For many generations, Pakistan’s influential political families have strengthened their influence across all government tiers. A look at the historical roots of these political dynasties is evident of their prominence tracing back to the colonial British rule, way before partition of the sub-continent.
At present, dozens of national and provincial constituencies are witnessing a contest among multiple members from the same family facing each other in the February 8 general elections.
This special feature attempts to bring forth the historical and contemporary aspects of the following key political families of Pakistan who’ve been participating in the country’s political landscape for decades.
Sharifs of Lahore
Muhammad Sharif, the scion of the business family that founded Ittefaq Industries, chose the anti-Bhutto camp after his business was nationalised. His son Nawaz Sharif joined Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and then became finance minister of Punjab and later chief minister enjoying favours of Ghulam Jilani Khan. He adopted the slogan of construction and development instead of ideas.
In the beginning, he was the only politician from the Sharif family. Later, Shehbaz Sharif entered politics and looked after the affairs of Lahore. Mian Sharif’s third son Abbas Sharif was also a member of the National Assembly. Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are also key characters in their family’s political business. Hamza made his name during the difficult period of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
This time, Nawaz is contesting elections from Lahore and Mansehra. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district, his son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar is running his campaign. Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif is contesting elections from Lahore and Kasur, and Hamza and Maryam from Lahore. Abid Sher Ali from the Mian Shafi family is a candidate from Faisalabad and Umar Sohail Zia Butt from Lahore.
Bhuttos of Larkana
An important name in the Bhutto family of Larkana was Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto who was prime minister of Junagarh before partition. Over a decade later in Pakistan following independence, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto first became Pakistan’s foreign minister and then the prime minister, while his cousin Mumtaz Bhutto was chief minister of Sindh.
After differences with Field Marshal Muhammad General Ayub Khan, he founded Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Lahore. After Bhutto’s execution, his wife Nusrat Bhutto and daughter Benazir Bhutto entered politics. Nusrat remained federal minister and an MNA. Bhutto’s son Murtaza was also elected MPA, while his wife Ghanva Bhutto is currently the chairperson of Shaheed Murtaza Bhutto’s Peoples Party, but his children Fatima Bhutto and Zulfiqar Bhutto Jr. stay away from electoral politics.
Bhutto’s son-in-law Asif Ali Zardari became the president of Pakistan. His two sisters Dr Azra Afzal and Faryal Talpur are also in politics. Dr Azra has also served as a provincial minister. Meanwhile, Faryal Talpur’s husband Mir Munawar Talpur was an MNA and is a candidate for National Assembly. This time, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is contesting elections from Sindh and Punjab. In these general polls, Bilawal is also a candidate for the prime minister slot.
Khans of Charsadda
Ghaffar Khan, who belonged to a feudal family of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, started “Khudai Khidmatgar” intending to reform the society. His political thinking was closer to the ideologies of Congress. He was against the partition of India, which is why he was imprisoned both before and after the partition.
His son and famous political leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan also spent a long time in jail. Wali Khan was the opposition leader during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s era. He was also sent to jail in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. General Zia-ul-Haq came to power and released the prisoners of the conspiracy case.
Wali Khan’s son Asfandyar Wali was the head of Awami National Party and also a member of the National Assembly. While, Wali Khan’s wife Naseem Wali Khan also participated in electoral politics. Her nephew Amir Haider Hoti is the former chief minister of KP and had won during the last elections.
Family of Mufti Mehmood
The tribe of Maulana Mufti Mehmood, the father of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was from Afghanistan. Mufti Mehmood belonged to the Dera Ismail Khan district in KP.
During the 70s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won elections from many constituencies across Pakistan, but Mufti Mehmood defeated him from his own constituency. He was KP’s chief minister. During General Zia’s era, he and his party, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), remained with the PPP in the alliance.
After his death, his son Maulana Fazlur Rehman increased his organisational and political influence. His party remained a government ally many times in the centre and in the province. His relative Haji Ghulam Ali is governor of KP, while his brother Maulana Attaur Rehman is a senator and a brother is a bureaucrat.
