By Tajreen Midhat Jafri (Habib University, Karachi) |
Environment which once remained on the peripheries of the development debates, today holds an important place in Pakistan’s political discourse. For example, the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, prioritized addressing environmental problems as part of its election campaigns. After coming to power in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013, PTI initiated the Million Tsunami Tree project in 2014. Thereafter, after Imran Khan became the Prime Minister in 2018, his inaugural speech addressed environmental concerns to the nation by highlighting issues such as heatwaves, urban flooding, pollution of the sea, waste management, and eco-friendly tourism. However, my paper contends that the government’s environmental ideology is stemming from a specific strand of environmentalism, termed as ‘Environmentalism of the Rich’ that emerged in the West (primarily the United States) as a result of a post-materialist or post-industrialist society (Guha & Martínez Alier, 1997). This kind of environmentalism, turns nature itself into a good to be consumed. On the other hand, another strand of environmentalism that Guha (1997) terms as ‘Environmentalism of the Poor’ is prevalent, yet suppressed in Pakistan. There are movements/conflicts that may come across as political movements, but are rooted in questions of who should have control over natural resources (Rizvi 2019). These conflicts/movements have emerged in the Global South, primarily as a result of the ecologically disruptive development processes impacting livelihoods (Watts & Peet, 2004; Nixon, 2011). In a highly securitized political environment, those who protest against these ecologically disruptive processes of pursuing economic growth are deemed as anti-state (Akhtar, 2021). The paper will explore the contradictions in the policies and the national politics of environment to establish that the Government’s environmental ideology is one that is suited to the increasing processes of neoliberalisation in the country, where nature/environment is re(organized) by power relations. Through this paper, I hope to contribute to existing literature on the politics of environment in the Global South (and Pakistan in specific) which, just like development, is a process for resource capture.