Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dictatorship as a Bargaining Process: The Case of Pakistan
by Aslam, Ghazia, Ph.D., George Mason University, 2010, 252; 3448461
Abstract (Summary)

Many questions about the characteristics of dictatorships and the process and likelihood of their transition toward democracy are unanswered. In this dissertation, we contend that in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of a dictatorial regime and its prospects of democratization, we need to highlight the importance of bargaining in the strategic interaction between the dictator and the citizens. The analytical paradigm generates a variety of potential behaviors within the framework of a few variables that are absent from the current theories, and is able to generate hypotheses about relationships among those variables. We are able to demonstrate, for instance, why Musharraf's dictatorship in Pakistan was more inclusive than Saudi Arabian dictatorship, why democracy took hold in Poland and Czechoslovakia but not in Iran and China, or why democracy followed by Musharraf's regime in Pakistan is expected to be stronger than the one that emerged after Zia's regime.

The theory is then applied to the military regime of General Musharraf, who ruled for nine years (1999–2008) in Pakistan. The primary objective of the analysis is to explore the interaction of the regime within a political landscape in order to illustrate how strategies included in this bargaining model operate. The analysis shows that the establishment of legislature provided an opportunity to the executive and legislature to bargain with each other and share power without complete transition of power. The ability of the politicians and dictator to use legislature as a bargaining instrument depends on the existence of patronage and clientele relationships in Pakistan's political landscape, where success in an election depends on the personal clout of the politician rather than his affiliation with a political party. A detailed analysis of decentralization reforms further reinforces this observation. We observe that the distribution of discretionary fiscal resources from the central executive to the districts is strongly influenced by the position of the district mayors in the political landscape and the extent of their affiliation with the dictator.

An account of the recent lawyers' movement in Pakistan shows that it was the most popular and longest sustained movements in Pakistan's history. Lawyers brought civil society and human rights activist groups together, which inspired students and other groups to agitate for a cause that was termed as “just” in popular imagination. While this observation provides encouragement to the proponents of democracy in Pakistan, a closer look also reveals a cause for concern. The commitment of political parties—the legitimate representatives of citizens—was conspicuously absent from the lawyers' movement. Lawyers took to the street because the political parties were not there to provide leadership.

Creating a well-functioning democracy in the long run will require a political party structure that reaches beyond local interests and is able to articulate its constituencies' preferences and represent them in decision making. To be able to construct this effective party structure, political parties need to organize themselves along ideological lines instead of exclusively relying on the political support of their members. Citizens also need to realize that strong clientele relationships reinforce their dependence on specific persons and constrict their choices in the long run. The civil society and media also need to be further strengthened so that they can act as a watchdog in their own realm, while the independence of the judiciary should be reinforced by inculcating respect for the rule of law in the country's political discourse.

Any effort to encourage democracy by international actors should focus on developing these building blocks and elements of the system, which are likely to give rise to a sustainable democratic structure, instead of imposing an artificial top-down system.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: High, Jack
Commitee:
School: George Mason University
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-A 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Middle Eastern history, Political science, South Asian Studies, Social structure
Keywords: Decentralization, Democratic transition, Dictatorship, Institutions in dictatorships, Pakistan, Political bargaining
Publication Number: 3448461
ISBN: 978-1-124-54763-3
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