ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Bureaucratic Shuffle: The Politicisation of Appointments in Pakistan


Ali Sameen - University of Birmingham, International Development, Birmingham, United Kingdom


22 – The present democratic crisis in South Asia: causes, distinctive elements and historical precedents


 Bureaucratic staffing is key to managing state performance and service delivery (Hassan 2021; McDonnell 2020; Brierley 2020; Grindle 2012). But we know less about why and how politicians and bureaucrats in competitive authoritarian regimes with distorted parliamentary systems seek to regulate bureaucratic appointments, though it has great significance for bureaucratic and party politics and variations in capacity within such states. Using the case of Pakistan and drawing on data from interviews, semi-participant observation, and newspaper archives, I argue that politicians and bureaucrats counter political uncertainty by using bureaucratic appointments to regulate patronage and achieve electoral benefits, personal gains, protection, and bureaucratic performance. However, their ability to do so varies based on four factors: political capital; the curation of patronage relationships; the outcome sought; and the process by which the appointment is made. While extra-legal appointments are most likely to ensure success across these variables, there is significant disparity in how the state is experienced by those seeking access to its resources (politician, bureaucrat, or citizen). My findings have implications for how we understand politician-bureaucrat interactions in hybrid regimes and the ability of actors with short-term horizons to strategically manage political uncertainty and benefit from sub-national variation in state capacity.