Saturday April 13, 2024

Destined to dynasty?

By Editorial Board
February 04, 2023

Dynastic politics has been a feature of Pakistan's political arena for decades; in fact, one could argue that South Asian politics has seen this one particular factor across almost every country. The question now is whether it is beginning to weaken political parties and create divisions within them in Pakistan. This is a question haunting the PML-N the most these days, the promotion -- elevation -- of Maryam Nawaz Sharif to the position of senior vice president and chief organizer of the party having seemingly left some party members unhappy. There has been talk of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi having left his position in the party due to Maryam Nawaz's new post. He has made it clear that he will not be parting ways with the party. However, this will do little to stem the murmurings that 'family rule' is now acceptable to party members -- perhaps not just in the PML-N but even across other parties.

Maryam is indeed not alone in 'inheriting' a party. We have the Bhutto dynasty in Sindh, ANP's family-led politics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and an assortment of father-son teams in almost every party. Does this mean that the age of dynastic politics in Pakistan may be coming to an end? People claiming or hoping this may want to hold back their pronouncements for now. The backlash Maryam is facing or may face as she ascends the N-League power ladder is not unlike the usual old vs new rift that is inevitable when a newer (and mostly younger) dynast takes over. In Maryam's case, the difference is that she is inheriting a party whose previous leader is very much still in the picture.

That said, it is also a truth that the older two parties in the country have perhaps not yet understood that the young urban voter is markedly different to the constituents they are used to. The urban voter has a natural -- and understandable -- scepticism when it comes to political dynasties. The optics of an all-in-the-family party are difficult to digest in an age where optics mean everything. In this, it is time Pakistan's political parties moved beyond their dynasties and onto the idea of merit and position based on factors other than birthrights to power.