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June 12, 2018

A missed opportunity


June 12, 2018

Members of the preening elite of Pakistani society will once again dominate the country’s electoral horizon. Many members of the Sharif, Zardari and Bhutto families will be contesting from various constituencies.

The serfs, who are politely referred to as political workers, will be relegated to the decades-old practice of chanting vociferous slogans, arranging rallies, and organising political gatherings for their beloved leaders. If they happen to get killed during violent political rallies, their family members will be offered low-income jobs to placate them.

The trend of rewarding tickets to relatives and cronies is not confined to ‘wicked’ Nawaz and ‘unscrupulous’ Zardari. The pious brigade of change has also showered favours on the Tareens of Lodhran, the Makhdooms of Multan, the Jatois of Dadu and the Khattaks of Nowshera. Even the champions of theocracy, such as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, seem determined to bring their own relatives in parliament to wage a relentless struggle against the secularist lobby that wishes to change society.

In this land of ideology, political parties take differences very seriously. It is quite difficult for them to unite over a specific matter. Their representatives are often seen sparring over issues and spitting venom against one another on TV talk shows. They even go to the extent of hurling abuses at each other on primetime programmes. But when it comes to denigrating their workers, all of them seem to have a strange sense of unity. All parties want to use their political workers as servants. Political workers must fiercely defend their leaders’ ever-changing political positions and make enormous sacrifices for the party leadership, which thrives on their tireless efforts and round-the-clock zealous campaigning.

At the end of the day, it is the leadership along with their relatives and cronies who are showered with rewards. Even religious parties are not immune to this virus of doling out favours to their relatives and friends. For instance, among the few devout people that the JI selected from its ranks for key parliamentarian slots during the tenure of General Musharraf were the late Qazi Hussain Ahmed, his daughter Rahila Qazi, Syed Munawar Hasan and his wife, Ayesha Munawar. The ANP, which has been rabidly anti-Jamaat, also came forward with the names of its party leaders’ relatives for the law-making body – Asfandyar Wali, Shahi Syed and Ameer Haider Khan Hoti. This year, Aimal Khan, the crown prince of the party, is also contesting for a seat in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

Pakhtun nationalist Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s blistering attack in parliament on various non-democratic forces may give the impression that he is the country’s biggest democrat, but people failed to understand his definition of the people’s rule when they noticed the presence of his relatives in the Balochistan Assembly, parliament, Governor House and various government departments.

Pakistan is a water-scarce country. It is badly cash-starved. It has a dearth of good schools, colleges, universities and hospitals. But it appears that the country is self-sufficient in producing political families – or rather, is brimming with families. As a result, we have been electing the same faces since the creation of this country.

During the times of the Mughals, there were no influential political families because land was owned by the state and was reverted to the treasury following the death of its caretaker. The British are blamed for creating feudal families. Before Partition, these feudal families sided with the Unionists in Punjab and joined the All India Muslim League en masse in 1946. After the emergence of Pakistan, they kept on switching their loyalties and worshipping the rising sun.

With time, members of these families devised a clever mechanism to assume control. One brother would join one party while the other would be part of a different party. With the rise of the PTI, now a third brother can be accommodated elsewhere. The political landscape does not seem to have changed much. In Dera Ghazi Khan, the Legharis, Khosas, Dreshaks and Qaisranis are dominant in the electoral arena whereas the Gilanis, Makhdooms and Bosans are influential in Multan.

The Gorchanis and Mazaris are likely to become the undeclared kings of Rajanpur while the Khars, Jatois, Quraishis and Dastis in Muzaffargarh will, as usual, be in the race. The Korejas, Makhdooms and the Warraichs are all set to decide the fate of millions in Rahim Yar Khan whereas the Abbasis, Warans and Cheemas are holding sway in Bahawalpur. The Kanjus, Tareens and the Balochs are going to overshadow the new entrants’ campaigns in Lodhran. The Makhdooms, Syeds and Hirajs will cling to their seats in Khanewal.

No sectarian force has been able to shake the powers of the Makhdooms, Syeds and Bharwanas in Jhang, who are ready to flex their muscles in the land of Heer. Shahani, Nowani and Dhandla are the undeclared kings of Bhakkar and are only waiting to be crowned in the upcoming polls while the Niazis and Shadikhels are likely to retain their decades-old constituencies.

In other parts of Punjab, feudalism has not been as strong as it was in the south. Some historians claim that feudalism never took root in northern and central Punjab. But even in these areas, either political families – which were introduced by General Zia – or traditional spiritual leaders are making their presence felt.

The situation in the rural parts of Sindh isn’t rosy either. In Kashmore, Jacobabad and Khandkot, the Bijaranis, Jhakranis and Mahers have political clout. Meanwhile, the Jatois and Pir Mazhar’s family in Dadu are likely to occupy the electoral space. In Hala, the people are not ready to accept anyone except the Makhdoom family while Sanghar still seems to be under the aura of Pir Pagara and his family.

Ghotki seems to be enamoured of Ali Mohammad Maher’s family while Shikarpur is likely to be dominated by the Durranis, Shaikhs and Mahers. A large number of voters in Qaim Ali Shah’s hometown – Khairpur – are ready to throw their weight behind the veteran politician and his family while the Wasans are also prepared to prove that they have a strong presence. After having changed their party affiliations, the Shirazis and Mirzas are ready to face each other. But no new entrant is likely to emerge.

In Balochistan, the powerful families who belong to the Mengal, Bugti, Magsi, Jam, Jamali, Hasni, Bizenjo and Rind tribes will continue to hold prominence on the electoral horizon. The situation in Fata and a number of districts in KP isn’t going to be any different.

Our parliament will once again be stuffed with traditional political families and there will be limited representation of peasants and labourers. The 2018 polls are being held in an anti-politician environment. A torrent of disinformation about elected representatives seems to be in vogue. The country abounds in smear campaigns against political figures. The country’s political elite could have foiled the tactics of various non-democratic forces by fielding candidates from the toiling masses and lower middle classes. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost this opportunity. Not a single non-millionaire is likely to make it to parliament – except perhaps Jamshed Dasti.

It is shameful that a parliament that has been voted into power by the people won’t have any elected member from the grassroots. If democracy is to succeed in Pakistan, our politicians must ponder over this matter and find ways to address it.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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