Maulana Fazl is a candidate for NA from Dera Ismail and Pashin. Meanwhile, Mahmood Khan Achakzai has withdrawn from this constituency in his favour. His two brothers, Maulana Lutfur Rehman and Maulana Ubaid Rehman, are contesting elections, while his two sons Maulana Asjad and Maulana Asad are also candidates from constituencies in districts Lakki Marwat and Tank.
Khattars of Attock
Hayat Khattar supported General Nicholson in the 1857 War of Independence and attacked Delhi, after which the British Crown included him among its loyalists.
Sardar Sikandar Hayat, prime minister of United Punjab, also belonged to this family. His son Sardar Shaukat Hayat was given the title of “Shaukat Punjab” in politics. He also remained with Mumtaz Doultana. His son Sardar Sikandar Hayat was MPA and a PPP minister. Sardar Sadiq Khattar from another branch of Khattar family is also an significant name.
He and his begum were members of the provincial assembly. His son Major Tahir Sadiq entered politics and is related to the Chaudhry family of Gujrat, but is independent in his political decisions. This time, Major Tahir Sadiq is also contesting from NA-49 and her daughter-in-law Iman Tahir is contesting from NA-50.
Mengals of Wadh
Baloch leader and head of Balochistan National Party (BNP) Sardar Attaullah Mengal was an important leader of Balochistan. He was an MNA during the General Ayub era. He remained chief minister of Balochistan, but his government was suspended.
Attaullah Mengal also participated in rebel politics. His father Sardar Rasool Bakhsh Mengal was a tribal chief. Attaullah Mengal’s son Sardar Akhtar Mengal was a provincial minister.
Akhtar was successful in becoming a member of the National Assembly in the last elections. Earlier, his nomination papers were rejected, but he was later allowed to contest the elections.
Maliks of Shamsabad
Nawab Malik Amin of Shamsabad belonged to Malik Awan community, and even today the family possess considerable influence in the surrounding communities. Although he was not given a ticket by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the last elections, he was made an adviser to former prime minister Imran Khan.
Malik Amin Aslam’s sister is the wife of Nawab of Bahawalpur. His family is also related to Sardar Akhtar Mengal. Malik Aslam was married to the daughter of Chaudhry Ahmad Saeed, who was the brother of Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, head of the Service Industry.
Malik Amin Aslam’s political rival is Sheikh Aftab, who is contesting elections as an independent candidate after leaving PTI.
Bugtis of Dera Bugti
Nawab Akbar Bugti, the son of Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti, the ancestor of Bugti tribe of Balochistan, studied at the Aitchison College in Lahore. He became the head of the tribe in his youth.
Akbar Bugti was also the governor and chief minister of Balochistan. He formed a political party and participated in politics from its platform. In his later life, he was embroiled in a conflict with the state that turned into a war-like situation. It should be noted that the Bugti and Marri families are closely related.
Akbar Bugti’s son Brahumdagh Bugti lives in self-imposed exile, while his grandson Shahzain Bugti has been a member of National Assembly and federal minister. Shahzain is contesting from NA-253 against his rival Sarfaraz Bugti, who is a candidate for a NA seat on PPP’s ticket.
Chaudhrys of Gujarat
After the creation of Pakistan, Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi started politics by joining the Convention League and remained close to General Ayub Khan, but withdrew from the convention league due to differences with the Nawab of Kala Bagh.
Later, he was active against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and also endured the hardships of imprisonment. Chaudhry Zahoor had relatives in important political and influential families — the Khatars of Attock, the Chathas of Gujranwala, the Rokhris of Mianwali, the Cheemas of Sargodha, the Waraichs of Mandi Bahauddin, and the Tareens of Hazara, among others. Chaudhry Muzaffar of Jalalpur Jattan started factional politics in Punjab and formed his own Jat group. Meanwhile, Gul Nawaz’s son Moin Nawaz from Chaudhry Muzaffar’s family is contesting election on PML-N ticket.
