ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Economy of US-Pakistan Relations

Reformulating the Patron–Client Model

Hamza Alavi, in this journal, offered the most pronounced presentation of US-Pakistan relations in terms of a patron-client model. In an attempt to further the understanding, it is noted that Alavi discounted the role of the internal political economy of Pakistan. The canonical patron-client formulation is scrutinised to reformulate the role of Pakistan as an "estranged client." The attempt is to internalise the interplay of the geostrategic and political-economy interests of the Pakistani military in US-Pakistan relations.

Akbar Zaidi (2014) initiated a much-needed project to rethink the political economy of Pakistan in the light of recent geostrategic and political economy changes inside and around Pakistan. This article attempts to make a minor contribution in this context by reformulating Hamza Alavi’s (1998) analysis of United States (US)–Pakistan relations. Although the significance of the US and Pakistan relations cannot be repudiated when Alavi was penning his article, but the importance of this relationship has substantially inflated in recent times due to the changing geopolitical situation in the region. Due to discernible asymmetries in militaristic and economic aptitudes of the two countries, a patron–client framework remains an optimal point of departure in underscoring the dynamics of this relationship. To state the obvious, the US is conceptualised as the patron and the military of Pakistan is the client in this framework.

Since its inception in 1947, five coups d’état have been recorded in Pakistan. Although democratic transition has relatively stabilised, the military1 remains the most powerful player in the sociopolitical landscape of the country. Therefore, any serious attempts at mapping out the dynamics of the political economy of Pakistan would be considered partial without examining the political-economy role of the military. Though civilian governments are trying to expand their influence on foreign policy matters, the day still seems quite far when important foreign policy matters will be spearheaded by the civilian government instead of the military leadership. Especially when it comes to relations with the US, the Pakistan military ensures that civilians stay out of important decisions as much as possible. Thereby, the significance of the military’s internal hegemony over the body politic of Pakistan cannot be disregarded in the configuration of US–Pakistan relations.

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