A worthy heir?
By Ashaar Rehman
A few years behind Mian Nawaz Sharif in age, Shahbaz Sharif is actually Mian Sahib’s political twin. In the coming election, Shahbaz has to do the most difficult balancing job.
He must appear a worthy heir to the Nawaz legacy but, at the same time, carve a narrative for himself and his party that is distinct from the *anti-khalai makhlooq* version forwarded by the Nawaz-Maryam plank.
In the eyes of voters and party cadres, from one angle, Shahbaz’s worth in the election is going to be measured against his ability to carry his brother's legacy forward.
Though this doesn’t mean Shahbaz is totally dependent on his elder brother.
It has been a mutually beneficial relationship. Shahbaz has long contributed the essentials for the elder Sharif to build his rosy development pictures on. He is the poster boy for who best promotes the PML-N model of development.
It is more like payback time for Nawaz. He must try and show the people that he is fully and firmly behind his brother as his replacement prime minister – especially in parts of the country that have heard about the Shahbaz speed of progress, but have ‘unfortunately’ not been affected directly by his rule.
There is a host of impossible adjustments that are considered to be essential. Well-wishers would advise Shahbaz to borrow Nawaz's poise and poker face — without giving up his passion — just as the baton changes hands from one brother to the other.
The gaffe in Karachi at the outset of the campaign, where Shahbaz tried disastrously to win over voters with some unwanted, utterly unnecessary flaunting of his sense of humour, should serve as a reminder.
Also, he needs to learn how promises of turning other cities into Lahore may offend rather than please the people whose uplift Shahbaz is so impatiently seeking.
Shahbaz is considered a strong and determined individual as well as a competent administrator. He has attained visible success in developmental work in Punjab, with the Metro Bus projects in Punjab frequently touted as some of his biggest achievements.
A three-time chief minister and an influential businessman who owns part of Ittefaq Group of Companies, takes pride in the construction and development work that he has done in various administrations and is also very proud of Lahore's development.
Despite his brother’s troubles in the recent and distant past, which also led to the younger Sharif having to go into exile, Shahbaz has remained loyal to Nawaz. “I believe Nawaz Sharif is the only Pakistani politician and leader that can be called Jinnah's political heir. We are lucky to have been blessed with a Quaid [leader] like Nawaz Sharif,” he told a convention of the PML-N’s General Council, shortly after he was elected as the party’s president unopposed in March 2018.
Despite his loyalty to Nawaz whose troubles have been credited to ‘a hostile establishment’, Shahbaz appears soft when it comes to civil-military relations compared to the more hardline stance taken by his brother. "The civilian and military authorities must work together to counter the challenges facing Pakistan,” he told journalists earlier this year.