Down with dynastic politics

Published: August 25, 2010

Politicians in Pakistan have made the presidency of political parties a hereditary business.

A few days back I was watching a documentary on the royal family of Britain, when a comment ran by.

“The king is dead, long live the king.”

The glorious revolution brought down the pillars of hereditary kingship in Britain. The transition went quite smoothly and was finally incorporated in the “Act of Settlement” by the British Parliament.

This great event had two significant points. Firstly, it abolished the age-old belief that kingship belonged to a specific family. Secondly, it propounded the golden principle of sovereignty of the parliament. Unfortunately, while we may have learned parliamentary democracy from the British, our political elite still had the fire of hereditary kingship kindling in their hearts.

As the constitution of Pakistan claims that the country is a republic constituted on the firm base of democracy; so a new mythology was devised by the gurus of politics. They have made the presidency of political parties a hereditary business.

Now generation after generation the same families are at the helm of affairs. It is quite ironic that while they fight for a democratic culture in the country, they do not have any democracy in their ranks. The centralised nature of these parties makes it really difficult for the dissenting voices to find any sort of accommodation among their executive councils. The way Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan was expelled from the Central Executive Committee of Pakistan People’s Party is a clear testament of king’s rule. Albeit his membership was renewed after some time, the harsh reality of one man rule in party politics was exposed.

The elections for party presidency rarely, if ever, happen although the constitutions of all the parties incorporate these principles. It’s quite ironic that these party dictators raise slogans of democracy in the country against military dictators, and thus it seems that there is a brutal tug of war between two breeds of dictators. We have a choice only between the lesser of two evils.

Is there any room for Barack Obama in our politics at them moment? Can an honest, hard working, devoted nationalist climb the ladder to the top party positions? I doubt the happening of such an anomaly in the recent future. Unless the civil society and vibrant middle class find their way in the realm of politics soon, there is very little hope of any change in our country. For that purpose we need to devise a strategy to break the shackles of this behemoth of hereditary politics whose tentacles have kept our society in strong grip since the beginning.

Germany’s political party law is a good precedent in this regard. It suggests a complete set of rules regarding the inflow and outflow of a party’s funds, audit reports, party discipline etc. One interesting feature is the allocation of party tickets for elections by means of a secret ballot. Similarly, regular regulation of internal elections to every post of our political parties by secret ballot will ensure transparency. These steps would accelerate the development of a democratic culture within the party which would definitely reflect in national politics as well.

We need to work on these lines in order to create a basic framework for the democratic culture to flourish in a real sense and abolish party dictatorship and kingship once and for all.


Qazi Saleem Ahmed Khan

A knowledge management executive and programme coordinator for Taaleem Foundation. He is an activist who is interested in sociological problems, international relations and world constitutions. He tweets @qazisaleem

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    One of the reasons why we dont have anyone from outside the political establishment is that getting into politics in itself is not something to aspire towards. Our politicians are corrupt, so we paint them as villains, therefore, no one wants to grow up and become a politican as obviously no one wants to be labbeled as useless due to association.

    Case in point a study in Kenya where villagers were asked whether they would encourage their children to get into politics. Their responses were that they would encourage the best and smartest children to stay clear of politics as it has a bad reputation.

    Politicians in Pakistan have given politics a very bad name. Perhaps time to reclaim it for ourselves? Recommend

  • Muneeb

    Very well written article.
    “As the constitution of Pakistan claims that the country is a republic constituted on the firm base of democracy”..
    The constitution of Pakistan in actual claims the country to be an Islamic Republic. It is ironic to see that we remember the Republic part but not the Islamic part of our country. When our forefathers struggled for Pakistan, they did so with a promise to bring the model Islamic System back into existence. A rudimentary system that had vanished with the fall of Ottoman Empire, nearly 25 years before Pakistan came into being.
    Despite seeing many long years of Martial Law and quite a lot of crippled democracies in our history; internationally, we stand nowhere. Effort needs to be put into a model system of government as the current system; by no means seems to improve in over a hundred years. With the state of affairs with which its being run presently, no any steps like the secret balloting in the political parties would show improvement. As a matter of fact, we have already seen a part of it being implemented by the Musharraf Govt, that has been changed with the enforcement of the 18th amendment.Recommend

  • Saira Kanwal

    that a really good article
    there is need for such a minds who bring changes in our country
    Our country name is ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN but our politicians totally changed this concept they behave like the omnipotent as well as alpha and omega, they ruin the meaning of Republic as well as ISLAMIC.Recommend

  • Saania

    Well written indeed. Couple of reasons why I refrain from reading articles and commenting on them. Firstly, who is reading these articles? People who have a vision, who believe in change. People who need to be changed and given a vision do …not read articles :). Secondly, those who do have a vision and know what needs to be changed will not take action towards making a change. I can name plenty of things that need to be changed in us as a society in general, but would I step forward to do something about it ! hmm … questionable !! Likewise would I go on the streets or enter politics to bring about change … :) …Recommend

  • Saad

    Nicely written article and shows the exact problem with our Democratic system…and the lack of development of democratic culture in Pakistan..Keep up the good work team of Express tribuneRecommend

  • Aly Sher

    Good effort ..keep on highlighting such issues as this way we can clean our society…And journalism appears as the fourth pillar.
    The parties that have the democratic culture like MQM and Jamat e Islami help the army dictators and those parties who strive for political democracy have dynastic mind set in their parties..So there is a clear contradiction in what they do and what they desire Recommend

  • Husham Ahmed

    Issue well raised! People do not normally talk about hereditary politics which slowly but surely eats away the foundations of democracy.

    Well done Qazi Saleem Recommend

  • Jazib javed jadoon

    really nice work.generally we don’t see this type of issue raised on different talk have done a great job by creating awareness among the people,now its our responsibility to act wisely and bring change Recommend

  • Mursleen Iqbal

    A very thought provoking and gem of an effort on a somewhat forgotten issue.I think that its about time that Pakistani Politics got out of the kingship and king pin terms and onto a ‘real’ democratic front.A system where you are not born a leader and heir to the country’s throne but you achieve the status of the supreme leader by winning the hearts and minds of people.Recommend