One would imagine a diverse country like Pakistan with a population of 220 million and counting, would be governed by an inclusive political system, but to our discountenance, it is ruled by only a handful of political dynasties, decade after decade, and one election after another. These handful of political dynasties either have a political party of their own or are part of one, and switch their loyalties to a different party depending on the electoral polls. These political families like to keep the party leadership within their family circle, one generation after another takes over the party leadership, with just a stroke of a pen and all the king’s men fall in line, showing absolute and unfettering loyalty and support to their new party chief and those who show dissent, are either sidelined, asked to resign or expelled from the party.
Dynastic politics has little or no regard for merit. Leadership is considered hereditary, much like the good old days of the 16th century when the Monarch was considered the chosen representative of god on Earth. Here in Pakistan, one can evidently see how generations of the same families have come to the leadership roles of different political parties and ruled Pakistan, for example:
Awami National Party is being ruled by the same family for eternity. The journey started with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who launched the Khudai Khitmatgar movement against the British Raj. His son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan launched ANP and the party leadership role was passed on to his son Asfandyar Wali Khan. Now the fourth-generation scion of this family Aimal Wali Khan is leading the party.
Pakistan People’s Party was formed by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and after his demise, his daughter Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took over the party’s reins. His sons Mir Murtaza and Shahnawaz Bhutto took a different approach and formed a guerilla force by the name of Al-Zulfikar to avenge their father’s death. Later on, Mir Murtaza formed his own separate bloc by the name of Shaheed Bhutto group to rival his sister. The same thing happened when Benazir got assassinated, the party crown was handed over to her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and husband Asif Ali Zardari.
Zardari then went on to make one of his sisters Faryal Talpur a senior party official and another sister Azra Pechuho a provincial minister in Sindh. The story doesn’t end there, Asifa Bhutto Zardari has also kick-started her political career by leading the election campaign in the Ajk general elections.
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz was founded by Mian Nawaz Sharif and quickly soon became a family affair as well. When in power Nawaz Sharif would be the prime minister and his brother the chief minister of Punjab and when in the opposition both the brother would nominate themselves as the leader of the opposition most of the time.
Both the Sharifs have introduced their children to politics as well. Nawaz Sharif’s daughter is now the vice president of the party, and the de-facto party chief even though she serves under her uncle the current PM and party chief. So, while the father was serving as the country’s prime minister, the son was chosen by the party to become the chief minister of Punjab. People related to the Sharif family in the party have also had the pleasure of becoming provincial and federal-level ministers.
The Chaudrys of Gujrat also formed a party, Pakistan Muslim League Q, better known as the kings’ party during the Musharraf era. The elder brother Chaudry Shujaat served as the prime minister, only briefly while Pervez Elahi served as the Chief Minister of Punjab for the complete tenure. Just like the Sharifs the Chaudhry’s also placed their offspring in politics. Pervez Elahi’s son Moonis Elahi served as federal minister in Khan’s government and Shujaat’s son Salik Hussain serves as a federal minister in the current PDM government. There’s also a third brother Wajahat Hussain, whose son Hussain Elahi serves as an MNA in the incumbent assembly.
Even far right-wing parties like Jamiat Ulema Islam (F) carry on the tradition of dynastic politics. This party’s journey began with Mufti Mehmood, followed by his son Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, and onto his son, Asad Mehmood who’s currently serving as Federal Minister in the PDM government and Maulana’s brother is a senator. Maulana Fazl ur Rehman’s other family members also have important and government positions i.e. one of his children’s father-in-law has been appointed as the governor of KP, his son-in-law serving as Mayor of Peshawar.
Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf which rose to fame on its populist agenda to overthrow the status quo and put an end to dynastic politics went on to work in cahoots with the same political dynasties it claimed to work against to come into power in 2018. The party relied heavily on political dynasts throughout the country to win a majority in the National as well as the Provincial Assemblies. Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s example can be a perfect one. He himself is the party’s vice chairman, he first got his son a party ticket for the National Assembly and got him appointed as a parliamentary secretary in the 2018 general elections, later on in one of the by-elections his son got the party ticket to contest for the provincial assembly and in another by-election got his daughter to contest as the party’s candidate for the National Assembly seat from Multan.
All these parties favour other political dynasts who have a hold in their constituencies to win them the elections. Their entire cadres are full of turncoat dynasts who switch their loyalties in a blink of an eye. With such incestuous political party structures in Pakistan, it shows a clear picture of the state of democracy in the country. It shows these political parties don’t even consider their workers’ political workers but rather political labour. To be used only for groundwork, sloganeering, and blind support. No space for democracy within the party structures, only the highborn have the divine right to lead the party.