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Wednesday April 17, 2024

Old families head into new elections

This special feature attempts to bring forth past and present of key political families of country for the readers

By Suhail Warraich
February 05, 2024
An election official seals ballot boxes before people vote during the general election at a polling station in Islamabad. — AFP/File
An election official seals ballot boxes before people vote during the general election at a polling station in Islamabad. — AFP/File

Major political families of Pakistan have been strengthening their roots generation after generation at all levels of government. If we look at the history of these political dynasties, we find that before the creation of Pakistan, the British rule also played a key role among other factors in strengthening the political role of these families. Looking at the current state of politics, we find dozens of national and provincial constituencies where persons belonging to the same household or family are contesting the elections. This special feature attempts to bring forth the past and present of the key political families of the country for the readers.

Sharifs of Lahore

PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif, and Shehbaz Sharif at the stage during a rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, on October 21, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — X@pmln_org
PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif, and Shehbaz Sharif at the stage during a rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, on October 21, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — X@pmln_org

Muhammad Sharif, the scion of the business family that founded Ittefaq Industries, chose the anti-Bhutto camp after his business was nationalised. His son Nawaz Sharif joined Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and then became Finance Minister of Punjab and later Chief Minister enjoying favour of General Jilani. He adopted the slogan of construction and development instead of ideas. In the beginning, he was the only politician from the Sharif family. Later, Shehbaz Sharif entered politics, and looked after the affairs of Lahore. Mian Sharif’s third son Abbas Sharif was also an MNA. Hamza Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are doing politics. Hamza made his name during the difficult period of General Musharraf. This time, Nawaz Sharif is contesting elections from Lahore and Mansehra. In Mansehra, his son-in-law Cap (retd) Safdar is running his campaign. Shehbaz Sharif is contesting elections from Lahore and Kasur and Hamza Shehbaz and Maryam Nawaz from Lahore. Abid Sher Ali from Mian Shafi family is candidate from Faisalabad and Umar Sohail Zia Butt from Lahore.

Bhuttos of Larkana

Former president Asif Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto having a discussion during a National Assembly session. —APP/File
Former president Asif Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto having a discussion during a National Assembly session. —APP/File

An important name in the Bhutto family of Larkana was Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto who was Prime Minister of Junagarh. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, while his cousin Mumtaz Bhutto was Chief Minister of Sindh. After differences with General Ayub Khan, he founded Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in Lahore. After his execution, his wife Nusrat Bhutto and daughter Benazir Bhutto entered politics. Nusrat Bhutto remained federal minister and MNA. His son Murtaza Bhutto was also elected MPA. Murtaza Bhutto’s wife Ghanvi Bhutto is chairperson of Shaheed Murtaza Bhutto’s People’s Party, but Murtaza Bhutto’s children Fatima Bhutto and Zulfiqar Bhutto Jr. are away from electoral politics. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s son-in-law Asif Ali Zardari became the President of Pakistan. His two sisters Dr Azra Afzal and Faryal Talpur are in politics. Dr Azra has also been a provincial minister. Faryal Talpur’s husband Mir Munawar Talpur was an MNA and is a candidate for National Assembly. This time, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is contesting elections from Sindh and Punjab. In this election, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the candidate for prime minister slot.

Khans of Charsadda

Former KP chief minister Amir Haider Hoti (L) and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali. —APP/file
Former KP chief minister Amir Haider Hoti (L) and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali. —APP/file

Ghaffar Khan, who belonged to a zamindar family of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, started “Khudai Khitmatgar” with the aim of reforming the society. His political thinking was close to Congress. He was against the partition of India. That is why he was imprisoned before and after partition. His son and famous political leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan also spent a long time in jail. Wali Khan was the Opposition Leader during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto era. He was sent to jail in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. General Zia came to power and released the prisoners of conspiracy case. Wali Khan’s son Asfandyar Wali was the head of Awami National Party and also a member of the National Assembly. While Wali Khan’s wife Naseem Wali Khan also participated in electoral politics. Begum Naseem Wali Khan’s nephew Amir Haider Hoti is former Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He won in the last elections.

