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New Left Review I/68, July-August 1971


Richard Nations

The Economic Structure of Pakistan: Class and Colony

The murderous military assault on East Bengal by the Pakistani Army was the finale to two decades of economic exploitation and political oppression. The systematic massacre and devastation ordered by Yahya Khan has written its own historical epitaph on the deformed creation of the Partition of British India in 1947. Confessionalism predictably produced a monster, whose life-span was doomed to be a short one. Pakistan emerged as the ‘homeland of Islam in the subcontinent’. Theology was the only rationale for uniting into one sovereign State two territorial units separated not only by geographical distance but by linguistic, cultural, social and ethnic differences which had no mediation other than the reactionary bond of religion. Across this artificial structure, where the centre of ‘national’ power was separated from the majority of the population by over 1,000 miles of hostile Indian territory, the course of capitalist development wove an intricate fabric combining the features of both class and colonial exploitation. Within this complex, Bengal has suffered the compound contradictions of a system which simultaneously channels the production of the poor into the consumption of the wealthy, and the surplus of an agricultural dependency into the industry of the suzerain metropolis. The political economy of Pakistani capitalism, as it has evolved since 1947, is the fundamental explanation of the national and class upsurge which is giving agonized birth to Bangla Desh today. The purpose of this essay will be to show the essential mechanisms of this economy, the reasons why it eventually led to the crisis in Bengal, and the reciprocal impact which this crisis is certain to have on West Pakistan.

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