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Salman Rafi, Hafiz Muhammad (2022) Intra-Ethnic Fragmentation and the Politics of Ethnically Decentralising Constitutional Change in Pakistan: A Comparative Study. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Within the literature on the politics of ethnic conflict resolution via constitutional reforms, ethnic ‘majorities’ are often presumed to oppose constitutional forms of power-sharing (ethnic decentralisation). In this thesis, I challenge this assumption to show how institutionalised forms of divisions within the dominant ethnic groups in the ethnic majoritarian states of Pakistan, Indonesia and Fiji drove the political process of ethnic decentralisation, and how the absence of these divisions caused the political process of ethnic decentralisation to fail in Sri Lanka. Building upon fieldwork in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and, owing to the COVID-19 related restrictions, relying on secondary literature on Indonesia and Fiji, I argue that the politics of constitutional forms of ethnic decentralisation is driven by institutionalised forms of intra-ethnic divisions and when these divisions combine with or manifest as: (a) civil-military institutional tensions involving the political and military elites from within the dominant ethnic group as mutually competing ethnic factions, (b) social movements emerging from within the dominant ethnic group and pushing for, in alliance with the relevant elites from the civil-military equation, ethnic decentralisation, and (c) a politics of cross-ethnic, multi-party consensus involving the relevant political elites from within the dominant and non-dominant ethnic groups. Employing process tracing as my primary method of investigation, I show how these variables help produce, both individually and collectively, constitutional forms of ethnic decentralisation. When these factors temporally coexist and causally reinforce each other vis-à-vis constitutional forms of ethnic decentralisation, they drive the political process of ethnic decentralisation as a causal mechanism. When these factors do not coexist as a contingently linked causal mechanism, ethnic decentralisation, as the Sri Lankan case shows, fails to happen. I conclude: the persistence of an ethnic majoritarian system is tied, not to ‘majoritarian intransigence’ but to the absence of the identified causal mechanism of ethnic decentralisation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Matthew Nelson and Michael Buehler
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2022 17:40
Funders: Other

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