake of elections, thereby always handing over power to the decadent classes who, to their credit I must say, are generally willing to adapt to the change when thrust upon them. PML-Q type politicians are typical of our rural establishment and have always been willing to adapt to the changing world, right from the 1960s era of industrialization to the Musharraf era economic growth. The biggest resistance comes from the urban middle classes who, in fact, would be the beneficiaries of this transformation. So I would call it a naive thinking to the extent of downright stupidity on their part. I think that's because the western media has hammered democracy into our heads as a matter of belief not to be questioned like religious belief systems. We should not blame them for doing so as that's the right system for the level of development of their society. Instead we should use try to understand things in a better way, and not get carried away by the herd mentality.

A powerful and aware middle class essential for true democratic governance in Pakistan or anywhere else, is the effect of this economic transformation, and cannot be its cause; the middle classes of our country, in particular, should understand this fact. A real participatory democracy to serve all Pakistanis with appropriate checks and balances, can only be expected after that.

Related Links:

Future of Democracy in South Asia

Middle Class Clout Rising in Pakistan

Is Pakistan a Democracy Now?

Khadim or Makhdoom? (Servant or Master?)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20090079797

US slaps sanctions on A Q Khan, 15 other people and firms
Press Trust of India
Monday, January 12, 2009, (Washington)

The US on Monday announced sanctions on disgraced Pakistani scientist A Q Khan and 12 other individuals for their involvement in clandestine nuclear proliferation network providing atomic weapon designs and technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

"The Department of State announced that sanctions will be imposed on 13 individuals and three private companies for their involvement in the A Q Khan nuclear proliferation network," the spokesman's office said in a statement here.

The sanctions were announced after a "multi-year US government review of the available information pertaining to the activities of this network," it said.

Khan, 72, led an "extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear equipment and know-how that provided 'one stop shopping' for countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons," the office of the State Department spokesman said in a statement here.

The US said it believes the sanctions will "help prevent future proliferation-related activities by these private entities and provide a warning to other would-be proliferators."

Khan has been kept under house arrest in Islamabad since 2004, when he confessed on state television to have leaked atomic secrets to countries including Iran and Libya.

The scientist retracted the statement after four years, saying he was made to confess under duress.

Satyabrat said...

Hi Riaz, nice to know that you know so much about world economics. But it would be better if you could discuss more about pakistan's economy rather than india's economy..as entire world knows it's china and India are going to be largest economies by 2025, next to US and Japan. i will personally inivte you to come to india and see the growth and then write about india. India is booming and in the current recession also we are manage to get 7 p.c. growth rate, which is next to china.

Anonymous said...

http://changinguppakistan.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/militants-announce-ban-on-girls-education-in-swat/#comments

Raiaz

this time i am not writing feedback but i am just referring you back to pakistani discusison blog which will highlight the current state of the country with regard to survival of secular civilians

Riaz Haq said...

Satyabrat,

You suggest " if you could discuss more about pakistan's economy rather than india's economy.."

Actually I have written about Pak economy repeatedly along with India, China and other economies.

You also said "i will personally inivte you to come to india and see the growth and then write about india."

Thanks for the invite. But I have visited India many times and I have written about it...about both India's accomplishments and its challenges.

Riaz Haq said...

Fruits of democracy have been elusive in South Asia. Neither Indian nor Pakistani democracy have delivered for the people. British Minister Alexander recently contrasted the rapid growth in China with India's economic success - highlighting government figures that showed the number of poor people had dropped in the one-party communist state by 70% since 1990 but had risen in the world's biggest democracy by 5%.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of how Pakistan has changed in this decade by a Ahsan, a blogger on Five Rupees:

In the last decade, this picture has changed dramatically due to three central factors.

The first and most important factor is the explosion of private electronic media. In the 1990s, it was difficult for most Pakistanis -- the vast majority of which cannot or do not read newspapers -- to get information that was not government-sponsored or, less mildly, propagandistic. ....

