Sunday, May 17, 2009

The PPP's Long History With Nepotism, And Its Effects On Pakistan's National Interests

Take a good, long look at the picture below. It is from the signing of the Simla agreement between the goverments of India and Pakistan in 1972. There are four people in the foreground. The two leaders shaking hands are easy enough to identify -- perhaps the subcontinent's two most iconic leaders ever: Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The bearded man on the extreme right is Swaran Singh, then Indian foreign minister. And just who do you suppose is the timid-looking young lady between Messrs Bhutto and Singh?

I bring this up because for the life of me, I can't get over Bilawal Bhutto accompanying his father to a high-level meeting with Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai. I know there are more important crises in Pakistan right now (the refugees, the economy, the Taliban), but I can't let this go, even though I probably should. I mean, just look at this picture, sent to me by reader Nabeel from the White House page on Flickr.

I just have one question: WHY IS BILAWAL SITTING THERE? Actually, I have one more question: what does it say about Zardari's priorities that Bilawal is sitting closer to his father and Barack Obama than either Pakistan's foreign minister (Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on Bilawal's left) or Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. (to Qureshi's left)?

I have three principal objections to this nonsense. The first is the most obvious: there is an exceedingly low likelihood that Bilawal is the best-suited person to lead Pakistan in twenty years' time, a role he is quite obviously being groomed for. Is he the smartest twenty year old in Pakistan? No, not really. The most hard-working? Probably not. Is he blessed with a great temperament, or an astounding ability to think clearly in times of crisis? Doubtful. So other than his last -- sorry, middle -- name, there is no rational reason why Bilawal Bhutto should be sitting in on an extremely important meeting with extremely important leaders.

The second reason is the effect it has on the rest of Pakistan's population. Think of someone -- maybe a university graduate, maybe not -- who is interested in public service. This person hails from a no-name family, is smart, has an ability to think on their feet, and wants to serve their country in some official capacity. They study hard, day and night, for the CSS exam. And then this person sees Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who can speak neither Urdu nor Sindhi, and who has shown no talent in any meaningful respect whatsoever, sitting next to Barack Obama. What do you think this person feels? Despair, probably. They think to themselves: why should I bother? Why should I work hard in an effort to serve my country when I'm always going to be beaten out by people who don't deserve it? And, as a result of this thinking, Pakistan loses the ability and enthusiasm of otherwise willing people, who simply drop out of contention. They become an accountant or a newspaper reporter or call-center operator or a cricketer or anything else.

The third reason is the lack of respect with which foreigners and, more importantly, foreign governments treat Pakistan and its diplomats. Go back to the picture above, and put yourselves in Barack Obama's shoes for a minute. You're chairing and hosting a summit that, among other issues, involves the external and internal security of three countries. And one of the key guests of this summit is acting like it's "bring your son to work" day. Moreover, him and his handlers choreograph this absurdly moronic and obvious photo-op with him, his son, and his late wife's book (picture courtesy reader Tan).

So, as I said, you're Barack Obama. You see all this. How will you react? When the same guest talks incessantly about his commitment to democracy, are you likely to believe him or dismiss him out of hand? How seriously will you ever take what this man says as the leader of his country? And, as a corollary, if you don't take him very seriously, and don't respect him at all, how do you think this affects Pakistan's chances of securing important deals and commitments from other states?

There are many issues that are beyond Pakistan's ability to solve. We can not overnight make sure no one in the country goes hungry, or that all children attain at least a primary education, or that basic healthcare becomes a right, not a privelege. But there are some things we can solve, such as the gross levels of corruption, favoritism and nepotism inherent in our political system. To their credit, I don't know off the top my head the names of all of Nawaz Sharif's children, nor Pervez Musharraf's. And yet I feel like I am intimately familiar with the Bhutto's family tree and family history, to the point where I really feel like I should add all of them on Facebook.

