Blogs Cross posted

Of establishment and its beneficiaries – by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa

Read Part 1 of this article here

This article is part of the same article posted here with the title “Political Homosexuality“. I have posted it as a separate article for its comments on Establishment equations and understanding of Pakistan power politics.(aliarqam)

Time to rethink the concept of the powerful establishment in Pakistan. Although it is a complex subject on which serious work was not done after the great sociologist Hamza Alavi or American political sociologist Stanley Kochanek (sadly both are now dead), I would like to lay down some basic perimeters of the country’s power politics and contours of the establishment.

First, as argued by well-respected authors like Mohammad Waseem, Pakistan’s polity is really bureaucratic in nature. The state bureaucracy, from the early days, had a game plan for the state according to which politics, politicians and political parties were to be used to seek legitimacy from the public. This is also the reason that the military bureaucracy allows a civilian interlude every ten years. Also, it explains why the politicians tend not to learn from their past mistakes. Power, including electoral power, is always carefully manipulated. Most politicians understand that the electoral process is primed to meet the demands of the establishment except for in a post-crisis election. The formula is that every election after a crisis is likely to be fairer than the one held in relatively normal circumstances. For example, the 1970, 1988 and 2008 elections were comparatively fairer. In the absence of a crisis it is easier to distract the un-motivated voter to sift through the results.

Second, as Hamza Alavi argued, the state bureaucracy (civil and military) was meant to service the interests of the elite. I would argue that the over-concentration of power resulted in turning the civil and military bureaucracy into powerful stakeholders (for those interested in data-based analysis plz see Stanley Kochanek’s book on Pakistan’s Politics and Interest Groups).

Third, at this juncture the establishment or the power elite is closely connected with each other through personal ties and shared interests and values. Just look at different powerful families. One example that quickly comes to mind is that of the Abida Hussain clan which has stakes in the political system, the media (through Najam Sethi/Jugnoo Mohsin group), business and industry (Syed Babur Ali), the military and the civil bureaucracy. Another angle – you will find members from the same family in different political parties as well as the state bureaucracy, the media, judiciary and other powerful groups. So, they tend to fight each other and use the conflict to gain legitimacy. This explains why the political leadership never managed to get rid of the army nor the army could ever succeed to bring about alternative leadership.

Therefore, I’d like to argue that the powerful establishment always comprises of a primary group which is aided by a secondary group of beneficiaries. Its the prime actors who form the core of the establishment. Since the birth of the country, there has been a lot of juggling between the primary and secondary players until the group began to consolidate its shape in the past couple of decades or more. A glance at the following table will give some idea about the partnership:

1947-54: (primary) LF+TIs+CB+Mil
(secondary) TMs+PMIs+LC+Media

1954-71: (Primary) Mil+CB+LF+TIs+B&I
(Secondary) LC+PMIs+Media

1971-77: (Primary) LF+TIs+CB+Mil
(Secondary) Mil+B&I+LC+Media+PMIs

1977-88: (Primary) Mil+CB+PMIs
(Secondary) LF+TIs+LC+Media

1988-99: (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+PMIs
(Secondary) LF+TIs+Media+LC

1999-01 (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+PMIs+Media
(Secondary) LF+TIs+LC+NGOSec+ForExp

2001-08 (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+Media+PMIs
(Secondary) LF+TIs+LC

2008-todate (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+Media+LC
(Secondary) LF+TIs+NGOSec+ForExp

LF = landed-feudal
Mil = Military
TMs = Trader-Merchant class
B&I = Business and Industry
CB = civil bureaucracy
LC = legal community (a glance at Kochanek’s work will show that the legal community was always part of the power elite. They were included in the initial legislatures and played a more formal role in the form of the judiciary)
TIs = Traditional Islamiscts (pirs and sajjada nasheens)
PMIs = Post-modernist Islamiscts (religious right and religious warriors)
NGOSec = non-governmental sector
ForExp = Elite foreign expatriates that are increasingly becoming partners of the state bureaucracy and frequently channel money into military sponsored projects abroad. These connections are useful especially in terms of financing positions and endowments abroad that will service the interest of the bureaucracy.

A careful look at this power arrangement and you will notice how state bureaucracy has always been a member of the core/primary. This includes the Bhutto years when the military was resuscitating and the civil bureaucracy became tremendously powerful due to its expanded role in business and industrial management. Also, the media was always on board. The first paper Dawn had state-sponsorship and its editorial was always close to the state including after the change from the right to left of center. Its just that the center (after 1971) was aligned with the left as well, or at least seemingly so. Then there was Pakistan Times, the Nawa-i-Waqt group, Massawat, etc. After its physical expansion the media has begun to play a more important role. While the ownership was always aligned with the establishment, especially state bureaucratic forces, in recent years the editorial has largely managed to align itself as well. No wonder, the pay commission issue is never resolved.

The problem with the above alignment is that the elite become myopic and predatory and begin to inadvertently destroy the state. They have managed to damage the nation-state and all we are now left with is the administrative-state. This structure results in generating a clogged-up political system reeking of stench because political power does not move around and is concentrated in a small space. Much to the dislike of my alleged leftist friends, the current fad of militancy is actually a result of the above-described political heterosexuality and muck. Violence is natural in a socio-polity where all legitimate means to re-negotiate power are dead or tightly-controlled. This is not to suggest that the Deobandi-Salafi-Wahabi jihadis are the future. They, of course, have a central place in the core group of the establishment and may partly replace the elite in different parts of the state, if not the entire country. But more important, they will prosper considering that the existing elite have mostly seemed to turn into bloody hijras. I would like to apologize from the actual physical hijras because they may have more balls in them than their political counterparts.

PS: If you think the above table needs modification, plz suggest and lets have a good discussion. An analysis of the sociology of power politics is crucial for understanding the country’s political future.

Source: Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Blog