Prisoners Of Family Politics And Dynasties

Modern day politicians in Pakistan find themselves trapped in the same power games as their predecessors. When will our politicians learn?

Prisoners Of Family Politics And Dynasties

The book Widows and Daughters - Gender, Kinship, and Power in South Asia, is written by Anna Suvorova. The distinguished author has offered diversified input on political dynasties in South Asia. She writes that “Asian political dynasties use parties as a means for transmitting charismatic, irrational legitimacy on one hand, and as family patrimony controlled by a narrow circle of relatives and proxies on the other.”

The present state of political dynasties in South Asia is a characteristic of illiberal democratic societies that tend to be marked by the emergence of a cult of the 'ruling family', favouritism and nepotism, all attributes that hinder the normal political process. 

Political dynasties always stress the special contributions of their founders and current heirs to the nation's history, creating a cult of the ruling family that elevates it above ordinary mortals. 

In South Asian countries, where the majority of the population is deeply religious and poorly educated, this cult often incorporates irrational element such as establishing supernatural and spiritual ties with deceased heroes and worshipping them. 

This practice is characteristic of the popular cults of saints and ancestors that are widespread in these countries. Recently, political cracks in the house of Zardari emerged suggesting the fight between the old and the new generation of political dynasties. 

The PPP spokespersons and some party heavyweights have rubbished rumours of rifts between Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari. The divisions are ideological and political rather than personal. Gone are the days of drawing-room politics. The emerging political and economic realities demand a departure from old tactics of give-and-take with powers that be ultimately undermining the whole edifice of democracy.

BBZ is on record as saying that veterans (Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari) should not lay political mines (stemming from compromised politics) for their new generation (BBZ and Maryum Nawaz). Ideological workers in the PPP have been side lined which has deepened the disillusionment in the rank and file of the party that political ideology is no longer alive. 

Islamabad's desire for dominance especially in terms of financially clipping the wings of federating units to make them dependent and have limited governance independence is an open secret. It needs political shoulders to place and advance its agenda. 

The rumour mill has it that senior Nawaz Sharif has appeared on the political horizon on the wings of a deal with powerful backers who have controlled the levers of power throughout preceding years. Rumours are also strife in the Pakistani political market of the removal of certain articles in the 18th Amendment especially financial awards that granted financial autonomy to small provinces is part and parcel of the deal being discussed. 

The claim is fuelled further as Maryum Nawaz who had attained anti-establishment credentials after raising her voice vociferously against the dice that was loaded with political prejudice consequently convicting the father and daughter in Panama gate and putting them behind bars. That intensity with which Maryium Nawaz raised her throat against the movers and shakers has not been heard since Nawaz Sharif came to Jaati Umra on the alleged wings of a deal. 

The Caretaker PM Anwar ul Haq Kakar came under fire for nominating PML stalwart Senator Ishaq Dar as leader of the house in the senate with PPP Senators expressing their reservations and subsequently protesting over the nomination that has reaffirmed that the sitting caretaker set up is pro-PMLN. 

With the same reservations, PPP is raising its voice for a level playing field in the elections to be held in February 2024.

Under considerations of partiality, the Election Commission of Pakistan has ordered to remove Ahad Cheema- the blue-eyed boy of PML N from the portfolio of advisorship to the PM.

Under the same considerations, the axe might fall on Fawad Hassan Fawad. The victim card is no longer a trump card in Pakistan as the masses have realized that the ruling elites continue to compromise the core values of the democratic political framework to achieve petty political ends. 

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari believes that the voters have urgent economic needs, and political aspirations that need to be recalibrated in the electoral agenda so that they can be embraced and won to vote for the party. This could be achieved only by giving voters the confidence that pro-rich economic policies will be discarded. 

The Octogenarian Faryal Talpur and Asif Ali Zardari have tightened their grip on the party and decision-making in Sindh and Pakistan respectively and they both continue to keep Bilawal in their shadow, the very political shackles Bilawal is struggling to liberate himself from.

These shackles of old politics are too strong. Will the prisoner of dynastic politics be able to liberate himself is a million-dollar question? Many believe that Bilawal Bhutto is the inheritor of dynastic politics and subsequently gets political patrimony.

Previously, his mother Benazir Bhutto found herself entangled in the same political web of old politics, and was flanked by political uncles. But she dropped the old political pattern and earned herself the reputation of being anti-status quo.

In an interview with Hamid Mir, Asif Ali Zardari is quoted to have commented that “BBZ was more talented, educated and better spoken than me- but experience is experience.” 

