Friday Jul 14, 2017
There is a lot of outrage these days. Several leaders are calling for the prime minister to step down or for him to call early national elections. The Joint Investigation Team’s report, which came out this Monday, has only made matters worse for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his two sons and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. The only one safe from this sinkhole, it seems, is Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who got a passing mention in the report.
July 10 onwards, the prime minister has been darting from one meeting to the next. Everyone is being consulted, including legal advisors and cabinet members. For now, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is digging its heels. It promises to challenge the verdict. But behind closed doors another option is being weighed, say those close to the party, who asked not to be named, that when, and if the time comes, who will replace Nawaz Sharif?
Tealeaf reading analysts predict that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif would step up when his brother steps down, since he will be acceptable to many in the power corridors. But then there are other contenders, Khurram Dastgir Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
These names haven’t come from the prime minister himself. In fact, Sharif has remained extremely tight lipped about his Plan B. The only ones, I have been told, who may know what he is thinking are his wife and daughter.
This is an important decision. In fact, this is the most important decision right now. Pakistan could soon have a new head of state. There is no dearth of leadership in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s family, so why then would he consider an outsider for the job? Considering also that he thinks a conspiracy is afoot to dislodge him, I doubt he would trust an outsider to take his place.
Another source confided that since the Panama papers saga began, the prime minister has on several occasions expressed his unhappiness with his younger brother, Shehbaz. He adds that Shehbaz Sharif’s absence from the April rally in Okara, and then again on the day the Nankana Sahib’s motorway was inaugurated, is meaningful. When the chief minister was asked why he did not go to both the events he told the source that he was not invited to either in his own province.
But then Sharif has also publicly praised his brother’s efforts in Punjab on several occasions in the last few months.
Rumors aside, I believe that it is not the younger Sharif’s intention to have a show down with his elder brother.
Since everyone has a take on this issue, I would also like to offer my two cents as well. I believe that if Sharif were to step down, he would put in place an interim setup the like of which we saw when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was made prime minister while Shaukat Aziz was contesting his seat. Could it be possible that Nawaz Sharif appoints Khawaja Asif as the premier while the First Lady contests national elections and then takes over from Asif?
You might ask why Kulsoom Nawaz, who has no experience in politics, will be pushed up? Close friends of the family know that Begum Kulsoom is a well-educated daughter from a known and well-educated family. When her husband and her sons were in prison, Begum Kulsoom along with her daughter Maryam lead a powerful and successful resistance to Musharraf’s government.
But then again, at this point, only Nawaz Sharif knows what the future will look like.
Raees Ansari is the bureau chief Geo News Lahore
Views of the author do not necessarily reflect that of Geo News