How will Shehbaz Sharif lead the PML-N?

Party leaders say Nawaz pushed his brother’s name to the forefront, after consultation with his wife and senior party aides

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Shehbaz Sharif talks to the media the day he was summoned by the Panama case JIT last year. Photo: AFP

When Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding the prime minister’s office, he became, constitutionally, ineligible to remain the president of his political party as well. 

This was last July, when the name of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his younger brother, first popped up as a serious contender to lead the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and eventually be pitched as the prime minister of Pakistan. But besides some unnamed sources, no one really talked about it on the record.

Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Nasar was temporarily appointed the party president in August. Finally, Nawaz, through a parliamentary decree, decided to reclaim his position. 

Then last month, the Supreme Court made matters more clear. In a five-page verdict it ruled that a person who does not qualify on Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot hold the office of presidency of any political party. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan quickly removed Sharif’s name. And once again the slot was vacated.

Party leaders say it was Nawaz himself who pushed his brother’s name to the forefront again, after consultation with his wife and senior party aides. The PML-N’s general council meeting in Islamabad, to formally elect the younger Sharif, will now be held on March 13.

So, now that Nawaz decided on a name to succeed him, who could have objected? The only one courageous enough to do so, according to my information, is Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. She has, in the past, been very vocal in expressing her displeasure about a party decision, and has even at times outright rejected it.

Members of the PML-N, I spoke to, say this time, she suggested her daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s name. But her husband, who might have otherwise accepted this proposal, was forced to bin it. The argument was that a National Accountability Bureau case is still ongoing against their daughter.

But now that the decision has been made, one wonders how will Shehbaz be different from Nawaz? It is expected that as president of the PML-N, the younger brother will focus his energies on organising the party outside of Punjab. This might not be a difficult task for him, considering his reputation to get things done. However, one area he could falter in, or fall below expectation, will be in carrying forward the narrative Nawaz has built after his disqualification. The chief minister of Punjab, who has opted to remain non-confrontational, is unlikely to take on the judiciary with the same zeal. It is also important to remember that to-date, Shehbaz has never even said that his brother was wrongfully removed from office.

Another area Shehbaz will prove useful in is bringing back to the fold disgruntled party leaders, such as Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Those close to him say that in the next few weeks, Shehbaz will be calling a meeting of party leaders from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He aims to replicate some of the projects of Punjab in the other provinces when appointed to the federal post. But none of these decisions, of course, can be made without consulting the Quaid of the party, Nawaz Sharif.

Ansari is the bureau chief of Geo News in Lahore

Note: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News, The News or the Jang Group