The family of Mufti Mehmood

— APP/file
— APP/file

The tribe of Maulana Mufti Mehmood, the father of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was from Afghanistan. Mufti Mehmood belonged to Dera Ismail Khan. In the seventies, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won elections from many constituencies across Pakistan, but Mufti Mehmood defeated him from his own constituency. He was Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. During the General Zia era, he and his party, the MRD, remained with the Pakistan People’s Party in the alliance. After his death, his son Maulana Fazlur Rehman increased his organisational and political influence. His party has been a government ally many times in the Centre and in the province. His relative Haji Ghulam Ali is governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His brother Maulana Attaur Rehman is a Senator and a brother is a bureaucrat. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is a candidate for National Assembly from Dera Ismail and Pashin. Mahmood Khan Achakzai has withdrawn from this constituency in his favour. His two brothers, Maulana Lutfur Rehman and Maulana Ubaid Rehman, are contesting elections. His two sons Maulana Asjad and Maulana Asad are also candidates from Lucky Marwat and Tank.

Khattars of Attock

Hayat Khattar supported General Nicholson in the 1857 War of Independence and attacked Delhi, after which the British Crown included him among its loyalists. Sardar Sikandar Hayat, Prime Minister of United Punjab, also belonged to this family. His son Sardar Shaukat Hayat was given the title of “Shaukat Punjab” in politics. He also stayed with Mumtaz Doultana. His son Sardar Sikandar Hayat was MPA and a minister of People’s Party. Sardar Sadiq Khattar from another branch of Khattar family is also an important name. He and his begum were members of Provincial Assembly. His son Major Tahir Sadiq entered politics. He is related to the Chaudhry family of Gujrat, but is independent in his political decisions. This time, Major Tahir Sadiq is contesting from NA-49 and her daughter-in-law Iman Tahir is contesting from NA-50.

Mengals of Wadh

Sardar Akhtar Mengal. — APP/file
Sardar Akhtar Mengal. — APP/file

Baloch leader and head of Balochistan National Party Sardar Attaullah Mengal was an important leader of Balochistan. He was a member of National Assembly during the General Ayub era. He remained Chief Minister of Balochistan, but his government was suspended. Attaullah Mengal also did rebel politics. His father Sardar Rasool Bakhsh Mengal was a tribal chief. Attaullah Mengal’s son Sardar Akhtar Mengal was a provincial minister. Akhtar Mengal was successful in becoming a member of the National Assembly in the last elections. Earlier, Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s nomination papers were rejected. He was later allowed to contest elections.

Maliks of Shamsabad

Nawab Malik Amin of Shamsabad belonged to Malik Awan community, and even today this family have considerable influence in the surrounding communities. Although he was not given a ticket by Tehreek-e-Insaf in the last elections, he was made an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Malik Amin Aslam’s sister is the wife of Nawab of Bahawalpur. His family is also related to Sardar Akhtar Mengal. Malik Aslam was married to the daughter of Chaudhry Ahmad Saeed, brother of Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, head of Service Industry. Malik Amin Aslam’s political rival is Sheikh Aftab. He is contesting elections as an independent candidate after leaving Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Bugtis of Dera Bugti

Former federal minister Shahzain Bugti. —PPI/File
Former federal minister Shahzain Bugti. —PPI/File

Nawab Akbar Bugti, the son of Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti, the ancestor of Bugti tribe of Balochistan, studied at Aitchison College, Lahore. He became the head of the tribe in his youth. Akbar Bugti was also chief minister of Balochistan and governor. He formed a political party and did politics from its platform. In his later life, there was a conflict with the State that turned to war. The Bugti and Marri families are closely related. Akbar Bugti’s son Brahmadagh Bugti is out of the country, while his grandson Shahzain Bugti has been a member of national assembly and federal minister. Shahzain Bigi is contesting from NA-253. His rival Sarfaraz Bigi is a candidate for National Assembly seat from Pakistan People’s Party.

