Should sons of poor stop dreaming? by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Former President and co-chair of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari made two policy announcements about the management of organization of the second largest national party during his speech in Lyari jalsa. First he said that he is occupying the office of Chairman of the party until Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asifa Bhutto Zardari are ready to take over from him. Second that young party members will be allowed to manage party affairs in districts while he runs the government with his friends. These two policy positions has a clear message for sons of the poor and grass roots members that they have no chance of rising to the top. The top slots in PPP will be given based on hereditary bases rather than merit and capability. People like Aitzaz Ahsan, Jahangir Badar, and Raza Rabbani can cry in the assembly for their inability to make right decisions about national interest as they are bound to serve the interests of the top as they control the party.

It is ironic that none of the 35 or more daily political talk shows talked about these two policy positions. Neither did any of the major newspapers reported it as key policies. It is this lack of interest in internal party affairs that has kept our politics weak and subservient to narrow self-interest of families. In my personal view this is gross professional negligence by most journalists. I hope this can be avoided in the future reporting and all aspects of a policy position taken in a speech will be reported and analyzed.

The situation in Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is not much different. To ensure all party members know who they should be loyal to they have added the name of the family patriarch to the party. When Khawaja Asif stand up in the parliament to attack members of the opposition. He is telling the Nawaz family that he is completely loyal to them. When the time comes for managing cantonment board elections the responsibility is given to Hamza Shahbaz Sharif who is younger than experience of some of the old party stalwarts. Why was Hamza chosen for this responsibility? The answer is simple because he is nephew of the N in PML N. On top of that Express Tribune reported that Hamza is provided help from Intelligence Bureau (IB) and special branch to identify good candidates. Why would government agencies help a political party select candidates? Is it not considered pre-poll rigging? If the story was wrongly reported why Express Tribune is not asked to publish a retraction.

The other major party Pakistan Tehreeke Insaf (PTI) is going through its own struggle to transform into a political institution rather than remain cult of a celebrity. PTI Election Tribunal headed by Justice Wajih issued orders in October 2014 to truncate the term of the existing bodies to two years and to hold new intra-party elections (IPE) because substantial irregularities were found in last IPE. The tribunal provided six months period to comply with its orders. In March 2015 when the orders was not complied it issued orders that all bodies stand dissolved and instructed that a care taker body should be installed until next IPE is held. Not only have that, it issued show cause notice to former Secretary General for non-compliance. It also asked the Chairman to appear before it so that certain clarifications and understandings about the implementation of the order can be reached with him. All this information was widely reported by the media and it was first time in the history of Pakistan that a major national party was going through this internal process of transformation. As member of the party I am fully involved in the process. But the status quo elements that now form inner circle of the Chairman of PTI are uncomfortable with these developments. They convinced the Chairman to dissolve the Election Tribunal through a notification which was rejected by Justice Wajihuddin. Majority of the party support the decision of the Election Tribunal and are working to ensure chairman and Election Tribunal can work together to make PTI first national party as an institution.

The other three parties ANP, MQM and Jamat-e-Islami are increasingly marginalized because of their narrow mandate and it is for that reason I have not talked about it in this piece. Amir of JI Siraj ul Haque is trying hard to broaden the appeal of the party but old stalwarts push him back. MQM has chosen that they want the rehnuma rather than the manzil which means retirement of rehuma will be end of it. ANP under Asfandyar Wali has lost its status as a party of principles and is now considered a party that is ready to strike a deal.

Why is it important to have a national party as an institution? We cannot develop stable politics unless political parties are operating as institutions. By institutions we mean that the decisions are made following the party constitution; no party position is given unconstitutionally; party tickets are awarded based on merit and through a publicly announced due process; and governments are formed through a parliamentary committee consensus. In the absence of such institutions the elections are contested based on personalities rather than ideologies. These personalities form alliances with party bosses based on deals that serve self-interest in terms of political power or making money from development works in the constituency. Those that have regional influence demand ministries and lucrative portfolios. This results in bad governance as people may not be capable to hold that particular portfolio. This results in corruption, nepotism and cronyism which weakens the social fabric of the society and can become a major national security issue. For instance, PML N favoring their stronghold to benefit more from Chinese Economic Corridor so that they can retain their control of the parliament.

Institutionalization of political parties is a critical next step in the evolution of stable politics in Pakistan. Our failure to cross this milestone will be the main reason for a weak nation. As member of PTI we are working inside our party to achieve this objective. We hope that members of other parties will embark on similar struggle inside their parties.

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