What explains that difference? Why does the PPP display a sense of familial entitlement so much greater than any of the other power bases in Pakistan? Where does it come from, and what, if anything, can we do about it?


Nabil said...

In Pakistan we like to elect our Kings ( and Queens) :).Hell, even royal families don't parade the crown prince around during such meetings.

PS_ I would be greatful if someone could post a link to Musharrafs interview with Fareed Zakeria on GPS.

Anonymous said...

Musharraf discusses Pakistan's deadly struggle against the Taliban, strained relations between India and Pakistan, and Benazir Bhutto's death. He explains what happened to America's $10 billion in aid to Pakistan over the last 10 years, and whether or not he would consider running again for office.

sabaimtiaz said...

The PPP has perfected this dynasty-style politics - following on from the example of the Nehru-Gandhis in India. While we're not AS familiar with the Musharraf and Sharif kids, they played a considerable role behind the scenes of the Government, though nowhere near the level of the Bhuttos.

Simla isn't the only time Benazir was part of the official entourage. She also flew to New York when she was at college in the States for the infamous 'Zulfi-ripping-up-his-speech' meeting at the UN. But to give ZAB some credit, at least he had the common sense not to include such a young girl in diplomatic meetings. To my knowledge, Benazir was only part of the official dinner at Simla. And for the Pakistanis, she spearheaded a publicity coup - the Indian media had a field day following her around, diverting them from the fact that the summit wasn't going anywhere until the last day.

Of course, Zardari has taken it to a whole new despicable level. As far as your question goes into what we can do - unfortunately, short of not voting for Bilawal when he contests elections, nothing. Pakistan has become so used to the Bhutto political successors that it would take a lot to make this end. Though for anyone who may have believed Zardari was a good 'successor' to Benazir, his pathetically dismal record has speed-tracked the demise of dynasty style politics and eroded the vote bank Bilawal hopes he'll inherit.

Desi Lawyer said...

Isn't the reason that we're more aware of the Bhutto-Zardari clan (as opposed to the Sharifs or Musharrafs) because they've been brought into the limelight after their mother's death? To be fair, I think if they had a choice between instant fame or their mother being alive, I'm sure they would pick the latter.

mirza9 said...

That is pretty disgusting and what's worse is that it just makes Pakistan look all the more backwards. The first thing that struck me about the photo was how much closer he was to Zardari then the minister and ambassador. As if it wasn't bad enough that Haqqani went on the Daily Show and used the term "peasantry" to describe our working class, Zardari now takes his "son to work." Thanks Zardari.

Majaz said...

I don't know how much more shame and torture Zardari is going to put this nation through.

Your frustration is completely justified - alongwith the rest of the Pakistani community which understands that Zardari is the worst setback to come to Pakistan ... fall of 71 included.

The only thing we can do is try to make sure this sentiment spreads around good and proper: the PPP and all other political parties that support either this strange brand of brothers, or terrorism are equally problematic to the future of Pakistan. The support for Pakistan's People's Party is only and only justified if it manages to produce someone at least five times better than ZA Bhutto. If not, this calls for a serious revision on their part.

Keep writing, keep posting, it may not shake Zardari's butt off of that chair, but it is doing something and at this point in time, I think this is the most that people like you and I can do.

Majaz said...

PS. That book picture is especially pathetic. I don't blame anyone for not respecting us anymore.

Philistine said...

Hi Ahsan,

Interesting post. I wrote out a very long comment, but in the spirit of space-saving, getting my blog up and running, and unabashed self-promotion, I decided to post it as an entry on my blog instead :D

You can find it here.

sabaimtiaz said...

