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Singh, Gurharpal (2015) 'Violence and state formation in Pakistan.' In: Long, Roger D., Singh, Gurharpal, Samad, Yunas and Talbot, Ian, (eds.), State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security. London: Routledge, pp. 192-206. (Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series)

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The idea behind this collection of essays was first mooted at the British Association of South Asian Studies conference held at Southampton in 2011. A number of us working on communal violence in India and Pakistan, with a strong interest in the historic province of Punjab, floated the possibility of a panel on Partition violence. Our proposal, for a detailed re-assessment of Partition violence in light of new methodological advances, was accepted by the organisers of the European Association for South Asian Studies at ISCTE-Lisbon University in July 2012, with a recommendation that it be merged with another panel proposal on Pakistan. What at the time for organisational purposes seemed a marriage of convenience turned out to be a timely opportunity for a serious overview of the theme of violence in Pakistan’s state formation. This chapter, which was originally designed to focus narrowly on Partition violence, now has a different remit; namely, to assess state formation in Pakistan through the lens of violence, in particular the legacy of mass communal violence between 1947 and 1950. This emphasis, inevitably, shifts the locus away, to some extent, from the years preceding and after 1947, but it does enable us to identify some striking continuities in recurring patterns of mass violence in Pakistan’s history. The chapter undertakes this exercise by reading the work of Hannah Arendt (1906-75) on violence. Her insights have, surprisingly, remained neglected in the works on Partition or post-1947 political violence in Pakistan. Mass violence was so central to the creation of Pakistan that its subsequent institutionalisation within the structures of the state, as an instrument of state policy, has been the defining characteristic of post-1947 polity. Neither exogenous explanations of Pakistan’s insecurity nor indigenous accounts of its thwarted democratisation fully acknowledge the centrality of violence in the idea of Pakistan. What is required is a need to revisit the cycles of violence between 1946 and 1950, and to rethink the relationship between these forms and their everyday routinisation after independence. Since the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, academic interest in political violence in Pakistan has focused on three themes. First, that political violence is mainly the outgrowth of the ‘securitisation’ of Pakistani politics since the late 1970s which introduced a new dimension by making the country a frontline Cold War state in a real hot war that led to millions of refugees and the birth of the ‘Kalashnikov culture’. Clearly, much of thesectarian, social, and political violence dates from this period; and since 9/11, the ‘war on terror’, internal insurgencies, and the rising tide of sectarian conflicts have refocused attention on the subject.1 Second, for some analysts, Pakistan’s geo-political rivalries – with Iran and India in particular – have played a crucial role in fomenting high levels of political violence, both within and beyond the country. Such conflict is traditionally associated with what are euphemistically called non-government actors. Today, however, this violence is seen to be so corrosive that it now infects the whole of the polity.2 Third, the most overworked explanation for the high levels of political violence in the last three decades is the persistent failure of democratisation. Successive periods of military intervention, it is suggested, have not only encouraged direct action, but such actions have been encouraged by the military to thwart the onward march of democratisation: political violence is, therefore, the necessary bedfellow of militarisation. It does not exist independently.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of Religions & Philosophies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
ISBN: 9781315696904
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2016 15:05

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