- Newly elected party president faces daunting task of bridging gap between Nawaz and military
ISLAMABAD: After taking over the reins of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Shehbaz Sharif faces some daunting challenges as his decisions in the near future would not only decide the immediate fate of the ruling family, it will also shape the future of the party.
The biggest challenge faced by Shehbaz Sharif would be to bridge the increasing gulf between his party’s ‘lifetime Quaid’ and elder brother Mian Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment, as well as the judiciary.
The widening gulf has changed the odds in the power struggle as Nawaz Sharif – once a darling of the military establishment – has turned into the biggest foe of the military. Hence, analysts believe that it is almost curtains for the three-time ousted prime minister who has been trying to build a public rampage against the military leadership.
Whether it was the successful war against terrorism in the North which has been instrumental in the return of peace across the country after the successful operation Zarb-e-Azb, or the game-changing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Nawaz Sharif has claimed all the laurels for himself, singling out the military leadership.
Sharif has also been able to change the public perception into his favour by propagating his narrative that he was being victimised by the military establishment, in connivance with the judiciary, through the corruption cases against him and his family. So bringing the Sharif family and the military closer again would be a challenge for the junior Sharif as both the sides look unbridgeable for the time being.
Another key test for the new leader of the ruling party would be to form his own team in the party as the new president of the PML-N has to make at least half a dozen key appointments including the party’s secretary-general, vice presidents, finance secretary, additional secretary general etc. These appointments would reflect how much influence Shehbaz Sharif would have on the party.
The second challenge for the newly elected PML-N president would be to consolidate his grip over the party by cutting the influence of Maryam Nawaz, the heir apparent to the throne. The party, for the time being, is literally being run by Maryam, whose words are final these days in the party’s affairs due to strong support from her father, Nawaz Sharif.
Despite repeated calls made on his phone, PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan did not respond to comment on the nature of challenges awaiting the new PML-N chief.
However, a senior party leader speaking to Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity, said that when Shehbaz Sharif took over, the party was directly being run by a select group who was taking directions from Maryam Nawaz.
“It would be interesting to note whether Shehbaz Sharif could really take the decision-making process of the party into his own hands or will he end up as a rubber stamp. There is a large group of sitting lawmakers in the party which is just waiting to see Shehbaz take over. If he fails in doing so, these angry lawmakers may leave the party and may join Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI),” the senior leaguer said.
When asked to elaborate, the senior lawmaker was of the view that a major group in the party felt alienated due to the smaller group in the party which was close to Maryam Nawaz.
“Majority of the party lawmakers are close to Shehbaz and were earlier planning to leave the party due to the anti-establishment rhetoric by Nawaz Sharif. Now, they are waiting to see Shehbaz calling the shots and if he fails to take effective control, they may decide to leave the party,” the PML-N leader said.
When asked to identify how many lawmakers may leave the party, he replied that those lawmakers who were inviting Shehbaz rather than Nawaz and Maryam were actually disenchanted from the senior Sharif’s anti-military rhetoric.
“Majority of such lawmakers are either from Northern Punjab, Potohar and Southern Punjab districts,” the source said.
Furthermore, another major task for Shehbaz Sharif would be the appointment of secretary general of the party, five vice presidents, additional general secretaries and other office bearers. These appointments would also drop a hint whether doves or hawks are appointed.
This would also reflect what course the ruling party would adopt in the near future.
Another task Shehbaz would have to cater to would be the formation of the parliamentary board, which would put the party back on track to get ready for the upcoming general elections.
It merits mention here that Nawaz Sharif did not form a parliamentary board during his entire stint as prime minister, since the past decade, which caused the party to suffer a lot.
Hence, the majority of the decisions regarding the awarding of tickets were made by the kitchen cabinet of Nawaz and the party suffered as the decisions were made without due diligence since 2012. The ruling PML-N also failed in securing its due share in the elections before that.
However, the decisions taken by Shehbaz Sharif were better reflected in the election results since 2012.