Afterthought: While Obama may be thinking all of those thoughts, he has no choice but to deal with Zardari and the entourage. We're forgetting that they're used to worse: didn't they court a dictator who hanged his rival as well? And western media isn't any better either: why give Bilawal so much importance by splashing his Facebook album on the front pages, or invite Fatima Bhutto to write opinion pieces (as nauseating as Imran Khan's rantings) for websites. They don't seem to want to question the dynasty politics either, until election time rolls around. Not that its excusable, but just goes on to show how embedded this is.

karachi khatmal said...

saba, great point about fatima bhutto... she's hot all right, but really how respectable is a career comprising solely of op-eds criticizing BB and subsequently Zardari with unbridled vehemence?

secondly, majaz you really think that having zardari is worse than the fact that we committed genocide and mass rape on our country men, that we lost 90,000 soldiers as prisoners of war, and that we were rid of half a country? perspective people, please...

i mean yeah having Bilawal there is pretty weird, and makes us look like little different from the tin-pot african, latin american countries out there as well. but really, that's how pakistan is like as well. i mean, it's not like zardari invented nepotism. the channel i work at for example, has a marketing head whose sole claim to fame seems to be being friends with the owner. ditto for the creative head. so if i see it at work, it bothers the fuck out of me far more than it does with bilawal. maybe i'm not being a good enough citizen, but whatever...

Ameer Bucks Bhutto said...

great point about fatima. as i told a friend, if she wasn't so hot, i'd hate her. she is milking off the bhutto namew to write mediocre stuff. whocares about how shitty zardari is? now the entire world knows that. no need to remind us. now she's writing a book on the bhuttos. who cares about them. learn how to speak urdu and sindhi and talk to you own people in their own languages. who reads the daily beast in larkana?

Jaydev,India said...

Congress workers are drooling about Rahulji and insist him to enter the Indian Cabinet ministership..and
a senior Congress leader gives a sound bite that Rahul-ji can claim PM's chair any time he no different here either..ha ha..
But Zardari isn't very convincing when he gives path-breaking soundbites..
Musharaf did excellent con-job..and he does fake indignation and expressions of his convictions and body language that it throwed most western journos off guard..

Rabia said...

"you really think that having zardari is worse than the fact that we committed genocide and mass rape on our country men, that we lost 90,000 soldiers as prisoners of war, and that we were rid of half a country? perspective people, please..."

well said!

Bilal said...

Dynasties exist almost everywhere (Kennedy/Bush/Clinton). What matters is the infrastructure behind these politicians, and Pakistan has very weak infrastructure. We don't have a very smart machine behind the scenes that will facilitate decision making. We don't have the process and design of government where smart people get hired to provide our leaders with analysis that can move our country towards the correct decision. We don't have an attorney general and Congress that will investigate politicians when they go way out of line.

Xeb said...

Just one question: Where are the protesters when we need them? Why are all of us sitting back and watching this soap opera unfold?

Anonymous said...

The comparison of Bhutto family with Gandhi/Nehru family is very unfair.All Bilal has done so far is doing face presentations at the White House versus Rahul Gandhi who today has become a voice of common man in India and is responsible for the landslide victory of the congress party in India.He has shed the label of being a Gandhi through his hard work and clean image and become one with the common man of India. Bilal has ways to go before he become Rahul Gandhi of PPP.

foolsparadise said...

In Democracy, it doesn't really matter who is your leader is; all of them are corrupt, around the world (even I would be one, if got a chance).But at the same time, the beauty of democracy is that it has an obligation to listen to people. (at least to show)
Also, its a power game and any body who wants to play doesn't really need a formal invitation or ticket, just start playing it.
so don't be "despaired".

foolsparadise said...

"The comparison of Bhutto family with Gandhi/Nehru family is very unfair.All Bilal has done so far is doing face presentations at the White House versus Rahul Gandhi who today has become a voice of common man in India and is responsible for the landslide victory of the congress party in India.He has shed the label of being a Gandhi through his hard work and clean image and become one with the common man of India. Bilal has ways to go before he become Rahul Gandhi of PPP."

THIS IS BULLSHIT(beta / bahu saga) he is a kid born with a golden spoon, even I am better than Rahul Gandhi or any (Pseudo)Gandhi :-). (and yes I don't vote for them, never)

Anonymous said...

