Seth D. Kaplan
is a professorial lecturer in the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, senior adviser for the Institute for Integrated Transitions, and consultant to organisations working on governance, statebuilding and poverty reduction. He is the...
Power and politics in Pakistan
Seth Kaplan, 8 April 2013
Governance deficiencies have long vexed Pakistan, yet momentum for reform has not materialised, because elites maintain stability by limiting access to and control of valuable resources (such as land and capital) and valuable activities (such as contract enforcement). As a result Pakistan can best be understood as a “limited access order”. Patronage and the capacity for violence play crucial roles in determining political outcomes, and manifest themselves in repeated coups, sectarian conflict and feudalistic relationships. Political parties and the military are merely platforms that grant various elites access to state resources. The military in particular has derived great economic assets from its strong political position. Combined with a weak and corruption-ridden state, such conditions have produced a government where institutions work very differently for different people. While these entrenched power dynamics make wholesale reform daunting, incremental steps that enhance stability by obviating the need for threatening violence, strengthen the capacity of the state to ensure that the law applies more equitably, and embrace economic reforms that give businesspeople a greater interest in promoting change would gradually enable Pakistan to move towards a more stable, equitable and open rules-based political order.