I received my PhD in Economics from the University of Paris in October 2019. Currently, I am a postdoctoral research associate.
Research interests: Development Economics, Political Economy, Law and Economics
My research interests are in development economics and political economy. Particularly, my research seeks to understand the conditions for establishment of Rule of Law in societies and its consequences for institutional design and development.
Judicial Independence and Development: Evidence from Pakistan (IOEA Best Paper Award) - Invited to Resubmit - Review of Economic Studies
This paper provides causal evidence that Presidential appointment of judges considerably impacts judicial independence, decision quality, and development in Pakistan. We find that when the judge selection procedure changed from Presidential appointment to appointment by judge peers, rulings in favor of the government decreased significantly. We show that this reduction reflects an improvement in the quality of judicial decisions and development outcomes. 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 find 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.
Religious Leaders and Rule of Law (with A. Seror) - (SIOE Ronald Coase Medal) - Submitted
In this paper, we provide systematic evidence of how historical religious institutions affect the rule of law. In a difference-in-differences framework, we show that districts in Pakistan where the historical presence of religious institutions is higher, rule of law is worse. This deterioration is economically significant, persistent, and explained by the rise of religious leaders elected to office. We explain our findings with a model where religious leaders leverage their high legitimacy to run for office and influence Courts. Our estimate of the economy-wide losses attributed to land expropriation by religious leaders through Courts is about 0.06 percent of GDP every year.
Ramadan Spirit and Criminal Acquittals: Causal Evidence from Pakistan (with A. Seror) - Submitted
We study the effect of religious practice on judicial behavior in the context of Ramadan fasting, in the second largest Muslim majority country in world. For identification, we rely on exogenous variation in the length of daily fasting due to the interaction between the rotating Islamic calendar and a district court’s geographical latitude. Using unique case-level microdata on criminal cases spanning the entire history of Pakistan and random assignment of cases across Muslim and non- Muslim judges, we find that in contrast to the literature on physiological deprivation making judges more severe, more intense fasting increases acquittals. Religion appears to drive our results, since we find no effect of Ramadan on the judicial behavior of non-Muslim judges and in cases involving violations of Islamic Law. We estimate the economic losses due to unrecovered property damages resulting from more acquittal verdicts during Ramadan to be about 0.2% of GDP every year.
Judicial Corruption, Favor Exchange and the Rule of Law (with B. Ali) - Submitted
We provide systematic evidence of a quid pro quo favor exchange between Judiciary and the government, and estimate the impact of judicial corruption on Rule of Law. We find that when the Pakistani government allotted houses to judges, their rulings in favor of the government increased and the quality of their judicial decisions decreased. Our instrumental variable strategy based on judges’ birthplaces and the evidence we present in support of the identifying assumption suggest that our results are causal. The analysis of mechanisms reveal that incentives generated by the house allocation are key to explain these results. Our estimates indicate that cumulatively allocation of houses cost the government about 0.02 percent of GDP, however, it allowed the government to expropriate additional land worth 0.05 percent of GDP every year.
The Political Economy of Foreign Aid and Growth: Theory and Evidence (with A. Seror) - Pre-Doctoral Research
In this paper, we demonstrate that political incentives are key to understanding the effectiveness of foreign aid. We present a theory that formalizes how foreign aid impacts growth, leader turnover and public employment. We show that when political institutions are weak, foreign aid is misallocated. Nevertheless, foreign aid may also increase the dynamic efficiency of public policies, making the overall effect of aid on growth ambiguous. We present evidence consistent with the predictions of the model where foreign aid decreases leader turnover, increases misallocation - by increasing public employment - while it has a positive and significant effect on economic growth. The identification strategy we propose allows us to provide causal evidence for the predictions of the model. Our theory and evidence reconciles two strands of literature that grew apart in the recent decades, one demonstrating the positive effect of foreign aid on growth, the other emphasising the distortionary effects of foreign aid due to patronage, ethnic favoritism and corruption.