All the self righteous indignation being expressed is a little misplaced. There is never really a level playing field in any facet of life. Some always get a better deal than others. Call Zardari whatever but isn't he a self-made man? In the murderous world of third world politics he's beaten everyone at their own game. How long his game may last is another question. Bilawal has a lot of advantages but who knows if a subedar's son from Jhelum may make him walk the plank.

Riaz Haq said...

Given Pakistan's feudal, dynastic politics, it is not surprising to see Bilawal rather than Pak foreign minister sitting with Obama and Karzai. It's a cynical attempt by Zardari to exploit the memory of Benazir to try and boost his personal political (and dollar) fortunes. So, to me, it makes perfect sense in Pakistani context where voter vote based on emotions rather than tangible reasons.

Arif said...

The Bhutto's are a pet peeve for the Pakistani elite. The fact is that all institutions in Pakistan are weak and operate in undemocratic ways- this includes political parties. Yes, it was improper for Bilawal to be at the meeting, but it is equally inappropriate for Nawaz Sharif to call the entire administration to his residence, ask them questions and issue orders. What authority does he have? He doesn't even hold an elected office? Shahbaz was not even present. This is how things work in Pakistan, like it or not. I suggest we focus on the big picture and not get caught up with peripheral non-issues.

bonobashi said...

@Jaydev, India

I am sorry, but this just isn't true. No longer. Rahul Gandhi had little credibility earlier, but after taking the long, hard way in UP, and in other parts of the country, with stunning results, he has to be given respect. It cannot have been easy to decide to do this, in the teeth of the opposition of everybody else. His ability to revive the Congress organisation in hinterland states and regions is astounding.

Even for a committed sceptic about the Congress party, these achievements of his are worthwhile in political terms.

Ahsan said...


Yeah that's a good point, but BB didn't exactly have a stellar record when she was in power, and yet the Bhutto name was as popular as ever. But you're right, maybe Zardari is the last straw in this regard.

Desi Lawyer:

No, I don't think so. Everyone knew these kids well before BB's death and everyone knew Bilawal would be pushed to the forefront at some point. And while I'm sure they'd prefer their mother to be alive above all else, I'd like someone from the Bhutto clan to explain the shenanigans behind Bilawal carrying around BB's book as a photo-op.


I don't think "peasantry" is an offensive word or anything. Technically, all it means is rural-based farming communities.


I second KK's comment -- I don't think we should be trivializing the crimes of 1971 this way.


I agree that dynasties exist in some form everywhere, but I do think the Bhuttos take it to another level. Again: this is a 20 yr old college student sitting with the Presidents of three countries, merely as a lesson for his future political career. Don't think that happens too often in other countries.


Fair comment about Zardari rising from nothing. And yes, I agree that the playing field is never level for anyone. But some playing fields are more unlevel than others, in my view.


Ok fine, I agree that almost all our institutions are undemocratic. But some aren't, like say the MQM (though Lord knows, they have other faults and weaknesses). And I agree that in the larger scheme of things, this is a relatively minor issue. But it's precisely BECAUSE it's a minor issue that it should be a relatively easy one to solve, comparing it to bigger issues like hunger and terrorism.

Butters said...

I love your blog btw. I was wondering if you had seen this one:

This is shameless advertising, I admit, but I also thought it might be of interest to you :)

NAA said...

Ahsan did you just say the MQM is not undemocratic...and does that mean they are democratic? Last time I checked the Pir of London was the undisputed head of the party (like all political parties in Pakistan) and has been since before I was born. Every Tom, Dick and Harry (or is it the Ishrat, Farooq and Mustafa??) of the Raabta Committee wouldnt be running off to London every other week if that wasnt the case.

And Bilawal is already acting like a head of state...if Chavez can give a book to Obama then Mr. BBZ surely can do so as well. (I'm assuming that's why he had the book).

Great post though.

Anonymous said...

At least you have your own "bastard". We have a imported one in India.

