Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

After defending his dissertation, "Being Seen by the State: Social Policy and Changing Citizenship Boundaries in Pakistan," in September Rehan Jamil will join the London School of Economics and Political Science for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Public Policy and Administration at the Department of Government.

Rehan will complete his PhD in comparative politics this summer. His research interests include the politics of poverty alleviation, social policy and citizenship in South Asia. His dissertation explores the political origins and citizenship impacts of Pakistan's largest social safety net: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), one of the largest cash transfer programs targeted exclusively at women in the Global South. Rehan is the recipient of the USIP Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar pre-doctoral fellowship. He was a visiting researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research in Pakistan in 2018-19. Rehan's research has also been supported by the Brown Global Mobility fellowship, the Watson Institute's Graduate Program in Development, the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Pembroke Center, and the Association for Pakistan Studies. Rehan has a Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in History and Politics with High Honors from Oberlin College.

Congratulations, Rehan!

Under what conditions do governments in weakly institutionalized new democracies adopt programmatic social policies that provide benefits to excluded citizens? Can the successful implementation of these social policies strengthen state-citizen linkages and democratic participation? This dissertation addresses these questions by analyzing the political origins and consequences of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), one of the largest cash transfer programs targeted exclusively at women in the Global South. Since its establishment in 2008, BISP has expanded welfare coverage to over five million women and their families. Programmatic Cash transfer programs such as BISP, which provide rules-based social assistance to poor citizens, have been adopted by a variety of governments in the Global South. However, little attention has been paid to the political conditions that enable the successful implementation of these programmatic policies in settings with weak democratic political institutions and whether they can help strengthen democratic participation. To address these questions, I used a mixed-methods research design that included an original quasi-experimental household survey with 2,254 respondents, 70 qualitative interviews, focus groups, and a process tracing of social policy expansion. This dissertation argues Pakistan’s most recent democratic opening in 2008 and the strengthening of party politics created the incentives for three successive elected governments to move away from patronage-based welfare and expand programmatic social benefits to low-income women in a manner that has undermined traditional patron-client power relations. However, BISP’s centralized design has created limited forums for other forms of citizen-state engagement. The dissertation concludes by comparing the Pakistani case of top-down programmatic social policy expansion in comparative perspective with three notable cases from the Global South: India, Brazil, and Mexico. These comparative cases highlight the importance of domestic political coalitions in shaping social policy design and restructuring state-citizen linkages in new democracies.