Volume 21 Issue 11 November 2017


Pakistan is the only country in the world where a fake surname is brazenly used just to retain the throne of a political party. Benazir Bhutto’s surname became Zardari after her marriage while Bilawal Zardari chose to be called a Bhutto after the assassination of his mother. Maryam is proud to be called Maryam Nawaz rather than Maryam Safdar. She is married to Capt. (R) Safdar. It seems they could not have afforded to keep surnames to retain their political persona. It is possible, that if they had done so they could have lost the political crown given to them by their parents.

It is very unfortunate to note that hardly one or two political parties do not believe in forcibly retaining power within the family. But their vote bank is not as big. Also, their rigidity in their political ideas could not have enabled them to win resoundingly in any election.

It is interesting to know that most of the religious political parties also do not believe in open merit to select their next boss. Mostly a son of a religious leader continues his leadership whether he deserves it or not.

It is not wrong to say that in Pakistan most political parties work like a private company where key powers remain within the family. They just hire a few people from different fields to make their second tier leaders who remain in the second tier forever.

Most political parties working like companies pay to their devoted workers either directly in terms of salary or allow them to do whatever they can to earn their livelihood. Inducting political workers in government and private jobs is now quite common in Pakistan. Just have a look at any government department and you will find hundreds of employees inducted at the behest of one ruling party or the other.

Do you know any popular leader who started his political career as a worker and now is the top leader of a political party? It is likely that a few self-made workers might be in the front line but not the top bosses like Nawaz Sharif or Asif Zardari. They both think they were born leaders and, heaven forbid will die as leaders.

It is rightly said that Pakistan has the honour to have a political culture where leaders are born not made. The fact is they are born in a leader’s home and definitely become leader to keep the political kingship within the family. Becoming a leader, it seems, is their birthright.

There is another side of the picture. Do you know who was Ashraf Liaquat Ali (son of Liaquat Ali Khan) or Dina Wadia (daughter of Quaid-e-Azam)? They were the children of founding fathers of this country. But they didn’t grab the empty seat of their father and preferred to live the way they wanted and spent their lives quite respectably.

Even Gen. Musharraf’s son and daughter pursue their own careers. His son Bilal works for a company in America while his daughter Ayla is an architect and works for many social causes and promotes the arts in Pakistan. One of Shahbaz Sharif’s sons, Hamza, earnestly endeavours to develop himself as a politician while the other son, Salman is not interested in politics and has own business pursuits.

But generally speaking, it has become a norm in Pakistan, that a few powerful families imagine themselves as rulers while their few thousand stooges plunder the available resources. The huge silent majority live with whatever they have but vote for their favourite leaders and political parties or let others vote on their behalf. Their main job is to stay silent if they really want to live peacefully.

Political culture has no ethics now. Badly needy people just contact any political person if they have no choice. But political workers are mostly incorrigible rogues who can do anything legal or illegal at the order of their leaders.

The political arena is controlled by a few families that come to power on a rotation basis. They are elected by those who are very poor and cast their vote to ensure their ‘roti, kapra and makan.' In villages people happily vote for any candidate if they are promised a lavish meal on free return home after casting the vote.

Many political parties have proxy voters who illegally vote on behalf of those who don’t want to be the part of the so-called voting process. In big cities people like to stay at home instead of standing in a long queue just to vote for a candidate who they don’t, in any case, believe can change their destiny. Participating in the voting process is also risky for them because of incidents of violence by opposing candidates.

This means that neither is the electoral process fair nor the political process. In the electoral process despair is dominant where people either vote to get a few short-term benefits while in the political process all powers are in the hands of a few families.

Pakistan has an Election Commission to monitor the political and electoral processes. But it does not have any means to check every wrongdoing in electoral politics. Grassroots levels violations are made so shrewdly that no one can identify them. At the time of voting, you can’t ask a village woman to prove her identity by unveiling her face because her male companions make it an issue of honour.

Things will not improve unless a massive awareness drive is launched to make the people realize how powerful they are politically. If they vote for the right person and keep doing it for a few elections, the corrupt people will not have any reason to contest polls and waste their money. The corrupt take part in polls by investing millions of rupees because they know this is the best way to go to assemblies and become mightier to get back their investment with huge profits. Deserving people have no resources to convince people they can deliver and without plundering the public exchequer. They can’t make people aware of the benefits of electing the right leaders to serve the country.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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