Riaz Haq said...

You can see the summary and the transcript of Musharraf's interview with Fareed Zakaria at Haq's Musings.

Ahsan said...


Shameless advertising is the only way to get one's blog readership going. Trust me, we've all been there, done that.


Yes, I did say that, Altaf Hussain's leadership of the MQM notwithstanding. There are many despicable things about the MQM, but their internal organization is admirable. The only way to rise in the MQM is to show competence. The only way to rise in the PPP is to show loyalty to the Bhuttos.

The MQM is also an incredibly decentralized party, in its day-to-day operations. It's sort of run like a large firm that way, as opposed to the PPP, which is run like a large farm.

shaistapth said...

And what is this............
Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, PML-N MNA and son of the Punjab chief minister, has been awarded the Senatorial Eagle Award in recognition of his political and social services

Huma said...

gem from advisor to the cm sindh waqar mehdi's article in the news today:

'Similarly, it may also be interesting to state that the late Bhutto took his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, with him to Shimla as part of her political training and the world is witness to the fact how successfully she was trained in the political culture of Pakistan. Zardari took with him his son Bilawal, the chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, to the US and Europe and only he future will tell how he will fair in the country’s politics.'

Shoot me, now.

Yawar said...

I laughed so hard at the "run like a firm" and "run like a farm" message.

To lighten up the conversation, here are some Altaf Hussain fun facts:

There is no Control button on Altaf Hussain's computer. Altaf Hussain is always in control.

The saddest moment for a child is not when he learns Santa Claus isn't real, it's when he learns Altaf Hussain is.

Altaf Hussain once visited The Virgin Islands, they are now known as The Islands.

Altaf Hussain was created in a secret Pakistani laboratory, and was supposed to be raised as a caged experiment. Nobody knows what happened next, but there are now no scientists in Pakistan.

Altaf Hussain doesn't sleep. He waits.

Altaf Hussain once punched a man in the soul.

Altaf Hussain's calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd..No one fools Altaf.

If you have £5 and Altaf Hussain has £5, Altaf Hussain has more money than you.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Altaf Hussain has allowed to live.

Altaf Hussain is the only one who can "try this at home".

When Altaf Hussain dives in the water, he doesn't get wet, the water gets Altaf'd.

If it looks like chicken, tastes like chicken, and feels like chicken but Altaf says its beef, then it's ******* beef

Arif said...

Ahsan: let me correct myself, I intended to say its a symptom of a problem and not a problem in itself.

As for the MQM being democratic and meritocratic and what not, I am afraid all those who believe this to be true live in lala land or worse... In the immortal words of a MQM sector incharge, 'the price of those who go against the MQM is Rupees 36 - 14 for a golee and 22 for a boree (sack).

Mosharraf said...



"The MQM is also an incredibly decentralized party, in its day-to-day operations. It's sort of run like a large firm that way, as opposed to the PPP, which is run like a large farm."

is like the best one-liner in political analysis I've ever read. And I eat Walt Whitman for breakfast after Fajr prayers.

Jai Hoe!

Ahsan said...


Haha ok, but surely you aren't comparing some meaningless award with being present at a high level meeting with Obama?


I'm afraid you misunderstood me. I am not claiming that the MQM is a democratic entity externally -- i.e. I am not claiming it behaves desirably with people outside the party. Thus the whole extortion/violent/mafia bit is irrelevant to the discussion. I am claiming that the way the organization is run is more meritocratic and democratic than the PPP.


Haha thank you for that. Evidently you are the only person who understood what I was trying to say.

trilok said...

in india we, too, are cursed with this cancer: useless progeny claiming their parent's positions as a birth right.
and with the recent congress win, i am afraid that manmohan will be increasingly relegated to no more than a seat holder for rahul baba.

Tazeen said...


When we are all old and shriveled, we will reminisce about your "firm and farm" line - at least those who got it.

Arif said...

Ahsan: I suspect you are being funny...

