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

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The Politics of Sovereignty in Pakistan

The wretched reality of Pakistani sovereignty - the playing out of its formal politics in various capitals of the world - contrasts with the heroic rhetoric from domestic political actors on the integrity of its sovereignty. Progressives are best advised to understand the substantive nature of sovereignty in an unequal and postcolonial world while focusing their energies on addressing the iniquitous nature and class character of the Pakistani nation state.

The “violated integrity of Pakistani sovereignty” is increasingly deplo­yed by opposition political party figures in Pakistan in a way that accuses the ruling party at the centre of selling ­Pakistan’s future to foreign interests. Politician Imran Khan has publicly connected drone attacks in Waziristan to gross violations of national sovereignty and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accused President Asif Ali Zardari and recently the ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani of offering military obedience in exchange for powerful foreign diplomatic support, and thereby short-circuiting procedures of democratic accountability within Pakistan. But the forging of Pakistan’s formal politics in distant places is hardly new – negotiations involving Pakistani politicians and generals are routinely conducted in London, New York, Washington DC, and Riyadh and have been duly reported in the media for decades.

The fact is that power in the global ­interstate system is distributed unevenly, and Pakistan is just one of many states that do not control their own politics. How then do we understand the growing centrality of sovereignty in oppositional political rhetoric? And how should ­Pakistanis pursuing a progressive politics view this issue?

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