Recently, the Chaudhry family’s unity has suffered a setback as the next generation is up against each other. Chaudhry Salik Hussain from Gujarat is contesting against his aunt Qaisara Elahi, who is the wife of former chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.
Mahars of Ghotki
Famous politician Sardar Ghulam Mohammad Mahar belonged to the Ghotki district of Sindh. The former senator and his brother Ali Anwar Mahar played an important role in the politics of Sindh.
During the Ayub Khan era, Ghulam Muhammad was twice elected as an MNA, and with another opportunity later. His brother Ali Anwar was active in provincial politics and has three sons — Ali Tu Az Mahar, Ali Gohar and Ali Muhammad Mahar — all of whom also became part of the assemblies.
Reportedly, then-chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Ehsan, played a key role in making Ali Muhammad the chief minister of Sindh in December 2002.
The Mahar family also has close ties with the Arab royal families, especially the Nahyan family of the United Arab Emirates. Courtesy Asif Zardari and Bilawal, the Mahars have overcome the family disputes and have joined hands in the elections.
Rajputs of Chakri
The book “Chiefs of Punjab” mentions the important families of the province before the establishment of Pakistan and also names the family of Chaudhry Nisar of Chakri.
This family has many notable names including Nisar’s brother Lieutenant General (retd) Iftikhar Ali Khan who was the defence secretary in the late 1990’s.
Nisar’s father, Brigadier (retd) Fateh Khan, was also active in politics. This family had a role in the creation of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and PML-N. They represented the Rajput group in the PML-N, while the Chaudhrys of Gujrat represented the Jat group.
Nisar was the interior minister under the PML-N government formed in 2013. He has been friends with PTI founder Imran Khan and later developed differences with the top PML-N brass. Imran was one of the reasons behind the differences.
Nisar contested the last general election as an independent, but lost on both NA seats, but secured the Punjab Assembly seat. His presence in the provincial assembly was negligible. He is, yet again, contesting for the national and provincial legislatures as an independent candidate.
Chaudhrys of Jhelum
Of the Chaudhrys of Jhelum, the most popular name is that of Chaudhry Awais, who was close to former chief minister Mumtaz Daultana.
His son, former Punjab governor Chaudry Altaf, was called Chota Doultana, while his brother Chaudhry Iftikhar Hussain served as the chief justice of the Lahore High Court.
Raja Ghazanfar, a leader of Pakistan movement, was also a relative of Chaudhry Altaf. Chaudhary Shahbaz, the brother of Chaudhary Awais, was an MNA and minister during the Musharraf era.
In the last election, Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf and Chaudhry Fawad Hussain of this family were also elected as MNAs. Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf’s son is the son-in-law of Raza Hayat Hiraj. Following their relationship, they have become close friends with Najaf Abbas Sial of Jhang, Noriz Shakur of Sahiwal and Noman Langriyal.
This time Chaudhry Fawad, who remains behind bars following graft cases against him, has boycotted the elections while Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf is contesting on a NA seat on PML-N’s ticket. Their traditional rival, Iqbal Mehdi family, did not get a ticket to contest polls.
Qureshis of Multan
The Qureshi family from Multan in politics belongs to the Suhrawardi lineage of Sufism. This family believes that government and authority should be for public service. Before the 1857 war of independence, former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s namesake ancestor helped the British and played a significant role in putting an end to the resistance of Ahmad Khan Kharal.
He was later awarded lands and titles. The interesting fact is that Qureshi’s politics at present is anti-establishment, contrary to his family history. His father Sajjad Hussain Qureshi served as the Punjab governor in General Zia’s regime, while Nawab Sadiq Qureshi was the chief minister of Punjab under Bhutto.
In the last election, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his son Zain Qureshi and nephew Zahoor Hasnain Qureshi became part of the assemblies from the PTI platform.
