SOAKED I N BLOOD
Dynasties seem to be the rule in Pakistan, except in the manipulated world of religious parties
Pakistan conforms to the South Asian trend of families dominating certain political parties. Often the charismatic patriarch with mass following becomes the dynasty’s icon, and if he is martyred, he enables the scions to satisfy the popular instinct for ‘ revenge through lineal repetition’. It began with Jinnah, the founder, and lives on in national politics today in the shape of children and grandchildren of the clan emulating the legacy of the original ruler.
Two Gujarati ‘ founders’ of India and Pakistan, Gandhi and Jinnah, apparently died without a dynastic bequest. Both were martyred. Jinnah, some say, died while being transported back from his health resort in Balochistan to Karachi in a ramshackle army Red Cross vehicle that broke down on the way and “let him die by the roadside”. Accusations were levelled at Liaquat Ali Khan, his trusted prime minister.
Unlike Gandhi, whose family did not respond to the linearity of charisma, Jinnah’s sister, Fatima, stepped into politics, but was suppressed by the military dictator General
Ayub Khan. There is significant testimony that even she was killed. Sharifuddin Pirzada, former attorney general of Pakistan and ‘ honorary’ secretary of Jinnah from 1941 to 1944, revealed that Fatima Jinnah had not died a natural death in 1967 but was murdered by a servant of hers. The late would- be begum of Bhopal and mother of Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Shahryar Khan, wrote in her memoir Abida Sultaan: Memoirs of a Rebel Princess [ OUP 2003]: “I found Miss Jinnah lying surrounded with blocks of ice. There were blue patches on her face, mainly the left eye. There was some blood on the covering sheet, but I could not detect whether it had come out from the ear, nose or mouth.”
Is martyrdom then a precondition? Jinnah’s bloodline ended because his daughter Dina decided to marry in India and find comfort in the Parsi religion. Non- Muslims don’t qualify in Pakistan’s system of dynasties. But the next charismatic leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, did leave behind a ‘ transferable’ dynastic glory through martyrdom in 1979, which the nation remembers today as ‘ judicial murder’. The Supreme Court of Pakistan be- came ‘ activist’ against him under a military tyrant.
Who can better describe charisma than Machiavelli, who advised his prince that the best prescription for attaining the throne contained three rules: First: Be possessed of ‘ fortune’, which means, be present at the opportune moment; Second: Have the gift of ‘ virtue’, which means exercise opportunism; Third: Embrace the cause of the common man. The most powerful dynasties of Renaissance Europe, the Medici and the Borgias, followed Machiavelli’s prescription.
Like the Nehru dynasty in India, there were two martyrdoms in the Bhutto clan which shook Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, according to her son Bilawal Bhutto, was killed in 2007 by al- Qaeda working in tandem with the officers of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, the ISI.
To be fair, primogeniture bestowed the crown of Bhutto on his elder son Mir Murtaza Bhutto, who was gunned down in Karachi in 1996. Anti- Bhutto circles in Punjab say Benazir as prime minister got him “bumped off”. Today, his widow Ghinwa runs the Shaheed ( martyr) Bhutto Party in Karachi without making any
visible dent in the abiding dynastic halo enveloping Benazir’s son Bilawal, whose authority is exercised by his father Asif Ali Zardari, as co- chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party ( PPP). He has been appropriately named Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari. Ghinwa could be ruling one day from behind the scenes like the Italian- born Sonia Gandhi of India. She is of Syrian- Lebanese origin, and is the second wife of Murtaza Bhutto and the stepmother of Fatima Bhutto, who is bright enough to become a future leader of Pakistan.
Dynasty is a characteristic of democracy and arouses two negative pathologies. One is principled— hatred, stemming from violation of the spirit of transition of power under the Constitution; the other visceral— nursed by political rivals defeated by lineal magnetism.
Dynasty in evolved democracies is ‘ accidental’. In evolving democracies, they ride on many factors: Untutored voting public, poverty- stricken masses attracted by the hidden Machiavellian edict of ‘ siding with the common man’, the ‘ grooming’ factor in the dynastic families, their capacity to suffer as martyrs, to finance political campaigns, and make personal sacrifices when in opposition. If the soil of rancour is fertile, a dynasty may produce a counter- dynasty.
