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Workers' Organizations in Pakistan: Why No Role in Formal Politics?

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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.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-03-01

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