The main concern of this thesis is to analyze conflict in Pakistan, mainly the ethnopolitical conflict. It builds a case that conflict in Pakistan has been a product of the weakening of its social contract. This is both a qualitative and quantitative work which relies on both primary and secondary data as well as diverse techniques from historical interpretative analysis to econometrics. In addition to the ethnopolitical conflict, the thesis also contains an analysis of the factors leading to taliban recruitment in the current conflict. The thesis attempts to link the historical evolution and composition of social contract and the struggles over identity in pre and post independence era of Pakistan. It sets up a theoretical framework which defines the relevant concepts of identity, ethnopolitics, conflict, social contract, institutions and the saliency of socio economic determinants of conflict. To test this theoretical framework, an analytical framework is proposed which operationalizes these concepts. Data about the violent and non violent ethnopolitical conflict from 1972 to 2005 is collected, coded and put into a data scheme which helps us build the composite and individual pictures of this conflict through time. This database is unique to the extent of Pakistan. The thesis finds that the intensity of the major individual conflict have mostly followed an inverted U curve through time. Except for Balochistan, this is true for both the violent as well as non violent conflict. The emerging conflict is then explained with the help of the decay of institutions of conflict management. These include both the formal and informal types. Two political and two economic institutions are selected for analysis which are part of the fiscal federalist scheme of the constitution. The findings suggest that consociational federalism has worked to bring down the intensity of conflict among the federating units. To investigate the political power dynamics, an original scheme of quantifying the political power gap in the state structure is employed and the emerging picture is then contrasted with the picture of ethnopolitical conflict. Analysis also suggests that democracies have worked better at containing the conflict inside the institutions that were created for its management. The thesis takes up the saliency of the debate about the social and political horizontal inequalities, especially in Pakistani context and follows it with an econometric analysis of the data related to these inequalities and conflict. Linking grievances with the socio economic and political horizontal inequalities among federating units, the econometric results suggest that overall, larger inequalities led towards greater ethnopolitical conflict. This thesis also takes up the issue of current conflict in Pakistan between the state and taliban. A brief history of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan from the early 1970s is given to contextualize the current debate. The structural and agency factors leading to taliban recruitment are analyzed in this historical context. Issues of identity, history, horizontal inequality and decay of institutions provide a fertile ground for taliban recruitment in FATA and NWFP areas of Pakistan. The taliban then employ techniques adapted to this structural strata to maximize their recruitment. This discussion is essentially contained within the overall theoretical framework of the thesis. The saliency of the social contract in understanding the conflict in Pakistan cannot be overemphasized. A composite view of the explanatory framework of conflict in Pakistan is attempted in this thesis which will help formulate better policy options for conflict resolution, avoidance, mediation and management.

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S.M. Murshed (Syed)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS PhD Theses
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Abdullah, S. A. (2010, February 11). Political Economy of Conflict: The Social Contract and Conflict in Pakistan. ISS PhD Theses. Retrieved from