Sultan Mehmood

Internal seminars

Sultan Mehmood

Judicial independence and development: Evidence from Pakistan
Thursday, January 7 2021| 11:00am to 12:00pm

Gaëtan Fournier: gaetan.fournier[at]
Raghul Venkatesh: raghul.venkatesh[at]


This paper provides plausibly causal evidence that Presidential appointment of judges considerably impacts judicial independence and decision quality in Pakistan. We find that when the judge selection procedure changed from Presidential appointment to appointment by peer judges, rulings in favor of the government decreased significantly and the quality of judicial decisions improved. The age structure of judges at the time of the reform and the mandatory retirement age law provide us with an exogenous source of variation in the implementation of the reform. We test for and provide evidence against potential threats to identification and alternative explanations for our findings. The analysis of mechanisms reveals that our results are explained by rulings in politically salient cases and by “patronage” judges who hold political office prior to their appointments. According to our estimates, judicial appointment by peer judges prevents land expropriations worth 0.14 percent of GDP every year.

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