Chaudhrys of Gujarat

Former PM Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and former chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. —APP/File
Former PM Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and former chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. —APP/File

After the creation of Pakistan, Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi started politics by joining the Convention League and remained close to FM Ayub Khan, but withdrew from the Convention League due to differences with Nawab of Kala Bagh. Later he was active against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He also endured the hardships of imprisonment. Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi had relatives in important political and influential families — the Khatars of Attock, the Chathas of Gujranwala, the Rokhris of Mianwali, the Cheemas of Sargodha, the Waraichs of Mandi Bahauddin, the Tareens of Hazara etc. Chaudhry Muzaffar of Jalalpur Jattan started factional politics in Punjab and formed his own Jat group. Gul Nawaz’s son Moin Nawaz from Chaudhry Muzaffar’s family is contesting election on PMLN ticket. Recently, the Chaudhry family’s unity has suffered a setback as the next generation is against each other. Chaudhry Salik Hussain from Gujarat is contesting against her aunt Qaisara Elahi, the wife of former chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

Mahars of Ghotki

Famous politician Sardar Ghulam Mohammad Mahar belonged to Ghotki district of Sindh. Former senator Ghulam Mohammad Mahar and his brother Ali Anwar Mahar played an important role in the politics of Sindh. During the Ayub Khan era, Ghulam Muhammad Mahar was twice elected MNA twice and later thrice. His brother Ali Anwar Mahar was active in provincial politics. Ali Anwar Mehr’s three sons, Ali Tu Az Mahar, Ali Gohar, Ali Muhammad Mahar, also became part of the assemblies. It is said that the then ISI chief General Ehsan played a key role in making Ali Muhammad Mahar the chief minister of Sindh in December 2002. The Mahar family also has relations with the Arab roayal families, especially the Nahyan family of the UAE. Courtesy Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto, the Mahars have overcome the family disputes and have joined hands in the elections.

Rajputs of Chakri

The book “Chiefs of Punjab” mentions the important families of Punjab before the establishment of Pakistan and also names the family of Chaudhry Nisar of Chakri. This family has many notable names including Nisar’s brother Lt Gen (R) Iftikhar who has been the defense secretary in the late 1990’s. Nisra’s father Brigadier (R) Fateh Khan was also active in politics. This family had a role in the creation of IJI and PMLN. They represented the Rajput group in the PMLN, while the Chaudhrys of Gujrat represented the Jat group. Nisar was the interior minister under the PMLN government formed in 2013. Nisar has been friends with PTI founder Imran Khan. Nisar developed differences with the PMLN top brass. Imran Khan was one reasons behind the differences. Nisar contested the last election as an independent but lost on both NA seats. He secured the Punjab Assembly seat. His presence in the Punjab Assembly was negligible. Now again, he is contesting for the national and provincial legislatures as an independent candidate.

Chaudhrys of Jhelum

Of the Chaudhrys of Jhelum, the most popular name here is that of Chaudhry Awais, who was close to the former chief minister Mumtaz Dalutana. His son, former Punjab governor Chaudry Altaf, was called Chhota Doultana. His brother Chaudhry Iftikhar Hussain served as the chief justice of Punjab. Raja Ghazanfar, a leader of Pakistan movement, was also a relative of Chaudhry Altaf. Chaudhary Shahbaz, brother of Chaudhary Awais, was an MNA and minister during the Musharraf era. In the last election, Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf and Chaudhry Fawad Hussain of this family were elected as MNAs. Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf’s son is the son-in-law of Raza Hayat Hiraj. Therefore, due to their relationship, they have become close friends with Najaf Abbas Sial of Jhang, Noriz Shakur of Sahiwal and Noman Langriyal. This time Chaudhry Fawad, who is in jail, has boycotted the elections while Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf is contesting on a National Assembly seat on PMLN ticket. Their traditional rival, Iqbal Mehdi family, could not did not get a ticket.

