Most people would agree that nepotism shouldn’t exist in a democratic society, and powerful positions should be granted based on individual merit and qualifications. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the ruling government party, would emphasise this most of all, as it has based a large chunk of its election campaign against dynastic politics and family legacies, using this message, rightfully so, as a tool against the Bhuttos and Sharifs campaigns.

Yet the relationship between nepotism and meritocracy is not so easy to wade through. What if the argument arises that the relation of a political figure is also qualified for the position? What if coincidentally most of the relatives of political figures are competent and qualified, and fill most of the parliament? Therein the conundrum begins.

This is precisely the counter-argument that Zartaj Gul, State Minister for Climate Change, has used in the controversy against her allegedly using her influence to secure a position for her sister in National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta). After her sister, Shabnum Gul, was appointed as Director (BS-19) in NACTA, an extremely sensitive department, Zartaj Gul faced criticism for nepotism and responded by saying the allegations were baseless and her sister was qualified for the position due to her PhD in countering terrorism.

Perhaps that is where the controversy should have ended, yet the case is not as simple as that. Due to PTI’s strong stance against nepotism, cases of family members’ appointment require scrutiny. There is record that Ms. Shabnum Gul is not wholly qualified, having allegedly plagiarised and disqualified by Punjab University from a teaching job. Furthermore, there is evidence implying that Zartaj Gul had requested her sister’s appointment, with a letter from Gul’s Principal Staff Officer to Secretary Interior directing them to refer to a telephonic conversation with Ms Gul regarding the said appointment. Most incriminating of all, according to Special Assistant to the PM Naeem Ul Haque, the PM has directed the withdrawal of this letter and condemned nepotism, solidifying that the case was not one of merit.

Nacta is the premier anti-terror watchdog of the country, and must maintain a strong, unblemished reputation due to the gravity of its function. The justifications by Ms Gul do not hold weight in this clear case of nepotism. It is sad to see a member of PTI, the anti-nepotism party, fall victim to it, and we hope the PM will take due action against the appointment and those responsible for misusing their powers.