This ‘theory in practice’ paper examines the experiences of citizens groups seeking to hold Pakistan’s elected representatives and governance institutions accountable. A sustained period of democracy, ongoing devolution plans and increasing space for civil society suggest the beginnings of a favourable context to improve the demand side of governance. At the same time, however, Pakistan continues to score low on development indexes and parts of the country suffer from insecurity. The latter reflects state-society relations, with various groups fighting to change national and local distributions of political and economic opportunities. Nonetheless a recent citizen-led accountability programme across both conflict-affected and peaceful constituencies has reported significant success in mobilising volunteer groups to demand the resolution of local issues. This paper asks how these groups organised and examines the strategies that contributed to their successes. In particular, it focuses on the tensions between the programme’s drive for ‘inclusive’ citizens groups that raise demands, and the need for such groups to work in ways that acknowledge the power and politics of their local contexts. While in some cases this led to innovative solutions to local problems, in others it may have strengthened the divisions and networks that support unaccountable governance. It is hoped the findings will add to debates over the worth of citizen-led accountability programmes where strong societies, weak states and conflict shape governance.
Kirk, T. Citizen Led Accountability and Inclusivity in Pakistan. Justice and Security Research Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London, UK (2014) 39 pp. [JSRP Paper 20]