Something has stirred in the dynastic undergrowth of the politics of Pakistan. It is far too soon to describe what may be in train as revolutionary — but it is certainly evolutionary. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — after consultation with his colleagues and presumably close family as well — has decided to bar sitting lawmakers of the PML-N from giving party tickets to their relatives, friends and cronies in the forthcoming local government (LG) polls. This is a move likely to be as popular as an outbreak of herpes. The decision has sent a frisson of unease through the rank and file who were traditionally in the habit of bestowing on their wives, sons and daughters — to say nothing of assorted drones and hangers-on — various lucrative portfolios in the LG structure. It is reported that there has been a sharp intake of breath among the snolleygosters, the more so as the prime minister has decided to go for a three-line whip and has asked the parliamentary board of the PML-N to adhere to the new criterion.
Elevating one’s relatives in political life has been in the PML-N best practice manual since its inception. Kith and kin, no matter that they had all the intellectual breadth of an axolotl and the political dexterity and competencies of the average koala bear, found themselves bumped up the political tree courtesy lineage rather than ability. The decision will not be applied retrospectively and those scions of the Sharif family already catered to can sleep safe in their political beds, but it is all change at the grass roots. This sudden outbreak of maturity on the part of the PML-N leadership is reportedly driven by a shrinking vote bank and an increasingly aware electorate less inclined to toe the dynastic line. If dynastic politics is ever to be truly challenged, it will have to be bottom up, and it is going to be a slow process. Power is unlikely to fall from the hands of the feudal elite any time soon, but this move will at least plant the seeds of change down the line. We welcome this and await developments.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2015.
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