A Betrayed Promise? The Politics of the Everyday State and the Resettling of Refugees in Pakistani Punjab, 1947-1962

Elisabetta Iob

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Lahore, Anarkali, mid-1950s. A distinguished-looking refugee is standing in front of a petition writer in the hope of getting the better of the Pakistani bureaucracy and having a property allotted. A few miles ahead, another refugee, camped in a school, is drafting a letter to the editor of the Pakistan Times. He will hide his identity through the pseudonym ‘desperate’. Both of them belonged to the throng of those muhajirs who, back in 1947, had embarked on a dreadful journey towards what they perceived to be their homeland.
Historiographical trends have tended to overlook the everyday experience of the state among those middle-class Partition refugees who resettled in Pakistani Punjab. Focusing mainly on their ‘less fortunate’ fellow citizens, these explanations have reproduced that historically-unproven popular narrative that ascribes pain and sufferings only to the economically-backward sectors of the local society. Even more frequently, well-rooted argumentative patterns have superimposed historical and present-day socio-geographical mappings of refugee families onto both urban and rural Punjab. These somehow echo that government rhetoric that, up to the early 1960s, paid lip service to the notion of a ‘biraderi-friendly’ rehabilitation.
This thesis challenges standard interpretations of the resettlement of Partition refugees in Pakistani Punjab between 1947 and 1962. It argues the universality of the so-called ‘exercise in human misery’, and the heterogeneity of the rehabilitation policies. As it sheds light on these latter original contributions to the current knowledge, it questions the ability of the local bureaucracy to establish its own ‘polity’, the unsuitability of patronage political systems as an autonomous politological category, and the failure of Pakistan as a state. Individual chapters pursue questions of emotional belonging to spatial and political places, social change, everyday experiences of the state through its institutions, electoral politics, and the deployment of integration/accommodation practices as nation- and state-building processes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Ansari, Sarah, Supervisor
  • Robinson, Francis, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

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