Home » dynasty

Dynasties and Clientelism in Pakistan

My paper published in Seminar, India
THE hallmark of Pakistan’s political elites is their narrow base. A limited number of families have dominated Pakistan’s legislatures since the country’s inception in 1947.1 These families traditionally are from rural landowning and tribal backgrounds. The situation in the twenty first century remains largely unchanged. Indeed, the principal change may be the expansion of dynastic politics to include families from urban, religious and military backgrounds.
The politics of kinship networks in Pakistan, as in South Asia more generally, is firmly anchored in the politics of clientelism,2 which in turn is closely related to caste, ethnicity and identity.3 Clan, tribe, caste and biradari4 play a major role in electoral contests and in defining populist politics. These ties also legitimize the political family’s hold on resources and the passing on of these resources as legacy to new generations of family members.

This essay proposes a typology of dynasties in Pakistan, beginning from the ‘traditional’ rural dynasty of the Bhuttos, going on to the urban dynasty of the Sharifs, and concluding with the newer dynasties with religious and military backgrounds. Along the way, it shows how these dynasties are rooted in the politics of patrimonialism and clientelism. […]

October 21st, 2011|governance, Pakistan, Politics, SouthAsia|2 Comments

Varun Gandhi is a scary bigot

A post at Pak Tea House and the sharp comments attracted some ire among the readers as to what was Varun Gandhi issue doing on a Pakistani blog-zine? Indeed, the question merits some deliberation. We in Pakistan are constantly being demonised by the Indian mainstream media as a ‘terrorist’ country and that we are a great threat to the ’secular’, shining India. Varun gandhi’s remarks as the saner elements of Indian media and commentators are saying only show that people have gotten away with such crap. The fissures in the secular Indian democracy get even more evident when such speeches are delivered.

Varun Gandhi’s remarks on Muslims, hate speech that goes beyond all measures of ‘hate speech’ concerns us as it only exposes us to brigades of hatred, communalism and violence across the border. […]

March 22nd, 2009|India, India-Pakistan History, Personal, Politics|13 Comments

The Feast Of Roses

The Feast Of Roses is a sequel to Indu Sundaresan’s widely appraised novel The Twentieth Wife. As can be expected it is the story of Mehrunnisa, the powerful woman in Indian history as well as in Mughal dynasty. The novel begins where the other novel ended with the marriage of the long separated lovers Emperor […]

September 12th, 2008|books, History, Personal|0 Comments

The other side of Emperor Babar

Babar, the founder of Mughal dynasty in India was an unusual character of his times. A poet, writer and a free soul, he was so modern and some would say post-modern in an era otherwise categorised as medieval. I was delighted to find this piece authored by Ashfaque Naqvi.

An interesting book has landed at my table. As the title, Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babar, is about the person who laid the foundations of the Mughal Empire in the sub-continent. Written by the eminent Indian educationist, Qamar Rais, it gives a different picture of the man from what we gather about him from his self-written, Tozak-i-Babri…..

As Prof Qamar Rais says in the foreword, he had for long been studying the works of Ali Sher Nawai and such other classical poets of Uzbekistan but realized during his stay in that country that those people revered Babar more for being an intellectual and a lyrical poet. In fact, even during the Soviet era, he saw Babar’s pictures hung in most homes showing him holding a book and sunk in deep thought. As a consequence, he directed his studies in that field.

… even today, Babar is held in esteem and considered a hero both in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. He even quotes Pandit Nehru as having said that the greatness of Babar lay not in capturing India but in capturing the hearts of Indians. […]

Mughal Princess Zebunnissa – Lady of the age

Mughal history ignores women of the empire, including Emperor Aurangzeb’s daughter Zeb-un-Nissa: patron of the arts, poet, and a keeper of several lovers – according to rumours. The eldest daughter, she was Aurangzeb’s close companion for several years. She was born in 1638 to Dilras Bano of the Persian Safavid dynasty. Loved by Aurangzeb, she was named carefully to reflect his station.

A favourite, she was exposed to the affairs of the Mughal court. With a sound education in the arts, languages, astronomy and sciences of the day, Zeb-un-Nissa turned into an aware and sensitive princess. She never married and kept herself occupied by poetry and a spiritual Sufi quest.

This is the irony – Aurangzeb’s daughter was an antithesis of her father’s persona and politics. Zeb-un-Nissa was both a Sufi and a gifted poet. The Divan-i-Makhfi – a major divan – is credited to her name. Given her father’s dislike for poetry, she could only be makhfi – the invisible.

There was subversion too – like all rebels she attended and participated in the literary and cultural events of her age, dressed in her veil.

Unlike her puritanical father, Zeb-un-Nissa did not share her father’s orthodox views on religion and society. Steeped in mystic thought, her ghazals sang of love, freedom and inner experience: […]