Kinship, Factions and Survival in Pakistani PoliticsNo Title

Document Type



Faculty of Arts and Sciences


Pakistan’s political volatility is well known and oft cited as a cause for concern both regionally and internationally. The state is accused of adopting duplicitous tactics and fostering violent paramilitary organizations in its efforts to undermine Indian hegemony and internal opposition. From the outside, the persistent functioning of the state can sometimes appear to be a mystery. Man- aging chronic conflicting adversarial relations over a sustained period of time demands particular social and political tools that must be resilient while ensur- ing robust reproduction of particular types of shared interests. Such social and political tools are diverse and operate to generate both stability and instability in state political institutions. The political networks of individuals and groups that actively seek to control and manipulate state institutions are formed through dif- ferent types of relationship, but one of the most publicly visible is marriage. Mar- riage networks offer opportunities for indirect alliances through children, siblings and other kin members in ways that need not threaten ideologically rooted affili- ations, such as those created through shared political party membership. In this working paper, we focus on the communicative potential of such marriage net- works through comparing village networks of landowners and the families who engage actively in electoral politics in Punjab, Pakistan. Although these findings are based on more than two decades of research carried out in rural and urban Pakistan, they remain partial, because Pakistani politics is anything but tidy or simply. Nevertheless, any attempt to analyze Pakistani politics that neglects the impact of the complex personal relationship networks is unlikely to satisfactorily explain or even describe the current political situation of the country.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Soziale Systeme