ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s re-election as the president of the Punjab chapter of the PML-N is a fresh reminder on how the major political parties have turned into family concerns like Sharif Limited, Zardari Limited, Chaudhrys Limited and the Khan Limited, otherwise called the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Going by this scheme of leadership, one finds Pakistan divided into two types of families: a few families are blessed with born leaders and the rest of Pakistanis produce born followers. And if the followers raise claim on leadership, they are either sidelined or sacked from the parties and the rest of workers are warned if they try to follow.
Right from the PPP, claiming to be the only national party, down to PML-N, PML-Q, PTI, JUI-F, MQM and ANP, the top leadership emerges from single families the said parties and the rest have to wrestle all the time to exhibit loyalty. Only the Jamaat-e-Islami and MQM hold the exception of being major non-family parties.
Starting from the PML-N that on Monday held ‘elections’ of its Punjab chapter and re-elected Shahbaz Sharif unopposed. Other reported aspirants like Khwaja Saad Rafique and Zulfiqar Khosa failed to figure in, let alone defeated in contest. Khosa’s son, Dost Mohammad, was made Punjab CM, only as a stopgap arrangement, in wait for Shahbaz Sharif’s election who subsequently replaced him.
Nawaz Sharif has already been elected central president of the party. His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and Hamza Shahbaz, the son of Punjab CM, are already in politics and being touted as the next generation leadership produced by the Sharif family.
When the Sharif brothers were jailed by Musharraf, Kulsum Nawaz, the wife of elder Sharif, led the party that was later handed over to Javed Hashmi as ‘amanat’ when the family was forced into exile to Saudi Arabia. Abbas Sharif, third son of Mian Muhammad Sharif, was also an MNA in the parliament when Nawaz Sharif was PM and Shahbaz CM.
Ishaq Dar, the prominent PML-N stalwart and potential opposition leader in the Senate, is also closely related to the Sharif family. Likewise, Omer Sohail Butt and Abid Sher Ali are relatives of Sharif family, to name a few.
The situation is not different in PPP either. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was hardly 19-year when nominated the party’s chairman after the death of his mother, Benazir Bhutto who succeeded her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The late Nusrat Bhutto, the wife of Zulfikar Bhutto, seized party leadership as a stopgap arrangement, until Benazir Bhutto was grown up.
Bilawal’s sister, Assefa, is being touted as budding party leader. She is goodwill ambassador for polio eradication campaign. Bilawal-Assefa’s father, Asif Ali Zardari, is simultaneously PPP’s co-chairman and President of Pakistan.
Zardari’s sisters, Faryal Talpur and Dr Azra, are sitting MNAs. The former is calling shots in all important party-government affairs. The PTI chairman, Imran Khan, who criticises the PPP and PML-N for dynasty politics, is also different in what he preaches and practices. His senior vice president, Hamid Khan, is his cousin.
Hafeezullah Niazi, Imran’s brother-in-law, calls the shot at the Punjab level. His brother, Inamullah Niazi, is a new addition into the party from within the family. Hassam Niazi, Hafeezullah’s son, was looking after the affairs of Insaf Students Federation (ISF), the PTI’s students’ wing, until recently when he went to UK for further studies. Imran’s sister, Aleema Khan, is also politically active, though she does not hold a party office. Saifullah Niazi, Imran’s cousin, is PTI’s additional secretary general. Only Imran’s two sons are not adults.
Like other parties second tier leadership, the PTI leaders have their second generation in politics. Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s son and brother are being prepared for next elections. Javed Hashmi’s daughter has already served in the parliament until recently when she resigned together with her father after joining PTI. Owais and Jamal Leghari are sons of Farooq Leghari. There are many other such examples in PTI as well but not limited to this party only.
The PML-Q is controlled by Chaudhrys of Gujrat. Ch Shujaat is party’s central president. His cousin Pervaiz Elahi heads the PML-Q Punjab chapter in addition to being senior federal minister. MPA Moonis Elahi, son of Pervaiz Elahi, is being groomed as next party leader. Shujaat’s brother, Wajahat is federal minister together in PM Yusuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet.
Yusuf Raza Gilani has also expanded his political empire after becoming the premier. His sons are parliamentarians - Abdul Qadir is MPA and Ali Musa Gillani is a newly elected MNA. Gilani’s daughter, Fiza, is a goodwill ambassador of women empowerment.
As for as the ANP is considered, the top offices are kept within the family. Asfandyar Wali is the political heir of his father, Abdul Wali Khan, who had succeeded his father, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Even Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti is closely related to Wali family. His father, Azam Hoti, has now been elected as a senator.