This picture has changed drastically, as anyone with even a cursory interest in Pakistan will be able to tell you. There are now dozens of news channels in Pakistan, each with their own ideological and partisan bent. Some are national-level, others more regionally and ethnically focused. The trend began in the early part of this decade and has plateaued only recently, as the market gets sated. And while few of these channels will win awards for calm understatement or presciently sedate analysis, the fact remains that the media -- if it can be spoken of as a collective -- has given voice to a mass of the population previously unheard from. It has become a player of truly monumental importance for its ability to shape, mold, and excite the public. It is, at once, sensationalistic, blood-thirsty, xenophobic, conspiratorial, humorous, investigative, and anti-government. And yet its arrival on the scene is more than welcome, first for providing the venue for disenfranchised interests to make themselves known and second because the alternative is much worse.

The second significant factor, related to but distinct from the first, is the rise of communication technologies in Pakistan, particularly cellular phones. In 2002, there were 1.2 million cell-phone subscriptions in the country. By 2008, this number had risen to 88 million -- an increase of more than seven thousand percent. In addition, more than one in ten Pakistanis had access to the internet by the end of the decade; low by advanced countries' standards but an astronomical rise by Pakistan's. These developments in communications meant that political narratives became congealed and disseminated at speeds never heard of before, and that information and the wider "war" for public opinion became incredibly hard to win if a battle was lost at any stage.

The third major factor is the economic growth that took place in Pakistan in the first half of the 2000s. Pakistan's GDP doubled between 1999 and 2007, and more than kept pace with population growth, as GDP per capita increased by almost sixty percent between 2000 and 2008. More to the point, this growth was overwhelmingly powered by expansion of the service sector, which is concentrated, quite naturally, in the urban centers of the country. For the first time since independence, the term "Pakistani urban middle class" was not a contradiction in terms.

This development had two effects. First, and more trivially, the urban middle class did what urban middle classes do: they bought televisions and computers. In turn, that allowed them to plug into the private media explosion in ways simply unimaginable previously. Second, it shattered the elite-only edifice of Pakistani politics, and made challenges to government based on Main Street issues -- the price of flour, the lack of electricity, the selective application of the rule of law -- a viable process. Fifty years ago, Seymour Lipset wrote one of the canonical articles in Political Science on the process of democratization, its relationship to urbanized middle classes, and how the demands and values of the latter lead almost inexorably to support for the former. Here was living proof of Lipset's analysis.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a opinion piece in the Guardian today praising Pakistan's "maturing" of democracy:

A comparison with Afghanistan illustrates the significance of Pakistan's reforms: President Hamid Karzai is trying to take control of the appointment of the electoral complaints commissioners, whose integrity was instrumental in curtailing the widespread fraud that marred his re-election last year.

In Pakistan, the recent constitutional reforms reduce the president's discretion to appoint election commissioners by giving the opposition a voice in this process.

However, the reforms go far beyond the issue of elections, restoring key features of the original constitution of 1973, adopted after the secession of East Pakistan, today's Bangladesh. The constitution foresaw a parliamentary system of government and significant competencies for the four provinces, but soon power shifted to the president, a trend that became even more marked under the periods of military rule by Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf.

The reform, known as the 18th amendment, moves powers from the president to the prime minister and parliament, and from the federal level to the provinces. The president can no longer dissolve parliament at will, but only in specific, narrowly defined circumstances. The provinces will be exclusively in charge of a wide range of tasks, including social legislation, family law and criminal law. In signing the amendment, President Asif Ali Zadari will lose much of his authority, though he will remain extremely influential as co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are interesting excerpts from an analysis of how Pakistanis in Britain (70% from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir) vote in British elections:

But there are those who are angered by what they see as the tribalism of Mirpuri politics being transferred to the UK, where clans stick together and elders make decisions for the whole extended family.

"The vote is a very private and individual matter for any person," says Khwaja Sohail Bashir, 54, a British Mirpuri businessman and political activist who has recently settled back in Pakistan.

He says only voters themselves can understand the issues that affect them, and questions whether Pakistani politicians would appreciate what is happening with the British economy or the National Health Service and take that into account when trying to influence opinions.

"Every community should maintain its culture, it is what makes Britain such a beautiful society," says Mr Bashir. "But voting has got nothing to do with culture."

But others, like Rose FM's manager, disagrees. "These links cannot be broken," he says. He talks of the British government itself trying to promote connections between far-flung Mirpuri communities.

