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Mr Kaiser Bengali (Pakistan)

4 Civil society and conflict resolution

Khorakiwala | Khaled Ahmed | Poonam Barua | Haroon Ahmed | Navnita Chedha Behera | Kaiser Bengali Rainer Adams | DISCUSSION | SESSION CONTENTS | HOME


Pakistan does not have local government. It doesn’t exist. The constitution of the country only refers to local bodies and that too only in one sentence. It just says that the provincial governments shall organize local bodies for managing local affairs.

But the private sector/market in order to operate requires a super structure which I would call the State.

It is the economies of agglomeration which determines the growth of economic activities and the concentrations of population that give rise to urbanization.

Mr. Kaiser Bengali explored the relationship between the civil society, the state and their interdependencies. He was of the view that civil society cannot be built outside the state or apart from the state. Also, he emphasized the need for civil society to be strong to influence the character and composition of the state.

According to Mr. Kaiser, the civil society consists of five basic elements: (a) press, (b) NGOs, (b) trade associations, (c) trade unions, and (d) market

The market plays a very crucial role in the formation of civil society in any country. Unfortunately, since Pakistan had been under military rule for the majority of its years, the market is very weak. "A market economy requires entrepreneurs. Without an entrepreneurial base, a market economy cannot function and Pakistan lacks an entrepreneurial base."

Therefore, according to the speaker, the weakness of the civil society can be attributed to the weakness of the market economy, which in turn can be traced back to the weakness of the State.

The State sector in Pakistan is unresponsive to public needs and the needs of the society and therefore incapable of supporting the civil society.

Stepping into history, the speaker notes that this was not always the case. In the pre-colonial era, each village was autonomous and run by a social contract. If a tribal or feudal culture prevailed in an area, it also assumed responsibilities and duties for looking after that area.

However, with the arrival of the British, this self-reliant village governance system collapsed and was replaced by centralised bureaucracy in the form of a District Commissioner who was an outsider and little aware of the needs of the people. Therefore, civil society became "atomised" and "introverted."

In the post colonial era, the society has transformed rapidly in terms of demography. Overnight urbanisation has taken place. People of different tribes inhabit the cities and live together yet they are divided and do not inter-react. "We have a situation in Karachi where two-thirds of the population today are those whose parents or grandparents might have migrated from India around 1947. One-third of the population comprises of migrants from other parts of the country. They are in a sense economic migrants"

The social fabric of the cities, according to the speaker, is rather weak and this is largely due to the lack of local government bodies. There is no body to look into maintaining the basic infrastructure of the cities such as water, housing, roads, health and educational facilities as a result of which the cities are in a state of decay and disintegration. "In over 50 years, this commons sense in our cities has not developed and it has not developed, in my opinion, due to the heavily centralised nature of the state." The inhabitants, unfortunately do not have a choice but foreign investment is adversely affected as foreign investors choose not to return to such conditions. Thus, the market suffers. In a sense, it is a vicious circle.

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