Thursday Aug 17 2017

Don’t be fooled, Kulsoom Nawaz is the prime minister in waiting

Ever since Nawaz Sharif stepped down from the office of the prime minister, there has not been much certainty, about the political direction of the country and the impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment. At this point, we cannot be sure about much, except for one thing – the future of current Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Before setting off on a four-day rally from Islamabad to Lahore, Sharif told Abbasi that he wished to see him remain the PM till 2018 - although earlier he had appointed his brother as his successor and the prime minister in waiting.

Thereon it seemed pretty clear. Abbasi would remain in office, till Shehbaz Sharif contests from NA-120. Once he wins, Abbasi would step down as PM and Shehbaz would step up.

But then, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the former prime minister’s wife, emerged as the candidate for NA-120 in Lahore. What could this mean? Does this mean that if she scores a victory in the constituency, she would replace Abbasi as the premier?

This is where is gets confusing. Have the corridors of the federal capital now been permanently shut for Shehbaz Sharif, currently the chief minister of Punjab?

Those close to the younger Sharif confided in this scribe. They say that when Nawaz Sharif announced Shehbaz Sharif would be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, the latter was soon flooded with congratulatory messages. Shehbaz did not hide his eagerness to take on the new role. Even when Punjab’s Law Minister met Shehbaz and asked him to decline the offer and stay in Punjab, he did not take kindly to the words.

Nawaz Sharif has a reputation, of rarely changing his mind. But this time, explain those privy to the developments, he was forced to disregard his earlier stance by close family members.

Shehbaz wasn’t told. He was caught unaware during a family gathering; where Kulsoom Nawaz herself informed him that she would now be contesting the national assembly seat.

Soon after, Shehbaz Sharif’s wife, Tehmina Durrani, took to twitter and in a fusillade of tweets excoriated the ousted PM’s homecoming rally and his advisors. Maybe Durrani said what her husband chose not to.

As for Kulsoom, is she the right choice? She does know her politics well. During Musharraf’s tenure, she spearheaded the campaign to get her husband freed from prison. In the last three decades, she has not only stood by her husband but has also advised him on various governmental affairs. Party leaders say that she also occasionally writes many of Sharif’s speeches. There is no doubt that she is a remarkable woman, with a Masters degree in Urdu. There is also little doubt that she would soon be Pakistan’s next prime minister, much before the 2018 elections