Pakistan's Parliament house in Islamabad. Photo by Usman Ghani.

Pakistan’s Parliament house in Islamabad. Photo by Usman Ghani.

In a recent paper, Professor Ian Talbot, a 2018 Mittal Institute Visiting Fellow and Professor at the University of Southampton, delved into the precarious politics of Pakistan’s formative years in the 1950s. Below is an excerpt from the paper; click the link below to view the paper in its entirety.

“Historians have used U.S. State department records to shed light on such issues as the early Pakistan state’s refugee crisis, the re-emergence of ethnic tensions following the short lived unity of the closing period of the freedom movement, and the emergence of a ‘political economy of defence’ rather than one of development. [1] Lying behind these concerns is the overarching theme of the failure to consolidate democracy in the state’s formative years.

“Scholars have increasingly argued that the failure to develop strong political institutions, hindered democratic consolidation. It is linked with the weak institutionalisation of the Muslim League in the future Pakistan areas, where British rule had consolidated the power of local elites.

“The freedom movement had little choice but to co-opt them as work by myself, David Gilmartin, Sarah Ansari and others has revealed. [2] Patron-client politics never really went away and resurfaced immediately after Pakistan was achieved. Whilst the post-independence provincial politics were especially marked by factionalism, this was inducted into national level politics where the Muslim League leadership had recourse to local leaders in the absence of its own strong powerbase and local constituencies of support. The fragmentation of the Muslim League from the mid-1950s accelerated this process.”

[1] Sarah Ansari, Life after Partition: Migration, Community and Strife in Sindh 1947-62 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2005); Yunas Samad, A Nation in Turmoil: Nationalism and Ethnicity in Pakistan, 1937-1958 (New Delhi: Sage, 1995); Ayesha Jalal, The State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 199).

[2] See, I. Talbot, Provincial Politics and the Pakistan Movement: The Growth of the Muslim League in North-West and North-East India, 1937-1947 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1998).