My research focuses on the role of the military and political parties in the processes of recruitment and candidate-selection selection of the political elite in Pakistan as a way to understand the behavior of political leadership and regime dynamics. I use Pakistan as a case-study to address the dearth of analysis on how politics actually works in hybrid regimes. By proposing to treat hybrid regimes not as a transitional state or a defective democracy, I examine the recruitment and selection of the elite—a new lens with which to examine how the fundamental coalitions of power underpinning the regime are structured. Based on this research, my book manuscript entitled Accessing Political Power and Democratization in Pakistan is under contract at Palgrave Macmillan in its book series on the Politics of South Asia. An edited volume, Pakistan’s Political Parties: Surviving between Dictatorship and Democracy (Georgetown University Press, 2020), (co-edited with Dr. Niloufer Siddiqui and Dr. Sahar Shafqat) also emerged from this research agenda. It is a contemporary, and to date, the most comprehensive examination of Pakistan’s party system and its growing relevance as the country makes a transition to democracy. Another passion project of mine, which is currently in progress is an introductory text on Pakistan’s politics, economy and society (under contract with Routledge).
I have extended my research on recruitment and selection of the political elite to examine how this has impacted the descriptive representation of women in Pakistan at all levels of government. I particularly examine the importance of how patriarchy, family structures and clientelism intersect to hinder women’s entry into politics. Another extension of my research is to examine how elite careers have been shaped by federalism and decentralized political structures. Outputs from this research are in the form of journal articles (see below).
Apart from academic research, I have considerable policy-relevant consultancy experience, having authored monographs on democratic development, political parties and religious extremism for The Asia Foundation, Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) and Department for International Development (DFID). I have also written over 25 articles for widely-read international newspapers, magazines and blogs on politics in South Asia. In keeping with my interest in undemocratic, hybrid regimes, I have also appeared on a 6-part series on The Dictator’s Playbook on PBS (released in 2018) and How to be a Tyrant on Netflix (released in 2021).
Over the next year, I will be developing a new research agenda, which combines my interest in South Asia with diaspora politics in Canada. To this end I am working on an exploratory piece on the recalibration of Canada’s foreign policy towards South Asia and how it has been influenced by its South Asian diasporic population.