"We have had British politicians from various parties come to these very studios in Mirpur, talking about their agendas, so why shouldn't our politicians go to the UK?" he asks.

'Everybody does it'

But Mirpur's influence on this election does not stop at encouraging people to vote one way or another.

Sitting in the garden of a large villa in Mirpur, a British citizen who has been a taxi driver in Halifax in Yorkshire for more than 20 years, talks of a practice which has become widespread here.

For obvious reasons the man, in his fifties, does not want us to publish his name. He describes how people are going door to door asking Britons to blindly sign proxy forms for the upcoming elections, allowing someone else in the UK to vote on their behalf.

"They said I didn't have to fill in any details, just to sign my name at the bottom of the form," he says, smiling. "So I signed two."

He laughed as he told me he had no idea who was going to vote on his behalf, and whom they were going to vote for.

"I personally know 25 other people who did the same thing, lots of people just on this street, but everybody does it."

Many others, among the contingent of thousands of British citizens thought to be here, have admitted signing proxy forms in this way.

While proxy voting is a mechanism which does allow British citizens abroad to cast their vote, many will undoubtedly look upon this way of doing it as unethical.

Mayraj said...

The biggest flaw in democracy is that there is a tendency for the elected representatives' interests and those of the public will oppose each other. Elected representatives whether they are in a developing country (where this shows up quicker) or a developed country can act to serve own interests first. For the public's interests to be served the public needs to be informed, educated and not too busy to impose their will on their representative not just at election time but between elections. Also their needs to be proper money management no matter whose interests are to be served.

When this does not happen, elected reps will run country into the ground. Has happened in US, UK, Greece, Pakistan,. It is hoppening in Germany in slow motion. and when the population ages and expects govt help is when it looks like there will be no money in the till or maybe before if the govt owned banks acting as hedge funds lose big!. In India it will happen as soon as delicate balance of debt bought by locals is disturbed. This happened with oil crisis when India sought IMF help. Can happen again for many reasons. Anyway, due to farmers misuse of water and fertilizers means they will come banging on govt door for aid and not amount of debt will be bought by Indian public to make up for that need! Then the discipline of the bond market, being imposed on Greece will lead to same debacle.

In India IMF intervention meant market was opened and India became this outsourcing hub. But, this small change will not be enough to satisfy angry masses needs.

My assumption was Germany was immune to US, UK developing/ country problem. But this revealed I was deluded.. Yeow! And Germany is the linchpin of EU and Euro. How can Merkel be stern with Greece and not with own states and state owned gamblers? Of course all German parties are guilty, so maybe they cannot see what their own behavior has wrought until it smacks them down.
Pakistan had major problems with its nationalized banks. I never dreamed that Germany would show that state owned banks can make a mess in a country as evolved as Germany.
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/05/guest-post-beyond-repair.html

Riaz Haq said...

The recent tragic assassination of Gov Salman Taseer has caused many to rethink whether the South Asian Barelvi or Sufi Islam is really more tolerant than Deobandi or Wahabi Islam imported into Pakistan from Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, the followers of Barelvi Islam have not hesitated in supporting blasphemy laws, and they have shamelessly cheered the murder of Salman Taseer who spoke for repeal of such laws.

I also think the Barelvi or Sufi Islam in Pakistan has been hijacked by the feudal-politcal class of makhdooms (Yusuf Raza Gilani, Shah Mahmmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Amin Fahim, etc) to exploit their self-proclaimed lineage from Prophet Mohammad (their so-called Syed status) as a way to maintain their feudal-cum-spiritual power over the poor peasants in Sind and Southern Panjab.

This feudal domination of politics has badly hurt the emergence of real democracy and any advancement of the poor, illiterate rural folks in Pakistan, and contributed to the growth of religious extremism particularly in rural Punjab.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's "The Other Story" on Salman Taseer seen through thye eyes of Shirin Sadeghi as published in The Huffington Post:

Albert Camus's famous novel, The Stranger, was the story of a man who was killed not because of a crime he had committed but because of a steady rise in publicity about his character faults. Little things bothered people about the Stranger -- he didn't cry at his mother's funeral, he had a steady girlfriend he didn't plan to marry. When he became implicated in a crime, the trial became a showcase of all the tiny things he did in his private life that the public didn't approve of or simply didn't understand -- though none of these things were exactly wrong or immoral, in sum and in public, they cost him his life.

