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«SUMMARY | APRIL 2 WORKING PAPER No. 030 | May 2015 Religion, Land and Politics: Shrines and Literacy in Punjab, Pakistan Adeel Malik and Rinchan Ali ...»

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Drawing upon information from the Punjab District Gazetteers (PDG), our second complimentary database is largely historical in nature. Periodically issued during the colonial era, the District Gazetteers contained vital information on major shrines and their guardians, and mapped their spiritual and material influence. Such information was typically documented in a separate sub-section entitled, “Religious fairs and festivals”. Occasionally, attendance rates at shrines and size of public offerings were also recorded. As noted previously, the Gazetteers also commented on whether or not a particular region was noted for its saints and shrines. They are a critical historical resource for our project, since we get a concrete indication of shrines considered as influential in the colonial period. It is unlikely that any prominent shrine would have missed the Gazetteer’s attention. Importantly, shrines recognized as more influential by colonial administrators were also more likely to have received official patronage.

All shrines mentioned in District Gazetteers were separately recorded and consolidated with our original database. This required mapping each historical shrine to the contemporary tehsil where it is located. A total of 146 shrines across Punjab were mentioned in PDGs, with 47 tehsils containing at least one shrine mention (see Appendix 2). Ahmadpur East in Bahawalpur had the maximum number of shrines (15) mentioned in PDG. In fact, the Bahawalpur Gazetteer devoted 13 pages to the subject. Based on this historical information, we define two categorical variables at the tehsil-level: number of shrines mentioned in PDGs and a dummy variable coded as one when the tehsil had a shrine mentioned in PDGs.


Our final database mapped the direct participation of shrine families in electoral politics. Using electoral records from varied sources we developed a detailed and systematic compilation of shrines-politics linkage across Punjab.

Specifically, we relied on 15 waves of election results since 193753 to identify all shrine families that directly participated in electoral politics and entered in national or provincial assemblies. 54 Results for National Assembly elections (1970-2008) were obtained from FAFEN (2010).55 The 1962 and 1965 results were compiled using Gazette notifications available at the National Assembly library. Pre-partition election results (1937 and 1946) were obtained from various monographs published in Urdu (Anjum 1995; Jaffri 2007). Finally, Punjab Provincial Assembly results were directly retrieved from the websites of ECP and Punjab Assembly. 56 The next challenge was to identify shrine-related families in the electoral database. In many constituencies, shrine caretakers enter the electoral race with names that have “pir” or “Makhdum” attached as an honorific title. Since 2002 election results are available with the winners’ address details, which usually contain name of the shrine complex.57 A final useful resource for mapping shrine families was the Urdu literature on political dynasties. The detailed district-level mapping of political families in Anjum (1990, 1995), Jaffri (2007) and Ismail (1986) served as useful references. Like the Auqaf lists, the electoral connection of shrines was verified with 50 The word “Darbar” denotes a sufi hospice.

51 The district resource-persons usually had information on key shrines in the region.

52 Two pertinent examples in this regard are: Ghaffir Shahzad (2007), Punjab Mein Khanqahi Culture, Fiction House, Lahore; Mohammad Latif Malik (2005), Aulia-e-Lahore, Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore.

53 The following election rounds were considered: 1937, 1946, 1950/51, 1962, 1965, 1970, 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013.

54 We only considered families that were successful in winning at least one election. The patron-client dimension requires that we only consider families that had electoral success and, as a result, could have directly influenced public goods provision.

Results for 2013 elections were obtained from the website of ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan).

56 The websites are as follows: http://ecp.gov.pk/GE.aspx ; http://www.pap.gov.pk/index.php/home/en 57 This is particularly important in tehsils in central Punjab that are relatively less known for political shrines, especially compared to their peers in south Punjab. An example is Syed Iftikhar-ul-Hassan, a 2013 MNA from Daska (Sialkot), His postal address on the National Assembly records contains the shrine name, “Allo Mahar Sharif”.

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Together, these three databases (Auqaf, historical and political lists) were consolidated to form the master database on shrines, which contains a total of 598 shrines. Lahore has the largest number of shrines (73), followed by Multan (20) and Rawalpindi (17). Although some small-time shrines might be omitted from the list, our database provides a comprehensive coverage of any shrine of significance or note. Using this database we constructed our main variable of interest, shrines per capita, which is defined as the number of shrines per 10,000 persons in a tehsil. Figure 1 displays the spatial distribution of shrines across different tehsils. A quick glance at Punjab’s sacred geography shows that shrines are dotted all across Punjab. Contrary to popular belief, there is no marked difference in shrine density between northern and southern regions of Punjab. Shrines are not an exclusively rural phenomenon either. In fact, major urban centres tend to have greater concentration of shrines (as can be noticed by the bloated circles around Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi). Finally, several shrines are situated along the river.

