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Politics of Sycophants in Pakistan. Dynastic Politics and Political Culture in Pakistan

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Barrister Ahmed Naveed

The scenes were quite bizarre in the Punjab Assembly, where so many legislators surrounding Maryam Nawaz Sharif were behaving, unlike political workers. Their only motive was to make Maryam Nawaz Sharif happy. The images propelled me to write something about the politics of sycophants in Pakistan. 

Politics of sycophants refers to the practice of flattering, praising, or serving powerful or influential people for personal gain or advantage, regardless of the truth or justice of the matter. Sycophants are insincere, dishonest, and opportunistic, and they often manipulate or distort facts to suit their interests or agendas. Sycophants undermine the principles of democracy, accountability, and meritocracy, and they erode the trust and confidence of the public in the state institutions and the political system. 

The role of Pakistani politicians in the politics of sycophants is complex and multifaceted. On the one hand, some Pakistani politicians are the targets or victims of sycophantic behavior, as they face false accusations, character assassination, or undue criticism from their opponents or rivals, who seek to discredit or undermine them for political or personal reasons. On the other hand, some Pakistani politicians are the beneficiaries or perpetrators of sycophantic behavior, as they receive or demand excessive praise, loyalty, or support from their followers or allies, who seek to please or appease them for political or personal reasons. 

The impact of politics of sycophants on the role of Pakistani politicians is negative and harmful. Politics of sycophants creates a culture of fear, intolerance, and polarization, where dissenting voices are silenced or suppressed, and where constructive criticism or dialogue is discouraged or dismissed. Politics of sycophants also creates a culture of corruption, nepotism, and favoritism, where merit, competence, and performance are ignored or overlooked, and where personal, partisan, or sectarian interests are prioritized or privileged. Politics of sycophants also creates a culture of dependency, complacency, and mediocrity, where innovation, creativity, and excellence are stifled or hindered, and where accountability, transparency, and responsiveness are lacking or absent. 

Therefore, I think that politics of sycophants is a serious and pervasive problem in Pakistan, and that Pakistani politicians need to be aware of and resist the temptations and pressures of sycophantic behavior, and instead promote a culture of honesty, integrity, and professionalism, that is based on democratic values, ethical principles, and public service.

Pakistan is a country that has been struggling with the challenges of democracy, development, and security since its inception in 1947. One of the factors that has hindered the consolidation of democracy and the emergence of a mature and responsible political culture in Pakistan is the prevalence of dynastic politics. Dynastic politics refers to the practice of political power being concentrated in the hands of a few families or clans, who inherit or pass on their political positions and influence to their relatives or loyalists. Dynastic politics undermines the principles of merit, representation, and accountability, which are essential for a healthy and vibrant democracy.

Pakistan’s political landscape has been dominated by two major dynastic families: the Sharif clan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Bhutto-Zardari family of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Both these families have ruled the country for several terms, alternating between periods of civilian and military rule. Both these families have also faced allegations of corruption, nepotism, and authoritarianism, and have been involved in bitter rivalries and conflicts with each other, as well as with other political actors, such as the military, the judiciary, and the opposition parties.

The rise and persistence of dynastic politics in Pakistan can be attributed to various historical, social, and institutional factors. Historically, Pakistan inherited a colonial legacy of feudalism, patronage, and elitism, which created a class of landlords, industrialists, and bureaucrats, who wielded disproportionate economic and political power. These elites formed alliances with the military and the religious groups, and used their resources and networks to manipulate the electoral system and the state institutions to their advantage. Socially, Pakistan is a diverse and heterogeneous country, with multiple ethnic, linguistic, religious, and sectarian identities and interests. These identities and interests often create divisions and conflicts among the people, and make them vulnerable to the appeals of charismatic and populist leaders, who claim to represent and protect their communities. These leaders also exploit the poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance of the masses, and use patron-client relationships, kinship ties, and biradari (clan) loyalties to mobilize and manipulate their support. Institutionally, Pakistan has suffered from a lack of constitutionalism, rule of law, and separation of powers, which has enabled the interference and domination of the military and the intelligence agencies in the political affairs of the country.

The military has often intervened directly or indirectly to overthrow or influence civilian governments, and has supported or created proxy political parties and leaders to serve its interests. The judiciary has also been politicized and compromised, and has failed to uphold the constitution and the rights of the citizens. The electoral system has also been flawed and rigged, and has failed to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

The consequences of dynastic politics and the resulting political culture in Pakistan have been detrimental for the country’s democracy, development, and security. Dynastic politics has eroded the quality and legitimacy of democracy, and has created a political system that is unresponsive, unaccountable, and unstable. Dynastic politics has also hampered the development and welfare of the country, and has resulted in poor governance, economic mismanagement, social injustice, and environmental degradation. Dynastic politics has also endangered the security and sovereignty of the country, and has contributed to the rise of extremism, terrorism, separatism, and external interference.

The way forward for Pakistan to overcome the challenges of dynastic politics and to foster a positive and progressive political culture is to undertake comprehensive and inclusive reforms in the political, social, and institutional spheres. Politically, there is a need to strengthen the democratic institutions and processes, and to ensure the participation and representation of all segments of society, especially the youth, women, and minorities. There is also a need to promote political pluralism and tolerance, and to resolve the conflicts and disputes among the political parties and actors through dialogue and consensus. Socially, there is a need to enhance the education and awareness of the people, and to empower them to exercise their civic rights and duties.

There is also a need to foster a culture of merit, equality, and accountability, and to discourage the culture of nepotism, favoritism, and sycophancy. Institutionally, there is a need to uphold the constitution and the rule of law, and to ensure the independence and integrity of the state institutions, especially the military, the judiciary, and the election commission. There is also a need to reform the electoral system and the political parties, and to curb the influence of money, muscle, and media in the political arena.

Pakistan is a country that has immense potential and promise, but also faces formidable challenges and threats. The future of Pakistan depends on the choices and actions of its political leaders and its people. It is time for Pakistan to break free from the shackles of dynastic politics, and to embrace a new and positive political culture, that is based on democracy, development, and security.

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