Salman Taseer was a Stranger in Pakistan. His millions of dollars, British mother, private relationships, and extravagant Western lifestyle -- though not in themselves crimes nor even shortcomings in character, could not possibly have been more in contrast with the very poor and increasingly religiously extreme population of Pakistan.

In the last few years, more and more of the private details of his life were leaked into the public consciousness, private photos were obtained and published, personal habits were recounted. Here in the U.S., a large number of tributes to him have framed him as a crusader of human rights who died for good but the fact is -- and most Pakistanis will tell you, if they are not in the habit of pandering to Western imagery, that what really killed Salman Taseer was anything but an isolated -- though brave -- act of heroism.

The ugly truth of Pakistan today is not about a battle between do-gooders and those who oppose them. What killed Salman Taseer was the primary and overwhelming disparity in Pakistan -- the one that has steadily fundamentalized that country since the days of the U.S.-imposed religious dictator Zia ul-Haq, through the first Afghan war and now the new Afghan war that is also blatantly being fought in Pakistan. That disparity is one of wealth, of have-nothings and have-everythings.

The great anger in Pakistan against the current President Zardari, his slain wife and their family has very clearly been against the extravagance of their elite Western lives -- the wealth and abundance, their obvious dismissal of not only the tragic and obvious poverty of the country they rule down on, but the values and traditions of its people which they may never have even learned, or simply choose not to respect.

Salman Taseer was also a multimillionaire -- though many people agree he came upon most of his wealth through industry rather than other means. But in a country as poor as Pakistan whose public has for a generation now increasingly embraced religion as the singular means of acquiring any authority or voice against the feudal lords and wealthy elite who are granted government positions from their friends to rule over people, apart from extreme and flamboyant wealth, the other major crime against decency is being out of touch with the public's values.

Those values include religion, and Taseer, a man who reportedly carried a tiny Koran around his neck, nonetheless did not understand that he had no authority to impinge on religious matters. Strangers cannot afford to be activists, even if it is just once.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an interesting Op Ed by Prof Lev Ginsburg on democracy in developing world, as published in Aljazeera English:

The basic reason for democracy's lack of solutions to such problems (poverty, economic disparity) is that its principles have been formulated in industrialised capitalist societies characterised by considerable cultural homogeneity and relatively small economic gaps.

Democracy is a set of formal principles developed in Western Europe with the aim of facilitating the representation and articulation of the middle and working classes and designed to contain peacefully the conflicts between them and the upper class.

In the absence of a balance of power between classes, and a consensual unifying national identity, the automatic installation of formal democratic principles might only make matters worse.
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When there is a systematic link between cultural identity and economic status, democracy becomes a problem, rather than a solution. It exacerbates cultural conflicts to the point of violence, because it provides a formal opportunity for the majority to force their will on the minority.

Political sociologist Michael Mann has shown that in these cases democracy only serves to intensify conflicts among racial and ethnic groups, to which I would add, in the Middle Eastern context, the conflict between confessional groups and between the religious and the secular.
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The oldest case, mind you, is the US - the cradle of the democratic constitution which announced a "government of the people" and began the massacre of the American indigenous people because they were not considered part of "we, the people" of America.
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Whoever wants democracy under these conditions must first come up with a creative and consensual formula, according to which each cultural group would be free to live its unique cultural life without attempting to force its identity and customs on the entire citizen body.

In other words, demonstrating for democracy is not enough. What the countries of the Middle East require is political consensus on mutual recognition of rights and coexistence, guaranteed by a constitution and institutionalised by electoral procedures and representative institutions.

Egypt does have to worry, however, about economic inequality and the severe daily hardships suffered by most of its population. Without providing solutions to these problems, even the most democratic regime can be toppled by massive protests, possibly leading to new forms of dictatorship. A good example of such a failure of democracy was December 2001 in Argentina, when the masses flooded the streets calling for "all politicians to go home" and toppling five presidents in a row.

