Urban politics vs rural politics

Will it be urban party based or rural personality based politics that ultimately dominates Pakistan?

Wasio Abbasi October 21, 2010
Politics in Pakistan are a tangle of confusion, lies, deception, favouritism and broken promises. Anything that goes wrong, whether it is getting in trouble with your boss or having a lesser player selected for team captaincy, can be blamed on politics.

In my experience of both Karachi and interior Sindh, I came across two distinct forms of commercial politics (politicians are, after all, contractual employees). Personality-based politics has strong roots in the countryside where, in a given area, a certain landlord will hold the most influence. No matter which party he chooses, or even if he decides to stand as an independent candidate, the votes in his locality will go to him (it is debatable whether this is due to popularity or coercion). This gives the candidate bargaining power and he chooses the party that benefits him the most, or to whom he’s most loyal.

Party-based politics has a strong base in Karachi and perhaps other urban centres like Lahore. The party chooses its candidates and the extent of individual candidates’ bargaining power varies. It is up to the party to decide whether to have a well-known or relatively new politician run for its seat.

We have seen the effect of both political styles on a local and national level and have examples support both voting styles, depending on the locality. We have seen Jamshed Dasti winning the election in Punjab again after resigning, in spite of having a fake degree. Likewise, we have seen the previously unknown figure of Syed Mustafa Kamal rise, when the MQM nominated him against veteran politician Naimatullah Khan. Despite having no distinguished record of politics, Mustafa Kamal became the second mayor of Karachi and effected great change through construction projects.Both politicians were supported by people who supported either party based or personality based politics, depending on where they came from.

Both politicians were supported by voters respectively. This proves that both, party and personality driven politics can work in a constituency.

In Pakistan, our presidents are military usurpers, back-door entrants, puppets and ceremonial figureheads chosen to smile and nod to show that “all is well” in the country. Is it possible that Pakistani politics will evolve to a point where politicians are ripped to their essence and their worth is judged by 180 million Pakistanis? If so, will it be urban party based or rural personality based politics that ultimately dominate?
Wasio Abbasi A business graduate who studied Information Systems, interested in current affairs and politics. He tweets @wasioabbasi
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Shah Hayat Ahmad | 13 years ago | Reply Whilst no one can doubt Mustafa Kamal's contribution to Karachi as Mayor - there have been many who criticize Jamshed Dasti without really knowing the facts. If really interested please read up on what New York Times had to say about him: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29feudal.html I understand most things are biased - there is always a specific angle that things are portrayed from but since nobody is all good and nobody is all bad I think Dasti too must be commended for having risen that high without having been the 'Rais' of his area. He is not an aristocrat and the dynamics as we can see are changing in the rural areas too - the media is educating people about certain rights and thus empowering them to do so as well. Had that not been the case then it is doubtful Jamshed Dasti would have ever won. @Author: On a side note with reference to history: Pir Sahib Pagara is not the Pir of Pagara (denote a particular place) - perhaps the way people refer to as Pir Sahib of Golra Sharif but instead the term is vernacular for Pir Sahib Pag-waro as was refered to his ancestor the first Pir Sahib Pag-waro. The term 'pag-waro' means the 'one with the turban' in Sindhi. This is because Pir Hazrat Rozeh Dhani Shah (The first Pir Pagara with the present Pir Pagaro being the seventh) was one of the foremost Ulama of his time. Back then in Sindh should any scholar win a debate - as was the custom of most scholarly discourse in the world of Islam - would be handed over the Pag or Turban of all the other scholars present there. In his case he collected an uncountable number of Turbans and was hence referred to by the title which was then handed down.
jpr shemp | 13 years ago | Reply There is an old saying that work talks. Comparison between Mustafa Kamal and Dasti is laughable. Dasti actually has a higher position as an MNA, whereas Mustafa Kamal was just on a level of councillor. But one can see how much Mustafa Kamal was able to achieve and what DAsti claim to fame is his fake degree and threatening Mukhtaran Mai to compromise with her rapists. Amazingly, Mustafa Kamal does'nt hold any elected office but still is relevant, most people trying to justify their crook[sorry their MNA or MPA] compare with him. The notion of people liking Mustafa Kamal amounting to personality-based politics is also ludicrous. If people vote for Mustafa Kamal is due to his working backgroundnot his family background or party affiliation that a chief minister will be able to preside who makes merry with photo-ops like Punjab's, how he developed the physical infrastructure of the most neglected metropolis in the world is commendable whereas Dasti belongs to the most economically backward area called Muzaffargarh ehich has become more backward and its image has been dented in the eyes of PAkistanis, where people have accepted certain hardships.
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