Qureshis of Multan

Zain Qureshi (L) and Shah Mehmood Qureshi. X/@ghousia_jamait
Zain Qureshi (L) and Shah Mehmood Qureshi. X/@ghousia_jamait

The Qureshi family from Multan in politics belongs to the Suhrawardi lineage of Sufism. This family believes that government and authority should be for public service. Before 1857 war of independence, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s ancestor, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, helped the British and played a significant role in putting an end to the resistance of Ahmad Khan Kharal. He was later awarded lands and titles. The interesting fact is that Shah Mehmood Qureshi is doing anti-establishment politics contrary to the family history. Qureshi’s father Sajjad Hussain Qureshi served as the Punjab governor in the Gen Zia period while Nawab Sadiq Qureshi was the chief minister of Punjab under the Bhutto era. In the last election, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his son Zain Qureshi and nephew Zahoor Hasnain Qureshi became part of the assemblies from the PTI platform. Zahoor Hasnain Qureshi’s father Shujaat Hasnain Qureshi and grandfather Zahoor Hasnain Qureshi were also prominent in the politics of Multan and Khanewal. Now Shah Mehmood Qureshi is in jail while his daughter Meher Bano Qureshi and his son Zamin Qureshi are participating in the National Assembly elections with the PTI support.

Tareens of Hazara

Former president FM Ayub Khan hails from this family of Haripur Hazara. His half-brother Sardar Bahadur Khan was the opposition leader during this period. Ayub Khan’s son Gohar Ayub Khan served as Speaker of the National Assembly and Foreign Minister. Gohar supported PML-N in the 1990’s but later broke away. His son Umar Ayub Khan has also been an MNA and a federal minister. Umar started his political career during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf and joined the cabinet after being elected as MAN. He started from the PMLQ, but later joined PMLN, and ended up in the PTI. The Ayub Khan family is related to the Bilour family of Peshawar, the Rokhri family of Mianwali and the Shahi family of Swat. In the recent past, Hussain Elahi, an MNA from the Chaudharys of Gujarat, got married to the great-granddaughter of Ayub Khan.

Makhdooms of Rahim Yar Khan

The ancestor of this family was Makhdoom-ul-Mulk Ghulam Miran Shah, an important political leader of Bahawalpur and South Punjab. His son Makhdoom Syed Hasan Mehmood was the former Chief Minister of the Bahawalpur State and leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly. After his death, his son Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mahmood was elected as a member of National and Provincial Assembly. He also served as the Punjab governor. Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood’s brother Makhdoom Syed Ali Akbar and nephew Makhdoom Syed Usman have also been members of the Provincial Assembly. His sons Makhdoom Syed Mustafa Mahmood and Makhdoom Syed Murtaza Mahmood have been MNAs. This family is closely related to Pir Pagara, Gilanis of Multan, Gardezi family of Bahawalpur. IPP chief and former friend of Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen, is the brother-in-law of Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mahmood. This time two sons of Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and a nephew are contesting for the National Assembly on a PPP ticket.

Makhdooms of Hala

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held the first political convention from Hala in Matiari district of Sindh. Makhdoom Talib-ul-Maula of Hala was thrice elected member of the parliament. His son Makhdoom Amin Fahim remained invincible from the 1970’s till his death. He remained loyal to the PPP and rejected the offer to become the Prime Minister during the Musharraf era. Amin Faheem was married to the daughter of renowned Punjabi poet Afzal Ahsan Randhawa. Ahsan Bhawan Advocate was also married in the Randhawa family. Makhdoom Khaliq-ul-Zaman, Makhdoom Shafiq-ul-Zaman, Makhdoom Rafiq-ul-Zaman were also part of the Senate and Assemblies. The influence of Hala’s spiritual family extends as far as Punjab. In these elections, Makhdoom Jamil-ul-Zaman is contesting for the National Assembly, while Makhdoom Mehboob-ul-Zaman and Makhdoom Fakhr-ul-Zaman for the provincial assembly.

Mazaris of Rajanpur

Mazaris are largest tribe of Balochs. Before the establishment of Pakistan, the leading figure of this tribe was Sardar Imam Bakhsh Mazari. This tribe extends to the borders of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Sardar Imam Bakhsh Afkhari started politics during the British period and became an influential politician. His son Balkh Sher Mazari was elected as MNA several times and then became caretaker prime minister in the early 1990’s. Balkh Sher’s brother Sardar Sher Baz Mazari was also an important national leader and MNA. At present his grandson Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari is a prominent name in politics. After the last elections, he was the deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Now he is contesting from from Rajanpur. His two uncles are contesting for the National Assembly against each other — Sardar Riaz Mazari on PMLN ticket while Zahid Mazari is supported by the PTI.