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Research Insight: Judicial Independence, Religion, and Politics: Theory and Evidence


The Judiciary, through providing protection of property rights, constraining government abuse, and enforcing contracts, plays a key role in institutional, political, and economic development. Religion, too, has largely influenced institutions, politics, and economic development. Yet not much is understood on whether and how religion impacts formal justice, especially in the developing world where religion plays a pervasive role in society. In this policy brief, we detail three key policy implications based on our research on the Judiciary, religion, and politics in Pakistan (Mehmood and Seror (2019)). The first advocates for a better awareness of policymakers and aid agencies of prevailing cultural norms, and how they interact with the functioning of the political institutions, and the Judiciary more specifically. In the case of Pakistan, our research highlights that seemingly democratic reforms implemented under military regimes aim at entrenching the ruling elites, and bring religious leaders to power instead of increasing democratic accountability. Second, our analysis supports policies aiming at increasing the degree of separation of power between religion, and politics. Finally, we advocate for supporting – or designing – selection procedures for judges that detach them from political influence.


Sultan Mehmood, Université Paris-Dauphine and Aix Marseille School of Economics, Avner Seror, Aix Marseille School of Economics

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