This happened only two years after democratic elections swept a broad leftwing front to power, which had promised to bring the country out of its deep economic crisis, but failed. The elected government pursued the policy dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which protected the interests of foreign investors against those of the local middle and salaried class. The crisis caused all holders of local bank deposits to lose 70 per cent of their money, with the blessing of the IMF.

Therefore, Egypt must realise that although democracy is essential, any formal constitution or system of government will not solve its economic problems. Immediately after the elections, Egypt's new policymakers will have to switch from the formal liberal discourse of democracy to face and discuss the fundamental questions of Egypt's economic structure. In the process, they are liable to discover that it is far more difficult to uproot a corrupt economic regime than to topple a single dictator.

Riaz Haq said...

Latest publication of Wikileaks by The Hindu reveals vote buying by India's ruling party in a 2008 confidence vote:

The ghost of bribes for MPs’ votes returned to haunt the government on Thursday with the entire Opposition demanding its resignation over allegations that UPA-I purchased the support of lawmakers to survive the trial of strength at the height of crisis over Indo-U.S. nuclear deal in 2008.

On top of several scams that had surfaced in the last few months, the government faced a torrid time in Parliament on Thursday with Opposition targeting it on the manner in which it won the vote of confidence in 2008 after the Left parties had withdrawn support to it opposing the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.

Both the Houses of Parliament were repeatedly rocked by uproar and adjournments by the Opposition members who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government saying it did not have any right to continue even for a moment as it was surviving on “political and moral sin“.

The Right and and the Left combined in Parliament whenever it met during the day to launch an assault armed with the claim in a U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks that an aide of former Union Minister Satish Sharma had shown to the diplomat currency chests that were part of Rs.50 crore to Rs.60 crore money collected by Congress for purchase MPs for the vote in the Lok Sabha.

The only defence that the government came out with was when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that a diplomat’s cable enjoyed immunity and he could not confirm or deny its contents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Prof Anatol Lieven, the author of Pakistan-A Hard Country, explaining P2K in an interview with Harpers magazine:

This represents a shocking surrender on my part to SMS-speak, which comes of associating with students!

What it stands for is “Patronage to Kinship,” which is central to the nature and workings of the Pakistani state and political systems. In my book, I argue that this system—especially in the countryside but to some extent also in the cities—revolves around local elites using their own wealth to gain leadership positions in their kinship groups, using these positions to advance in politics and get elected to the provincial or national assembly (whether under civilian or military rule), and then in turn using their influence on government to extract corruption.

However, by contrast with some systems, like Nigeria’s, the benefits of this corruption cannot simply or even mainly be kept for the immediate beneficiaries. In order to retain support, they have to distribute a reasonable proportion of it to their kinfolk and other supporters—otherwise they won’t go on supporting the leaders for very long. Even within quite tight-knit kinship groups, there is usually a rival relative who will step forward to claim the leadership if the existing leader is seen as mean, greedy, and unresponsive to his followers’ needs. There are two good U.S. quotes which illustrate the morality behind this. The first was said about Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago by his supporters: “He dunks, but he splashes.” The second comes from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Highway Patrolman”: “A man turns his back on his family, he ain’t no friend of mine.”

In my book, I describe this system as “Janus-faced.” On the one hand, because of the way in which it maintains kinship links and spreads a certain amount of patronage through society, it helps maintain the existing system’s resilience in the face of the threat of Islamist revolution. On the other hand, it cripples the state’s ability to generate and spend resources effectively on infrastructure, education, and every other form of state service, and it is therefore disastrous for Pakistan’s economic development and social progress.

I argue that the power and prestige of the Pakistani military within the Pakistani system has been due chiefly to its ability to separate itself from the normal workings of the patronage and kinship system, and to operate as a relatively efficient and honest meritocracy. However—and I do wish more of my critics would notice this—I also say repeatedly that the reason the military has been able to do this is that it has in effect functioned as a giant patronage network, extracting a massive share of state resources and spending them on itself, albeit in an orderly way and with some benefits reaching the ordinary soldiers as well as the officers.


http://harpers.org/archive/2011/05/hbc-90008092

Riaz Haq said...

All the pretensions of western style institutions make little sense to most inhabitants of India and Pakistan and other former colonies.

The colonial legacy of parliamentary democracy and British style rule of law are alien concepts in South Asia and never touch the lives of over 90% of the population.

