Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has won the by-elections in NA-120 — a Pakistan National Assembly seat vacated after the disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panamagate case- defeating her opponent Dr Yasmin Rashid of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) by a margin of over fourteen thousand votes.Those expecting a major and fundamental change in Pakistan’s politics after the verdict of Supreme Court of Pakistan against Nawaz Sharif in the Panama case, were very disappointedwith the NA-120 results and expressed their disappointment on traditional and social media. Keen observers of the political system of Pakistan had, however, already predicted this.In the wake of Panamagate verdict, the by-elections in NA-120 were wrongly portrayed as a contest between the judiciary and the Sharifs. The result neither indicates that people voted against the judiciary nor in favor of it. History suggests that thedynamics of Pakistani politics don’t rely on courts verdicts.However, there aresome of valid questions being raised, such as, why do people vote for the same political parties whom have been tested time and again? Despite poverty, hunger, stunning stories of corruption and the court verdicts against the politicians, why do people continue voting for the same corrupt leaders? How strange is it to listen to people in slums reiterating their support for the same leaders who are responsible for their miseries? Is this political or intellectual servitude or can it be termed as the unequivocal ideological commitment to a political party? Is there a dearth of political consciousness in the voters? Do political partiescontrol their voters due to poor socio-economic conditions?Dynastic and hereditary politics — a primary cause of the failure of Pakistan’s political system — is ubiquitous in our mainstream political parties. The only criterion for upward mobility is one’s relationship with the party leaderIn Pakistan — a weak state with a strong society — people tend to secure themselves through kinship groups formed to safeguard political, economic and security interests against the rival groups. In local power politics, political decisions are made to safeguard the interests of the kinship groups but the larger national interests are inspired by some political ideology.The political elite influences the leaders of clans to get political support and rely not on political bribery but on development work or establishing schools, colleges or hospitals in a political constituency. In Pakistan, the recipe to become a good politician includes bribery, arranging jobs for a few staunch supporters and supporting the potential voters in the police stations and lower courts through illegal influence. Kinship groups are a major hurdle to any positive change in Pakistan’s political system. The urbanisation of Pakistan has little effect on kinship groups as people follow the same old rules despite living in the cities. Armed gangs are also used sometimes to coerce and intimidate masses to keep political influence.Dynastic and hereditary politics — a primary cause of the failure of Pakistan’s political system — is ubiquitous in Pakistan’s major political parties where the only merit to elevate to the highest rank in a party is to be the next of kin of the party leader. The genuinely hardworking and dedicated political workers are required only for chanting slogans and to face hardships for the party while all privileges are given to party leader who forms a large kinship group based on their collective political and economic interests. The lack of democratic norms in the political parties means no genuine leadership from within the party could emerge and elevate to higher ranks in the party. Hence commoners lose their trust and interest in the whole political system where they have no role at all to play but to be in a perpetual political and intellectual servitude. This also results in a braindrain from political parties, further deteriorating the already struggling system. The political families following hereditary politics develop and install their next generation to lead the party leaving no place for the genuine political worker to excel, thereby putting an end to any probable positive competition within the party.Political patronage of certain elements from the key security institutions and their interference in the political process is also one of the most important impediments in the way of genuine political leadership.Majority of Pakistani voters are preoccupied with their petty political interests, and seldom find time to get involved in ideological debates, thinking of national interest at large or to vote for relatively better, honest and educated candidates. As a result, ineligible and corrupt people find their way to the parliament despite their poor performanceand corruption.Huge sums of money are used for pre-poll rigging and to expand political influence. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) always fails to force political parties to strictly follow the rules and law. Rules and regulations, especially regarding election expense limit are violated by majority of the candidates while the ECP continues to remain a silent spectator. This keeps the middle class and the lower-middle class out of the political race since they can’t afford to be a part of such expensive elections. The politics has been left to feudal lords, capitalists, industrialists and the mullahs who invest millions in politics to plunder billions that too from the national kitty.The doors of politics have been shut on the poor as the are represented in the parliament by landlords, capitalists and industrialists who form laws to safeguard their interests at the expense of poor. Hence exploitation of the poor continues and political system fails to bring forward genuine and true leadership in the country. Without a major overhaul of the ECP, no positive change can be brought about in Pakistan’s political system.The political parties during their stay ingovernment expand their political influence using state machinery. People are controlled using police and patwari (a land record officer at sub-division level) and harassed through armed gangs forcing them to take the help of influential politicians at the expense of their political support to them. Similarly, during by-elections the use of state machinery and government funds for the candidate of the party in power is usually normal practicein Pakistan.Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy all over the world — it can play a major role for a healthy democracy. The media, especially the electronic media,in Pakistan is passing through an evolution stage. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly parochial. Instead of proposing solutions and generating a healthy debate to overhaul the country’s political system, it has further deteriorated it by becoming a party as the various media houses openly support different political parties.Without a major overhaul of the deteriorated political system of Pakistan, thinking to bring about positive changes through judiciary will not work. Continuity of the political system, genuine electoral reforms, introducing true democratic norms within political parties, educating and enhancing the political consciousness of the voter and establishing the writ of the state, so that people can express their free will without any political or economic coercion, will bring about the real change and true democracy at the grass-roots level in Pakistan. The writer is a journalist and analyst based in Islamabad. He tweets at @kashifaliraza and can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2017.