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Nelson, Matthew J. (2014) 'Social, Religious, and Political Change in Pakistan.' Seminar: The Monthly Symposium, 664. pp. 20-23.

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TYPICALLY, those with an interest in the politics of Pakistan focus on macro-level trends at the level of high politics. Occasionally, some attention is paid to regional, ethnic and sectarian politics. In what follows, I turn to grassroots trends rooted in sociological changes based on rural to urban migration. I argue that a deeper understanding of the social, religious and political trends growing out of these grassroots changes is particularly helpful for those with an interest in mapping patterns of political change, and conflict, today. My comments focus on broad structural trends in three domains, each of which moves away from points of emphasis commonly associated with Pakistan’s political landscape during the first four decades after 1947. The first concerns rather dramatic changes in the country’s social and economic landscape; the second involves changes in the country’s religious and sectarian landscape; the third turns to changes in Pakistan’s underlying political landscape. For several decades after 1947, Pakistan’s political landscape was characterized by pitched battles involving rival landowners focused on the preservation of traditional rural norms. In this paper, I focus on the rise of Pakistan’s ‘petty bourgeoisie’ instead. Second, Pakistan’s early landowning elites struggled to contain the influence of prominent religious leaders – for example, prominent clerics (ulema) and the leadership of Pakistan’s Jama’at-e-Islami – most of whom focused their energy on the preservation of what they considered to be traditional religious norms. I turn away from Pakistan’s most prominent religious leaders to examine the sectarian politics of Pakistan’s ‘petty mullahs’ instead. And, finally, I turn away from an account of Pakistan’s senior statesmen, who concentrated on shaping (and reshaping) the country’s laws to suit their political (and military) interests. In what follows, I examine the rise of what I call ‘petty parliamentarians’ instead. These petty parliamentarians do not focus on drafting new laws; instead they look for new ways to provide their political supporters with official access to impunity. Across these three areas of economic activity, religious authority and political behaviour, I situate key changes within relatively slow-moving patterns of rural to urban migration and informal wage labour in Pakistan’s small towns and cities. In effect, recalling the focus of Olivier Roy’s well known book, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan, I concentrate on the dislocation of the landowning malik and his jirga; the shifting orientation of local mullahs and their madrasas; and the weakness of the state, paying particular attention to the failures of its easily manipulated courts.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies
ISSN: 09716742
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2016 11:00
Related URLs: http://www.indi ... thew_nelson.htm

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