With few exceptions, the disputes and conflicts are resolved using traditional rules set and adjudicated by local village councils (panchayats and jirgas) which are at odds with the laws passed by the national and provincial legislatures and implemented by the governments' justice system.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a review of "River of Smoke" by Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

It is 1838, and Amitav Ghosh's new novel, River Of Smoke, sails into Canton, a rambunctious, crowded city, and home to seafarers, itinerant merchants, opium traders and many such floating folks. "In China, everything new comes from Canton," says a character, in what is the second book in a planned trilogy.
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Canton's suburbs are bustling, floating cities on the Pearl River, a veritable "waterborne hive" where up to a million people live in boats moored along the water's edge. At the centre of this maelstrom of commerce, a prosperous Indian Parsi opium merchant, Bahram Modi, negotiates a knotty question of the morality of his trade even as Chinese authorities launch a concerted crackdown.

But beyond the fog of opium and the cacophony of the foreigner's town, River of Smoke is really a scathing parable of globalisation.
---
Last week, on a cloudy Delhi morning, I asked Ghosh, a trained anthropologist from Oxford, whether free trade and globalisation had failed a lot of people. "Of course," he said. "Look around you, look at Greece, look at England. And yes, we keep making and selling things which are of no real use!"

There's an amazing amount of economics in his novel - pushed against the wall, opium merchants talk about setting up an off-share trading base to ship in opium and about the "hand of freedom, of the market", echoing Adam Smith. (Ghosh tells me that a number of traders were Scottish, and would have been influenced by Smith's tracts.) Clearly, globalisation repeats itself again and again - often with unsavoury results - and nothing really changes.

And then there are the ruminations on democracy. "Democracy is a wonderful thing," says Bahram. "It is a marvellous tamasha (spectacle) that keeps common people busy that men like ourselves can take care of all matters of importance. I hope one day India will also be able to enjoy these advantages." I ask Ghosh about the health of democracy in India. He doesn't appear to be very upbeat about it. "Democracy for democracy's sake doesn't make much sense", he says, "unless we strengthen institutions and follow processes." Otherwise, as Bahram says, it can just become a spectacle, involving the institutions, the media and the people.

Two decades after India embraced globalisation and economic reforms, the results are mixed: a rising tide has lifted all boats - to borrow an allegory from Ghosh's sea novels - but many boats are barely afloat. There is valid criticism about a lot of growth being jobless, and inadequate state attention to education and health of the poor. In an intensely media-driven environment, where everybody appears to be playing to the gallery, democracy, many say, is being trivialised.

But, of course, River Of Smoke is more than all this. This masterwork of historical fiction is brimming with characters and colour. Behind its finely etched detail about people, cities, voyages, flowers and food, it is a seriously engaging political novel - perhaps one of the finest ever by an Indian writer. Don't miss it.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14026315

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Russian analyst Anatol Karlin on India's prospects and its comparison with China:

It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.
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The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).
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Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls ”Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens....


http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2012/02/04/china-superior-to-india/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times Op Ed on US democracy groups working in developing nations:

Now that seven American pro-democracy workers have been allowed to post bail and return to the United States, perhaps we can examine what the U.S. was up to in Egypt using reason instead of patriotic emotion. The Egyptian furor over such seemingly idealistic work may strike us as wild and idiotic, but in fact, the Egyptians have a right to be suspicious. America's attempt to promote democracy around the world through private organizations has unsavory beginnings and a sometimes troubling history.

The program stems from a discredited CIA operation. In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cold War, the CIA set up a group of phony foundations to funnel CIA money to private groups that were either anti-communist or, at least, non-communist. Among the recipients were the AFL-CIO, the National Student Assn. and the magazines Encounter in London and Transition in Africa. Some did not even realize they were operating with CIA subsidies. When the secret operation was exposed in Ramparts magazine and other U.S. publications, there was great embarrassment, and President Lyndon Johnson put a stop to such CIA funding.

But many in Congress felt that the program's problem lay only in its ties to the CIA. Cut those ties and make everything aboveboard, they argued, and the attempt to win hearts and minds to the American way would be useful and benign. In the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy to take the place of the defunct CIA program.

