Workers' Organizations in Pakistan
Why No Role in Formal Politics?
Why have Pakistani workers failed to transform their evident street
power into sustained influence in formal politics? Throughout South
Asia, worker' organizations formed alliances with political parties,
political parties formed workers' organizations, and governments
incorporated worker' organizations into state consultation machinery.
With the exception of Pakistan, in each of the countries of South Asia,
representatives at these workers organizations have become members of
parliament and cabinet ministers. In India, a workers' representatives
even became president. Why have workers' representatives been almost
completely absent in Pakistani governments? This essay argues that
Pakistan's traumatic creation—one of the twentieth century's greatest
humanitarian disasters—unleashed ruling class insecurities that were
unfavorable to workers' organizations. The managers of the new state
demanded centralized power. Authoritarian colonial institutions were
ready at hand. Pakistan's international alliance with
U.S.-anticommunist alliances led to the suppression of workers'
organizations and precluded their influence in formal politics. The
ruling classes targeted workers' organizations. Pakistani governments
ensured that workers' organizations were excluded from formal politics.
Before concluding, the essay considers whether military governments are
necessarily inimical to workers' organizations.
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