It is rare to read a book about “development” that is so absorbing. Frankly, it is rather difficult to give this worn out term a new meaning but that is just what Markus Daechsel, a senior lecturer in London University, has done brilliantly. He writes about development by documenting so many of its multiple illusions. This cloudy fairy tale called development is so familiar to all of us on the sub-continent. We know it now simply as a collection of dreams continuously being spun by donor agencies and their high-powered consultants. Pakistan has had more than its fair share of such stories as well as international consultants who struggled to give some sense about globalisation to its generals who are otherwise hell bent on becoming a ‘Muslim Raj’. No easy ambition for a country without a history.
Daechsel’s book tells us the story about three participants and how they – the American establishment, Pakistan bureaucrats and its generals – kept each other engrossed in the stories about the development of Pakistan during the period of the two decades after partition.
As a transnational consultant, working in a “newly de-colonised nation state” Doxiadis was able to communicate to the American administration, the Ford Foundation and the Pakistan establishment his own “sophisticated development world view “ which was free from any tints of socialism. His donors portrayed him as a “leading protagonist of Third World urban development.” In the laboratory of under-development theories, the Americans have always led with formulas that advocate more and more urbanisation as the alternative to sectarianism.
These experimental theories go back almost six decades and as the research continues, more and more consultants: donors couples continue to fan out into the post-colonial world carrying that old wine in new bottles labelled ‘smart cities and industrial corridors’. Doxiadis’s archives reveal the textures of this blind faith in urbanisation. Much of the urban confusion in post-colonial countries has been caused by the mega reports and activities of excessively funded consultant preachers who habitually prey on new heads of government looking for magical solutions to continue to stay in power.
Doxiadis’s defining moment had come in 1954 when the United Nations sponsored his visit as a delegate to the Conference on Tropical Housing which was held in New Delhi. Nehru’s response to the advocacy of urbanisation was to concede the need for housing, particularly for the partition refugees. In India, Otto Koenigsburger, a German architect of Jewish descent was appointed director of housing for the Indian health ministry charged with resettling those displaced by Partition.
A few years on, the Americans found Doxiadis and he became the chief consultant to the Pakistan Planning Commission. Subsequently, his company designed Korangi for the refugee community in Karachi. Both Otto Koenigsberger, the German, and Constantios Doxiadis, the Greek, became drivers for the international donors to plan for the greater urbanisation of the sub-continent.
Koenigsberger heeded his sense of utter failure and left for England in the early 1950s. But Doxiadis persisted. While confessing his sense of failure to his private diaries, he simply would not give up. He had already been appointed as a World Bank Consultant (IBRD in those days) and was thus, with the backing of the Bank, able to move into Pakistan as their chief consultant to the Planning Commission. While in Pakistan, he faithfully kept serving one or other ‘breeds of development agencies” that the American government had set up to be closer to the ground than their own diplomatic missions could be. (Colombo Plan, Ford Foundation, the US International Cooperation Administration which subsequently became USAID etc).