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June 15, 2018

Dynasties, old and new


June 15, 2018

It was generally believed that the rise of the PTI would change the political landscape of the 2018 general elections. It was believed that the PTI’s young candidates would weaken the tight grip of dynastic politics in Pakistan. But the list of the 178 candidates issued tickets for National Assembly seats by the party, for the July 25 general elections, has disappointed many optimists who were looking for a change.

An overwhelming number of party tickets have been issued to powerful political families. In many cases, one powerful family has been awarded more than one ticket. Contrary to the PTI’s tall claims of bringing change and opposing dynastic politics, the party has further strengthened dynastic politics in Pakistan. The PTI started its election campaign with the slogan of ‘Do Nahi Aik Pakistan, Hum Sab Ka Naya Pakistan’, but its election strategy seems to strengthen the old traditional political elite of the country. Ironically, for nearly two decades, Imran Khan used to criticise both the PML-N and PPP for being dynastic political parties.

The distribution of the tickets has made two things clear. One: like the PML-N and PPP, the PTI is also a party of the ruling elite. It has awarded party tickets to feudal lords, capitalists, tribal chiefs, former civil and military bureaucrats and rich people. It has completely ignored the working class, lower middle class, small farmers, traders and other exploited sections of the masses. Second: the PTI, like the PPP and PML-N, has also ignored its diehard workers while awarding party tickets. The party preferred money, power and influence and vote bank over party loyalty, commitment and hard work of party activists. The party preferred electables over educated, fresh and energetic young candidates.

George Orwell wrote this famous line in his novel ‘Animal Farm’: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” The PTI has followed the same principle in awarding tickets. The 30 powerful families in Punjab have been awarded 80 tickets of mostly National Assembly seats. Some lucky families got more tickets. Former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervaiz Khattak got three tickets. His family will contest on both National Assembly seats of the Nowshera district.

The powerful Tarkai family from the Swabi district will also contest on more than two constituencies. The Arbab family from Peshawar will contest on more than one constituency. Major (r) Tahir Sadiq will contest on both National Assembly seats of the Attock district. The PTI generously leaves two Rawalpindi constituencies for Sheikh Rashid. Sardar Abbas from Chakwal will also contest on more than one constituency. Former governor Punjab Chaudhry Altaf’s family (the PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry and his cousin Farrukh Altaf) will contest on both National Assembly seats of the Jhelum district. The Gondal family in Mandi Bahauddin will contest on two national and two provincial assembly seats.

The Sahi family in Faisalabad has been awarded three tickets. The Bhatti family of the Hafizabad district will contest on two seats. The Nakai family from Kasur will contest on two seats. The party has left four constituencies open for Manzoor Wattoo’s family, as he is also expected to join the PTI.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his son will contest on four seats from the Multan district. The Cheema family from Bahawalnagar will contest on two seats. Ahmad Alam Anwer and his son have been awarded two National Assembly and one provincial assembly tickets in the Bahawalpur district. Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar will contest on two National Assembly and one provincial assembly seat. The Khosa family in D G Khan has been awarded three tickets. The Dareshak family of the Rajanpur district will contest on three seats. The Bukhari, Jatoi and Gopang families have been awarded two tickets each in the Muzaffargarh district. Liaquat Jatoi’s family will contest on almost all the seats from district Dadu in Sindh.

One hundred and forty traditional political families represent nearly half of the national and provincial legislatures. This is why democracy is so volatile and fragile. The PTI has accepted the domination of these families and now wants to form a majority in the national and provincial assemblies to form governments with the help of the forces of status quo.

It will be wrong to think that the people never rejected powerful families and their dynastic politics in Pakistan. The ordinary voters preferred lawyers, trade union leaders, small and middle class farmers and middle class professionals as candidates over the powerful and traditional elite candidates. In Pakistan’s electoral history voters have rejected dynastic candidates. In 1970 when the PPP upset the established political order in Punjab, unknown, lower and middle class political activists defeated the well-known, powerful and influential electables of the province. The working class arose and swept away the powerful electables.

However, the political order eventually reverted to its old trend as the PPP leadership failed to transform the economic and social structure of the country. As the working-class, student and peasant organisations weakened, the traditional ruling elite reclaimed the lost ground. The social, political and economic structure needs to be changed to end dynastic politics once and for all. This kind of politics is a reflection of the old order that was established during the British rule over a century ago.

The 2018 general elections are not going to be any different from the last eight general elections held in Pakistan since 1985. The same old traditional ruling elite will represent the almost 111 million voters in the national and provincial assemblies. The richest families of the country will represent the most backward, underdeveloped and poorest constituencies. Workers will be represented by industrialists, small farmers and peasants will be represented by big landlords and feudals. And the toiling masses will be represented by billionaires.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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