Dynastic Politics in Punjab: Facts
Ali Cheema, Hassan Javid and Muhammad Farooq Naseer
A fundamental paradox of Punjab’s politics is the co-existence of competitive electoral contests with a deeply held belief among the electorate that the political system is extremely uncompetitive. The highly competitive nature of Punjab’s elections can be seen from the fact that a 5 percentage point swing against incumbent parties in the coming election, all else equal, can topple as many as 30 percent of national assembly seats in the province. A resolution of this paradox is provided by the claim that the political class in Punjab is heavily dominated by dynasties, held together by ties of blood and marriage, which impede the participation of non-dynastic aspirants to public office. Proponents of this view argue that while Punjab’s politics appears competitive as members of dynastic factions aggressively compete against each other using different party platforms; it is simultaneously uncompetitive because the dynasties, and the pursuit of their interests, trumps other concerns in political party, public policy and development-related matters.
To what extent does the evidence support this view? We address this and other questions related to dynastic politics in Punjab using a unique and original database of familial linkages among the top three contestants in national and provincial assembly races in all elections between 1970 and 2008.4 By the term ‘dynastic politicians’, we refer to those electoral candidates who had multiple family members contesting national or provincial elections in the Punjab between 1970 and 2008. Our aim here is to provide key facts about dynasticism in Punjab as well as to challenge some myths about it.
What are the key facts about dynastic politics in Punjab? The first fact is that over the past three decades dynastic politicians belonging to approximately 400 families have been instrumental in shaping policies, programmes and legislation that have impacted the lives of 176 million Pakistani citizens. On average, approximately two-thirds of the elected legislators and around half of the top three contestants in the national assembly elections in Punjab, between 1985 and 2008, were dynastic (Figure 1). A related fact is that dynasticism has remained remarkably stable over this period, which testifies to the incredible resilience of this enterprise.
Figure 1: Dynasticism in the National Assembly (Punjab seats only)
Source: Cheema and Naseer (2013)
The fact that politics in Punjab is heavily dynastic is brought into sharp relief when we compare the incidence of dynastic politics in Punjab to India and to the historic levels found in the United States (Table 1). The incidence of dynastic politics among Punjab’s elected representatives is nearly double the incidence found in India and five times the incidence found in the US during the Civil War period.
|Table 1: Dynastic Politics across Countries Country||Legislature and Period||Percentage of Dynastic Legislators in the House|
|Pakistan||Members of National Assembly from Punjab in the 2008 Parliament||53.4%|
|India||Members of the Lok Sabha in 2010||28.6%|
|United States||Legislators in Congress in 1860-65||10%|
|United States||Legislators in Congress in 1966-96||6.2%|
See Attached PDF for Details