Under the law, the endowment divided its money among four new institutes created to sponsor programs encouraging democracy throughout the world. The four institutes were run by the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supposedly ensuring the participation of the major American ideologies and interests.


http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meisler-prodemocracy-20120306%2c0%2c4106995.story

Riaz Haq said...

Here's David Brooks' New York Times' column on inadequacy of democracy in solving problems:

The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.

The American founders did this by decentralizing power. They built checks and balances to frustrate and detain the popular will. They also dispersed power to encourage active citizenship, hoping that as people became more involved in local government, they would develop a sense of restraint and responsibility.

In Europe, by contrast, authority was centralized. Power was held by small coteries of administrators and statesmen, many of whom had attended the same elite academies where they were supposed to learn the art and responsibilities of stewardship. Under the parliamentary system, voters didn’t even get to elect their leaders directly. They voted for parties, and party elders selected the ones who would actually form the government, often through secret means.

Though the forms were different, the democracies in Europe and the United States were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching. But democratic self-government is possible because we’re smart enough to design structures to police that selfishness.

James Madison put it well: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind, which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.”

But, over the years, this balanced wisdom was lost. Leaders today do not believe their job is to restrain popular will. Their job is to flatter and satisfy it. A gigantic polling apparatus has developed to help leaders anticipate and respond to popular whims. Democratic politicians adopt the mind-set of marketing executives. Give the customer what he wants. The customer is always right.--------
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Western democratic systems were based on a balance between self-doubt and self-confidence. They worked because there were structures that protected the voters from themselves and the rulers from themselves. Once people lost a sense of their own weakness, the self-doubt went away and the chastening structures were overwhelmed. It became madness to restrain your own desires because surely your rivals over yonder would not be restraining theirs.

This is one of the reasons why Europe and the United States are facing debt crises and political dysfunction at the same time. People used to believe that human depravity was self-evident and democratic self-government was fragile. Now they think depravity is nonexistent and they take self-government for granted.

Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/18/opinion/the-age-of-innocence.html?_r=1

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Stephen Kinzer's NPR interview on his book about Dulles brothers:

On the Dulles' ability to overthrow regimes in Iran and Guatemala but not in Cuba or Vietnam

They were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it's very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it.

Actually, one of the people who happened to be in Guatemala at the time of the coup there was the young Argentine physician Che Guevara. Later on, Che Guevara made his way to Mexico and met Fidel Castro. Castro asked him, "What happened in Guatemala?" He was fascinated; they spent long hours talking about it, and Che Guevara reported to him ... "The CIA was able to succeed because this was an open society." It was at that moment that they decided, "If we take over in Cuba, we can't allow democracy. We have to have a dictatorship. No free press, no independent organizations, because otherwise the CIA will come in and overthrow us." In fact, Castro made a speech after taking power with [Guatemalan President Jacobo] Árbenz sitting right next to him and said, "Cuba will not be like Guatemala."

Now, [Vietnamese Communist leader] Ho Chi Minh was not establishing an open society ... the fact is, he had a dictatorship, he had a closed, tyrannical society, and that made it much more difficult for the CIA to operate. So we find this irony that if [Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad] Mossadegh and Árbenz had been the tyrants that the Dulles brothers portrayed them as being, the Dulles brothers wouldn't have been able to overthrow them. But the fact that they were democrats committed to open society made their countries vulnerable to intervention in ways that Vietnam and particular North Vietnam then were not.

On how things might have been different had the Dulles brothers not intervened

It's quite possible, even likely, had the Dulles brothers not been [in Vietnam] or had acted differently, there never would've been an American involvement in Vietnam at the cost of a million lives and more than 50,000 Americans. Guatemala wouldn't have suffered 200,000 dead over a period of 35 years in the civil war that broke out after they intervened in Guatemala and destroyed democracy there. Iran fell under royal dictatorship and then more than 30 years of fundamentalist religious rule as a result of the Dulles brothers' operations. Had they not intervened in Iran we might've had a thriving democracy in the heart of the Muslim Middle East. ...

So you look around the world and you see these horrific situations that still continue to shake the world, and you can trace so many of them back to the Dulles brothers.


http://www.npr.org/2013/10/16/234752747/meet-the-brothers-who-shaped-u-s-policy-inside-and-out