Yasser Kureshi — 2019 Edward S. Corwin Prize Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Edward S. Corwin Prize to Dr. Yasser Kureshi at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $750 prize recognizes the best dissertation on public law.  Edward S. Corwin, for whom the prize is named, served as APSA’s President from 1930 to 1931. 

Yasser Kureshi is a Senior Teaching Fellow with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.  He is originally from Karachi, Pakistan, and received his J.D. from the Boston University School of Law and a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and History, from the University of Pennsylvania.  He completed his graduate studies in the summer of 2018 from Brandeis University, earning an M.A and PhD in Politics.  He is currently a Visiting Scholar with the University of Oxford.

His research focuses on the development of judicial norms and preferences, the emergence of populist judiciaries, and the role of the judiciary in shaping the politics of authoritarian and post-authoritarian states.  This research focuses primarily on Pakistan, but places Pakistan in a comparative perspective.  He also teaches courses on comparative politics and South Asian politics and has published research on military coup legitimation strategies.”

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

In his dissertation “Judging the Generals: Judicial-Military Interactions in Authoritarian and Post-Authoritarian
States, Yasser Kureshi of Brandeis University provides a fascinating theory of the conditions under which judiciaries act to contest the prerogatives of politically powerful militaries in authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes.  He then tests these broader theoretical constructs in the context of Pakistan.  In doing so, Professor Kureshi accomplishes the extraordinary by, among other things, combining a rich and detailed historical analysis of judicial-military relations in Pakistan from 1947 through 2015 with an empirical evaluation of over seven hundred high court decisions from 1973 to 2015.  The data sources are vast and varied, including law reviews, digests, and reporters; newspaper articles, judicial speeches, judicial biographies, bar association resolutions, and interviews with lawyers and retired judges.  The results are profound: a deep contextual understanding of judicial-military relations in Pakistan, high-level theorizing about democratization and the conditions under which courts across the globe help to establish and maintain the rule of law, and empirical testing of the principle hypotheses derived from the theory, all in the same dissertation.

Professor Kureshi specifically points to the shift in judicial assertiveness toward the military in Pakistan as a direct consequence of a change in the audiences with which judges and courts interact.  Judicial affinity toward the military diminished as audiences from which judges seek approval grew independent from the military, especially politically active bar associations.  Professor Kureshi also documents the nuanced nature of the judiciary’s response, showing that these new judicial actions toward curbing the military were contingent on the type of prerogative being challenged.

Overall, this dissertation provides a powerful theoretical explanation for judiciaries acting to bring powerful militaries under civilian control in authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes.  This exciting new work significantly expands and enhances the fields of judicial politics and comparative politics while providing a wealth of information about Pakistan.  Without question, this dissertation represents the very best of political science scholarship focused on law and courts and thus is most deserving of the Edward S. Corwin Award.

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