Dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL -

THE Pak­istan In­sti­tute of Leg­isla­tive De­vel­op­ment and Trans­parency, a political and pub­lic pol­icy re­search body, has come up with some in­ter­est­ing find­ings on the "preva­lence" of in­ner party democ­racy among Pak­istan's ma­jor political par­ties five of which hold the largest num­ber of seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly. Ac­cord­ing to Pildat's sur­vey, the rul­ing PML-N is the least demo­cratic political party when it comes to run­ning its in­ter­nal affairs. The rul­ing PML-N holds ir­reg­u­lar or no party meet­ings, and there is a glar­ing lack of com­pet­i­tive elec­tions for party posts. Since the found­ing of the party the same lead­er­ship con­tin­ues to call the shots.

The Pildat re­port shows that Ja­maat-e-Is­lami leads the way with its strong in­ner party demo­cratic struc­ture. It tops of the demo­cratic scale with a score of 56%. The JI's reg­u­lar elec­tions, changes in lead­er­ship through polls, meet­ings of con­sul­ta­tive coun­cils and the work­ing com­mit­tees and dis­cour­age­ment of dy­nas­tic lead­er­ship show that it is es­sen­tially demo­cratic in its con­sti­tu­tion and char­ac­ter. Balochis­tan's Na­tional Party led by Hasil Bizenjo fol­lows JI with 47%, while Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf has a score of 44%. The re­port points out that PTI's 2012-13 party elec­tions were among the most pop­u­larly con­tested and elab­o­rate party elec­tions in the coun­try's his­tory but they were later found to be flawed. The fourth po­si­tion is claimed by the Awami Na­tional Party (ANP) with 40%, fol­lowed by PPP (36%). Both Jamiat Ulema-e-Is­lam (F) and MQm have a score of 33%, with PML-N com­ing last with 31%.

The re­port shows the sad state of in­ter­nal work­ing of so-called demo­cratic political par­ties. Pildat ob­serves that there is an al­most con­verse re­la­tion­ship be­tween the qual­ity of in­ter­nal democ­racy of political par­ties and their mass pop­u­lar­ity. The PML-N, MQM and PPP are pop­u­lar par­ties but, sur­pris­ingly, their weak in­ter­nal democ­racy has not come in the way of their mass ap­peal. Pak­istan's political his­tory shows that a lim­ited num­ber of fam­i­lies have con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate the na­tional and pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tures ever since in­de­pen­dence. Ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate, about a hun­dred fam­i­lies hold more than 50 per cent of the seats in the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tures, un­der­lin­ing the "rep­re­sen­ta­tive" char­ac­ter of Pak­istan's democ­racy.

With a few ex­cep­tions, all the political par­ties are an ex­ten­sion of pow­er­ful fam­i­lies - both feu­dal and busi­ness - whose pol­i­tics mainly re­volve around man­ag­ing and strength­en­ing fam­ily in­ter­ests. Elec­tions are seen and used as an in­stru­ment to gain con­trol of state pa­tron­age and power. Clan, tribe, caste and bi­radari play the key role in the per­pet­u­a­tion of dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics. Hered­i­tary political lead­er­ship has no place in the mod­ern political-demo­cratic cul­ture. Hered­i­tary lead­er­ship and demo­cratic val­ues are in­com­pat­i­ble. But in Pak­istan we have put the con­cept on its head. No doubt, in some coun­tries the dy­nas­tic lead­er­ship ex­ists, but it is only sym­bolic with ac­tual power rest­ing with the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple. A prime ex­am­ple is Bri­tain. Dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics is ex­clu­sive whereas demo­cratic tra­di­tions are in­clu­sive un­der which any­one hav­ing the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity can be­come the leader. Political dy­nas­ties not only vi­ti­ate the qual­ity of democ­racy but also block and re­tard the coun­try's eco­nomic progress.

The re­form of im­por­tant eco­nomic in­sti­tu­tions is ob­structed by mem­bers of the political dy­nas­ties who ben­e­fit from the sta­tus quo and re­sist any change favour­ing the broad masses. We have seen over the last few decades how the dom­i­nance of the Bhut­tos and Shar­ifs has re­sulted in the adop­tion of poli­cies and in­sti­tu­tions that ben­e­fit only a small group of peo­ple - party lead­ers and their hangers-on. Un­der dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics, mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of State re­sources makes politi­cians and their cronies filthy-rich, while the masses re­main de­prived of their ba­sic needs.

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