Just so that I have this right, MQM's facism and murderous activities are besides the point in a discussion about democratic norms but PPPs nepotism is wholly intolerable?

As for the MQM being internally meritocratic and democratic, we could have asked those people within MQM who disgareed with Altaf Hussain, alas, they are not alive to tell their tale.

NB said...


II can kind of see where your going with the MQM point, but some clarification would be helpful.

Im guessing your premising your argument that the MQM is more meritocratic on the fact that people like Mustafa Kamal, Farooq Sattar, and Eshratul Ebad hold high office - i.e. they are competent whereas fewer of the PPPs higher leadership are especially competent - and that therefore the MQM must be more meritocratic.

Namely that within the MQM, fealty (bordering on devotion) is a perquisite rather than the entire basis upon which posts are allotted (e.g. people like friggin Wajjid Shamsul Hassan in the PPP)?

Arif said...

Just when I thought I had had my say, someone comes along and throws a mind-boggler....

Pray, by what yardstick is 'competence' being gauged here? Appears to me to be a case of personal likes/dislikes. You don't need to be terribly tuned in to know that the MQM is a fascist party based on a false sense of identity, which cultivates hatred for other ethnicities, runs on bhatta collected at gun-point, and whose thugs routinely kill and torture people as an article of faith.

And we are expected to look at finer side of Mustafa Kamal (who is destroying whatever little chances there were for a peaceful and functional city) and Ishrat ul Ibad (who is in the same league as Maula Jat when it comes to snuffing out life, except that MJ was a fictional character!).

Are you guys for real???

Arif said...

Please see below for a balanced assessment of Zardari's trip to the US by Zafar Hilaly (The News, 18 May, 2009):

NB said...


Were debating apples and oranges here. No one is saying the MQM is not "a fascist party based on a false sense of identity..." etc. In that respect, the issue of personal likes and dislikes was raised and presumed by you, not me.

Im talking about 'competence' in the narrow sense, i,e, an individual's capability to execute a given task effectively or efficiently.

Altafa Baji said...

The MQM might be a meritocracy but there is also the prerequisite of treating Altaf like he's some sort of a prophet.

I think Ishrat ul Ebad flies nightly to the UK to wipe the shit between Altaf's two gigantic ass cheeks.

The MQMs holier than thou attitude will be justified if someone else can run against Altaf in the party in a free and fair internal election.

Otherwise who gives a shit if it's a meritocracy. So are street gangs.

What's the difference between Dawood Ibrahim and Altaf Hussain?

karachi khatmal said...

if this is going to become an Altaf slug-fest, with utmost reluctance, i am going to paste the following link.

i think it settles the debate once and for all...

Anonymous said...

When referred to otherwise, Zulfiqar Bhutto's supposed to be a man of vision, charisma and power. Bring this up and he's a corrupt nepotist. How easily tables are turned! Why can't Zardari's inclusion of his son be seen as his training of a future political leader? We complain our potential leaders don't know jack, but when they're being given some semblance of a training, we have a problem then too. Doesn't the Bush dynasty exist? Or the Clintons?
And as for the 'shameless advertising' - it's fine to sit back and criticize it, but again, do we want to appreciate the amount of international financial aid he's reaped us, whatever his methods? No, of course not. It's Zardari - appreciating him would be mouthfuls of humble pie and that's just not acceptable to anyone.

Ahsan said...


Please tell me you're joking. "Why can't Zardari's inclusion of his son be seen as his training of a future political leader"? Are you serious?

It's not Zardari's job to train future political leaders. It's his job to be a political leader himself. And even if his job WAS to train future political leaders, why he is choosing his son? Is the entire country a Bhutto fiefdom that can be handed down from generation to generation?

Please don't insult our intelligence by comparing the Bhuttos to the Clintons and Bushies. The Clintons and Bushies never took their children to meetings with foreign leaders as if it were a day-trip to the zoo.

