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P.R. Chari

POWER AND PRIVILEGE: INFLUENCE AND DECISION-MAKING IN PAKISTAN
By Robert LaPorte Jr.
Vikas, New Delhi, 1976, 225, 50.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 3 July - September 1976

The democratic process has frail roots in Pakis­tan and the system seems destined to preserve in­herited privilege. It is widely believed that basic inequalities ensure that inherited privileges of Third World ruling elites are perpetuated through family connections and educational opportunities. Robert LaPorte Jr. examines the structure of this power elite and changes therein in the book under re­view. The study reveals that there are traditional patterns of elitism within Pakistan. The military and the civil services with the land-holding fami­lies form the political elite. The economic elite consists of forty (others say twenty-two) families who gained wealth through the process of industrialization. Social elitism is achieved by close intermarriage within these groups. The growth of power in the military-bureaucra­tic alliance is basically ascribed to the instability of parliamentary government in the early years. Coalition governments were concerned more with the politics of survival than effective administration. Moreover, Mr. Jinnah chose to be the first Gover­nor-General of Pakistan, rather than its Prime Minister, elevating the executive aspect of govern­ment at the expense of its parliamentary character. Naturally, therefore, power accrued to those con­cerned with the mechanics of administration. The Ayub era (1958-69) saw the establishment of martial law, entailing the accrual of more power to the military and civilian bureaucrats. An important development was the rise of industrial houses, owing much to government subsidies. The power base being narrow, dissent would not be contained, and Ayub made way for Yahya Khan. ‘I believe in democracy and intend to hand back power to my people—I hope to God they take it quickly’, Yahya Khan declared in a press con­ference. The events leading to the separation of Bangladesh followed his well-meaning efforts. The power structure evolved by Ayub was continued during the Yahya regime. Differences within the power elite—military officers, bureaucrats, landed aristocracy, industrialists and some professionals­—followed regional rather than class lines. Punjab predominated, with the provinces of West Pakistan following-East Bengal remained at the bottom of the ladder. Premier Bhutto’s first actions were to remove a large number of military officers and bureaucrats. Simultaneously, the ascendancy of Bhutto’s People’s Democratic Party marks the rise of small-town and urban middle class professionals. This does not mean that ‘the traditional political elite (landlords, soldiers, civilian bureaucrats) and economic elite (industrialists) are out; rather their roles have been reduced, ...


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