By Tahir Abbas
Since the country’s independence in 1947, the electoral politics in Pakistan has always remained a family enterprise where all the major political parties at both federal and provincial levels are dominated by a very limited number of powerful elites. The constitution of Pakistan guarantees everyone equal rights to contest for public office, but the powerful dynasties have monopolized the whole political system, and through rising costs of campaigning, tends to make it difficult for newcomers to enter politics.
In true democracies, every citizen is given an equal chance and new ideas are always encouraged. In Pakistan, the privilege of power has always remained securely in the hands of a limited few and electoral votes are rarely based on one’s capabilities. People lacking knowledge of how to serve, are voted into office simply because of their affinity by blood to those who hold the political power. Sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, wives, and even extended family members of political figures enter politics because their belongingness to the right family guarantees their ascendancy to the positions of power. And there are always several next-generation dynastic politicians who are actively pursuing political career.
Dynasty politics and democracy are hard to run side by side. In democracies, selection of candidates for party tickets are majorly based on individual’s capabilities, but when political parties rely on candidates belonging to dynastic backgrounds, intellectuals of the society find themselves at disadvantage, and hence, more willingly serve dictators than those politicians who return to the legislatures each time.
Whether we like or not, dynastic control over politics has always been an integral part of the global politics, but the ratio is comparatively lower in the developed countries compared to the developing world. In a report released by DAWN, it was revealed that 102 powerful political families in Pakistan, belonging to different sort of dynasties, hold more than 50PC of the seats in the federal and provincial legislatures. And same is the case in Gilgit Baltistan. The patron-client relationships are entirely feudalistic and dynastic entitlement has dominated the whole system. Politicians depend on kinship networks to secure ‘baradari’ supports at the grassroots level and the votes rarely reflect individual choices. Bottom-up-approach is never encouraged, and the real essence of democracy has always been compromised.
A lack of democracy within political parties is a major impediment in improving the electoral politics. The mainstream political parties of the country manifest democracy, but distribution of party tickets at the time of elections shows the political patronage at play. Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) had long waited for power. Before the General Elections 2018, it was one of the most principle motives of the PTI supremo to weaken political dynasties in Pakistan, but the ideology and claim were both buried into the ground. The party failed to encourage bottom-up-approach in selecting people’s representatives in the general elections and hence, put the final nail in the coffin of hopes.
Although, the very few political elites are the sole beneficiaries of the current electoral system, but after all, it is not reasonable to hold the past and contemporary politicians entirely responsible for the present political plight. The voting trends of the voters equally support dynastic candidates in the elections. A political dynasty can give its member a spectacular entry into the politics but cannot ensure a parliamentary seat for its candidate since sovereignty is always held by the people. In the electoral history of Pakistan, there have been multiple occasions when dynastic hopefuls were rejected by the voters. And hence, instead of blaming political dynasties as the sole and root cause, people must realize that the ultimate power lies with the voters; and the very ultimate weapon can be used to throw bad dynasties out of the country’s political system.