Who will be the next prime minister?

Experts fear the party could disintegrate if the situation remains uncertain.
Published July 28, 2017

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's leader stands disqualified by the country's Supreme Court after the Panama Leaks corruption probe. Moments after the verdict, Nawaz Sharif announced that he's stepping down from the seat of the prime minister. What does the court judgment mean for Nawaz Sharif, the Sharif family and the PML-N? Our experts weigh in.

'The party could disintegrate'

Zahid Hussain

Who will become the next prime minister?

One cannot be sure about it. It’s a very uncertain situation.

Is there anyone that the PML-N can produce as a leader?

I don’t think so because the party revolves around one person or one family. So it will be very difficult for the party to actually have a person who could keep the party united and go into the next elections.

What could be the evolution of the PML-N? Or is this the end of party as well?

That’s the problem with the PML-N. Nawaz Sharif has tried to transform the party and make it more populist but it still remains the party of the establishment. We have seen in the past that whenever under pressure, the party disintegrated and I think it could happen again.

Does the party have any chances in the next elections?

It’s doubtful because the entire family has been indicted and I think that’s the biggest blow.

Will the PTI or any other party be able to take advantage in the elections?

Imran will have the biggest advantage but basically politics will become much more fragmented now in Punjab because the battle ground is in Punjab. The rest of the country isn’t that much affected by the verdict. It will lead to a more fragmented house.

Zahid Hussain is an author and journalist. He tweets @hidhussain.

'Historically, the voting public seems to be unfazed by allegations'

Salahuddin Ahmed

Who will become the next prime minister?

I really have no idea but if media reports are to be believed, Khawaja Asif or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi may have a chance.

Can the PML-N have another leader outside of the House of Nawaz?

Another prime minister maybe but not necessarily another leader.

What does it mean for the PML-N that it can’t produce another leader especially with the elections coming up?

It doesn’t really mean much because nearly all other parties are also organised around a family, on a hereditary basis.

Does the PML-N stand a chance to win the next elections?

I don’t think this will necessarily be fatal to their electoral chances. This is not over as yet. I mean, there are possibly reviews to be filed, maybe even constitutional amendments. A lot of things could happen between now and then.

So, possible redemption or way back for Nawaz Sharif? Or is his career over?

I don’t think so. Nawaz Sharif has been convicted by courts before as well, as well as the PPP leaders like Benazir and Zardari. Somehow, convictions and disqualifications don’t seem to stick in Pakistan.

Don’t you think this verdict is different from those in the past?

You see, there are a bunch of things that could be done. Let's say tomorrow, a few other politicians also get disqualified on the same grounds. If the Supreme Court was to apply this rule even-evenhandedly then I find it hard to understand how, even Imran Khan for that matter, would escape. So if we have a bunch of disqualifications then eventually, probably the parliament would get around to removing article 62-63 altogether, and that would pave the way for a return.

Do you think Imran Khan has an improved chance now after this verdict?

I don’t know how important this verdict will be in electoral terms.

Why is that?

Because historically, the voting public seems to be relatively unfazed by allegations. Just because Imran has been successful in ousting the PM, it doesn’t mean that it would immediately improve his electoral chances with the public.

He might get an advantage, there might be a bunch of people willing to jump ship from the PML-N to the PTI, which might improve his chances. But for the general voting public, I don’t know how much effect this judgment would have.

Is another PML-N government possible?

I think we could have that. If they decide to hold elections straight away, although I don’t think they would be that bold.

Salahuddin Ahmed is a lawyer based in Karachi.

'It is time for the PML-N to act like a party'

Tahir Medhi

Who will become the next prime minister?

My hunch is that it could be Ayaz Sadiq, but I think the bigger point is that it is time for the PML-N to act like a party and establish that they can go through the current challenge.

I mean that the party is usually organised around one person and I think it is time for the PML-N to cross that point in its history and act like a political institution.

I am quite optimistic that they will be able to do that. It won’t be a repeat of 1993, or any other point in Pakistani history, where Nawaz Sharif is taken out and the whole party crumbles.

What makes you confident that the PML-N will act like a party this time around?

They will act like a party because I think the PML-N now actually stands to represent what I call the Punjabi civil, elite interest as a party. I think that interest itself is so mature and significant that it can produce a new leader. Earlier in our history that interest used to be that of the military interest, but now it is so sizable and so mature that I think it can produce another leader.

What do you think is going to happen in the next elections? Do you think the PML-N will suffer from this verdict or do you think they will bounce back?

A lot will depend on the next few months. I think that it won’t damage PML-N’s chances in a big way.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

Nawaz 'faces a unique challenge that he is not prepared for'

Khurram Husain

What do you make of the PMs disqualification and who do you think could be the next PM ?

The PML-N is ill prepared to face this moment because the party is built almost entirely around Nawaz Sharif and his family. The PPP government absorbed the dismissal of a prime minister because the party could delegate executive power to a party leader. Nawaz has to wield power personally to be effective. Now that he has been separated from his executive powers, he faces a unique challenge that he is not prepared for.

Khurram Husain is a member of Dawn's editorial staff and tweets [@khurramhusain]