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Sway of predatory bodies

September 16, 2012

THE world economic crises that began in late 2007 have spurred the growth of predatory bodies and their integration with state politics.

And such organisations/groups are penetrating governments throughout the world – from the most industrialised states to developing countries like Bulgaria and Myanmar. Worse still, in many such states, rulers enrich themselves and their families by using the resources of mafia-like entities to increase their grip on power.

It is of course difficult to distinguish ‘crime’ from ‘finance’, for as Proudhon argued, a century and a half ago, that ‘capitalist property is theft’. Corporate law is often reinterpreted to ignore unethical practices, if not to legalise them.

Such global malpractices have the capability to subsume all democratic institutions — executive, legislative or judiciary as illustrated in the case of democratic Bulgaria by Wikileaks’ released US diplomatic cables of 2005.

In the mid-1960s when he was still a Pakistani citizen Rahman Sobhan called Pakistan ‘a predatory state’ — a state designed to facilitate the rulers’ plundering of national resources. It is indisputable that there have been no non-predatory rulers since Khawaja Nazimuddin’s dismissal in 1953. But have we graduated from ‘predatory’ to ‘mafia’ status?

The present struggle between the executive and the legislature on the one hand and the judiciary on the other shows that the kind of state in progress. Democratic institutions are being used to provide protection to what would ordinarily be regarded as illegal activity and the ruler’s attempt to redefine unethical practices enjoys support from a wide spectrum of political forces — both domestic and foreign. That has also proceeded as a consequence of a proliferation of shady privatisation deals, the continuing tussle over local government ‘reforms’, and the augmented role of the ‘land mafia’ in civic administration.

Moreover, our dependence on the global hegemonic power —-America – has increased. Total flows of US aid during FY04 to FY12 amount to about $22 billion (about two-thirds military).America’s political interests have been fully institutionalised within Pakistan’s governance mechanisms. Regime change in 2008 was crafted by Washington and regime continuation or change in 2013 will be greatly influenced by American preferences.

Nevertheless such trends can be combated. Pakistan is very weakly integrated into the global capitalist economy. Both current and capital account inflows are trivial in comparison to GDP. The trade- GDP- ratio has been falling for several years despite accelerated policy liberalisation which has stimulated import — not export — growth.

Nor is Pakistan a major node of global illicit drug, crimes or human trafficking networks, despite US propaganda. Thus throughout 2004-2012 in its extensive assistance programme only 3.3 per cent of funding was allocated by Washington to narcotics control and refugee assistance.

The bulk of the labour force is self-employed and therefore outside the circuit of predator capital. Less than ten per cent of Pakistanis have deposit accounts at banks. It is thus quite possible to develop a movement which delegitimises capitalist property and articulates Islamic legitimated transaction forms not subject to the whims of misguided parliamentarians but firmly grounded in the Shariah.

The writer is dean of CBM.