February Issue 2008
The first big entry of a younger and educated lot into mainstream politics began in 2002 when the old political families put up their young blood for elections. Perhaps it was the graduate condition which propelled this surge, as some senior politicians became ineligible to contest because of a lack of higher education. So, the next generation was pushed forward to secure the family seats. Today, this trend is growing as several family trees are sprouting new political branches for the upcoming 2008 elections.
Thousands of candidates have obtained final tickets to contest for provincial and national assembly seats. Most have a familiar last name, one that has been around on the political scene for decades. Some of the newcomers come in place of their parents, while others are simply additions to individual family trees that have taken root in the provincial and national assemblies.
Shahbaz Sharif’s son, Hamza Shahbaz is contesting in his place from NA-119 Lahore, after Shahbaz’s nomination papers were rejected. Elsewhere, Khalid Ahmad Kharal, PPP Federal Council general secretary, has put forward his son, Haider Ali Kharal, from NA-94 Toba Tek Singh in place of himself. He is acting only as a covering candidate for his son. Also contesting is Moonis Elahi, son of former chief minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. He is contesting PP-152 Lahore, which was his grandfather’s constituency.
These are just three examples of some new political pedigrees. Announcements of sons, daughters and other relatives contesting are numerous. Riaz Shah Shirazi, son of caretaker minister Aijaz Shah Shirazi, is contesting from NA-237 Thatta. Miran Shah’s son, Pir Fayaz Shah Jilani, is contesting on a PML-F ticket from PS-33 Ranipur. His cousin Pir Ahmed Raza Shah Jilani, the son of former federal minister Pir Abdul Qadir Shah Jilani, is contesting from PS-33 Ranipur.
Relatives of politicians include Arbab Zulfiqar, nephew of former chief minister of Sindh, Arbab Ghulam Rahim. He is contesting from PS-61 and PS-62 Tharparkar. Caretaker Prime Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro’s nephew Fahad Malik is contesting from NA-208 Jacobabad.
New entrants also include those who come bearing degrees from foreign colleges. Rafay Akbar Rashdi, son of former bureaucrat Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, is contesting PS-38 on a PML-F ticket from Larkana. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto. Nadya Gabol, who has joined the MQM, is the niece of former PPP MPA Nabil Gabol. A law graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University, she is contesting PS-109 Karachi. Another candidate Shaharyar Mahar, a former army man, is the son of former federal minister Sardar Ghous Bux Mahar. Having completed his Masters in Political Science after leaving the army, he is contesting from PS-10 Shikarpur in the upcoming 2008 elections.
Belonging to families that have taken part in the nation’s politics for decades, and thus in part been responsible for the degenerative condition of Pakistan, there is obvious doubt regarding their role as agents for better change. While most of these candidates are educated, some with degrees from foreign universities, people question if their esteemed degrees will bring better goverance, less corruption or more selflessness to public offices. Senior politicians have already made a fine display of how college education does not interfere with the private agendas of family-based political egoism.
The 2008 elections and the terms of the elected candidates will only clarify whether hope can be invested in the current and forthcoming generations of the older political families of the country. Do they have the mettle to restore respect to our political system? Can they place country and constituent first, above all else? Only time will tell.
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.