Terrorism and the Macroeconomy: Evidence from Pakistan (Pre-Doctoral Research: Bachelor's Thesis)
Pakistan with highest number of terrorism related deaths of any country over the past decade, the number exceeding the total terrorism related deaths for both the European and North American continents, offers an important setting to study impact of terrorism on the macroeconomy. Our estimates from a sample that covers over 4500 terrorist incidents and consequent 10, 200 deaths [from 1973 to 2010] imply that bouts of terrorist attacks led to both a short-run as well as medium-term adverse impact on key macroeconomic variables. It is estimated that cumulatively terrorism has cost Pakistan around 33.02 % of its real national income over the entire sample period and that terrorism costs Pakistan around 1 % of real GDP per capita growth every year. We find evidence consistent with the models that show that terrorism impacts the economy through a reallocation of resources from relatively more productive public spending to less productive defense spending.
Mehmood, S., 2014. Terrorism and the macroeconomy: Evidence from Pakistan. Defence and Peace Economics, 25(5), pp. 509-534.
Social Inequality and the Dynamics of Political and Ethnolinguistic Divides in Pakistan, 1970-2018
This study documents the changing structure of Pakistan’s political cleavages by making use of a unique set of exit polls covering every direct election held in the country between 1970 and 2018. We analyze the evolution of the party system, beginning with the initial economic "left-right" opposition between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muslim League. Regionalist, ethnolinguistic and religious divides have weakened and transformed this party system. The decline of the PPP has come with its transformation from a low income mass-based party to an ethnic party confined to Sindhi speakers. We also analyze the recent rise of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the role played by the political unification of the various economic, religious and military elites in its success. Finally, we discuss how the Islamization policies implemented under the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) have contributed to weaken the development of a pro-redistribution secularist coalition.
Forthcoming in Political Cleavages, Party Systems and Social Inequalities: A study of Electoral Democracies 1948-2019. Edited by A. Gethin and T. Piketty. Harvard University Press.
RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
CORRUPTION WITCH-HUNTS (with H. Sigstad) - Draft Coming Soon
GOVERNMENT ADVERTISEMENTS AND MEDIA SELF-CENSORSHIP: EVIDENCE FROM A REGRESSION DISCONTINUITY DESIGN (with S. Asad) - In Process of Data Collection
JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE IN THE SHADOW OF TERRORISM: EVIDENCE FROM PAKISTAN'S ANTI-TERRORISM COURTS (with C. Muller) - In Process of Data Collection
JUDICIAL ACCESS AND DEVELOPMENT: EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE FROM PAKISTAN (with D. Chen and A. Khan) - In Process of Data Collection
ARE JUDGES A JURY OF ONE? EVIDENCE FROM ABOLITION OF JURIES IN INDIA - In Process of Data Collection
THE STRIKE OF THE RIGHTEOUS: THE IMPACT OF HATE LITERATURE ON RADICALIZATION IN PAKISTAN (with S. Asad)
AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE CAUSES OF ABOLITION OF SLAVERY: THE CASE OF UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (with E. Zhuravskaya)
SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES
2020: ETH Zurich Law and Economics Seminar, Aix-Marseille University Applied Breakfast, Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics (SIOE), Econometric Society's World Congress, Economic Development and Institutions Annual Conference, Bocconi CLEAN Seminar, EEA Annual Conference, Applied Lunch New Economic School.
2019: Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture (ASREC), Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), American Political Science Association (APSA), American Law and Economic Association (ALEA), Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics (SIOE).
2018: Institutional and Organizational Economics Academy (IOEA), American Law and Economic Association (ALEA), Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), Casual Friday Development Seminar (CFDS).
2017: Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), Institutional and Organizational Economics Academy (IOEA), PSE Applied Economics Seminar, DIAL Development Conference.
Econometrics I Spring 2019: Sciences Po Graduate School (masters course)
Designed and taught the course covering: Review of probability and statistics, Review of statistical inference, Regression Basics, Multivariate regression, Inference problems, Instrumental variables, Simultaneous equation models.
Econometrics II Fall 2019: Sciences Po Graduate School (masters course)
Designed and taught the course covering: Randomized Control Trials (Ruben Causal Model), Instrumental Variables, Differences-in-Differences, Regression Discontinuity Design, Quantile Regressions and Propensity Score Matching.