Jalal, Ayesha ‘Democracy And Authoritarianism in South Asia’
Ayesha Jalal’s early work Democracy & Authoritarianism in South Asia: A Comparative and historical perspective provides an important look at the structural reasons for the emergence of (largely) democratic structures in India, and (largely) authoritarian structures in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Rather than hide behind brainless essentialist arguments, Jalal attempts to understand the institutional legacies of the colonial regime, and how modern economic, and geo-political factors, utilized them to varying degrees, and the kinds of states that emerged.
This is the kind of work that every reporter trying to understand Pakistan should read. Though I can’t help but think that they do not. In a recent criticism of the New York Times reporter Declan Walsh, I had said that:
Declan was kind enough to respond to my clearly frustrated comments in a rather gentlemanly manner and simply said that the above was …a very interesting and sharp critique. But he left it at that. He has the power and privilege to do so, and dismiss a critiqe as merely ‘interesting’, but not something anything needs to be done about.
My frustrations comes from watching the country being reduced by journalists, pundits, talking heads and state politicians to a caricature, while its citizens and their genuine efforts at reform and change, ignored at the behest of some imperialist agenda or the next. Pakistan’s capitulation to the priorities and directions of a largely American world view began within months of its independence, and its bureaucratic and military elite continues to surrender their agenda, ideas, ideals and aspirations to those that they receive in their mailbox send directly from Washington D.C.
The paranoid, security obsessed state of affairs not only serves the paranoid world-view of the Pakistani elite, but it plays right into the hands of a neoliberal class that has little or no interest in the social concerns of the ordinary Pakistani. The fear of the Islamic bogeyman veils the fear of the need to give the ordinary Pakistani his due. This is not anti-Americanism, as so many lame pundits like to argue, but a realistic assessment of the close collaboration between certain sectors and elements of the two states. There is no ‘us’ or ‘them’.