Zahoor’s father Shujaat Hasnain Qureshi and grandfather Zahoor Hasnain Qureshi were also prominent in the politics of Multan and Khanewal. Now, while Qureshi is in jail, his daughter Meher Bano Qureshi and son Zamin Qureshi are participating in the 2024 general elections with the PTI’s support.
Tareens of Hazara
Former president General Ayub hails from a family of Haripur Hazara. His half-brother Sardar Bahadur Khan was the opposition leader during this period.
Ayub’s son Gohar Ayub Khan served as NA speaker and foreign minister. He supported the PML-N in the 1990’s, but later broke away. His son Omar Ayub Khan has also been an MNA and a federal minister, who started his political career during the tenure of General (retd) Musharraf and joined the cabinet after being elected as an MNA. He started from the PML-Quaid, but later joined PML-N, and eventually ended up in the PTI.
The Ayub Khan family is related to the Bilour family of Peshawar, the Rokhri family of Mianwali and the Shahi family of Swat. In the recent past, Hussain Elahi, an MNA from the Chaudhrys of Gujarat, got married to the great-granddaughter of Ayub Khan.
Makhdooms of Rahim Yar Khan
The ancestor of this family was Makhdoom-ul-Mulk Ghulam Miran Shah, an important political leader of Bahawalpur and South Punjab. His son Makhdoom Syed Hasan Mehmood was the former chief minister of the Bahawalpur state and leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly.
After his death, his son Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mahmood was elected as a member of National and provincial Assemblies. He also served as the governor Punjab. Makhdoom Ahmad’s brother Makhdoom Syed Ali Akbar and nephew Makhdoom Syed Usman have also been members of the Provincial assembly.
His sons Makhdoom Syed Mustafa Mahmood and Makhdoom Syed Murtaza Mahmood have served as MNAs. This family is closely related to Pir Pagara, Gilanis of Multan, and the Gardezi family of Bahawalpur.
Jahangir Tareen, the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) chief and a former friend of Imran Khan, is the brother-in-law of Makhdoom Ahmed. This time two sons of Makhdoom Ahmed and a nephew are contesting for the NA on a PPP ticket.
Makhdooms of Hala
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held the first political convention from Hala in Matiari district of Sindh. Makhdoom Talib-ul-Maula of Hala was thrice elected member of the parliament, while his son Makhdoom Amin Fahim remained invincible from the 1970’s till his death. He remained loyal to the PPP and rejected the offer to become the prime minister during the Musharraf era.
Amin Faheem was married to the daughter of renowned Punjabi poet Afzal Ahsan Randhawa. Ahsan Bhawan Advocate was also married in the Randhawa family. Meanwhile, Makhdoom Khaliq-ul-Zaman, Makhdoom Shafiq-ul-Zaman, Makhdoom Rafiq-ul-Zaman were also part of the Senate and assemblies.
The influence of Hala’s spiritual family extends as far as Punjab. In these elections, Jamil-ul-Zaman is contesting for the NA, while Makhdoom Mehboob-ul-Zaman and Makhdoom Fakhr-ul-Zaman for the provincial assembly.
Mazaris of Rajanpur
Mazaris are the largest tribe of Balochs. Before the establishment of Pakistan, the leading figure of this tribe was Sardar Imam Bakhsh Mazari. This tribe extends to the borders of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh.
Sardar Imam Bakhsh Afkhari started politics during the British era and became an influential politician. His son Balakh Sher Mazari was elected as MNA several times and then became caretaker prime minister in the early 1990’s.
Balakh Sher’s brother Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari was also an important national leader and an MNA. At present, his grandson Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari is a prominent name in politics.
After the 2018 elections, he served as the deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Now, he is contesting from the Rajanpur district. His two uncles, Sardar Riaz Mazari and Zahid Mazari, are contesting for the NA against each other on PML-N’s ticket and PTI support, respectively.