HSS Seminar: Dr. Azeem Khan on Judiciary and Political Inequality in Pakistan

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By Zainab Mubasshir

5th November 2015: A seminar was conducted this Thursday by the Humanities and Social Sciences department at LUMS, where Dr. Muhammad Azeem took the stage to talk about Judiciary as a Crucial Link in the Reproduction of the State and Political Inequality in Pakistan.

Dr. Muhammad Azeem is a member of the LUMS faculty, and teaches Labor Law and Critical Legal Studies at the Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law. Dr. Azeem is working on a manuscript on the role of the Pakistani judiciary in political development, and is currently working with students and lawyers in developing a labor law collective.

This seminar focally addressed the members of the LUMS faculty, including the deans of MGHSS and SDSB, while humanities students also made up a considerable part of the audience.

Dr. Azeem started off by explaining the topic of the seminar, and elaborated on its significance in the current sociopolitical context. His talk primarily focused on the assumed roles of judiciary in Pakistan, and how there exist certain discrepancies in the limited perception of law and politics with relation to the working class.

“I want to challenge the perception that judiciary as an institution can fix politicians as well as the bureaucracy and can thus lead political development”, he stated while addressing the general conception regarding the role of judiciary in shaping political narratives in Pakistan. Referring to the present as an “era of institutional-ism”, he further discussed how the judiciary operated within a “judicio-bureaucratic” structure. In doing so, he also identified the judiciary as a key player in the modernization process as well as in the current efficient governance era.

Dr. Azeem was chiefly concerned with the established dichotomies within academic study that form binary divisions between democracy and dictatorship, or secularism and religion. He asserted that such perceptions present a very limited view of the structures that underpin institutional arrangements, and do not address the issue of marginalization within an established system.

He thus went on to explain his quest for a theoretical framework that did not lie within a liberal paradigm; one that addressed the causes that underpinned the exclusion of certain classes from the sociopolitical structure.

“I wanted a theory that could account for those social, economic and political instances where actual marginalization occurs”, he said with reference to the dispossession of the working class, and related it to his experience researching bonded labor within Pakistan.

Dr. Azeem referred to his own study as a “complete departure from liberal understanding”, and went on to discuss the importance of the structural element in addressing the causes and effects of certain instances of political significance, such as the move from democracy to dictatorship, and the unequal distribution of land and resources.

The discussion regarding the significance of structural framework within a political system, and the role of judiciary in establishing links between the state and political inequality, was given depth by Dr. Azeem’s extensive use of relevant examples. The question-answer session following the presentation added to the understanding of everyone present, and the seminar overall proved to be a great opportunity for intellectual stimulation for all involved.

Zainab Mubashir

Editor-in-Chief, LDS Publications 2017-18
Zainab Mubashir

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