an interesting point

via desmukh, a really excellent paper on violence in Karachi and its relationship to Karachi’s history of informal land settlement and the subsequent political instability. The interesting thing in this particular excerpt is that the DHA’s stability is caused by the military’s (relative) monopoly on the use of force as well as its reputation. Other settlements, guaranteed by other and constantly shifting minor players, are only as stable as the ability of the stakeholders to withstand other groups.

This is just another reminder of how impossibly far ahead the military is of any other other stakeholders in the country and how unlikely that is to change any time in the near future.

The DHA developed the land and allotted it to military officers at prices that only covered the cost of development. Military officers promptly sold the plots on the market, earning profits in the range of double or triple the initial investment. DHA land is thought to be securely held, with a high level of trust in the legal title and strong checks against fraud and rival claims. The margin earned by the military officers represents an economic rent on the use-value of the land, but also includes a premium on the security of the title. The economic rent incorporates the military authorities’ ability to effect and enforce an initial transaction with the provincial government, and to enforce subsequent contracts. It also incorporates the expectation that the military authorities will not themselves act in a predatory manner with respect to owners in the DHA. This latter expectation is partly based on a self-fulfilling prophecy, since most buyers and residents in DHA are themselves wealthy and powerfully-connected individuals. The economic rent, in any case, is virtually all concentrated in the first transaction, whose beneficiary is the individual military officer.

By contrast, the cases of low to middle income settlements in Karachi have shown that there is a steady process of economic rent creation and appropriation, as land changes possession and use. The process is punctuated by political mobilisation, collective action and violent conflict. There is no binary division, therefore, between the formal and informal sectors. Rather, there is a continuous process of formalisation – not always linear – in which economic rents are created and appropriated (sometimes destroyed) through political means.
The DHA case is also, of course, one of political appropriation of rents, but the political mobilisation and the rent appropriation are both concentrated at one point. In Kausar Niazi colony, by contrast, there were multiple stakeholders that sequentially participated in, and benefited from, the accretion of economic rents.

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