It has been observed a number of times around the world that being from a dynasty or belonging to a ‘political’ family does give political mileage to some people running for office and they do have an edge over their opponents. One example is Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, whose father Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada in the late 1960s and again in the early 1980s era.
A second example could be Rajiv Gandhi the son of Indra Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. Although not in the driver’s seat anymore, the family is still influential in India.
Pakistan has its share of dynastic politics. Now, theoretically, there is no harm in having this culture in politics and legally there is no stopping anyone from taking part in elections.
However, what it does in Pakistan is the following: it trickles down to everything underneath a powerful politician. This means: if you belong to a powerful political family and you do not even hold any political office or position, you still get preference in anything related to any business, be it a resolution to a small civic issue, getting admission in an educational institute or getting preference in the hiring process of an employer – and any other matter you are faced with. The occurrence of such preferential treatment happens often enough for it to be a factor that draws the ire of the public.
When it comes to appearing ‘influential’ we note for instance that car registration plates, letterheads and business cards with signs like “brother of so-and-so MNA,” “cousin of so-and-so Brigadier,” or simply the word “Army” proves to be enough to get things done. We have even seen a business card of “a barber of such and such minister” doing rounds, which was considered funny.
We also need to take a look as to what is the reason people like to run for offices in elections. So we must ask what is their objective: is it to serve people of their constituency or get enough nuisance value that society looks at them with respect, thus getting things done more easily than ordinary citizens? Or is it sheer interest in making money? Whatever the reason is, one likes to think that it is a noble cause to run for office to represent your people and work for their wellbeing – and motives such as those mentioned here do not fit well with that exalted calling.
This culture of nepotism has seeped in deep, and it is going to be very difficult to come out of it in a sudden awakening. What we need is a thought-process change and embracing of a culture of fairness and equality. Pakistan has become a ‘protocol’ society which provides a sense of entitlement to some ‘chosen’ ones.
The class system exists everywhere in the world, but it is, for instance, not as overt in the West as it is in the East, and especially in Pakistan. There is nothing inevitable about such a system. Slowly and steadily, the society can adapt and change. If not this generation, perhaps the next would be more equal.
Hope is alive.