Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



The Sinews of Governance: Bureaucracy, Narrative, and Power under Colonialism and Independence

Author: Imran Ali

This paper attempts to explore the production of an exegesis of written output by a civil bureaucracy, and to compare this output over two periods of governance. On the one part was the British bureaucracy in the Indus region, but more especially the Punjab, during British rule; and on the other the bureaucracy in Pakistan after 1947. The intention of the paper is to analyse the problematic of governance from a somewhat different approach, and one which to the author’s knowledge has yet not been undertaken, in our efforts to understand the power dynamics that have moulded the contours of governance in the Indus region in modern times. I have attempted elsewhere an analysis of these processes and developments.1 Therefore, rather than revisit these materials and arguments, I will suggest here a complementary yet distinct perspective for probing into the complexities of power and governance in this region. The question to be posed is whether, and how, could the emergence of a descriptive and analytical written discourse, by public officials, itself become the articulation of a narrative of power, authority and control. Moreover, in comparing the two periods, we might be able to glean some insights into the capability needs of public management and local and national governance systems, in addressing the challenging political and socio-economic environment facing contemporary Pakistan. These are huge areas of analysis, and mostly uncharted ones. The present paper can only hope to raise some relevant questions, and suggest some pertinent, if tentative, answers.

Imran Ali