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.