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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. — File Photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: In established democracies, usually a party’s performance wins or loses it the elections. Most political analysts agree that that is what happened in the 2013 general elections - for the first time in Pakistan’s sad electoral history. Against all predictions and expectations those elections brought Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif to power for an historic third time, with his PML-N sweeping clean its home province, the Punjab. The buzz in the party ever since has been that it owed the victory to the ‘good performance’ by the prime minister’s younger brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister in Punjab from 2008 to 2013.

Others, including some partymen, however, credit the PML-N’s exhilarating win more to the “bad, nay dismal, performance” of the bitter rival PPP. Whatever, Shehbaz Sharif’s admirers inside the party and outside insist that the “talented brother” had honed his skills of “a ferocious administrator” from the days when he first ran Punjab as chief minister during the party’s heavy-mandate rule across the country from 1997 until the October 1999 military coup. Then a pro-PML-N newspaper had christened Mian Shahbaz Sharif the “gutsy brother”.

Nowadays, the “talented brother” is seen carrying his reputation of do-gooder everywhere - negotiating MoUs worth billions of dollars with the Chinese, attending countless meetings on resolving the politically explosive energy crisis, and taking briefing from the Inter Services Intelligence to hammer out a new national security policy of the country.

Shahbaz Sharif is found constantly shuttling between Lahore and Islamabad. He is so much involved in the affairs of the central government that the opposition parties have started pointing fingers at his omnipresence in the federal capital. They ask why should just Punjab chief minister accompany the prime minister to the ISI headquarter for briefing on national security, why not the chief ministers of the other three provinces which suffer more terrorism and are more in need of first hand information about the downward spiraling security situation in the country?

PMLN leaders however don’t see merit in such criticism.

“Mian Shahbaz Sharif is the face of the party. Yes, the elder Sharif may have charisma, but when it comes to perform, the younger Sharif proves to be the go-getter. We all believe in him,” said a party admirer vigorously, though not on record despite holding an important position in the party.

He justified Shahbaz Sharif’s presence and involvement in the federal government by saying that “all the pressing issues which the party has bumped into were Islamabad based. Be it energy crisis, national security policy, or country’s chronic economic woes, decisions have to be made here, hence, Shahbaz Sharif needs to be here,” he argued.

But, according to an old party guard, there is a different story to Punjab CM’s more than required participation in the meetings of the federal government.

This senior PML-N leader recalled, again off the record, how Mian Nawaz Sharif “mishandled his previous two governments during the 1990s, notably his working relationship with the military leadership.” On both occasions, the strained civil-military relationship dragged the PML-N government to unceremonious exit in 1993 and 1999.

According to him, the elder Sharif has proved to be “an intensely egocentric character” to his own and the party’s misfortune in the past. “Who can forget his tense stand offs, starting with the late army chief, Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, the late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to the former army chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf. Only Gen Jahangir Karamat gave in to him quietly,” he said.

It seems, this time around, the “talented brother”, considered a pragmatist by the party, is out to safeguard against such a risk. That’s why he is attending all important meetings as the wise in the PML-N feel the coming months are crucial for the ruling party as it has to select a new president and appoint a new army chief.

Since the PML-N holds comfortable majority in the Electoral College for the presidency, and Punjab already occupies the office of prime minister, the party is comfortable with picking the president of its choice from Balochistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shahbaz Sharif will definitely help his elder brother in choosing the presidential candidate from the smaller provinces to gain the party the image of a national level political force.

However, appointing the army chief is a different kettle of fish. Last time, the party chose Gen Parvez Musharraf to its regret. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made that supposedly-safe choice after forcing Gen Jahangir Karamat to resign following his publicly expressed desire for a national security council, with the military represented on it.

It is said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, whose brother was secretary defence at that time, was instrumental in making the choice that proved “fatal”.

An incumbent federal minister told Dawn that with these distasteful experiences with the military in the hindsight, the Sharif brothers didn’t want to take any risk this time. Shahbaz Sharif was particularly in touch with the military leadership who should lead the army when Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani retires in November after serving two terms.

Comments (11) Closed

karamba Jul 19, 2013 03:59pm

Let the country be damned but no one should raise a finger against misrule.

Khalid Jul 19, 2013 06:02pm

Well, why does anyone in power in Pakistan have to listen to anyone. PMLN is doing exactly what PPP did and this is just the beginning. You do understand as to why PMLN was the first one to get the law changed which only allowed being the Prime Minister twice, don't you?. Brothers, sons, nephews, daughters, wives and other relatives ONLY stand to gain as far as these two parties are concerned. Having masses of illiterate people in Pakistan has helped both of these parties to rule and the way things are going, it will go on forever. Democracy?. Is it really???

Abdullah Niazi Jul 19, 2013 06:50pm

It is dynastic politics, Zardari put his son Bilawal Zardari in limelight ,here situation is no different. Very soon Hamza Sharif will make headlines. Power is inherited from generation to generation.

M aslam Jul 19, 2013 07:28pm

@Khalid: Do you think that only PTI is giving good governance in KPK?

Murtaza Jul 19, 2013 08:59pm

@karamba: Unfortunately that is what most democracy loving Pakistanis want. Most Pakistanis passionately talking about democracy don't realize that the most important thing that a real democracy should do is root out non-delivering/corrupt politicians, and that is not happening in Pakistan. They do not realize that the real reason for military stepping in is the non-performance and corruption of democratic rulers. Until and unless this main cause is not curtailed, military should keep on intervening. Unfortunately, the way supreme court is behaving - out of vengeance - the only way of telling the political leaders that they had enough of mismanagement, loot and plunder (aka through military takeovers) is being taken away. I am afraid with the mismanagement of political leaders, and non-intervention by Army no matter what happens to Pakistan on the inside, will slowly take Pakistan to being a failed state.

Imtiaz Jul 19, 2013 09:33pm

@Khalid: Long live Pakistani democracy of the illeterates.

Nasr Jul 19, 2013 10:01pm

Yes, Our Pakistan was only founded for people like the Gutsy Brothers and their families. On the PMs China visit almost all the male members of the family, brother, sons, & nephew as well as PMs wife accompanied. None of the minister related to various projects that were discussed accompanied the PM. It looks that before the 2% elite ruled Pakistan but now the Sharif Family will only rule the country

Shah Nawaz Jul 19, 2013 10:24pm

It is sad to see that in all Muslims majority countries, the power is shared by the families and their friends. There is no other intelligent and effective personality in a nation of 170 million people? Long time effects of family control is dangerous for democracy and the country. Syria, Libya and Arab Royal countries are the best example

hamid Jul 20, 2013 06:45am

I think so much involvement of Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, would germinate the seeds of inferiority and deprivation in the hearts the other three chief ministers, and once again the dictatorial role of punjab would be a good stuff for opposition.

Shahid Masud Jul 20, 2013 09:40am

Credit of PML N victory in the current elections goes to it's decision to recruit the probable electibles from other political parties. During next elections these electibles will join some other political party and while PML N might not be in power these electibles will be." ONLY IN PAKISTAN" what a joke.

AbbasToronto Jul 21, 2013 04:45am

So what is new?

Within 15 years of the death of our dear Prophet AS the State became nepotistic, and filled the administration with relatives of the Kaliph, the very people who had opposed Islam tooth and nail throughout the life of our Prophet AS.

Soon, there was mis-governance, rebellion, 10Percentism, chaos, and finally murder of the Kaliph whose body rotted for 3 days in Arabian sun.

Today, Pakistan is no different. Would Muslims ever learn..