Aspirants unlimited

Published February 6, 2024
The writer is a journalist
The writer is a journalist

THIS is one election where it has been more difficult than usual to keep track of candidates switching sides and parties.

Even so, a recent induction into Jahangir Khan Tareen’s IPP was surprising. Ayesha Rajab Ali who was till recently in the PML-N and even a member of the 2018 parliament on a reserved seat met Tareen and joined the IPP. Surprising to say the least, for this is really not the moment to leave Noon and join IPP, even though JKT appears confident that his party will be working with the PML-N, post-election. The happy ending is now a foregone conclusion.

However, local constituency-level politics are behind this decision. Ayesha Rajab Ali parted ways with the PML-N some weeks ago because the party gave the ticket to her brother-in-law over her son. The party ticket had gone to her brother-in-law after the death of her husband, a decision the party repeated for 2024. Ayesha Rajab Ali, who felt her son should have inherited the father’s political slot, announced her departure from the PML-N and has since joined IPP.

This is not the only such incident; where families who dominate constituencies for a party will face opposition from within, when one generation replaces another and the aspirants or contenders for tickets proliferate. And this is evident in the PML-N this time around as the PTI, the other contender in Punjab, has already lost many of its electables.

One of the most unexpected fights that broke out during this election cycle was the public falling out between the two PML-N heavyweights in Narowal. Home to two National Assembly (NA) seats, the area is dominated by Ahsan Iqbal and Daniyal Aziz.

While the former has been with the PML-N since the 1990s, Aziz joined the party later but had been close to the party leadership for which he paid the price in the shape of disqualification before the 2018 election.

As families grow, the infighting over constituencies will increase.

According to media reports, the fracas broke out because Iqbal was interested in the party ticket for a provincial assembly seat which fell under the NA seat of Aziz while the latter wanted his say in the people chosen for these seats. As the jostling for the tickets grew, so did the verbal duelling.

Aziz’s public criticism of Iqbal ended with him losing the party ticket. He is now contesting the seat as an independent candidate and faces a PML-N candidate. On the other hand, Iqbal was awarded the provincial assembly ticket he wanted — originally for his son though he is now contesting on it himself.

While this story has been highlighted in the media, few ever explained why Iqbal wanted a provincial assembly ticket in Aziz’s constituency rather than one which fell under his own NA constituency. According to journalists from Narowal, the provincial seats in his constituency are already occupied by close colleagues and relatives who cannot be displaced. Hence, he looked to the other constituency.

The two are very different examples but both reflect the jostling and conflicts which arise due to limited party tickets and the growing pressure from political families. Indeed, this is not a new phenomenon: over decades, many families have arrived at a point where different members are now part of different parties come election time.

Take the Khar family in Muzaffargarh or the Leghari family in D.G. Khan. Until recently, the Leghari family had one branch (Farooq Leghari’s sons) in PML-N while Jaffer Leghari and his son-in-law Mohsin Leghari were associated with the PTI.

Another manifestation of this is the excessive domination of one family over a party and an area. Consider Multan where the Gilani and Qureshi families are contesting on multiple seats in the city. And in Lahore, the Sharif family is contesting on four seats, which is one reason Pervez Malik’s family, old and valued PML-N stalwarts, who had contested and won from the city in 2018, are not in the election fray this time.

The point here is that with time, as families grow, the infighting over constituencies will increase; multiple candidates will also mean further fragmentation of the biradari or family vote, which once was consolidated or centralised enough to secure political victories.

But more important is the growing resentment from below. As families dominate party tickets and constituencies, there is little room for vertical growth for those who may over time aspire to party tickets. This is also a major reason for the growing resentment against what is seen as ‘dynastic’ rule at the constituency level.

Indeed, while the national press tends to focus on dynastic rule at the national level, politicians are aware that there is considerable resentment towards dynasties at the constituency level because of the glass ceiling it has created. This is seen to be one reason Meher Bano Qureshi lost an NA by-election in Multan in 2022.

Of course, this is at one level part of an organic process. As families grow and aspirants from within reduce their vote bank, it will provide space for newcomers to come into the field.

More importantly though, it is also an issue for political parties to recognise and address, if they don’t want to continue to lose candidates and influence.

For instance, the Dar family in Sialkot parted ways with the PML-N because it was not able to give them a ticket and thus the PTI’s roots were established in the city. Since then, it has become a force to be reckoned with, not just because of Imran Khan’s popularity but also because of the effort put in by the Dar family.

Political parties have to not just recognise but also distribute power in a way to create more space for more entrants. Empowered local governments is one option. It will increase the number of positions a political party can distribute in a particular region, and hence keep multiple political stakeholders satisfied

This is recognised by the younger generation of politicians, across the board. Whether the leaderships prove far-sighted enough to push this change through is another matter.

The writer is a journalist.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...
KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...