One week after Shehbaz Sharif was elected as prime minister, his son, Hamza Shehbaz, was elected as chief minister of Punjab, after a daylong session marred by in-house brawls and violence.
The father-son duo clinching top national and provincial slots, Sharif family’s dream run is back to full circle.
Nawaz Sharif, PML-N’s supremo, remained prime minister for three times — though he never served a full term for some explicit reasons — and is perhaps vying for another turn in near future. His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, who is the only active female bigwig from the Sharif family is another potential contender for making it to big offices. Additionally, Nawaz Sharif’s close relative Ishaq Dar previously served as finance minister and is currently senator on a PML-N ticket.
Despite about 20 years rule in Punjab and 10 years rule in the centre, Sharif family is not ready to decentralise power. The family keeps key slots exclusively in its own pockets. Critics point out, and rightly so, that the PML-N doesn’t produce or trust a second-tier leadership in times of crises.
In 2017, when Nawaz Sharif was ousted through courts, the PML-N surprisingly picked old stalwart and loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as PM for the remaining term. The party could have done the same this time around after Khan’s removal, not only because the elections are in the offing but also because the PML-N doesn’t have a single majority. It was only through the alliance of nine political parties that the no-confidence motion was successful. Shehbaz Sharif is also facing graft charges and is on interim bail.
And where does Maryam Nawaz stand? Through her bold and anti-establishment drive, Maryam injected energy into the beleaguered PML-N when talks of the party’s split were making rounds.
Shehbaz is known for ‘Punjab speed’ — a term coined to describe his swift governance. He launched the much-delayed metro bus project in Islamabad in five days after the PM oath. He could have called the shots by appointing someone else from the party for the highest office.
Since Nawaz Sharif is not around, there was an anticipation that Hamza would be brought forward as chief minister in Punjab. The inner circles of the PML-N avow Hamza’s experience and his ability to get along with others has made him the preferred choice to run a coalition government in the biggest province of the country. Hamza, like his father, is not a crowd puller but a smart businessman who manages things from behind the scene, just as he handled the family’s business during the years under dictator Musharraf. But why bring him into the limelight for some months? It would have been wiser for someone from the coalition run the province.
And where does Maryam Nawaz stand? Through her bold and anti-establishment drive, Maryam injected energy into the beleaguered PML-N when talks of the party’s split were making rounds. Over the months though the PML-N as a whole and Maryam in particular have been quiet about sanctity of the vote narrative. And with the old narrative dried out, chances of Maryam’s quick elevation to a key position diminished. Despite Maryam’s temporary silence and stepping away from aggressive politics, she is a hot favourite to grab distinguished positions in the provincial or federal government, if the PML-N is to make a comeback in 2023. That would hand the Sharif family another home-grown leader running for a prestigious positon.
A family has the distinctiveness of having one brother as the prime minister and other the chief minister for multiple times. They must be feeling proud. But this has not gone well in nurturing a democratic setup. Dynastic politics doesn’t ensure transparency, and blocks chances for democracy to thrive in a country like Pakistan. The Sharif family has a range of achievements to their credit, especially erecting country’s infrastructure and road connectivity, but their persistent approach of keeping all powers within the family signifies their insecurity — and it merits a drastic change.