Has the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) shed its long-held reservations on dynastic politics or a founding premise stands trumped by expediency in what is an exception?
Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday announced his daughter Meher Bano Qureshi’s candidature for the NA-157 by-polls slated for September 11. The seat had fallen vacant after Qureshi scion Zain emerged victorious in the recent Punjab Assembly by-polls. Speaking about her candidature in a message posted on micro-blogging site Twitter, Bano said she was not just a mere voter of the party but had been helping the PTI’s social media team since 2018. She earlier forayed into journalism after reading politics and sociology at the University of Sussex.
Bano’s candidature has come under severe criticism. Many, rightly so, pointed out how PTI chairman Imran Khan had virtually built a political career arguing against nepotism and dynastic politics while his right-hand men were busy perpetuating the exact opposite.
The decision also prompted a local intra-party protest spearheaded by a PTI worker Waseem Abbas. Demonstrating before the Multan ECP office, those present accused the family of ensuring NA-157 remained the exclusive preserve of the Qureshis.
The Qureshis, however, are by no means alone in this game. The PTI as a whole has espoused dynastic politics in selecting ‘electables’ and awarding important positions to politicians from traditional power-wielding families.
A cursory look at the backgrounds of those awarded ministerial berths in the new Punjab cabinet suffices. Chaudhry Zaheeruddin Khan has been elected MPA for five terms. His paternal uncle is an erstwhile member of the assembly. His paternal grandfather was active in pre-Partition Punjab politics. His brother too is an MPA.
Ali Afzal Sahi’s father Afzal Khan Sahi was elected MPA six times. Uncle Ghulam Rasool Sahi is a former MNA. Cousin Zafar Zulqarnain is a former MPA. Father-in-law serves as Lahore High Court chief justice.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The list is exhaustive. Pervez Khattak’s brother served as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa irrigation minister. Other members of his family have been in politics as well. During PTI’s tenure, at least five close relatives of Khattak were members of the national and KP assemblies: his son Ibrahim, son-in-law Imran, sister-in-law Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak and niece Sajida Begum. Two other relatives served as district and tehsil nazims in Nowshera.
PTI general secretary Omar Ayub Khan is the son of Muslim League politician Gohar Ayub Khan. Ali Tareen, Jahangir Khan Tareen’s son, had too had unsuccessfully contested by-elections from Lodhran after Tareen senior’s 2018 disqualification.
Following the success of the vote of no-confidence against Imran earlier this year the PTI initiated a campaign against ‘electable’ turncoats. The PTI chairman had repeatedly emphasised how the party would only be awarding tickets to loyal workers. In the recently-concluded Punjab by-polls, however, the party fielded individuals hailing from dynastic backgrounds across all 20 seats up for grabs.
The PTI “claims to be a party fighting against the status quo and came to power in 2018 with a vow to end corruption and bring about radical reform. Yet, an analysis of its members in the 2018 Punjab Assembly shows that 77% of them were dynastic politicians,” academic Hassan Javid noted in a Twitter thread.
Given his party’s (un)enviable track record when it comes to doublespeak, Imran Khan’s sermons on the perils plaguing conventional Pakistani politics sound hollow. While he has built public opinion in urban middle classes against the ‘curse’ of dynastic politics, his political choices negate his stance. The consolidation of Qureshi dynasty under the banner of PTI illustrates the vacuum between Imran Khan’s rhetoric and actions.