Resilience, Sustainability and Development: Some as Yet Undefined Issues

I have enjoyed reading the papers of John Paul Lederach and Jill Simone Gross. The concept of resilience as put forward in them, both in dealing with issues related to displacement and violence and related to development, is new to me and as such a bit abstract. Perhaps that is why I have not fully grasped the concept. As such, I can only share some experiences that I feel are of relevance.

John Paul Lederach’s Paper:

John Paul Lederach draws his arguments and conclusions from his work with displaced people. In my opinion the most important statement he makes is “by its very nature then, to be displaced forces a journey of discovery”. My understanding of this journey is, one, the question and assertion of identity, and two, adapting to change and creating and exploiting opportunities. Very often these two conflict. Being a refugee myself (though I refuse to call myself one) I can give numerous examples of this conflict. However, I will limit the examples to three and due to a lack of space and clarity I will not offer an analysis.

  1. The Lyari Expressway along the Lyari River in Karachi is almost complete. It has displaced more than 25,400 families and 8,000 plus commercial enterprises 1, in addition to schools, places of worship, and community facilities. It has disrupted the schooling of 26,000 children and 40,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the demolition of the commercial enterprises. The settlements along the Lyari Corridor were of three types. One, more than a century and a half old villages (some still survive) which are now part of urban Karachi. These are ethnically homogenous with a strong sense of identity. Their leadership is traditional and patriarchal; they have comparatively low social indicators as compared to other low income settlements; weak linkages with Karachi’s economy and a strong affiliation with regional political parties. But their ancestral graveyards are adjacent to them.
    1. The second type of settlements were created by informal developers and none of them were more than 40 to 45 years old. They expanded slowly over time. These settlements were multi-ethnic, had no traditional leadership, they were politically divided, they had comparatively better social indicators than the first type of settlements and many of their residents worked in Karachi’s services sector and ran informal businesses and industry. These settlements had no graveyards of their own.
    2. The third type of settlements were “shanties” the majority of whose population (men, women and children) worked in the garbage recycling industry as scavengers and many women also worked in the neighbouring middle class settlements as domestic help.
    3. The three settlements have reacted differently to displacement. The first type of settlements have been able to resist eviction. Some of them are still in existence in spite of seven years of pressure from the government agencies. Their resistance is holding up the completion of the project. Those in this category that have been evicted have failed to successfully build their homes or acquire infrastructure at the relocation sites to which they have been transferred as compared to other communities. The second type of settlements could not collectively resist eviction. They were demolished within two years. Many of their members went to court individually against the eviction order and failed to win their cases. However, at their relocation sites they have built better homes and acquired better municipal services than other communities. This they have done through a process of involving political parties in their negotiations with government agencies and by catering to the bribe market. The third type of settlements have for the most part relocated to other informal settlements where they and their employers can continue with the garbage recycling business. Many of the affectees have sold the plots that were given to them or have arranged for some family member to live in them till such time that they can fetch a better price. They did not resist eviction.
    4. Here you have three very different reactions to the same violence. Different types of resilience? Maybe this is worth discussing.
  2. In the aftermath of the Pakistan Earthquake in 2006, different communities reacted differently to the rehabilitation process. The economy of Pakistani Kashmir is heavily dependent on remittances from Karachi where most of its migrants work as drivers, cooks, waiters and in working class jobs in the services sector. As a result of the earthquake, extended family and clan relationships weakened (collapsed in certain cases) and a very large number of residents moved out of their villages and used the compensation money for reconstructing their homes on their individual farmlands, something that was not normally done before 2. The areas of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) affected by the earthquake, also have a remittance economy but the majority of the migrants work as building site and unskilled industrial labour. They and their families had, unlike the Kashmir case, considerable problems in dealing with official procedures for compensation and reconstruction of their homes in spite of stronger community cohesion. However, this cohesion could not be effectively utilised by NGOs and relief agencies because of the complex nature of the rules and regulations developed for accessing compensation and technical support. As a result, development work in Kashmir has been far more effective in spite of less cohesive community organisations.
  3. Large scale migration to Pakistan from India in 1947 3 as a result of the partition of the Subcontinent has marginalised old communities. This is true of cities like Karachi and Delhi. In both cases, there were other reasons as well since both of them became capitals of newly independent states. A study of two neighbourhoods in Lahore’s walled city (one of a pre-1947 community and the other of a neighbourhood of migrants) showed that the migrants were upwardly mobile and economically better-off 4. A conversation I had with a village elder in the Punjab sums it up. When I asked him about conditions in his village, he responded that there was “affra-taffri” (anarchy). When I asked him to elaborate, he said that in his village a few days back a “dhobi’s” (washerman’s) daughter had married an Arain (agriculturist). “What greater anarchy” he added. When I asked him the reason for this anarchy, he responded that it was due to the refugees who with migration had lost the link between profession and caste and as a result social values have collapsed 5. Many sociologists, like my friend Talat Aslam, editor of the Daily News, are of the opinion that the “challo” (upwardly mobile, with it) culture of the areas in which the refugees settled is the result of migration and the cause of the marginalisation of older communities. This view has been supported by my earlier work on social change 6 and my more recent research work on migration and small towns in Pakistan 7. My question is why could not the local communities resist marginalisation in spite of strong community organisations and institutions?
  1. Arif Hasan; The Political and Institutional Blockage to Good Governance: The Case of the Lyari Expressway in Karachi; published in Environment&Urbanization, IIED (UK), October 2005
  2. Arif Hasan: RDPI Kashmir Report: Observations and Recommendations; unpublished report for the Rural Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, March 2007
  3. In the 1951 Pakistan Population Census 48 per cent of urban Pakistanis said that they had originated in India. The population of a number of Pakistani cities increased by over 100 per cent in a few months in 1947. For details, see Arif Hasan; Scale and Causes of Urban Change in Pakistan; Ushba Publishing International, Karachi, 2006
  4. Khalid Bajwa; Development Conditions of Androon Shehr, The Walled City of Lahore; unpublished PhD thesis, Catholic University of Leuven, 2007
  5. Arif Hasan; The Unplanned Revolution; City Press, Karachi, 2002
  6. Arif Hasan; The Process of Socio-economic Change in Pakistan and its Repercussions; paper read at the Pakistan Conference at John Hopkin University School of Advanced Studies, Washington, November 2004
  7. Arif Hasan; Migration and Small Towns in Pakistan; unpublished IIED (UK) study, November 2007

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