The 18th Amendment is one of the feathers in Asif Ali Zardari's cap during his presidency. He is credited with devolving his power with the passage of the 18th Amendment, which suggests his political pragmatism.

Undoubtedly, he has seen and suffered much during his political career. He has deliberately been painted by biased media as the most compromising character in Pakistani politics. This tag has tarnished his image though he deserved an impartial media lens to see his political moves and the political persecution- incarceration and vilification campaign he had faced that were unleashed by the powers that be. 

The former president is convinced that domicile does matter when it comes to dealing with politicians belonging to different federal units. One can't agree more that the judicial and political patronage showered on Sharifs and Imran Khan is a reality. The speed with which former PM Nawaz Sharif is being given clean chits and exonerated does say a lot.

In a veiled reference to lineage being given precedent in the PMLN, Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that the level playing field that was carved out to bring PTI into power in 2018, the same is put in place for the PMLN. 

This compromising political strategy applied over the years continues to undermine not only the political process but also the political landscape of the country.

Imran Khan has changed the dynamics of politics in Pakistan. His recent AI-curated speech delivered to a virtual rally calling on voters to come out of their homes and cast their votes in the favour of PTI candidates does demonstrate his digital skills to canvass electoral support. The PTI supremo has left behind all other political leaders when it comes to utilize digital access for politically -motivated outcomes. 

However, one can't agree with political polarization and political extremism prioritized by the PTI leadership as a political strategy. One is dismayed that patronage of political parties and the subsequent making and breaking of political parties have transformed certain political players into Frankenstein monsters. 

Despite poor public service delivery during his stint in power, IK continues  to capture the imagination of the masses disillusioned with political structures that have presided over pro-capitalist policies.

The World Bank after having identified six major challenges faced by Pakistan’s economy launched a series of policy notes that outlined critical policy shifts required for a productive, sustainable, resilient, and healthy Pakistan. 

Addressing an event jointly organized by the WB and Pakistan Institute of Development Economics here, the World Bank’s Regional Vice President for South Asia, Martin Raiser, said that Pakistan’s economy is facing difficult situations, floods, and climate change.

The World Bank after having identified six major challenges faced by Pakistan's economy, launched a series of policy notes that outlined critical policy shifts required for a productive, sustainable, resilient and healthy Pakistan. 

Martin Raiser outlined that “Pakistan’s economy is stuck in a low-growth trap with poor human development outcomes and increasing poverty. Economic conditions leave Pakistan highly vulnerable to climate shocks, with insufficient public resources to finance development and climate adaptation… it is now time for Pakistan to decide whether to maintain the patterns of the past or take difficult but crucial steps towards a brighter future.” 

The bombshell dropped by the Bank has failed to shake the political conscience of the ruling elites presiding over dull political innings. No political party has offered so far both  political strategy and economic agenda to navigate the nation from current quagmire - political, economic, and environmental.

In other parts of the world, political leaderships used crises as an opportunity to lead from the front while dividing national cohesive policies and economic salvation. In Pakistan, ruling elites have refused to grow with their age as result of which they are mired into their own family fiefdoms called political patrimony that has ceased to cut chord with the public who have urgent issues to be urgently addressed by those voted to power.

In a recent survey published in a regional Sindhi newspaper, people from all walks of life concluded that elected representatives failed to solve problems faced by their respective constituencies during the last five years. They also made it clear that the same faces would be elected on the same electoral promises. The picture in other provinces in terms of poor public service delivery and disillusionment with those successive elected representatives must not be different from the one being highlighted.

The whirlwind of economic woes faced by multitudes of the population will drown the political careers of a great many Pakistani politicians if they fail to recalibrate their politics as per the demand of emerging political realities.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan closed all doors of delaying polls after having directed ECP to hold general elections by February 8 2024. If one looks around, one sees fathers, daughters, sons and grandchildren have been nominated for the upcoming elections by political parties. The election campaign has begun. 

The solutions to the burning issues like the nose-diving national economy, rising regional rivalry, rising cost of living, bad governance, climbing curve of street crimes are not part of election manifesto. Politicians come on the stage; indulge in mutual blame-game and then disappear. This political circus plays out. The ruling elites have not learned from the past. 

Nawaz Sharif's learning capacity is limited since he cannot imagine political power beyond himself and the family hence he continues to wring out favours for his political survival through mid-night meetings. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is caught up in dynastic entanglement. Not learning any lessons is what our political elites are known for. 

Those who refuse to learn from mistakes and punishment are destined to political doom and gloom. According to Alvin Toffler, the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who can not read and write, but those who can not learn, unlearn and relearn.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He may reached at Nazeer tweets at @nazeerarijo.