“If you look at any mainstream political party in Pakistan, it is seen as a family business at every level, passed down from father to son – and occasionally daughter – to grandson,” says Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor at Pakistan’s leading daily Dawn. “It is the nature of politics out here. Society puts a premium on personality rather than performance; and so last names matter.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party was founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic yet controversial leader, who was deposed in a military coup and executed on charges of abetting murder. After he was imprisoned, his widow Nusrat Bhutto led the party, followed by his daughter Benazir, who chaired the party until her death. Though grandson Bilawal was elected to lead the Pakistan Peoples Party, his father Asif Ali Zardari was also elected co-chairperson before he became president of Pakistan in 2008, and has largely run party affairs.
The trend of family-dominated politics is prevalent across the subcontinent.