Time and time again, the issue of hereditary politics finds limelight in the electronic and social media, and in the newspapers. For this or that reason, an intellectual or a political analyst, or a politician himself causes a stir.
Now when Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of M Nawaz Sharif was made senior vice president and chief organizer of the PMLN, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a veteran politician of the same party resigned from the post of senior vice president and criticized the hereditary politics. He told the press he had already apprised MNS about his resignation in case she was given a top post in the party.
Thus, the debate on hereditary politicians got triggered this time. Like so many other issues, the issue of hereditary politics is also used to denigrate the politicians. That’s an old habit and has been nurtured over the decades by the establishment, its proponents and mindless intellectuals. And this provides them with an easy and somehow not an improper target that our politicians usually are, and hence a tirade against them keeps always raging.
Surprisingly most of the politicians partaking in the debate seldom introspect. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (son of Khaqan Abbasi) or Khawaja Saad Rafique (son of Khawaja Muhammad Rafique) or Khawaja Muhammad Asif (son of Khawaja Muhammad Safdar) or others from the PMLN uttered the same refrain without minding their own family’s political lineage. A number of others from the tribe of the PTI such as Shah Mahmood Qureshi (son of Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi) targeted the PMLN’s hereditary politics, as if his person has no political legacy attached to his name.
In comparison, probably there is only one political party the politics of which steers clear of any family links or hereditary lineage. And that is Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan (JIP). Its political credentials and progress report are both dismal.
It is important to note that never ever this debate has tried to bring forth and focused on the merits and demerits of hereditary politics. That gives credence to the view stated above that it is mainly inspired by the anti-politician agenda and that for most of the political commentators it is not only a ready-made formula to bash the politicians but also to pour out their own envious egos.
Here two things may suffice to give a sense of direction to the debate. First is the democratic principle. If one believes in the democratic principle, he would attach least importance to the issue of hereditary politics. He would never go after the faces from the same family, or from the same party. That is, if someone’s son or daughter or wife or any relation of him wins through a free, fair and transparent elections, should he/she not be acceptable on the ground that he/she is from a political family!
But, a good many of them who believe in the democratic principle would hate to accept them merely because they don’t like the same faces or faces from the same family. They always want new faces! That may mean the democratic principle is inferior to the faces.
Hell to the no, that was the excuse that created a leeway and a lot of room for Imran Khan’s solely negative politics. “Let’s try a new face!”
The second thing is the performance principle. Let us assume this or that politician’s son or daughter or wife or any other relative through a constitutional process comes to be the chief executive of the state and performs well and his governance say is agreeably satisfactory (it may attain a higher level), now should he/she be targeted and discarded merely because he/she is scion of a political family!
That’s not something pragmatic. As is usually argued people do not or should not mind whether it is a military dictator or not, so far as they perform better. Underlying this argument is a paradox and a misconception of governance and performance. Good governance or in other words performance is never confined to the so-called economic realm. The more important part of the governance is political realm. In this sense, even a benevolent dictator is a contradiction-in-terms. That is, he who tramples the basic law (constitution) and thus negates the political realm itself, what if he performs economically a bit better than other civilian rulers! That is what is believed in the cases of martial law regimes in Pakistan. Though their economic performance was as much interim as their impact had been extremely negatively lasting to the polity.
In the end, let it be demonstrated with the help of a recent example why hereditary politics is neither right nor wrong and why at the same time it is bad. A case in point is while the PMLN got Shehbaz Sharif become prime minister in the center and his son Hamza Shehbaz Sharif chief minister in the Punjab province, there was nothing un-constitutional and thus it raised no question of right or wrong politics, but, no doubt, in a politically-loaded context, it was bad politics.
And finally, this hereditary politics is just one distortion among a number of others the politics in Pakistan is afflicted with and another piece by this scribe would discuss why distortions such as hereditary politics are most prevalent in countries like Pakistan.