Party lead­er­ship

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Dr Niaz Mur­taza

DEMOC­RACY can­not work prop­erly with­out political par­ties. Strong democ­ra­cies all have par­ties since they help train politi­cians to­gether for na­tional gov­er­nance. If crick­eters trained sep­a­rately with­out meet­ing be­fore games, they will fail. So do politi­cians with­out par­ties. Strong party democ­racy helps politi­cians de­liver strong state democ­racy. If the first is weak, so is the se­cond, as Pildat's re­cent sur­veys on party and na­tional democ­racy show, where both were scored around 45pc by sep­a­rate ex­pert pan­els.

Lead­er­ship de­ter­mines party democ­racy qual­ity. Many Pak­istani par­ties are fam­ily-run, eg, PPP and PML-N, even if some posts are nom­i­nally as­signed to oth­ers. Even where lead­er­ship is non-fa­mil­ial, eg, in PTI, MQM and JI, top lead­ers mostly be­long to one eth­nic­ity. Hardly any party, re­gional or na­tional, has gen­uine al­lPak­istan lead­er­ship or ap­peal.

In 2013, most got 90pc-plus of their Na­tional As­sem­bly seats from one eth­nic­ity. Only PTI got 60pc of its seats from KP and 30pc from Pun­jab. But its lead­er­ship dis­plays se­vere eth­nic monotony too. Till re­cently, its top lead­ers were mostly from Pun­jab: Imran (chair), Makhdooms Hashmi and Qureshi (pres­i­dent and vice chair), Asad Umar (vice pres­i­dent) and Ta­reen (sec­re­tary). Asad was the lone source of mi­nor di­ver­sity in this star-stud­ded line-up, be­ing a Karachi Pun­jabi. Thus, even a party strongly de­sir­ing na­tional ap­peal and new pol­i­tics lacks broad lead­er­ship. It even ne­glects KP here, its main strong­hold. The na­ture of Pak­istani eth­nic pol­i­tics helps ex­plain PTI's un­even suc­cess. Pak­istani north­ern (Pun­jabi, Pakhtun and Hazarwal) elites dom­i­nate its per­ma­nent power struc­tures (mil­i­tary and bu­reau­cracy). Thus, their for­tunes are un­tied to eth­nic par­ties and they of­ten vote for par­ties led by out­siders, eg, PPP in Pun­jab and PMLN and PTI in KP. Their non-parochial­ism is not due to moral su­pe­ri­or­ity but over­all political dom­i­nance.

As dom­i­nant groups, they pri­ori­tise ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery, not re­dres­sal of na­tional in­equities. South­ern groups (Sindhi, Mo­ha­jir and Baloch) nurse se­ri­ous griev­ances about their peck­ing or­ders in the fed­er­a­tion and mostly sup­port lo­cally led equity-fo­cused par­ties de­spite their weak­nesses. Their for­tunes are largely tied to such par­ties given their weak toe-hold in per­ma­nent power struc­tures.

The highly charis­matic Bhutto and Altaf suc­cess­fully im­posed or­der on their long squab­bling fel­low eth­nic elites and emerged as sole spokes­men (to use Aye­sha Jalal's term for Jin­nah) for Sind­his and Mo­ha­jirs. Un­like Altaf, Bhutto smartly si­mul­ta­ne­ously cap­tured both Sindhi ag­grieved con­scious­ness and na­tional sup­port, al­low­ing PPP to win four times fed­er­ally and de­liver much pa­tron­age in Sindh. Altaf un­suc­cess­fully tried this two-pronged ap­proach be­lat­edly. Baloch pol­i­tics is still frag­mented, wait­ing for a strong panBaloch leader. All this in­flu­ences PTI's prow­ess. De­spite be­ing Pun­jab-led, it lags be­hind well-en­trenched PML-N there. Per­haps it re­tains such lead­er­ship to help win all-cru­cial Pun­jab. It must re­alise that if Pun­jabis, be­ing a non-ag­grieved eth­nic­ity, can vote for Sindh-led PPP, they can vote for an all-Pak­istan party lead­er­ship too.

De­spite its lop­sided lead­er­ship, it suc­ceeded among KP eth­nic­i­ties since they too are non-ag­grieved and the weak role of trib­al­ism and "feu­dal­ism" there al­lows PTI new­bies to de­feat older politi­cians. But per­pet­u­at­ing such lead­er­ship may soon rightly in­voke the fa­bled Pakhtun ire given that they as its big­gest vot­ers de­serve more.

But when the PTI band­wagon reaches south, the land of ag­grieved eth­nic­i­ties, its Pun­jab lead­er­ship fails to in­spire peo­ple. Given se­vere eth­nic gripes, even an al­lPak­istan party may fail there. Even break­away eth­nic par­ties there fail to dis­lodge reign­ing eth­nic cham­pi­ons. Thus, Mustafa Ka­mal's fate, de­spite his strong may­oral ser­vices, re­mains un­clear.

To dis­place Altaf as the Mo­ha­jir sole spokesman, he may have to do more than promis­ing good city ser­vices and out­per­form Altaf in ar­tic­u­lat­ing Mo­ha­jir griev­ances (some real, some not) for years. Altaf's slo­gan of 'Jeay Mo­ha­jir' fused him within the Mo­ha­jir psy­che as a 'mes­siah' and al­layed their un­con­scious fears about Mo­ha­jir iden­tity, unity and se­cu­rity which they de­vel­oped over the decades while slowly los­ing na­tional dom­i­nance. Altaf's psy­chic hold nixes the al­lure of Ka­mal's fly­overs and end­less drip feeds about the party's un­doubted ills.

Pak­ista­nis have odd love-hate re­la­tion­ships with th­ese par­ties. They curse them for their poor work no end, but faith­fully re-elect them. Many be­lieve that th­ese par­ties have de­scended from Mars to cap­ture Pak­istani pol­i­tics and three years of ruth­less ac­count­abil­ity and elec­toral re­form un­der tech­no­cratic rule will pro­duce sparklingly clean and hon­est par­ties. But par­ties emerge from and re­flect lo­cal so­ci­ety. Pak­istani par­ties merely en­cap­su­late per­verse lo­cal politico-eco­nomic pat­terns which ex­ist in so­ci­ety even in party ab­sence. Thus, par­ties will only change grad­u­ally with so­ci­ety.

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