Figure 1: Spatial Distribution of the Shrines

Some of the key shrine statistics are presented in Table 2. Dividing Punjab across three geographic zones—north, central and south-west Punjab—we do not find huge variation in the presence of shrines. In fact, all three regions have surprisingly similar ratio of shrines per capita. However, there is a discernible variation in other shrine attributes. A greater number of shrines in south-west Punjab were mentioned in District Gazetteers and selected into politics. This is hardly surprising: south Punjab is known as the land of shrines.

For conflicting cases we also directly contacted candidates using the telephone numbers provided on the National Assembly database.

We also interviewed at least three sajjāda nishīns who have extensive knowledge of regional political influence of shrines.

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Perhaps more importantly, a significantly large number of shrines (25) have a direct electoral linkage in central Punjab. About 39 percent of politically influential shrines are situated in central Punjab. Delineating the geography of poverty in Punjab, Cheema et al. (2008) observed that, while south-west Punjab has a greater incidence of poverty relative to north Punjab, poverty outcomes are more variable in tehsils of central Punjab. Our analysis will show that shrine concentration can explain part of this variation.

Land Inequality Given the above discussion, a core dimension that warrants inclusion in our analysis is land inequality. We are interested in estimating the impact of shrines on literacy over and above any possible role of land inequality. There is a real dearth, however, of credible land inequality measures in Pakistan. 59 Although land inequality can be measured using data from the Agricultural Census or Household Surveys, data is only available at higher levels of geographic aggregation (district). One contribution of this paper is to construct a new dataset on land inequality at the tehsil level. Using a unique database on identity registration covering 96 million records, we compute the proportion of identity card holders that self-identify them as Muzaara (sharecroppers).60 In Pakistan’s agricultural context Muzaaras are typically landless tenants that are tied to landlords. The ratio was calculated for identity registrations completed till 2007-08.

The identity database maintained by NADRA61 is the most extensive repository of citizen data covering the far corners of Pakistan. With its near universal coverage of citizens and regions, the Proportion Muzaara provides a relatively precise, albeit indirect, proxy for land inequality. A possible limitation of this indicator is its reliance on self-identified data on occupations. It is possible that fewer people register for an identity card in regions with high poverty and land inequality, since they are less likely to require it for jobs, travel or exchange.

While a legitimate concern, the NADRA database covers 94% of citizens.62 Empirical Strategy

To explore the hypothesized relationships, we initially propose the following empirical specification:

= + 1 + 2 + 3 ( × ) + 4 + 5 + (1) Where is the contemporary literacy rate for tehsil (), denotes our shrines per capita measure (as defined earlier), and is the distance of the Tehsil () from the nearest river. The term, ( × ), is an interaction between the distance from river and shrine per capita; is a vector of geographic controls, consisting of latitude, longitude and elevation; represents other historical and contemporary correlates of literacy; and is an error term. Descriptive statistics for the key variables are shown in Table A3.

Our main parameter of interest in equation (1) is 1, the estimated relationship between shrines pc and current literacy rate. Given our initial interest in the impact of riverine shrines, this has to be interpreted together with the coefficient on shrine-river interaction (3 ). Although we do not ascribe a causal interpretation to our parameter of interest at this stage, it is useful to point out that the shrines measure is historically pre-determined.

The shrine-river interaction, in particular, tracks the effect of historically more important shrines that are likely to 59 This is, in part, due to the strength of landed elites and their ready access to the corridors of power. Successive governments in Pakistan have shown little interest in compiling detailed data on land inequality.

60 Applicants for the identity card are required to select a profession from a detailed list of occupational categories. There are more than 200 professions on the list. Since researchers do not have access to the database, NADRA’s Analytics Department was requested to compute the ratio for all tehsils of Punjab.

61 NADRA stands for National Database and Registration Authority.

62 This extensive coverage is partly attributable to the extensive reach and promise of cash transfer programmes, and the fact that only identity cardholders are eligible for support directed at households affected by poverty or disaster. Specifically, identity cards were required to claim support from flood or disaster relief programmes, and to be eligible for Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

be proximate to river.63 Ultimately, however, we are interested in exploring specifications that contain interactions between shrine pc and political variables. We will revert to identification issues later in the paper.

SUMMARY | APR We are careful not to ascribe a strictly causal interpretation to our results. While the establishment of shrines pre-dates the period over which literacy rates are determined, potential selection bias cannot be ruled out.

The concern is whether holy men were more likely to settle down in poorer regions that were subsequently predisposed to lower literacy rates? Historical literature on religious transmission in South Asia tends to negate this.

In fact, sufis were as likely to make a prosperous surrounding or an urban centre their permanent abode as a poor or rural neighbourhood. The spiritual demands of a particular silsila (sufi order) were often a more crucial determinant of shrine location (Nizami 1953). However, given the limitations of our research design, it is not possible to claim strict exogeneity of the shrines measure. In particular, our measure of political shrines contains contemporary information and is likely to be endogenous with respect to local development. Shrines that entered into politics after independence could have been influenced by local development characteristics, making them lucrative in the first place.


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