Tracking change in livelihoods, service delivery, governance and state legitimacy: Evidence from a 2012-2018 panel survey in Pakistan

Babar Shahbaz, Abid Suleri, Mohsin Ali and Huma Khan, Georgina Sturge, Richard Mallett, Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Antoine Lacroix and Gemma Hennessey

Type: Pakistan, Working Paper

Country: Pakistan

Date: 09/01/2017

Full summary


This report is based on three rounds of a survey conducted in the conflict-affected Swat and Lower Dir districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, Pakistan. The first round of the survey was conducted in 2012, the second in 2015, and third in 2018, measuring changes in people’s livelihoods, access to basic services, social protection and livelihood assistance, and their perceptions of governance. The third wave of analysis – which is provided as a standalone report at the end of the first report – also covers people’s perceptions of state legitimacy.


The Swat and Lower Dir districts have been affected by violent, armed, civil conflict – the result of the militant organization Tehrik-e-Taliban’s gradual infiltration of the area. By 2007, Tehrik-e-Taliban had managed to take control of most parts of Swat district; in response, the Government of Pakistan evacuated most of the civil population and began a massive military operation in the area.


After the end of the military operations, many of the two million displaced people began to return home – only to be hit by devastating floods, which, in addition to the conflict in the area, destroyed most of the infrastructure in Swat and Lower Dir. In response, a large number of international and national aid organisations set up a variety of aid programmes; in time, the focus shifted to long-term rehabilitation, implemented through local NGOs and government agencies.


This paper explores people’s perceptions of state legitimacy, at a point of transition from humanitarian to development assistance and from outside agencies to governmental programmes in the context of decentralization. Key findings include:


  • Some, though not all, education, water and health sector activities in post-conflict settings may contribute to perceptions of greater state legitimacy;
  • Changes over time mean that government and donor programmes have to adjust – from a humanitarian response to an approach that addresses longer-term developmental challenges;
  • Legitimacy is not just about services or livelihoods, but also about safety and security – and more broadly, the politics and deeply-rooted historical experiences and perspectives, of a district or region.