As we look to today’s elections, there have been substantial promises made by all parties. Whilst Asad Abbasi argues in this feature length special that manifestos are unlikely to sway electoral outcomes, if these ordinary promises are fulfilled, much can change for the citizens of Pakistan.
Corbyn’s unlikely rise to the political stage of Labour party is a wonderful opportunity for those who want politics to be less about style and more about substance. It is one of the decisive moments in British politics and I hope minorities understand how important this election is and what it entails.
The promise of billons of dollars of Chinese investment has created great excitement in Pakistan. But Asad Abbasi warns that investment-driven growth does not necessarily mean development. Drawing on lessons from China’s investment in Africa, he argues that Pakistan will only reap the maximum benefits of CPEC if policies are introduced to ensure the benefits are distributed equally.
In Financializing Poverty: Labour and Risk in Indian Microfinance, Asad Abbasi finds a book that shows that the day-to-day bureaucracy of microfinance – the weekly meeting, the insurance forms, the guarantor forms – does not empower, but adds stress and labour in the lives of the urban borrowers.
In Comic Performance in Pakistan: The Bhānd, Claire Pamment explores the centuries old tradition of Pakistani bhand performances which have used comedy to tread a line between flattery and challenging patron’s authority. Asad Abbasi, however argues that Pamment’s work is anything but comedy and reveals the discriminations faced by this subaltern population.
In After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality, editors Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong and Marshall Steinbaum bring together contributors to reflect on the influence of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and to draw attention to topics less explored in Piketty’s analysis. While this is a work of serious scholarship that is suited primarily to an academic audience, these reflections on inequality as an economic as well as moral, social and political issue are of significance for all, finds Asad Abbasi.
Prison Narratives is a translation of a diary by Akhtar Baloch, an 18-year-old female Sindhi activist. Asad Abbasi finds the core of the book, which documents the period in 1970 when Baloch was imprisoned for leading a protest, to be insightful, imaginative and full of interesting characters, yet finds the contextualising additions to be deeply partisan. Nevertheless, he writes that the diary is an important and rare text for anyone interested in gender debates in Pakistan.
A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia is a critical literary, historical and intellectual analysis of a 13th century Persian text which tells the story of the Arab invasions of Sindh in the 7-8th centuries. Asad Abbasi finds the book an important re-examination of a key text which has been used to perpetuate the myth that Hindus and Muslims are historic enemies, despite offering a moral conduct for governance.
Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics is a new edited volume from Kanchan Chandra which draws on original data from India to propose a rethinking of the view that dynastic politics is a violation of democracy, showing that it can also reinforce some aspects of democracy while hindering others. Asad Abbasi finds the book deceptively difficult and does not recommend it for casual readers. However, he writes that it does have a straightforward method of analysis which produces interesting conclusions.
In The Pakistan Paradox Christophe Jaffrelot seeks to separate the causes of instability in Pakistan by exploring the contradictions in its foundations. He argues the instability in neither pre-determined nor impossible to move beyond. In this post, Asad Abbasi summarises key discussions put forward in this substantial work and writes that it is a necessary text for every student interested in Pakistan.
China is seeking to invest over $50 billion in Pakistan. Intuitively this may seem like a good idea, however, by applying Ha Joon Chang’s ideas, Asad Abbasi believes we should re-consider the supposed virtues that this foreign investment will bring to Pakistan.
What is the fascination with growth in developing countries? Prima Facie, the reason for focusing only on growth is simple— growth constitutes development. The example, often cited, is China. China — with double digit growth in the last decade — has successfully transferred millions of people above the poverty line. But is the relationship between growth and development linear? Moving people from under a dollar to over a dollar constitutes as development? Here, Asad Abbasi explores these ideas as they appear in Amartya Sen’s 1999 work Development as Freedom.