Nawaz Sharif is the ‘ patriarch’ of Pakistan Muslim League ( Nawaz) bestowing dynastic legacy downwards to scions being ‘ groomed’ to perpetuate the Sharif dynasty. Unfortunately, Nawaz Sharif’s sons have opted to stay out of Pakistan’s political fray by domiciling themselves in London. His wife Kulsoom tried carrying the dynasty’s political torch when he was in prison, but faded soon enough. The beneficiary of the transition of the Sharif charisma will be his brother’s son, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, who cultivates the style of his uncle.
An effort on the part of Nawaz Sharif to move away from the solitary foundation of Bhutto- hatred politics has not been successful. The hawks in his party have persuaded him to return to the politics of vengeance that prevailed before 2006, when he signed a Charter of Democracy with Benazir, after forswearing hatred as politics. As if to guide him back to visceral contest, an activist judiciary has returned to its earlier anti- PPP posture.
Pakistan Muslim League, the founders’ party, has a history of splintering, each splinter desperately trying to go dynastic. Two families contested leadership under General Zia’s dictatorship: The Sharifs and the Chaudhrys. Zia chose the Sharifs. But when General Musharraf took over in 1999, he plumped for the Chaudhrys, anointing two related politicians, Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi, who stick together like dynasty. The Sharifs are supreme in Punjab, with the Chaudhrys persisting as the residual dynastic thorn in their side.
The dynasty of Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the Frontier Province of yore and today’s KhyberPakhtunkhwa has traced a different graph. The Awami National Party ( ANP) began as a pro- Congress regional party before Partition. Its political undertow after 1947 encouraged Pashtun nationalism— threatening to link up with the Pashtun of Afghanistan, and thus endangering Pakistan as a territorial state. ANP first restricted itself inside the province, but has been forced to go ‘ national’ after the emergence of Karachi in the south as the largest Pashtun city in the world. The dynasty here is inoffensive by reason of the Pashtun reluctance to operate on the basis of family absolutism. ANP leader Isfandyar Wali is benign and distant, but confident in the abiding residual ‘ dignitas’ of his grandfather Ghaffar Khan and father Wali Khan.
Dynasties seem to be the rule in Pakistan, except in the manipulated world of religious parties where leaders may be chosen by the ‘ deep state’ intent on using them in deniable jihad. But Jamiat Ulema- e- Islam ( JUI) is led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, following his highly respected Pashtun cleric father. Rehman’s brothers are ungifted and his progeny unknown to public life. After him, the tribal Deobandis may have to live without dynasty.
In Sindh, the ‘ nationalist’ cause of an ailing but charismatic Rasul Baksh Palijo’s Nationalist Party is being carried forward by his more oratorically gifted son Ayaz Latif Palijo, just like the son of Sardar Abdul Qayyum of Muslim Conference in Pakistan- administered Kashmir, Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan, decidedly an improvement on the gifts of ‘ realism’ of his father.
Democracy finally kills dynasty by destroying the bipartisan system which alternates two parties in power in the Third World. The Gandhi dynasty may never rule India again with a clear Congress majority in the Lok Sabha. In Pakistan also, Imran Khan may find that he too cannot attain the electoral majority that he says he needs to change Pakistan. And Jemima Khan may sensibly decide that Imran’s sons Suleiman and Kasim will not immolate themselves at the altar of dynasty.
DYNASTY SURVIVES ON ITS INHERENT CHARM among the untutored voting public and povertystricken masses attracted by the hidden Machiavellian edict of ‘ siding with the common man’.
( LEFT) ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO WITH HIS CHILDREN SANAM AND SHAHNAWAZ; BENAZIR BHUTTO WITH HER CHILDREN
LIKE THE NEHRU DYNASTY IN INDIA, THERE WERE TWO martyrdoms in the Bhutto clan which shook Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, according to her son Bilawal Bhutto, was killed in 2007 by al- Qaeda working in tandem with officers of Pakistan’s ISI.