Social Policy and Changing Citizenship Boundaries in Pakistan
Under what conditions do new democracies expand programmatic social welfare in the Global South? What consequences do the design and implementation of these welfare programs have for previously excluded citizens who receiving social benefits from the state for the first time? My dissertation addresses these questions by analyzing the political origins and citizenship consequences of Pakistan’s largest social safety net: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), one of the largest unconditional cash transfer (UCT) programs targeted at exclusively at women in the Global South.
BISP was established in 2008, during Pakistan’s most recent and tenuous democratic transition. Over the span of a decade (2008-18), BISP has rapidly expanded social welfare coverage to over 5.5 million women and their households nationwide, with a goal to cover 20% of the population. The first part of my dissertation examines the political origins of social welfare expansion in Pakistan. The second part analyzes the effect of the BISP cash transfer on beneficiaries’ citizenship practices and attitudes.
I use a mixed methods research design, combining a variety of data sources collected during sixteen months of field research in Pakistan. This research includes a unique quasi-experimental household survey with 2254 respondents, 70 semi-structured qualitative interviews, four focus groups and historical process tracing of social policy expansion over time. Using a variety of research methods has allowed me to collect diverse sources data and triangulate evidence to answer these questions and challenge alternative explanations.
My dissertation argues that technocratic social welfare expansion in Pakistan enabled BISP to overcome challenges of partisan targeting. This shift to a non-discretionary design has mobilized female social welfare recipients to become empowered voters and reduced their reliance on traditional rural patrons such as landlords (zamindars) and informal village governance (panchayats). However, BISP’s top-down centralized implementation has created limited local forums for citizen-state linkages direct engagement with the local state, indicating the limitations of such cash transfers, in absence of other measures that deepen the institutional surface area of the state.
My dissertation concludes by placing the Pakistani case of social policy expansion in comparative perspective with other notable cases from the Global South, including India, Brazil and Mexico. My analysis of the politics of social welfare expansion in Pakistan, seeks to make an original contribution to the study of political origins and consequences of social policy expansion for state-citizen linkages in new democracies the Global South.