Governance As an Emergent Compromise: Access to State Service Delivery in an Islamabad Squatter Settlement

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Ijlal NAQVI , Singapore Management University, Singapore, Singapore
Compromise between the formalizing imperatives of modernization and locally-grounded informal networks can provide the basis for stable governance in the cities of the global south. This paper examines urban governance in Pakistan as seen through the experiences of an Islamabad squatter settlement accessing electricity supply through the state-run electricity utility. After a crackdown on illegal connections, community leaders negotiated a compromise with the utility leading to the installation of two official electricity meters for 600 households, with billing and individual connections handled by a committee of residents established for this purpose. Some households in the squatter settlement did secure individual contracts for service delivery, only to retreat to the communal arrangement when they found that formal contracts could also be used to reinforce patterns of exploitation and inequality rather than simply securing their rights of access and claim-making. The emergent pattern of governance – more stable than its predecessors – is one of compromises between formal contracts and the lived reality of an Islamabad squatter settlement. These local struggles with modernization are echoed at the policy level as well, where the state has retreated from market-oriented institutional reforms in the electricity sector to a more straightforwardly hierarchical set of relationships among state organizations.