Finally, if the amount of financial aid is supposed to be the standard by which we judge our leaders, then there is something seriously wrong with the world. Mind you, even by this standard Zardari fails miserably -- it was his failure to get anything out of the "Friends of Pakistan", the US and China that forced the country to go to the IMF last year.

khoofi said...

OMG i cringed at that photo. plutocracy at its worst. i do not think it such a bad deal to have a child accompany a parent to an event like a tree planting or zoo visit or such... but Bilawal sitting at that table is just disrespectful not just to Pakistan but to the US as well. even in business meetings - one is only invited if one has a unique opinion to offer. WTF? he's gone there to get a biography signed?!!

Mushie said...

Nice post and discussion. Just for completeness, please let's note that the story doesn't start with Benazir! Good old Zulfie himself got a start because his Dad was Sir Shahnawaz - can you imagine being Foreign Minister of Pakistan at age 35? But the other dynast in the pic is of course Indira Gandhi herself. She began being included in official meetings by her father, Jawaharlal, as his 'official hostess', and soon found herself as PM after he died, at age 48. Also, I don't understand the people saying 'Zardari came out of nowhere and is a self-made man'. He is clearly a master of short-term political manipulation - but didn't the fact that he was a feudal himself, and Benazir's husband, help him heaps?

chasing_che said...

now thats what we south-asuan are destined to face,if we are blessed with destiny after all.m from nepal and wfter being ruled by a family for about 240 years these are not new things for us.let me tell you what man get used to it.there is no way out.if u see there is a problem,and you know you can't help it than its best to overlook it.otherwise have a courage to change it,take the way which is long,tidious and cumbersome...thats what we nepalis are doing,at leasat i m onto it...i am not gonna ruled by some fucking son or daughter of some grumbling and outdated politicians...not until they deserve it and come along a right way,that is good for all........

Philistine said...

Ahsan: This is kind of late but I've finally replied to your comments on my post on the same topic.

Clovis said...

You seem pretty firm on your stance that the only way to rise in the MQM is to show competence, and their internal system is meritocratic. I was wondering if you could maybe clarify the reasoning behind your position, and maybe elaborate further. Some people on posting comments may have understood what you meant, I must confess, I don't quite quite get it, was hoping you could explain your position somewhat.
Regardless, a very interesting post, and set of comments..

Ahsan said...


I think NB above said it best. For both parties in question, unabiding loyalty to the figurehead is important (Bhuttos for the PPP, Altaf Hussain for the MQM). But the extent to which ONLY loyalty will take you far is much greater in the PPP than the MQM. In the MQM, your education, your popularity, your ability to do things well (even if those things are abhorrent, like thuggish violence) are key to your becoming something. In the PPP, it is different; loyalty is not just a prerequisite but a marker of ascendancy.

Philistine said...


This has just occurred to me - what about the ability to garner votes for the party? Similar to the manner in which MQM relies on violence to garner votes, the PPP relies on, well, actual votes. Doesn't the ability of PPP politicians to actually get votes and win seats determine their ascendancy in the party? If it didn't, these politicians would have no incentive to stick with the PPP and not switch over to their arch rival the PMLN.

Also, as I argued elsewhere, it would be stupid of the PPP to not utilize the political capital of the Bhutto name that was created by the legacy of Bhutto Super-Sr. If some or other Bhutto descendant/relative was not at the forefront of the PPP, it just wouldn't be as popular. And we must bear in mind that the same is true of the MQM - otherwise Altaf bhai wouldn't blackmail his Mohajir supporters with threats of leaving the party (which are met with said supporters crying and asking for forgiveness). To me at least, this is just as pathetic and cringe-inducing as Bilawal's photo-op with Obama.

I know I'm repeating myself here but as I argued elsewhere, while nepotism is indeed detestable, it is not particular to any one party in Pakistan, rather it is a function of the manner politics is done in this country. It is this nature of our politics that we should critique instead of scapegoating a particular party.