Religion, Land and Politics: Shrines and Literacy in Punjab, Pakistan

PSSP Working Paper 030, “Religion, Land and Politics: Shrines and Literacy in Punjab, Pakistan”, empirically examines the impact of religious shrines on development. Compiling a unique database covering the universe of shrines across Pakistani Punjab, the authors explore whether the presence of holy Muslim shrines helps to explain regional variation in literacy rates. Results demonstrate that the presence of shrines adversely affects literacy only in regions where shrine-related families have a direct political influence. Shrines in these regions represent the confluence of three resources—religion, land and politics—that together constitute a powerful structural inequality with potentially adverse consequences for development. The paper also probes the determinants of political selection, and finds that shrines considered important in the British colonial assessment were more likely to select into politics in post-partition Punjab.